From Silicon Valley Roots to Contact Center AI
- Silicon Valley roots. Scott Kolman’s early inspiration from tech giants.
- AI benefits. Addressing agent challenges through generative AI.
- Future vision. Personalized, AI-driven contact center experiences ahead.
Scott Kolman is the chief marketing officer at Cresta with responsibility for overseeing the planning, development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy and initiatives including the positioning, promotion and branding of the Cresta real-time intelligence platform for the contact center. He has an extensive background in marketing and selling SaaS and enterprise software and is a recognized professional with expertise in cloud contact center, customer experience and customer service.
Prior to Cresta, Kolman held leadership positions at Five9, Genesys, Synchronoss Technologies, SpeechCycle, Amdocs, Lucent Technologies and Octel Communications. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences including CCW, ICMI, Aragon Transform, as well as a prolific blogger.
We caught up with Kolman for a five-question Q&A on his role as CMO in our latest edition of the CMSWire CMO Circle series.
Editor’s note: This transcript is edited for clarity.
From Film to Silicon Valley: Apple’s Origins and a Creative Passion
Jennifer Torres: Hi, this is Jennifer Torres, reporter with CMSWire and this is CMO Circle and today I’m very excited to welcome Scott Kolman, Chief Marketing Officer at Cresta — welcome Scott.
Scott Kolman: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Torres: Well, we’re excited to have you. So, let’s dive right in. How did you get involved in marketing and why?
Kolman: Yeah, it’s interesting. I started out originally as a film major and then I moved into advertising, but having grown up in Silicon Valley, I think I found very quickly, a couple of things happen. First of all, I went to the same high school as Steve Wozniak — and Steve Jobs a few years later — but the inception of Apple came straight out of that school. So, I was always interested in tech. And then when I went to school, I went into advertising and came across some people working in marketing. It sounded very interesting, that combination of the creative side and technology, and many years later, here I am.
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Weaving in AI to Revolutionize Contact Centers Amidst Industry Challenges
Torres: Wow, very interesting. With Cresta at the forefront of integrating regenerative AI into contact centers, how do you communicate the benefits of such a cutting-edge technology to such a diverse audience?
Kolman: I think there are a couple of things that that really stand out on that. I think like any technology or any solution, you have to start with focusing on the key problems and challenges that face your buyer. Too many times, especially being technical marketers, people can get caught up in the bits and bytes and capabilities, but they forget that it all really stems on what are the key problems and challenges that people face and how do you how do you solve that?
So, I think that’s the first one, but there a few things that really come to the forefront. The first one is the growing complexity of the way we interact with businesses, right? That’s putting a huge cognitive load on the agents. So, it’s really important to be able to show how we can help them use technology to be able to really address their problems more quickly. Also, dealing with agent turnover. You know, in every industry the turnover has been so high and it’s finally back to pre-pandemic rates.
And so how do you bring onboard new agents? So, helping them to understand that as well. Then, I think besides focusing on the problems that they face, its customer complaints, right? There’s so much tech out there. Generative AI is the latest buzzword for many people, although we’ve been doing this for about five or six years and people get a bit jaded — is this real? – does it work? You have to really ground it in proof of what customers are doing, particularly in the industry the buyer is in, and really reinforce the reality. What are they seeing as the actual results along the way?
Overcoming AI Skepticism in Contact Centers: Education, Realism and Timely Solutions
Torres: That leads into my second question. Because introducing AI, especially generative models into traditional contact centers can be met with a lot of resistance or skepticism. You mentioned a few challenges, but what are the primary challenges in marketing Cresta’s solutions to potential clients?
Kolman: Well, one in the beginning is confusion and maybe a lack of understanding. With any new technology, we get excited as vendors. We’ve known about this for a long time, but that doesn’t mean your buyer understands. So, it really requires a lot of education along the way, help them on the journey, providing content that really is not salesy, it’s not overt, it’s really just educational and bring them up to understand what’s possible. I think that’s a big one that we spend a lot of time on, whether it’s webinars or dealing with sessions like today or pieces that really provide a little bit more background along the way.
So that’s the first one, second, don’t over promise. Focus on key issues. I think everybody really needs to understand this. You know, focus on reality. It’s better to under promise and over deliver than the other way around. So, I think that’s really a key one there. And for us, there’s specific things in generative AI that come in to play.
With any new technology, it can be used well, or not so well. And so, we really stress how it’s provided to the agent, where it’s really something that’s hidden from the customers and the customers don’t have to worry about. It’s behind the scenes. So, it’s really a tool to help augment the agent. Using that information to give them guidance hints and tips and tools for how to handle a problem. The agent is an intermediary. They can ensure that it’s done properly along the way, it’s the right answer at the right time.
And then I guess just the other factors are specific to contact center. It’s a high-volume environment, you can’t go ahead and provide a tip on how to solve a problem to the customer in 20 or 30 seconds after they raised it. It has to be in the moment, so we have to show that the transcription is accurate, and that the recommendations are timely and so again, that goes back to those customers those proof points along the way.
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Embrace Diverse Marketing Roles, Trust Data, Stay Curious
Torres: I’m curious about this one, what advice would you give to someone who’s just starting their career and maybe would like to one day become a CMO?
Kolman: I thought about this one a bit, and I do get asked this from time to time from new employees or interns and folks just interested to go into this space. I think there’s a couple of things I can say is what worked for me. I think the first one is to learn as much as you can. Marketing is such a diverse set of functions. You’ve got product marketing on one end, and we have to really understand the technology, as well as the function. You’ve got field marketing, digital marketing and demand gen. You’ve got events, creative and so on. So, I would say, especially early in your career, tackle those things. If you get an opportunity to take on a new function, embrace that.
I had the luxury of spending time in product marketing and in field marketing and to deal with strategic alliances as well as managing corporate marketing. So, I think the more that you can get exposed to — it gives you an understanding so that if you become a leader later, you have a greater insight into what the function is, how they interrelate and the challenges that your team may be facing along the way. I think, at the heart of it.
Embrace data. That’s been one of the biggest changes from my in my career has been just the vast amounts of data that is available. I had an instructor years ago make a comment that still sticks with me to this day. Her comment was — your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant — and the point is, we all have opinions, but back it up, talk to customers, talk to the field, find out what your competitors are doing, but also dig into the data. What’s really happening? What are the results and why does that matter? I think that’s been the biggest transformational thing within marketing and the CEO wants to see data. They don’t want opinions. They don’t want soft statements. They want it backed up and to understand why you are doing what you’re doing.
I think the last two I would say are — stay curious, always be learning and maybe related to that is, trying new things and be willing to fail. What I mean by that is, there’s all sorts of new tools out there, new approaches to engage, and you’re not always going to get it right but try new things. Know that some of them are going to fail and then move on when they don’t, but if you’re going to find new things to do, new ways to engage, and then that’s going to help you along the way. So those would be the biggest kind of components I would say that at least have worked for me.
AI-Driven Personalization and Evolving Communications in Future Contact Centers
Torres: That’s some excellent advice. My final question is, as the world of contact centers undergoes this technological transformation you were just speaking of, where do you see the industry in the next five to 10 years?
Kolman: Yeah, boy. I’d love to say I know for sure. But let me just give you some predictions having been touched on the space for a number of years. I think like every industry, AI is going to become pervasive. And it’s going to be pervasive in a number of ways, making it easier for the customer to be able to engage with an organization over self-service, they’re going to be seeing that the tools, conversational intelligence and virtual agents are going to become richer and richer, so more and more things can be done over a self-service environment because that’s just the way things are moving.
At the same time, we’re going to continue to see agents involved, they’re going to be there, they’re not going away — but they’re going to be more specialized. And so, the AI will be used more. They’re one of the things I think that’s going to, you’re going to finally start seeing is more personalization, where when I contact the company, they not only, they know who I am, but they truly treat me as an individual. And you know, we’ve always said to do that — there’s been a lot of data — but it hasn’t been combined with the tools to make it accessible and actionable in the moment. So, I think we’re going to see more of that.
I think those are the biggest things along the way. You know, people are humans, we like to talk to people, we like to engage, but it’s really just going to be helping folks to do their job better over time. So again, I think those are the biggest changes that we’re going to see along the way and then finally, there’s going to probably be other ways to communicate I haven’t even thought of. I mean, we have dozens of ways to talk to someone, and so I’m sure they’re going to come up with some ones and I haven’t a clue what that’s going to be, but you know, I’m sure they will.