Podcast Interview with HubSpot’s Brian Bagdasarian

Hear our discussions about the evolution of live chat.

RB: Brian, thanks so much for your time. Why don’t we get a little background on you and your role at HubSpot?

Brian: Sure. So since joining HubSpot I started on the product side when they first acquired motion AI and have transitioned now over to wearing two key hats. On one side I serve as the conversational strategist for the company. So I work across all of our departments, but on the product and marketing side, on developing the underlying strategy in how we internally and externally educate. But also, sort of, how we approach conversational as a topic. That is more than just conversational marketing. It’s more than just conversational snything. It’s really about this idea of creating one-to-one relationships at scale. So that’s one role. The second role that that I play is I am academy professor for conversational strategy. So I also lead the charge and creating all of our actual educational content. We actually just launched the first lesson yesterday, which is the introduction to conversational strategy. So I play both roles there. And it’s been interesting and doing that, because this is where the space is going. And, you know, there are, I believe, right and wrong ways to approach it. And we want people to do it the right way. 

RB: Well, let me take you down that path before I get to some of the other questions I had in there. Give us some of the best practices on right ways and wrong ways to implement a conversational strategy.

Brian: Sure, sure. So you’re familiar with inbound of the concepts. 

RB: Oh, yeah, sure. 

Brian: So we have been redrafting the inbound methodology, it’s actually going to come out as of inbound this year. And what you’re going to see in there’s a shift, I can’t give it all away yet, because not officially out. But there’s a part there the overlaps and came directly from what we call conversational growth strategy, or conversational strategy. And it’s this idea that there are three pillars. And the three pillars that exist when we talk about it. The first is this idea of Time to Live or TTL, as you’ll hear it referred to more and more. And that is essentially this idea that every channel, whether it is live chat, Facebook Messenger, SMS, email, snail mail, phone, every one of those channels has an amount of time that someone is willing to wait before they receive a response. And if you exceed that time period, what ends up happening is you start to make them unhappy. And we don’t want to make people unhappy. So if you’re in a live chat situation, or you’re working with a chatbot, or in an email. You know, in an email, you might be wanting to wait 12 to 48 hours before you get a response back, right? I mean, that’s a pretty reasonable period of time, Okay, I got an email, I’ll wait a day. But when you go to live chat, you have maybe two to five minutes. And if you’re in the middle of the conversation, you’re really expecting almost a few seconds. So that’s TTL. And we come back to that, you know, later on. The second part is this idea of what we call shared knowledge. Now, let me ask you, have you ever called up a customer service line twice? Asked the same question twice, about three different answers.

RB: Sure. 

Brian: Okay. The reason that happens to you is because they’d standardized the information and because people weren’t sharing what they knew. You had, you know, let me put it this way. When you say, “I know”, that’s personal knowledge. When you say, “we know”, you’re talking about shared knowledge. 

RB: Yeah. 

Brian: There’s two sides to that. There’s this idea of relational which can be in the CRM usually, and that’s about the people and their businesses and actions they’ve taken, an activities thay done. And the other side of that is factual knowledge. And this is, you know, the questions people ask, the solutions that your products and services can consult for and making that available to all the parties that need it, regardless of who originally collected or created it makes sense? 

RB: It does, make perfect sense.

Brian: For the final part here is an acronym that we call scope S-C-O-P-E. Scope stands for standardized, contextualize, optimized, personalized and empathize. And those are the principles that guide how you want to create your conversational strategy. You want to standardize, so you don’t have different answers given to you when you call up and you ask the same questions. You can contextualize, now there are eight ways you can ask the question who, what, where, when, why, how, which, and yes, no.  No can I or should I, will I, do I they are all yes/no. And you want to make sure that you’re able to answer the right question in the right way. And every one of those different types of questions. There are only eight, you cannot, there are not other to ask questions in those ways. You want to make sure that you’re providing the right type of answer for the right type of question. When you optimize, you’re looking at am I actually playing in the strength of the channel that I’m using. If I am in a live chat scenario, do I really want to be reading three, four or five paragraphs of a message? Probably not, right?

RB: Right. No, it makes sense.

Brian: Probably not you probably want to have a have a few sentences. And if you need to know more, you can ask for it. And that might send you a link or you might get an email that says, “Here’s the deeper dive into what we were talking about. I didn’t want to flood you in our live chat.” So that’s optimizing. When you personalize your leveraging what you know about the activities they’ve done, and who they are, and what information is already been collected and already put into that shared knowledge pool, to make it feel like it’s personal. And the reason why is very, very simple, David, it’s because everyone wants to feel heard, everyone wants to feel special, and everyone wants to feel unique, but for the company is because every one matters. 

I mean, it’s literally treating people how you want to be treated. And that goes into the final thing here, this idea of empathy. And you know, to put it in a nutshell, you oftentimes find yourself having to give the emotionally right answer before you can give the factually correct one. Someone calls up and says,” I cannot freaking login”, you really can’t answer that question. But you want to make sure that they understand, that you understand, “Hey, sorry, that’s happening. Is that an email issue? Or do you think you forgot your password?” I think it’s an email issue. Okay, let’s, let’s find what email you used to login. You go from there. So Time to LIve, shared knowledge, and the acronym of scope collectively is the best set of practices that you can go through, and you can just apply in a, you know, like the back of a shampoo bottle, you know, lather, rinse, repeat.

RB: Put this in context for me, this idea of the immediacy and the three-pronged approach in a live chat, here is this communication vehicle ranking in order preferences for customers versus calling up a customer service line, sending an email, waiting a day, those kind of things?

Brian: Fun fact, 77% of people prefer their engagement to be via live chat, 82% of people. I’m sorry 80% of people expect it to be available. 62% of people, if they’re on a mobile device would essentially demand it. And if it’s available 82% of them will use it. And the reason why is really simple, the average email response time to an open customer service ticket is 12 hours via email, it’s two minutes via live chat. Which would you prefer? The fact is that if I’m visiting a blog page or landing page, I have two options, I can collect the lead, the lead is going to be seen, it would probably come through the form, the form is going to go into a CRM, the CRM is going to trigger an automated marketing cycle, you might get an email, if you respond to that email, you might get another email down, down, you are in a machine at that point. Well, that might take days before you actually get to someone personal. And in reality, they can educate you all you want, they’re not ever asking, what are your questions. Now, the sad fact is this though, only 9% of companies use live chat on their website. Yet, remember, 82% of people expect it. There’s a massive gap there. Now the second part is this, If they respond at all, it takes on average five days for a newly generated lead to be reached out to you via email or phone by most companies, that was from JD Power and Associates’s survey that was done done in the last few months. 

RB: That’s a little scary. 

Brian: Terrifying, especially if you own a business. And you actually understand. Which means that 99 out of 100 businesses aren’t, sorry 91 out of 100 businesses are not doing it. Go drive down your main street, go drive, go look through your building, you know, and look at the main plan for every company in there. And if every hundred of them know that 91 of them are probably not engaging and caring about building one-to-one relationship, and that, David, is where the opportunities exist. You only got to be number 10, not even number one, just number 10, and you’re still ahead of 90% of the back. 

RB: Seems like a no-brainer for most, I guess the question, sort of dovetailing to that, then there’s a lot of them will say, “Look, that’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of management. What if I just use a chatbot? What if I just use something automated or that” Where are the benefits and the detractors from just throwing a chatbot as your live chat system on your site and being done with it. 

Brian: If it’s well built, there’s no detractors. In fact, you can really look at lot at chatbots as virtual employees. You know, virtual employees that never take a day off, never get a sick day. But you want to make sure that you understand your process first. Every business process, because every business has processes, you agree? 

RB: Oh, absolutely. 

Brian: Agree. Right. So you want to make sure that you understand where the choke points exist, where the data collection points exist. And then you gotta ask yourself this question. Where does the time-suck exist? Chatbots are amazing at doing what we call low cognitive load, they don’t take a lot of brainpower, but high repetition they suck a lot of time. 

David: Okay, let’s go then crystal ball and, sort of, tying into the new launch you have coming up there. And I’ll get back to, sort of, as an update to, I think, motion AI, but I’m really curious as to your crystal ball, where you see this conversational commerce field in particular, with chat evolving over the next 12 or 18 months. Where’s the puck going? 

Brian: Okay, well, 70% to 80% of people will not buy from an e commerce site if there is not live chat available, straightforward facts. People expect live chat available, because they know they’re going to get a response. On fact, on top of that, a lot of people, especially if they’re under 35 have phone phobia. They don’t like picking up the phone. I like it. But not everyone does. Also about 35 I put that up.

David: Preach.

Brian: Point being is that conversational commerce, as a specific space is gonna be doing more and more by creating that personal one-to-one relationship? Now how do you do that? Well, you have to be able to click the information and store it somewhere. Which means you have to have a CRM, you have to have your chatbot tied to your CRM. You have to be able to reference what’s going in and what’s going out. When you ask a question in the chat box, you got to have a place to store the answer in your CRM, so you can reference it later. So if I’m buying something, and you know what I bought before I should see a different message the next time I come back, maybe asking me about, what I thought about it. That would make sense, that’s what you do with the person, right? if you knew me, and I knew you and I, and you will own local hardware store and I come down. You had sold me a hammer and some stuff to go and do a repair and I came in the next day and I saw you. You’d probably say, “Hey, how did that work out for you?”  You want to do the same thing. Everyone matters. Everyone wants to feel heard, everyone wants to feel unique meet and that’s what you can do with a chatbot and a properly executed conversational growth strategy. 

David: Let me follow up with you on that, because this also circles back to the initial discussion we had about right or wrong on chatbots and the emotional intelligence on this one there, it still requires somebody to input in various set of circumstances and input as to what type of response. So is it still incumbent upon the company to at least have an understanding of the emotional intelligence and the emotional trigger points of their architect customers? Where does the human interaction coming up like?

Brian: You know, look at it this way, there’s domain expertise and there’s process expertise. Domain expertise, you know about what you do. Process expertise, you know about how you do it, right. What that means is that you’re going to see two points of differentiation coming out, you’re going to see what I would call a conversational design set of agencies [inaudible 18:54] And these are companies that are experts at process they’re experts at profit, they’re experts at crafting narrative, it’s combination of copywriting, some programming, not a whole lot, but understanding how to make it work. And that can be an internal team, you know. But then the other side, which is the factual answers, those don’t really change. So there’s a saying that I repeat myself a lot with crafting narrative first, build the bot second. You gotta know what your story is, and then you go and you build a bot. You got to figure out where are the decision points? What is the journey that they’re going on in a given conversation? 

David: Hello, and thank you for that. Thanks for the clarification. Last thing that I’ve got, Brian, and I think you, sort of, talked about it then, you been with HubSpot since the acquisition of motion AI and I think, if I can least draw the conclusion, that this new product launch has something to do with certainly the acquisition and the knowledge base that HubSpot is required. How is that going? How is it a simulated and within HubSpot and the overall strategy?

Brian: Sure. So, you know, a lot of what you’re going to be seeing coming out in the next few months is based largely around this idea of to do inbound is to have the goal of building one-to-one relationships and doing it at scale. You know, that is what created the whole inbound conference in the first place, where there had to be a better way than just blasting you with ads, right? 

David: Sure.

Brian: Ads had a place and everything and there’s nothing wrong with ads. But the way they were done 10 years ago and a lot of them are still doing today were not really effective, because you weren’t caring about the individual. So with HubSpot, what’s happened is, since motion’s going and we came in we basically gone from scratch and rebuilt a platform that is fully integrated into the overall HubSpot platform. And over the next few months, you’re going to be seeing more and more coming out added features, added functionality, but it is designed from the ground up to be integrated. The only platform out there that is, from the ground up, designed to be working with a CRM and with a knowledge base. What people are starting to build on that is already fantastic and the features that we have, are coming out over time, but are already on the roadmap or even more fantastic, because they are really allowing you to create intelligent agents that work on your behalf without you having to add headcount. So the strategy itself, the evolution of the strategy a lot of is still based on inbound, it’s still very much in them they still buyer personas and targeting your content and your messaging and all of that, but now we’re looking at doing that on a more personal level. And if I know for myself if I feel that a company cares I’m more than likely give them a chance than if I feel that one doesn’t. You agree?

David: All great points completely great points. Brian, you’ve been very kindly this time, this been a fascinating conversation. I appreciate it. 

Brian: Absolutely. No problem.

David Oates

About David Oates

David Oates is a 20-year marketing and public relations veteran who holds extensive experience in developing as well as executing successful and measurable programs for a wide range of agency, high tech, corporate and government organizations. He is an accredited public relations (APR) expert affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America, and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Operation Homefront, California as well as on the Board of Directors for Rotary Club of San Diego. David has worked with Tony since 2001 in numerous capacities such as a non profit Board supporting veterans. He received his MBA from San Diego State University’s Executive Program in 2004 and his bachelors of arts from the University of Maryland in 1991. David was named among the 2009 “40 under 40” list of top professionals by the San Diego Metropolitan.