Ben Nimmo is founder & CTO at Orlo, an online engagement platform.
If you’re unsure of what an online engagement platform is, or have always wondered what it takes to create your own martech platform, you’re in luck.
We caught up with Nimmo to find out more.
What is Orlo? What made you create it?
Ben Nimmo: Orlo is an online customer engagement ecosystem that creates a unified view of all customer communications across multiple digital channels, allowing brands to move seamlessly across online channels and conversations, just like consumers do.
Orlo allows marketing, customer services and PR departments to work from a single system, enhancing collaboration, consistency and control across teams and locations.
Early in 2018, we started to see a trend for brands wanting to join up their digital touchpoints and to manage these in a more integrated and holistic fashion – removing narrow, siloed channels of communication and enabling them to work more joined up behind the scenes, in turn creating a much stronger digital presence.
Who is in your team?
Ben Nimmo: Orlo’s UK Head Office is in Birmingham, with the European Office being in Barcelona. The company was founded in 2012 by me (Ben Nimmo) and Nick Wood. I am the CTO and Nick has a long history of successfully building and exiting multiple businesses.
Orlo grew quickly and doubled in size in FY 2017/18. Currently, Orlo has 45 employees across the UK and Europe. This comprises of Sales, Marketing, Client Success, Design and Development departments.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building the tech or growing your team?
Ben Nimmo: The statistics are firmly stacked against you when building a tech company. Only one in ten start-ups make it past the first year, so the fact that we are fast-approaching our seventh year is a great testament to our team really understanding our customers’ needs and continuously building robust solutions which meet them.
It’s easy to become distracted and start adding every feature and function under the sun, so it’s important to be comfortable in your skin and know your core competency as a business – for us that’s enabling brands to use emotional connections to create amazing online customer experiences and marketing ROI. This focused-approach allows us to keep the UI in our platform clear and intuitive, which is really important in the busy, stressful customer service environment.
When the company and team is growing fast one of the biggest challenges is maintaining controlled growth, this begins right at the start with the recruitment process. We hire on emotional intelligence (EQ) and not IQ. We need people who can understand and empathise with our customers, each other and themselves. This helps us build strong relationships with our customers and work in close partnership with them to develop effective solutions, it also helps maintain a positive, energetic and productive working environment.
We believe that EQ trumps IQ every time and is the most important trait in both business and life, if we get this bit right, we can train the skills and experiences that a new starter will need.
What problems does Orlo solve?
Ben Nimmo: It’s now firmly accepted that emotion drives behaviour, summarised perfectly by Maya Angelou when she said, “people don’t always remember what you said or even what you did, but they always remember how you made them feel”.
Forrester Customer Experience Index 2018 identified “emotion” as a key pillar of customer service and sales, and that when customers feel valued and appreciated, 87% become advocates and 74% remain with the brand. Similarly, Harvard Business Review 2018 recently found that 95% of purchase-making decisions are driven subconsciously by emotion.
So, if brands are be there instantly, effectively and meaningfully when their customers need them most, they can create amazing online experiences and inspire positive emotions, influencing behaviour at scale. These behaviours might be to turn social media followers or website visitors into customers, convert your most satisfied customers into public advocates, or to encourage those that matter to see online as the best way to talk to you.
Gartner recently reported seeing the emergence of a new area of customer care that might be referred to as “digital customer service.”, with brands now wanting to bring together and manage broad digital engagements (chat, chatbots, messaging, push notifications, social media engagement) from one place. These new platforms are built to manage the customer dialogue and communication for an increasingly large percentage of online customer interactions. Orlo does just that, enabling departments and brands with high-volume, multi-channel, online customer experience and marketing operations to work from within a single ecosystem, and across an enterprise.
Consumer expectations are being raised by forward-thinking brands, they now expect organisations to have a view of all previous conversations and to treat them as the same single entity each time. By joining up online engagement channels such as social media, web chat and linking these to a CRM, customer service agents can move across conversations and channels with full visibility of all previous interactions with a consumer. Agents can then respond much more effectively, because, for example, they know if someone is an important customer or has an outstanding issue.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five years’ time?
Ben Nimmo: The next twelve months are all about communicating the important role that emotion plays in customer experience and communications, this is something we are passionate and care deeply about. It’s then about taking our proposition to the global market.
Following on from this we will be releasing some of the AI and bot solutions that we are currently developing. A big bang approach to AI will not work, it needs to be a phased approach. We will be launching AI solutions that enable brands to automate low value, repetitive tasks around answering FAQ’s (often 40-60% of enquiries) across social media and web chat – creating a great experience for both consumer and agent and allowing the brand to focus on more complex enquiries that require a more empathetic, human interaction.
In our initial tests, we found that across a period of twenty-four hours for a high-volume brand, Orlo can save around eight hours, or one person, which can then be redistributed elsewhere. Conversational bots will also be a huge area for us going forward. Sometimes a customer just wants to self-serve for a simple transaction and be on their way. Using a conversation bot will allow a customer to quickly find out what time their delivery is due or to check their bank balance, but always with the option to chat with an agent if necessary – helping achieve the perfect balance between ruthless efficiency and meaningful engagement.
The key here is to build these so simply so that the brand can customise them themselves and integrate them with their internal systems, allowing continuous improvement and refinement. We also see AI delivering huge value and insight to social media analytics. We’ve been developing a set of solutions that present data in a more meaningful and useful way. Time series anomaly detection will identify spikes in activity and alert staff so that they can respond proactively.
Using AI to detect important entities and extract these allows us to draw out key places, names, organisations and mentions. We also believe that understanding sentiment is no longer enough and have taught Orlo to understand emotion. When you combine emotion detection with entity extraction you have rich contextual understanding around customer experience and marketing campaigns that creates a new level of insight and greatly informs your decision-making going forward.
Beyond that we are already exploring other communication channels and which ones we should incorporate into our ecosystem to ensure we stay aligned to our customers’ needs and indeed the needs of their own customers. WhatsApp and SMS may well be another natural extension for us, because similar to social and web chat, they are all real-time, informal, 1-2-1 conversations between two people – which remain aligned to our vision of meaningful and emotional human connections.
Other than your own, what are your favourite websites/apps/tools?
Ben Nimmo: There are a number of websites and apps that I think offer amazing user experiences. This is important because the information age is over, it’s now all about the experience. Digital winners in 2019 are heavily experience-led, with a deep human focus and understanding. Airbnb has leveraged the power of social communities to make flexible, cost-effective, authentic travel experiences instantly available. While Spotify, for example, offers a highly-personalised way to use and discover it’s services.
The best apps today assimilate seamlessly into our everyday lives, they do this so effectively because they understand human behaviour and continuously learn to become more and more personalised. Just look at Google Maps, this has now become central to our daily personal and professional lives.
A few other personal favourites, this time relevant to my role of CTO at Orlo, are Hacker News, this focuses on computer science and entrepreneurship, but can stray outside of this to be anything that stimulates intellectual curiosity more broadly. Product Hunt is a curation of the best new products, every day. Helping me discover the latest mobile apps, websites, and technology products that everyone’s talking about.
Also, who doesn’t love Twitter – I see good things ahead for Twitter. It allows me to follow key tech trends, projects and people shaping the space we operate it, ranging from AI and machine learning to wider cultural reference points that help me understand changing human behaviour. I also look at the trending repos on GitHub, this gives me lots of ideas that we can test with Orlo to keep pushing it forward everyday. I check these sites everyday without fail (or catch-up on them after a busy day), often as my last task before bed so that I can “sleep on” whatever cool thing I’ve just learnt so I wake with fresh solutions and inspiration.