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Weaponizing Voice Technology and Improving Employee Experience with Dialpad founder and CEO Craig Walker

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We are living in a rapidly changing world, one in which technology is creeping into every area of our lives. When it comes to business, that’s mostly a good thing, especially when we’re talking about voice technology. For instance, imagine you’re a sales rep making a call to a potential client. You’re probably worried about how to pitch, what to say and making sure the notes you’re taking about the call are accurate and helpful after the fact. Now imagine that you didn’t have to do any of that. Instead, you could have a call powered by A.I. that’s able to prep you before the call, give you real-time coaching during the call, and provide a transcript and insights that are automatically logged into your system after the call. 

That’s the reality Craig Walker (LinkedIn) is creating at Dialpad. Craig is the founder and CEO of Dialpad, and he joins IT Visionaries to dive deep into how they are weaponizing voice to create a revolution in the business world. 

Best Advice: “Trust your gut.”

Key Takeaways:

  • How Craig went from lawyer to tech founder.
  • The ways Dialpad is changing how business is done over the phone.
  • Reasons to sell B2B
  • What is the future of voice technology?

Craig’s start in tech

Craig grew up in Cupertino, California, and went to law school at Cal. When he graduated, he went to work for a big firm that was representing start-ups and public companies. At the time, the Internet Age was just taking off so when a client was starting a venture fund, Craig decided to get involved. The fund was investing in a number of different tech companies, one of which was called Dialpad, which was working on voice over IP. During a tough time at the company, the venture fund asked Craig to step in as interim CEO. The gig was supposed to last a month. Instead, he stayed for years until the company was acquired by Yahoo. After leaving Yahoo, Craig started a company called Grand Central, which created one central phone number people could call, rather than having to give out a home, work and cell phone number. He eventually sold that company to Google and the service became Google Voice. 

“I really didn’t know much about voice over IP before I was the CEO of a voice over IP Company.”

Dialpad today

Craig bought the name, “Dialpad,” back from Yahoo and created the Dialpad we know today, which is all about incorporating voice technology into the daily lives of users. Using A.I. and machine learning, Dialpad is able to collect and use data from phone calls to create an experience that is better than anything you’ve done before on a phone call. In real-time, A.I. can listen in on the phone call, create a transcript, and give in-the-moment coaching and prompts that can do anything from help an analyst answer a question or help a salesperson close a deal.

“It really is a really exciting, interesting time because once you get everything into the data layer, once you get everything in voice-over, you can do a whole lot of interesting things you couldn’t do before. Like we have artificial intelligence on our calls and in real-time, as you’re on a phone call, you can see a transcript of the conversation and I can get real-time coaching on the call. Like it might tell me to quit interrupting you or to slow down. Or if you ask me a question, I don’t know the answer, it may provide me the answer to tell you.” 

“One of the challenges for the A.I. companies is you could have as many PhDs as you want, but if you don’t have access to a lot of data — meaning a lot of phone calls or conversations — your engine just kind of sits there and doesn’t get smarter and it doesn’t get exercised and really doesn’t add a lot of value.” 

“We always look at AI, not as an ability to replace people, but make the people who are on the phone that much smarter….Machines are really good at pattern matching. Humans are really good on the fly, detecting things, having empathy, doing things that humans are good at. So if you can blend those two things together, it does weaponize voice.”

The merits of voice technology

Voice technology is helping to revolutionize the way people talk on the phone or in meetings. With voice recognition technology, you don’t have to worry about taking notes and remembering every important thing you’re talking about. Instead, you know you will get an A.I.-powered transcript of the conversation afterward that is then automatically logged, so you can be in the moment, focusing on the conversation and the person or people around you.

Why work B2B

Craig says that the market for enterprise voice technology is worth about $100 billion and there are approximately 700 million business phones in the world, so to him, it made sense to focus on selling B2B. Still, only a tiny percentage of those work lines have converted to a cloud-based system, so there is quite a lot of room to keep growing and scaling. Businesses are changing rapidly in order to attract new, young talent, all of whom are used to being able to work and connect from anywhere. In order to stay competitive and create an excellent employee experience, businesses are looking for new solutions to make that a reality, and Dialpad is offering that. 

“There’s something like 700 million business phone lines in the world. And if you think about those, virtually all of them are some legacy line tied to a desk phone. So the ability to revolutionize that was so attractive…. Only something like single-digit percentage of those business lines have converted to the cloud and they’re all going to — it’s inevitable. The benefits are just far too great.”

“The conversation I have with CIOs is, your job should primarily be focusing on providing an excellent, secure, reliable network to your employees. And once you do that, everything can run on that. Your CRM runs on that, your file storage runs on that, your email, your calendar, your docs, everything. And your phone system runs on that. And by the way, you’re going to have to do it regardless because everyone’s going to demand great connectivity from every square inch of where you support them.”

The future of voice

As mobile technology becomes more advanced, and 5G becomes ubiquitous, the ability to have high-quality calls without needing a cellular network will expand. If all you need is a data connection to make a call or have a video conference, you have much more flexibility in how you work. Craig believes that kind of movement will create an opening for voice technology to enter the space even more. Voice and A.I. technology will be able to give you insights wherever you are, before, during and after calls are taking place. To keep iterating and staying ahead of the curve, Craig and Dialpad are investing even more in A.I. — they acquired TalkIQ in 2018 in order to build more A.I. into their platform to help coach reps on sales calls.

“Phone calls have always literally been the phone company cares about making the circuit in the connection from person one to person two super high quality. And then when they both hang up it ends and that’s it. What it’s now going to be is, hey, we’re to give you information about the person you’re about to call. So we think of it as pregame, during game and post-game…. I just think it becomes much smarter and again, it’s no longer just the high-quality connection. It’s all the insights and intelligence that you can add on to that.”

Episode 100