Talkdesk Talks Innovation at Opentalk 2018

Contact center as a service (CCaaS) vendor Talkdesk this week held its annual customer and partner event, Opentalk 2018. As is the case with most vendor user events, Talkdesk used Opentalk to launch a new product – Talkdesk iQ, which No Jitter editor Beth Schultz covered in detail in this post. The product is loaded with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and CEO Tiago Paiva believes the company is now ready to be a disruptor and become a much bigger player in an increasingly crowded CCaaS market.

During his keynote at the analyst event that preceded the user event, Paiva discussed where the company has been and why he believes it’s poised to outpace the competition. Some of the proof points Paiva provided included the following:

  • To date, Talkdesk has 1,400 customers in 60 countries, which is impressive given the company was founded in 2011.
  • 80% of the company’s FY18 revenue is from the enterprise. This can be a misleading stat, as many of the UCaaS vendors tout enterprise revenue but they have only a few seats within large companies. However, Talkdesk provided names of over a dozen companies that have over 250 contact center seats.
  • It recently closed a $100 million series B round of funding, which it claims is the largest funding round in contact center history. I looked at other CCaaS providers and couldn’t find one larger, so I believe this is correct. Investors include some blue-chip companies such as Viking Global and Salesforce ventures.
  • Talkdesk has achieved 3X growth in EMEA in 28 countries. To date, most of the growth in CCaaS has been in the North American market, with Europe having recently woken up to the benefits it brings. I expect this to be a hotly contested region over the next few years.

Looking ahead, the company has all of the usual growth initiatives one would expect – global footprint expansion, new partnerships, channel expansion, and lots of investment in marketing, which contact center analyst Sheila McGee-Smith touched on in her recent post, “Opentalk 2018: Talkdesk Growing Up.” One of the programs that it put in place that I found particularly intriguing was a $10 million Talkdesk Innovation Fund, which is a result of the $100 million Series B funding round.

The company already has a growing AppConnect Innovation Ecosystem, which includes about 50 partners today and has been growing about 10% monthly. Talkdesk claimed that its customers use about three apps today on average. The dedication of $10 million should help Talkdesk rapidly accelerate its number of partners and give its customers a rich “app store” like experience that’s dedicated to contact center tools. Some current partners include:

  • AutoReach – High volume power dialer for sales teams
  • CrankWheel – Screen sharing for inside sales reps
  • PlayVox – Omnichannel quality assurance software
  • Snapsolv – Customer messaging software
  • SimpleEmotion – Emotion and speech analysis

The contact center industry has always depended on ecosystem partners, but they have been limited primarily to CRM vendors like Salesforce or customer service software such as Zendesk. However, customer service is changing, and that is, in turn, evolving the contact center. The ability to service customers in new and different ways with relevant data and insights keeps businesses one step ahead of the competition. This puts pressure on the contact center vendors to continually drive innovation. But one company, no matter how big, can only drive so many features. To short circuit this process, Talkdesk is relying on smaller, disruptive partners that can plug into its platform and drive innovation.

The Innovation Fund can take the AppConnect program to the next level, as it provides forward-thinking companies the resources, product support, and feedback required for them to get their products to market. Many of these companies are small, early-stage startups that lack the resources to accelerate their product development. By providing those resources, Talkdesk understands those companies are more likely to work with them first before looking at one of its competitors. This is a win-win, as the startup gets its product to market faster and Talkdesk has access to the technology for its customers.

I also believe the ecosystem surrounding the contact center industry is about to explode. The number of interaction channels continues to grow because of social media. Just a few years ago, bots seemed a bit “out there,” but now they’re mainstream. Also, we live in a world where literally everything is connected, and customers will soon be interacting directly with devices and vice versa.

Lastly, and perhaps this is most meaningful, customer service is shifting to being AI-driven. It’s not just Talkdesk that says this. Every major contact center vendor has AI features and an AI roadmap. However, AI is very broad and very deep, and it’s hard for me to see a way that any company can go to market without having a broad AI ecosystem. There are currently tens of thousands of small AI companies, and by putting $10 million up for funding, Talkdesk should be able to tap into many of these.

Disruption is the aim of Talkdesk and that requires innovation. Talkdesk will certainly continue to drive its own roadmap but its innovation fund ensures it has the help of a large ecosystem.