Dogfooding, what built Exotel

Dogfooding is an interesting exercise. Larry Alton says, “Uber does it, Twitter does it, and a number of other companies do it. It’s called ‘drinking your own champagne’.”

Dogfooding at Exotel is how we built the product. For those of you who haven’t heard the Exotel story before, Shivku, our CEO built the Alpha version of Exotel to support his first business venture, Roopit. It was a simple way to manage customer conversations using a single number by building a distributed call center. Long story cut short, when the distributed call center product received interest from his fellow entrepreneurs, a natural pivot happened. He terms this as scratching one’s own itch and what a beautiful product came into existence – Exotel.

“We have done plumbing work behind the scenes, I did not know much of telecom but knew about software, technology. If one can manage all the connection through the internet it is cost-efficient and it is an open standard,”

Building a customer communication platform – use it the way it works best for your businesscustomer communication platform

One of the primary things that sets Exotel apart is that we focus on building a platform. What that means is that we offer you the building blocks of customer communication. Your business’s needs decide how you want to use it.

Here’s how we use the platform at Exotel to:

  • Speak to prospective customers to make the sales process simple and seamless
  • Onboard new customers
  • Support our 2500+ clientele
  • Have some fun
  • Build projects that give back to the community

Exotel for Sales – making the sales process simple and seamless

Exotel for Sales

 

TLDR: no customer is missed out on. Data driven approach to make sure we give our prospective customers and our sales engineers the best experience.

When a prospective customer signs up to use the Exotel trial account, it is an opportunity for us to give them the real experience before they become a paying customer. We speak to every single customer who signs up. Given our pace of growth, using Exotel gives our teams a chance to ensure that no customer is missed out on during the trial period. Here are a few things that we do to helps us achieve this:

  • Our Smart call routing enables prospective customers reach the sales team directly and if they are already in our system, we personalise the experience by customizing the greeting with the caller’s name before routing it to the right sales engineer.
  • In case a call is missed, the team gets notifications and we get on these calls right away. The customers get an SMS with a message that will let them know that we will get back to them. No ambiguity!
  • Outside our working hours, calls are routed automatically to the Customer Happiness team with Time Based Routing.
  • An automated call is setup to reach out to customers who are unable to answer our calls. On this call, we get our customers to pick a time that is convenient for them so we can have a conversation when they are not busy.
  • Calls are synced to our CRM and all the team members get a detailed report every morning that help them understand the team’s productivity. We also use the call recordings to train our newbies and give them feedback on making sure they are on the right track.

Onboarding new customers

This is a very important piece of the puzzle for every SaaS product. Most often, the decision maker and the end user of the product are not the same. In this case, it is important to ensure that every person who uses the product has a good understanding of how to get the most out of it.

TLDR: a complete product demo personalised to every customer that we then share with them. Can be shared and saved for future reference as well.

Exotel for Support

Exotel for support

TLDR: Build a customer system that scales without having to increase the manpower. Our aim is to beat the grievances of a traditional call center setup. Data driven call management (Helpdesk & Exotel integration) helps us understand peak hours and staff the team accordingly as well.

Customers still prefer voice as a preferred mode of communication. This is precisely the reason why contact centres still exist. However, the customers who are unhappy with the traditional customer support is a large number. How do we solve it? This is a question that we asked ourselves during the early stages of building the company.

  • An easy to understand IVR helps our customers reach us without having to spend time navigating complicated call flows.
  • We’ve integrated our helpdesk and Exotel to create a single source of customer truth. This is unify our team’s efforts since some customers reach out to us across multiple media. We create tickets from all the unattended call & call-attempt mail alerts that we receive from Exotel, which accordingly gets distributed among team members to attend to ensure that no missed call goes unreturned. Every customer will find someone to speak to.
  • Daily reports give us a sense of the peak hours and staff our teams accordingly as well. We offer 18X7 support. So, it is important to have a team that is not overworked without having to compromise on the quality of the support we provide.
  • Call recordings come handy when training new hires. They are made to listen to the recordings, which will give them a fair sense of understanding of the role and how the team solves problems. It will also give them an idea of the generic questions asked by the customers.

Internal employee communication including some super fun stuff!

Exotel for internal communication

TLDR: We use Exotel to help new recruits get to know their teammates. Some of the Gauls build fun stuff that helped them personally as well

Snack time! As a part of the on-boarding process, we asked the candidates to send a company-wide SMS informing about the snack menu (we have delicious snacks! Canapé chaat, anyone?) of the day. Not only did this help us not miss out on our favourite snack, but also helped the new hire to understand the product better and bond with other employees.

Wake-up call: We, at Exotel, are a bunch of people who love to sleep in. So when we had to leave at 6:30 AM for our company outing to Sakleshpur, we set automated wake-up calls to ring exactly at 5:30 AM. It worked, and we were all on the bus (although, grumpily) at the designated time.

How could this get more cruel, you ask?

The tech team was up for 50 hours straight during an internal hackathon. How do you make the rest of the company wake up on a Sunday morning to present the results of the hacks that they came up with? Call everyone with this lovely (not!) song. And then send them an SMS with this video. We are happy to say that it was enough to wake everyone up. See that dance and try to sleep after that, ok?

FIFA reminders: we had a bunch of folks who wanted to wake up at odd hours to watch the FIFA world cup matches in 2014. But the alarms weren’t really working. So, our team built a system where people could pick the the matches they wanted to be woken up for and we gave them a call just before the match started. Since it was such a hit internally, we also opened it out to the general public. And what a response we got!

Uber price surge hack: Don’t we all hate the surge pricing? What if I told you there was a way to call you when there was no surge pricing for Uber in your area? Yes, all via Exotel.

You can read more about it here

Projects to give back to the community:

Missed Call do, Kahani Suno: Exotel partnered with Pratham books for a noble cause. An Exotel number was provided to students by teachers in schools. On giving a missed call to this number, a call back was initiated from Exotel where the student could listen to any one of the 30 pre-recorded stories in Hindi or English.

Disaster management: during the floods in Chennai and Kerala, the traditional phone lines went down. Rescue operations were hampered because of this. It was becoming impossible for people in the affected areas to reach out for help. Exotel pitched in with disaster management in both these places. We will write about this in detail to help people understand how technology can be a great enabler in such calamities.

Conclusion

Using our own product within the company enables the team to be equipped to face challenges, expectations and goals of the potential customers. It helps in improving the product and educating the tech involved in the development of the product and preparing them for the needed upgrades. Even if this means dumping the product within the company premises, it assures that the company will still come out on top as the team is already prepared for the challenges and can work accordingly.

E-book: Guide to set up a simple cloud call center

We discuss factors like cost, business requirements and time to set up a simple call center


Swathi
Swathi is a content marketer at Exotel. She is passionately establishing Exotel's voice in the form of content. She is also a self-proclaimed champion of Oxford comma.

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