10 questions with Solgari co-founder Ed Grant
| Transforming customer experience through all-channel communications is key to a successful future |
Microsoft Business Applications MVP Rick McCutcheon regularly speaks with members of the Microsoft Business Applications channel, including Microsoft leaders, partners and ISV leadership.
Today, Rick talks in-depth about all-channel communications, transforming the customer experience and the benefits of Microsoft’s ISV Connect Program with Solgari COO and co-Founder Ed Grant. Solgari offers a Dynamics 365 all-in-one communications solution.
RICK MCCUTCHEON - Good to catch up with you today, Ed. To start, could you please tell me a little bit about Solgari.
ED GRANT - Thanks, Rick. Good to chat. John Colgan, Vance Harris and I came together and launched Solgari in 2013 to build a global B2B SaaS business that would deliver an end-to-end, integrated cloud communications solution.
We recognized the opportunity to address the problems of legacy and modern point solutions that can only deliver some channels and functions—leading companies requiring multiple, disjointed communication solutions to meet the demands of modern consumers.
When we started and launched the first version of our product, the demand was mainly around telephony delivered in the cloud; however, from 2016 onwards, we saw the trend we always expected and the requirement for omnichannel communication solutions. We even saw beyond that and were developing our all-channel, all-function solution, culminating with the launch of our Dynamics 365 All-Channel Communications Solution in conjunction with Microsoft.
R.M. - What exactly does an ‘all-channel communications solution’ mean?
E.G. – The Dynamics 365 All-Channel Communications Solution is for companies with demanding customer communication needs, with an expectation of expanding channels and security & regulation.
Lots of our customers are looking to increase efficiency, while also looking to transform the customer experience, and that’s where we come in.
Our solution offers the agent the option to have any type of customer’ conversation’ on our Converse U.I. inside Dynamics 365 while also allowing customers to communicate over whatever channel they choose – voice, video, chat, SMS or 3rd party chat channels such as WeChat & WhatsApp and social media.
Where a lot of our competitors fall is in the related functionality layer – telephony, contact centre, compliant recording & archiving, reporting & analytics – but that’s where we excel, meaning our customers have a genuinely end-to-end cloud communications solution.
R.M. – Communications needs change, and like every technology growth and innovation is essential. What kind of innovation has Solgari implemented in recent times?
E.G. - I couldn’t agree more Rick, and progress and innovation and future needs of our market are at the forefront of everything we do.
Presently we are building out our A.I. and Machine Learning capability, particularly in the area of ‘know me.’ This applies both when the agent logs into D365, and our application knows who it is and presents our Converse U.I. inside D365 and also to knowing customers coming in over our Connect U.I. from a website.
R.M. – Solgari has tremendous functionality. What are some of the key user challenges you solve with your platform?
E.G. - We’re transforming the customer experience by communicating with them on the channel of their choice – chat, SMS, voice, video, social & more – while allowing multiple channels in a conversation. To do this, we empower agents with all the communication tools they need through a fully integrated solution sitting inside Dynamics 365.
Compliance is also a crucial issue for our customers – our solution provides automatic compliance around financial services and privacy regulations such as PCI DSS & GDPR. Of course, as part of this, we can also record & archive all customer conversations, giving them the tools to search and retrieve instantly.
The single data view of all your customers’ communications is really powerful. Also, the benefit of dealing with Solgari is our simple pricing per user per month model vs alternative of using multiple vendors - reducing cost but driving higher performance.
R.M. - Do you have any examples of creative applications of Solgari which show the power and benefits of the platform?
E.G. – We currently have customers using our solution in 40 countries across Financial Services, Retail, eCommerce & Recruitment. Recent customers include IBIZ Consulting Services, running their Asia Pacific customer service requirements on our D365 All-Channel Solution, and Project Heather, the first digital stock exchange in Scotland running all customer communications channels, compliantly on our solution.
Our solution is highly unique, and the USP is the delivery of all the channels and functions as a fully integrated cloud software solution, seamlessly part of Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement.
R.M. - You made a significant announcement recently. You have become part of the Microsoft Business Applications ISV Connect program. Why is this such a significant development for your product and your team?
E.G. - Yes, we have just been announced as a Premium Partner on the Microsoft Business Applications ISV Connect Program. This gives us ‘Co-Sell’ status with the global Dynamics 365 field sales team and multiple technical and marketing supports from Microsoft.
R.M.- What is your experience with AppSource, the Microsoft marketplace for Dynamics 365 Apps.
E.G. - AppSource allows us to present our solution to the entire Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer ecosystem, opening lots of inbound leads in addition to the business we are working on with the Microsoft Field Sales teams and our global D365 partners.
Our solution is available globally. Our position with the Microsoft Business Applications ISV connect Program gives us access to the Microsoft sales teams with all the right types of customers across our key verticals looking for all-channel communications solutions.
R.M. - Is there a component or a capability of the product which has a lot of momentum in the marketplace?
E.G. - We see demand for the D365 All-Channel Communications in all our key markets, typically from companies in the financial services, manufacturing and retail verticals with substantial inbound & outbound B2C communication needs across channels including voice, video, chat, SMS & third party.
Interestingly, there is a lot of demand in the Asia Pacific where chat is by far the most critical communication channel.
We are releasing WeChat and WhatsApp as additional third-party channels that can be handled on our platform, precisely as we manage our own channels within Dynamics 365. This is in response to significant demand from Microsoft D365 customers communicating with their own consumers across these channels.
R.M. - Where is Solgari headed in the future? What innovations are you expecting next?
We are adding lots of new channels, in addition to WeChat and WhatsApp, we are also releasing Twitter and Facebook Messenger as channels we can handle inside Dynamics 365.
We are releasing lots of new capabilities into our administration portal, which is called Console. This includes real-time transcription and sentiment analysis, which we are looking to push into Dynamics 365 Common Data Service. We are also just releasing our multilingual A.I. driven chat capability, allowing agents to respond in the language of the customer.
R.M. - Is Solgari attending any upcoming events?
E.G. - We are a global ISV sponsor of the D365 Saturday/Power Platform events and have already sponsored the Philadelphia leg. At the same time, our CTO, Vance Harris, was a keynote speaker at the Power Platform customer event last Saturday in London.
We will be speaking at other D365 Saturday/Power Platform events in 2020, including New York, Singapore, Paris and Munich. We are also speaking at extreme365, the D365 community event for partners in Barcelona in March. The topic of my session is the ‘Business Applications ISV Connect Program – Anything is Possible.’
R.M. - How can people find out more about Solgari?
The preceding interview has been edited for clarity and abridged for concision.