CEO of the Year – USA
Interactcrm is the developer of the Interactcrm Customer Experience Platform, or ICX, a
fully omni channel customer interaction management platform. Not only does Interactcrm
have customers across the globe, from the European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and
Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions to the USA, but the company also maintains a diverse reach across
multiple industries that stand to benefit from the ICX platform, including banking, financial,
utilities, insurance, e-commerce and manufacturing sectors. We spoke to Snehal Patel, ‘CEO of
the Year, the USA’ to find out more about the company.
Any company that has a team of dedicated people managing customer service is a good fit for ICX, and Interactcrm’s CEO, Snehal Patel, expresses a strong desire to drive loyalty to the company through exceptional customer experience, hence the company tagline, “Simplifying Customer Loyalty”.
As a first-generation immigrant from India, who came to the USA to pursue a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering at USC, Snehal spent almost a decade working for small and large companies in USA, before striking out to lead a lifestyle in which he could achieve greater control over his time and destiny. “I founded Interactcrm in 2002 and have been CEO since the beginning,” he says. “I am responsible for Vision, Strategy and Overall Execution. As a bootstrapped operation with no external investment till date, I have to also manage cashflow and ensure that the business continually remains financially sustainable and is able to grow. While I have to keep an eye on financial management, I spend most of my time with the product team to help define product direction, and with the sales team to drive revenues.
“After spending almost eight years as a services company, Interactcrm used its domain expertise to build the Omnichannel Customer Experience platform known as ICX. Turning Interactcrm into a product company was challenging since the immediate cashflow started diminishing. But it had to be done as a strategic move to create sustainability and drive IP and valuation. We did manage to get through it with a lot of pain and finally the product was shipped and we are now a license revenue driven operation and not a services company anymore. This remains one of the most challenging things I have accomplished at Interactcrm.”
This push to overcome challenging market situations, and to bring real, meaningful assistance to companies in need of sophisticated software, takes a solid form in ICX, which allows companies to manage real time interaction with their customers via voice, email, web chat, SMS and social channels. The system allows a customer service representative to see full omnichannel interaction history for every single customer. Every interaction is personalized and routed based on customer profile, past interaction history and other intelligence such that the customer experience is personal and delightful. At the heart of the system is customer context management, which allows for the context of any conversation to be preserved and presented to the right person at the right time.
Discussing the innovation that gave birth to the ICX platform, Snehal demonstrates the need for a strong knowledge of the market, as a backbone to conducting business in sometimes-challenging circumstances. “Firstly, you need to know the market very well,” he expands. “The domain knowledge is crucial; this is why you should stick to your core competence when you build a company.
“Secondly, you need to be honest about what you cannot do and who you cannot compete with. We tend to get emotional about what we build but you have to be practical since at the end of the day what you build is useless if nobody is willing to buy it.”
“Finally, you have to drive innovation within your team and challenge them to do new things. Not easy to do with a limited risk appetite that a bootstrapped company tends to have but a balance has to be struck as much as possible.”
By keeping constant track of new and emerging trends, and by spending time in Silicon Valley, Snehal witnesses a lot of innovation, and that helps him and his team to develop fleshed-out long term strategies, with enough flexibility to account for any major upsets in market conditions. When it comes to products, flexibility is paramount – open system architecture, Snehal says, is the only safety against a changing world.
“For example,” he adds, “Software as a Service (SaaS) was not a factor a decade ago but today it is becoming a way of life for many companies. You have to deal with constant change in the tech industry and ensure your platform has some ability to adapt. You cannot always predict the future but you have to find a way to hedge your bets the best you can.”
From a business strategy standpoint, Snehal realises that is often tough to compete with larger players. “We sell enterprise software to big corporations and often face stiff competition from larger players. The way we dealt with this is to build a niche for ourselves and be nimble. The flexibility and speed of execution has served us well and that is critical in such a scenario. Trying to be all things to everyone is a recipe for failure, especially for a start-up. It is a tough call to make, since every bit of revenue looks attractive to the needy, but some tough decisions have to be made in the interest of long-term success; that is my responsibility to shoulder.”
Interactcrm has evolved into a mature product company with marquee customers, and Snehal recognises that it now needs to reach the next level of growth; given the market landscape, he looks forward to M&A scenarios in which he and his company can work with larger organizations and give them significant added value. Five years from now, Snehal sees himself spending more time advising start-ups as a mentor, and assisting them in growing from the same humble origins as Interactcrm once did.