Observe.AI CEO Swapnil Jain used to work as a senior software engineer at Twitter before co-founding Observe.AI in 2017, which he now runs as CEO. The company takes as its mission the transformation of “contact centers,” which it aims to do by “turning every agent into [your] best brand representative.”
At Observe.AI, Swapnil Jain and his team use a Voice AI Platform to leverage the latest “Speech and Natural Language Processing technologies, the world’s top brands quality-check 100% of calls, ensure compliance, and turn agents into top performers through targeted coaching.”
Through their work, Swapnil Jain and Observe.AI have earned the trust of over 100 customers and partners, including “Tripadvisor, Microsoft, ERCBPO, Talkdesk,” among others. The company has also earned the backing of “Scale Venture Partners, Nexus Venture Partners, Y Combinator, and Emergent Ventures.”
Using Swapnil Jain and Observe.AI’s technology and platform, their client businesses can “transcribe every call with high accuracy and coach agents while gaining full visibility into their customer service operations.” The company takes full advantage of the “power of agent assistance, automatic speech recognition, and Natural Language Processing (NLP)” to deliver excellent results to their clients from all over the world.
I always wanted to lead my own company, and founded Observe.AI in 2017 with my two co-founders after doing extensive market research in India and the Philippines by walking the halls of contact centers.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Swapnil Jain: Thank you. My background is in technology and engineering. I graduated from the India Institute of Technology, Delhi. I worked as an engineer at Twitter (as the first employee based in India) before opening Twitter’s first engineering office as a technical team lead. I always wanted to lead my own company, and founded Observe.AI in 2017 with my two co-founders after doing extensive market research in India and the Philippines by walking the halls of contact centers.
Observe.AI helps companies to improve the performance of their contact center agents so that they can provide the best possible experience to their customers. We just announced our Series B financing that brings the company’s total funding to $88 million, including $80 million in the last 12 months.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Swapnil Jain: In 2016, I was exploring the idea of starting a company with two of my friends from IIT Delhi. We were young people with a lot of energy and hustle, and we were looking for the ideas and investors that would excite us. After four months of exploration together, both of them decided to not continue the entrepreneurial journey for personal reasons. I was alone in India without a job, and without any co-founders or an idea for a business. My friends were doing amazing jobs, and I was struggling.
What led me to continue when things were really hard was my sheer passion for wanting to start up a company. I knew this was going to be heard going on, but what kept me going was the whole concept of hustle and grit. I knew I really wanted to lead, and that kept me going as I continued to look for co-founders and ideas.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Swapnil Jain: One common mistake that I was avoiding, but knew I would end up making was to stop thinking strategically at the beginning of the process. When you are trying to start up, and you don’t have an idea, you sometimes run into the trap of thinking short-term and tactically because you want to show progress. I think of Mike Tyson’s famous saying that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. When you start up, you have an idealized vision of the kind of company you want and the kind of cofounder, and can easily get distracted by tactical thinking. My takeaway: Calm down and make sure that you write down your core principles and values so that when you get punched in the face, you don’t start making short-term decisions. We continue to follow this philosophy at Observe.AI today.
Calm down and make sure that you write down your core principles and values so that when you get punched in the face, you don’t start making short-term decisions. Swapnil Jain, CEO of Observe.AI
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Swapnil Jain: I have never thought about good vs. great, because I always thought about wanting to be the best. I want to push the boundaries from a customer experience and from an employee experience, so it’s very hard for me to talk about where to compromise, where to be just good.
A good company is one which is not pushing boundaries and not trying to innovate. It will be okay with 30% attrition rate or a 4.0 Glassdoor rating, 40% YOY growth. A great company is not going to be okay with that.
Another example of a good company is one that sells products that buyers like buying, but users don’t like using. A great company will try and do both.
A good company settles, but a great company is building for the future.
Great companies will have CEOs, founders, leaders who don’t think of the company as their job. Great company leaders will feel the pain if the company doesn’t do well. They won’t sleep at night if the company isn’t growing fast enough or employees are unhappy, and a great leader will take ownership of these issues too. Great companies are always striving to be the best.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Swapnil Jain: I 100% agree. If you look at what defines people, it is never about money or materialistic things. Country is an amorphous concept that will get millions of people thinking in the same way. Religion, sports fans… a lot of these are concepts. What binds people together are the stories and purposes behind those concepts.
This happens at a company. You can’t motivate people with salary and short term goals alone. You need to connect with them on a deeper level — what is their purpose and why are they at this company? What problems do they want to solve? As a CEO, you want everyone to have the same mission and vision, and you have to have a purpose to align everyone in the same direction.
You can’t motivate people with salary and short term goals alone. You need to connect with them on a deeper level — what is their purpose and why are they at this company? What problems do they want to solve?
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Swapnil Jain: You have to think about the entire customer journey. Let’s use a simple example of website conversions. What does the buyer need at this stage of the customer journey? The customer comes to your website with a need so you should talk about your solution in the customer’s language. You only have to solve for one problem at this point. You don’t have to solve every possible problem .
On your website, customers are asking if your product is worth a demo. Satisfy that need, and then solve for other needs at additional points in the sales funnel. To increase conversion rates, solve for the buyer needs at that particular stage of the customer journey, that will then lead them to the next stage.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Swapnil Jain: If you try to link this to human psychology, when you are trying to buy something you usually buy from someone you know or from someone who comes highly recommended from someone you trust. If you trust me, you are likely to trust my recommendation. If I come to a website and see a lot of good references and testimonials from people like me, I can trust that brand. If I see that no one has recommended this product on the website, how can I trust this company? Convince your customer that their peers in the industry have trusted you, and you create trust in the buyer’s mind.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!