Cost-Effective Customer Service Solutions With Rowan Trollope, CEO of Five9

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“You can’t really service your customers if you’re relying on manual people to answer all the questions. And that’s sort of at the heart of this problem. And that’s where computers have shown up to the rescue – specifically machine learning in the last four or five years has emerged where it can actually start to solve some of these problems.”


Can you imagine a future where contacting customer service does not elicit a groan or sigh of despair? This is the future that CEO Rowan Trollope is creating at Five9. Their cloud-based platform integrates modern AI and machine learning to efficiently intake customer problems and match them to effective customer solutions. Saving the business world almost a quarter of a trillion dollars annually in customer service costs is the goal and hiring for intellectual curiosity is part of the solution. 

Key Insights


How can the customer service industry across the Fortune 500 and beyond be positively disrupted by machine learning? (8:55) 

“Most businesses still use a telephone or some of them have implemented chatbots, which are fundamentally a bad experience. They made it harder for people to get a hold of companies. Here’s a space where businesses around the world are spending almost a quarter of a trillion dollars a year in contact centers to deliver a service that basically no one likes. And that felt to me like an incredible opportunity. And it felt to me like the technology was reaching a level of maturity where we could actually solve some of those hard problems.” 

How can the learnings of one industry serve all others through AI and machine learning?  (17:11)

“We can take the learnings across multiple different customers in a single industry and we can apply those learnings. Most calls and contact centers are already recorded so we have this gold mine of data. We’re starting to unlock that data; we’re applying automatic speech recognition, which is now achieved near-human level of accuracy. “

How is machine learning empowering a democratization of technology through no-code solutions like Five9?  (22:35

“Our entire product is really a low-code, no-code approach to solving this problem. And that’s our principal sort of our belief – while it’s great to be a developer and there are many developers in the world, there are not enough developers. And certainly, there is an order of magnitude, less developers than there are business operations people. And so if you can, you can enable those business operations people to do the simple stuff, that’s actually an incredible way to empower kind of the democratization of this technology.”

How do we hire for the problems of the future? (31:23)

When your company is on the cutting edge of an industry, you can’t go out and hire people to build it that already have experience. What you’re doing has not been done, so you have to hire for intellectual curiosity rather than proven past experience. 

“We’re really looking for smart, curious people because this technology is moving so fast and we are trying to be at the cutting edge of these solutions. And so you can’t often hire for someone who’s done what you already want – done already what you want to do because we’re trying to do things that haven’t been done before. So for those kinds of things, we’re just looking for people who have like an innate sort of passion for programming and, or whatever the sort of unique discipline is and a deep sense of curiosity.”

How radically and how quickly can the customer service aspect of all businesses be transformed? (38:59)

The world of customer service across all industries is undergoing this radical transformation thanks to machine learning and AI. The customers of the future will not be able to understand a joke about poor customer service. The idea that businesses used to drag their customers through frustrating call-bot loops will be a thing of the past. 

“My, my vision of the future is my daughter’s nine, and when she’s 19 or 20 and going into the workforce, she’s gonna experience customer service in a really different way than you or I did. This idea that businesses would have bad service is just gonna be foreign to her. I’ll be telling her, ‘10 years ago, you call up a business and you’d get terrible service and you push one for this and two for that.’ And she will look at me and be like, ‘Why would any business in their right mind treat their customers that way?’ So it’ll become really a figment of the past.”

About the Guest:

BiO: Rowan Trollope is CEO of Five9, a leading provider of cloud contact center software for the enterprise. Rowan is passionate about how digital transformation revolutionizes the way we communicate, in particular how organizations bring personalized experiences to their customers. He joined Five9 as CEO in May 2018.

Rowan is a recognized Silicon Valley leader and has a depth of experience in software solutions and cloud innovation. He is a self-proclaimed geek and taught himself to program on a Commodore 64 at a local Radio Shack and holds a number of patents in computer security and operating systems.

Prior to Five9, Rowan was SVP and General Manager of Cisco’s Applications Group and a member of the executive leadership team. Under Rowan’s leadership, Cisco refreshed its entire collaboration technology portfolio, simplifying the product line and winning over 20 awards for outstanding product design.

Prior to Cisco, at Symantec Rowan was Group President, Sales, Marketing, and Product Development, responsible for cloud security and the SMB market. He developed and grew the Company’s Software as a Service strategy and expanded its cloud-based delivery and customer support models.

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Episode 381