Often Imitated: CX Stories from History

The Power of Feedback with Craig Walker, Founder and CEO, Dialpad

Episode Summary

The reviews are in: your CX needs an upgrade.

Episode Notes

Unfortunately, less-than-stellar CX is commonplace. It’s a problem as old as time. Even back in 1750 AD, merchants were scamming their peers out of quality goods and running off with their money. Artifacts still exist today that show shipping merchant Ea-Nasir was notorious for some of the worst customer experiences in Mesopotamia. His reviews are in...and they’re abysmal.

As CX leaders, we’d rather not have our legacy be 3,000 years of terrible reviews. So it’s important to hear what our customers are saying and act accordingly to correct our course. To learn more about how to value customer feedback, we talked with Craig Walker, Founder and CEO of Dialpad. He’ll share how to incorporate feedback into your product and improve your CX across the board. 


"At the end of the day, you're not just selling to a business customer—you're selling to a person." - Craig Walker, Founder and CEO, Dialpad


Time Stamps

* (0:00) The hottest gossip of 1750 BC

* (5:10) The inspiration behind Dialpad

* (10:27) Prioritizing user feedback

* (12:37) What Dialpad does today

* (16:10) How AI can help improve your CX

* (19:08) Turning hold music into a delightful experience



This podcast is presented by Oracle CX. 

Hear more executive perspectives on CX transformation at Oracle.com/cx/perspectives



Connect with Craig on LinkedIn

Check out Dialpad

Episode Transcription

Narrator: Nanni was having a great week.  He was expecting a large shipment of metal, and he already had a client ready to pay top dollar.  Business had been rough and this looked like the break he’d been praying for.  So he waited anxiously for the cargo to arrive.

And he waited...and waited...and waited.  Multiple times, Nanni sent his workers to collect the shipment. They traveled through dangerous enemy territory, but each time, they were turned away empty handed.  Eventually, it did arrive. But it was months late and was a disappointing collection of cheap quality ore. Scrap metal.  Not the high-quality copper he was expecting.  The shipper, Ea-Nasir, had made promises he couldn’t deliver. 

And of course, Ea-Nasir had already taken payment.  Nanni realized much too late that he had been duped.  It was a slap in the face. 

Nanni decided this insult could not stand.  He pressed the tip of a reed into wet clay, scratching out a message to Ea-Nasir.  Seething with anger, he wrote: “What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt?”  He had to keep his reed from piercing through the clay.  He vowed to never do business with Ea-Nasir again.  

Ea-Nasir may, in fact, have been one of the worst businessmen in the 18th century BC.  He infuriated client after client.  His shipments were often late, misplaced, or never happened at all.  One of his clients wrote, “Do you know how tired I am of this?” And another wrote, sarcastically, “the work that you have done is soooooo good.”  Ea-Nasir was basically piling up complaints, all scrawled on clay tablets in an ancient writing system called cuneiform.

Nanni’s is the earliest documented customer complaint.  It was written around 1750 BC, and was discovered in what is now Iraq.  Though the tablet is weathered and cracked, Nanni’s anger still feels razor sharp.

It’s easy to relate to Nanni’s frustration.  Imagine you’re waiting for a new iPhone in the mail, but it gets lost, shows up late, and it’s a plastic knockoff that looks like a toy.  You’d want a refund, right?  But then the sender ignores your calls and emails, and blocks your number.  Now you know how Nanni felt.

Ea-Nasir could have used the negative reviews to improve his business.  But as CX leaders, we know that sometimes it’s hard to stomach negative customer feedback.  It’s time to flip the script and start embracing all feedback as a gift.  So let’s course correct, set our compass towards the customer, and plan for on-time delivery of an excellent CX.

Welcome to Often Imitated, a podcast about remarkable experiences from the past, and how they inspire people to create great customer experiences today.

This episode is all about accepting feedback as a gift.  How the concept of customer feedback has existed for centuries-- and how CX leaders can embrace it to drive growth.  In this episode, we’ll hear from Craig Walker, Founder and CEO of Dialpad.  He talks about streamlining workflow by combining functions into a single product, customizing little details to surprise customers, and revolutionizing the age-old institution that is the desk phone.  But first, a word from our sponsor.

Often Imitated is brought to you by the generous support of our friends at Oracle. Make every interaction matter with Oracle Advertising and CX. Connect all your data and empower your entire business to deliver exceptional customer experiences from acquisition…to retention…and everything in between. Hear more executive perspectives on CX transformation at oracle.com/cx.


Sadly, we never find out if Ea-Nasir reacted to Nanni’s complaint.  Or any of the others he received.  Did he issue refunds to his customers or send them an apology? Did he ever fix his broken processes? If he did, there’s no documentation of it.  

The point is that he was given valuable feedback from his customers, and he had a choice of what to do with it. Accept the constructive criticism and use it to improve his business, or say goodbye to repeat customers. We’re guessing Ea-Nasir didn’t immediately change his ways, because other complaints about him kept pouring in. So how can we learn from his mistakes and embrace customer feedback as a gift?  That’s what Craig Walker is here to teach us.

Craig Walker is the CEO and co-founder of Dialpad. Dialpad is a platform for team and customer communications. This includes a business phone system, chat, SMS and meeting tool for business communications, and AI powered customer service and sales. 

But first, let’s go back to hear about the problem Craig was solving in 2010. back to a time before Craig started Dialpad, when Craig was working at Google on the launch of Google Voice

Craig: You would go to work. Um, you'd have about a thousand-dollar Cisco desk phone. sitting on your On your desk with a bunch of buttons and a bunch of lights, it would blink, or you, it would light up. If you go, go away for lunch and you'd come back and you got a phone call, it'd be some light flashing, and you had voicemail messages and things like that. But it was, it was effectively the same solution. That's been sitting on a desk. Um, for the prior, you know, I don't know, 75, 80 years, I guess it's the phone itself may have morphed a little bit, but the basic concept was the same. And so we looked at that and we're like, look, it's 2010. The iPhone came out a couple of years earlier. The, you know, the, the cloud was becoming publicly available for people to develop on. There's no way, this is going to be the future. The future has to be a flexible software base. Cloud-based mobile-first type of type of solution. And so we set out to build it. And it's funny, you ask, you know, what was the state of the art back then for 85, 90% of the people in the world? It hasn't changed. They're still on their on-premise business phone system, which is the exact same thing. that My father would have felt very comfortable using. And that, that, you know, frankly, 30, 20, 10 years ago I was using. So, um, it is, it's still in the process of morphing and moving, moving to this like inevitable, you know, modern solution. 

Narrator: Craig and two of the core Google Voice engineers joined with designer Alex Cornell to start Dialpad.  But when they approached businesses, they faced some resistance to the idea of dropping the desk phone entirely.  So the Dialpad guys had to do a bit of convincing.

Craig: And the it's funny, the amount of the amount of times we'll go into a customer and we'll replace that, or they'll just get rid of their desk phones entirely. And a lot of times they will have done a lot of math or done a lot of analysis on, okay, how many we have 10,000 desk phones in our company. How often are they being used? And like, you look at a chart it's going down low to the right, because. Yeah, it's too clunky. It doesn't have your address book in it. You can't text on it. You know, people just sitting in front of that desk phone and pulling their cell phone out of their pocket and using that and going around the entire, the entire system. And it's, it's, it's funny that these people try to hold on to, oftentimes they'll try to hold onto these desk phones or this mindset that they have to have them when the math clearly shows that their employees and users are affirmatively avoiding it.

Narrator: Craig and team had a vision.  It started with replacing that desk phone with something worthy of the modern workforce. And that was designed to keep up with the future.

Craig: We wanted to build a cloud-based business phone system that kind of worked the way that we anticipated the future of work would be, which would be really mobile. Um, really flexible, certainly not, not tied to a location or tied to a to a desk. And so we started the company to go build this really flexible mobile-first cloud-based business phone system. And it morphed into adding video conferencing and adding contact center. And then we acquired an artificial intelligence company about four years ago. So when you're on a contact center call, your agents can get Um, get answers provided to them based on what was being asked by the customer. And you as supervisors can again, see what the sentiment is on a call and go help and coach and do things like that. So, so it really has evolved over the time.

Narrator: Craig and his team didn’t have a background in the phone industry, but they had used old desk phones themselves.  And that informed their work enough to imagine a better product.

Craig: I think you have an advantage by coming at problems without a lot of experience in the space. So you're not down a single path of like, Hey, I've, you know, I've been in telco for 40 years, you know, I used to do AT&T wireline. You know, let me tell you how this works. No one comes in it with that mindset. We look at it like, Hey, I'm a user. How, how could this be better?

For Dialpad's kind of roots and origination as we came from the consumer side. So Google voice was a consumer product used by tens of millions of users. And before that we were at Yahoo and another consumer, obviously consumer product. And so we always approached it from when you looked at consumer products there, they always had good UI. They were easy to use. They were intuitive. People loved them, they were delightful. And then you'd look at. What that the equivalent of that communication tool would be in an enterprise. And it was literally like built by a NASA scientist who didn't care about UI at all. And, you know, like literally looked like something from, from the seventies. 

so we looked at, we looked at that and we're like, look, here's an opportunity for us to bring. Consumer, um, consumer design philosophies and usability, um, to an enterprise space and doing it in a modern way using software versus hardware. And when you do that, you can make anything easy to use. You can make anything delightful, but you have to have that built into your DNA from day one.

Narrator: Their inspiration for the evolution of Dialpad was crowd-sourced specifically from consumers. Built with the end-user in mind. This is where our friend Ea-Nasir could have learned a major lesson.  If he had only listened to Nanni, his customer, he could have worked to improve his business in so many ways.  From faster shipment times to making delivery retrieval safer for Nanni’s workers. The customer always sees your broken processes before you do. So how did Craig go out of his way to listen to his users when building Dialpad? 

Craig: We do have much more of a process around, around getting user feedback and then we also have a pretty big customer success team that goes out and is always in contact with our existing customers. So, so sales reps can now add any like feature requests to, to a tool we use, um, our customer success team adds adds feature requests that they're hearing from the field. And then we ourselves still have a long list of things that we would love to do or improve. And so we'll take all that input and then decide on the priorities of it. So, so it's much more user influence now than it ever was in the past. And, and, you know, at this size, that's probably a good thing than just, you know, us like staying up late and coming up with ideas.

We track really well kind of like the reviews we get on Trustpilot and G2 Crowd and things like that. Those are really, really important to us. Um, we, we track bug reports. We track, you know, like performance and crashes and things like that. Um, And then we track also on, um, on every single call you get at the end of the call, we give you the opportunity to rate the call on a one to five rating. And we track that just to make that's more of like, okay, did everything sound and work correctly? And so that's, that's an extremely high and an important one because that's, that's the foundation of everything. 

Narrator: And Craig wanted to do the little things right for his customers. He also took inspiration from the ol fruit company in Cupertino. 

Craig: Apple is the, is the gold standard of an experience.

Very first iPhone, I get it. I go to the calculator, it was just a normal calculator. And then I turn it sideways and it turns into a scientific calculator. And it was like, like mind blown because it's. like If they care that much about this throwaway app on the phone, the just, you know, the calculator, imagine how much they care about every little other single detail. And then you look at the case and you can't find the screws and all this stuff like that. Attention to the little detail in that last 5% is really what differentiates product differentiates a product. And just like they've mastered it better than anyone. So that, that really is the ultimate. Um, the ultimate inspiration.

Narrator: And now, they have an all-in-one communication platform. Built from the ground up with the end-user in mind. Constantly improved upon over the course of the last decade. And with new features being added all the time, often at the direct request of the users.  

Craig: It really is keeping an eye on kind of all the places where you can get feedback from your users and being responsive to it, too. Some of our best, you know, like fixes or best, you know, product enhancements have come as suggestions from users. 

So the product's pretty darn complete. So, you know, we launched our, our first, our first piece of the product was our conferencing product Dialpad meetings, which launched in 2012. And it does, you know, video conferencing, audio conferencing, screen sharing. Um, we'll do real-time transcription sentiment. Uh, the artificial intelligence will track. We'll track action items from your calls and interesting questions that were asked by, by every party. And so that's our conferencing product. Then we have our, our Dialpad talk, which is our new cast or a phone's product. We launched that in 2015, that's, you know, that's serving customers worldwide as a, as a complete robust enterprise business phone system replacement, um, for any size of company. Um, and then our more recent product, which is now four years. old Was our contact center product. And all three of these products use the exact same platform, use the exact same app. So if you're deploying it to a business and you want to have one vendor for all of it, you want to get real-time AI or analytics across your entire organization. You now have a complete platform to do that. And then we, we recently added about six months ago, a full. With the, you could always text SMS and MMS on a Dialpad number, but we also added the full kind of channels capabilities. So for persistent conversations based around topics that also is built into the end of the product.

I've talked to a bunch of CIOs Um, one of the more interesting conversations was recently with, and this was like a fortune 40 company. And he was saying is like My favorite number is one, like if we can consolidate everything into one and I have to manage one tool, that is that's Nirvana. Right?

In the past, people would buy one of the three products conferencing, phone system, contact center. Now it's much more of just people buy Dialpad and Dialpad gives you conferencing. It gives you a phone system and it gives you a contact center and use it however you want.

Narrator: Dialpad acts like a swiss army knife. Combining so many powerful tools into one.  A company might already be using modern solutions, but there is a ton of room to streamline their workflows.

Craig: Let's say there's a, a, you know, like a thousand percent insurance company in the Midwest, Let's just used them. So it's not, it's just a normal traditional business. Um, in the past they probably were using something like an Avaya phone system, PBX for their on-premise for the business phone system for conferencing. They may have been using WebEx Um, for their contact center, they're probably using something like a, like an inContact or a Genesis contact center. Um, and then if they wanted to have messaging or, or, or kind of like those channels based messaging, they're probably using slack or teams. And then. On top of that, if they wanted any AI and wanting to analyze their calls, they use something like gong or chorus. So that's literally five different silos and stacks of various parts of the business communication platform. So with Dialpad, you literally can roll all five of those into one. And it's just one Dialpad solution that does all of it.

Narrator: At Dialpad, the concept of feedback isn’t just a one way street. Millions of calls are passing through Dialpad’s technology every year. That’s a lot of valuable opportunities to learn and discover ways to improve. So Dialpad is using real-time AI coaching support to help their customers get better at their jobs.

Craig: So if you were to ask me, Hey, or one of our sales reps on the call and, and a prospect says, tell me how you're different from, from zoom or tell me how you're different from RingCentral. Literally a battlecard will pop up on the screen and give the answer to the rep right there within half a second of like, here's how we differentiate, make sure you hit these points and it just makes for a much, a much more compelling conversation. You don't your sales reps and your support reps now get coached in real time by the AI versus putting all that burden on the manager to review calls and sit down with them afterwards and coach them. So it's just a much better, much better, uh, way to run a business.

Narrator: Dialpad puts AI to work in a handful of ways.  It helps them get a better understanding of their own customers, who have been their inspiration from the beginning. But it also helps their B2C clients become more customer-centric.

Craig: Using our own AI for our own contact center, we can now know without having to wait for an end-user to fill out a form, telling us what their satisfaction rate was. We can do this synthetic C-SAT just from the artificial intelligence. Right. And we can see when they talk about certain products, what is their sentiment? And we can measure, you know, how often. How often are they upset? How often are they happy? What types of questions are being asked? And so you, the whole point of it is to understand your business better and to understand how like you're exactly right. These conversations are happening. The fact that they share them with you, or put them in a format where you can actually, um, you know, learn from them is actually folks doing you a favor.

If I can send your customer a and I can send you a note every week and say, hey, your request for refunds went up by 5% last week, or average sentiment went down by 2%. Or this, this competitor of yours is being mentioned 10 times more on sales calls, that's stuff you probably would like to know. And without it, without that being done by AI, the only way you'd get that today is, is if you like set up your proper, you know, fields in Zendesk or Salesforce, and then your reps affirmatively go in manually, say, that's what happened. And I hate to say it. Uh, I'd love to think that every customer support rep is super well trained. And does all the proper labeling of all their interactions. But sometimes they don't and you know, they're there, they're hustling to get on the next call. So having that AI engine that can do all that stuff for you and get all those insights for you without putting that burden on your, on your employees is super helpful.

Narrator: So yes, Dialpad is a workhorse of an app. Doing the heavy lifting on multiple fronts.   But the company also looks for opportunities to charm its users. Since the beginning, they’ve been building moments of playfulness into the experience.  

Craig: Yeah. So this was back in 2011, my co-founder Alex Cornell, who was a great designer. Um, he was also an incredible musician and had like a YouTube channel with a million followers. He looks and sounds like John Mayer, just this great, super funny, interesting, talented person. And so he came in one Monday morning and he's like, Hey, I, uh, I wrote a song about being on hold and I recorded it over the weekend. Can we drop it in and put it, use it for our hold music? And so he played it for me the first time and he's, again, he's super talented and it sounds great. It's almost like this country ballad and then it takes you like 10, 15 seconds to realize he's singing about calling into a conference call and being stuck on hold. And And so I'm like, I wasn't sure, you know, like, I wasn't sure how it would be received. So I'm like, okay, look, we'll try it. You know, like we're, we're a scrappy young startup. We can always pull it out if it's bad. So we put it in and almost immediately, like you started seeing like people on Twitter talking about our hold music and, and like 99% of it was super positive. Cause you know, like a lot of people you'll get on hold and they'll play. Some classical strains of music that no longer have copyright protection. And you just kind of like every single other thing in the world. And then you get on this and you're listening to a song about being on hold. That's pretty humorous and really high quality at the same time. So anyway, fast forward, like three weeks and one of our board members and investor is a Marc Andreessen. And, and like, I was texting with him and he's like, it's like that hold music is driving me crazy. Makes me want to throw my phone out the window. And I'm like, yeah, you might think that, but here's the link, just do a search. Uh, and at the time we were called the product Uber conference, I'm like, just do a search on Twitter for Uber conference, hold music. And you do that. And w and it would be like, just in the last hour, there were like 20 tweets about Uber conference and the hold music. So, and that was the last time anyone on the board ever complained about it.

Narrator: It takes guts to stand up to one of the most powerful investors in Silicon Valley. But Craig felt confident in his stance because he was backed up by the voice of the customer. Like his inspiration at Apple, Craig wanted to pay that extra attention to the little details and engineer moments of surprise and delight for his users. The people they’ve had in mind since the beginning.  

Craig: From day one, we care about the end user. We literally care a lot more about the end-user than we do about the IT buyer. I want the end users to be, to be happy and delightful or delighted. And it's interesting that allows us to do a lot of cool stuff. Like we do a robust Online business, where people can come and sign up for a two week free trial, use the product and just be off and running. And we've landed some massive deals that way, where they never even spoke to a, to a sales rep, you know, like an it department at a, at a, I won't name them, but a pretty big startup in the bay area. They set up themselves up with a five, you know, five lines and test it all out. And then next thing you know, they're like, all right, we want to roll this out to our whole company legitimately, you know, a multi-million dollar contract over three. years Without a sales rep. So like being able to have that design philosophy allows for those types of things to, to occur. So it just, it's just being empathetic. You know, it's coming from a play. It is coming from kind of that end user experience, you know, as your first priority, like we really, really care about making end users happy. And, and I think that consumer experience really, really honed our skills on that.

At the end of the day, just because they're, you're selling to a business customer, you're still selling to people. Right. And you want there are consumers in their in their normal life. It's not like they go to work and all of a sudden they're, they're looking for less delightful experiences. So, so, and it's, you know, you've heard the term of, you know, the consumerization of IT, et cetera. It's real, you know, and people just want things that work and are, make them more productive. And particularly now, if, if you have a thousand people in your company and they're working out of a thousand different homes, You don't have the ability to train them on tools very well. Right? Like the tools have to be intuitive and they have to be something that they're going to want to use. Otherwise they'll just, they'll just never use them and just use it on cell phones.

Narrator: So keep your end-user in mind at all times. And focus on creating a streamlined, easy-to-use, intuitive product with those little details that make it a pleasure to use.  And pay attention to feedback - the good and the bad.  There’s value in both.

Feedback is a gift. Don’t let it go to waste!

Whether it’s delivered via clay tablet or a 240 character tweet, any opportunity to improve your service should be viewed as a gift. 

And that gift might stick around for 3,371 years. 

This podcast is brought to you by the generous support of our friends at Oracle. Make every interaction matter with Oracle Advertising and CX. Connect all your data and empower your entire business to deliver exceptional customer experiences from acquisition…to retention…and everything in between. Hear more executive perspectives on CX transformation at oracle.com/cx.

This is your host, Ian Faison, CEO of Caspian Studios. Thank you for listening to another episode of Often Imitated. If you like what you’re hearing, tell one friend. This podcast was narrated by me, Ian Faison, written by Meredith O’Neil and produced by Mackey Wilson, Ezra Bakker Trupiano, and Jon Libbey. You can learn more about our team at CaspianStudios.com