Interview with Michal Raz, VP Business Development, Vonage

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

Michal explains to us a little bit about Nexmo’s global Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) and she will show us how the Nexmo platforms global reach is enabling early chatbots to mature into enterprise-wide deployments

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your journey so far with Chatbots?


For the past 22 years I have led engineering and business development teams in the Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) space, with a focus on creating innovative technology partnerships that extend product value. I joined Nexmo, the Vonage API Platform, over a year ago, to lead business development and strategic accounts. Nexmo’s global Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) provides instant application access to real-time worldwide communication, including Voice and SMS.


In addition to the more than 371,000 developers creating unique web and mobile applications with Nexmo technology, Nexmo’s APIs are being embedded within leading chatbot platforms to extend their reach by using APIs within simple drag and drop environments. Primary use-cases include: SMS/Voice customer support and sales, IVR, surveys, marketing campaigns, alerts and notifications.


At Nexmo, I oversee partnerships with leading chatbot and IPaaS (Integration As A Platform) providers. Many IPaaS and ChatBOT platforms are already supporting Nexmo APIs as official channels within their bot frameworks. Because of the Nexmo platform’s global reach, this is enabling early chatbot pilots to mature into enterprise-wide deployments.



What fascinates you about Chatbots and what is missing for them to become mainstream?


Both text and voice-based Chatbots will gradually penetrate many aspects of our life as employees and as consumers.

But while there is great potential in bot-facilitated sales and support customer engagement, there is a slower level of user acquisition and lack of maturity of bots in open-ended sales and support conversations. Though I believe this will continue to be a challenge in 2018, the place where I see continued growth is in business-initiated, domain specific, click-to-action bots. An example of this kind of click-to-action scenario is an extreme weather alert sent to employees during a storm. The bot would quickly collect multi-choice responses via SMS from each employee to ensure that they were all safe.


Another example where brands can use click-to-action text bots, is in conducting marketing surveys to collect predefined inputs from customers or to launch new services.


I believe we will see business workflow automation adoption grow more quickly than B2C, due to the ease of user deployment, allowing automation of everyday business tasks. For example, a feature allowing company-wide announcements that originate on Facebook workplace, but ultimately reach every employee via SMS, The bot then has the ability to receive real-time acknowledgement that the message has been received.


For customer-initiated bots, I believe that the main use case we will see is support call deflection. In this case the bot collects very specific initial data, and then gracefully escalates to the appropriate skill-based support representative, while maintaining context of data collected to ensure a smooth customer journey.



What are your top predictions for Chatbots for 2018? 3 years ahead


Business bots embedded in ISV solutions will see increased adoption in the Enterprise. In my opinion, companies will get more impact from implementing bots in places where simple call-to-action is the required response.


I also anticipate early pilots with voice bots. Voice will always be a more natural way to communicate than text and more easily captures intent. Effective voice chat will be shorter than text chat. However, these need to be even simpler than text-based bots since it is harder to maintain context in a discussion with a voice bot interaction. Useful examples include logistics, delivery notifications with quick reply, and appointment reminders from a practitioner. According to Google, by 2020, more than 30% of internet search will be voice-based, due in part to Alexa/Google home-type devices that have no screen and rely on voice bots to work.

For example, Nexmo developed an Alexa skill that immediately initiates a conference call, pulling details from your calendar, with a simple voice command. On the consumer front, we will likely see recreational bots for gaming and eSports taking more of a lead in bot interactions.



How did you come to be a speaker at Chatbot Summit? What did you speak about?


At Nexmo, we are seeing a wider adoption of APIs by a broad range of developers, as well as significant growth of chatbots and AI in business and consumer markets. Increasingly, developers are using more and more chatbot environments to reduce development time. In addition, we are seeing power users (non-developers) who want to customize everyday tasks with bots.


Our business strategy at Nexmo is to continuously focus on being the best global CPaaS platform, while evolving strong partnerships, teaming with a variety of leading, innovative AI and chatbot providers. We also enjoy the fact that the leading AI/Bot vendors like AWS, Google, Microsoft, IBM and Facebook are also partners of Nexmo.


At Nexmo, in addition to leading strategic accounts, I oversee partnerships with leading chatbots and IPaaS providers, with a good number of them already supporting Nexmo APIs as official channels within their bot frameworks. My participation in the panel “The Voice of the Bot” will focus on the exploration of the kind of use cases addressed by Voice Bots. In addition, we will discuss what is needed to move from early pilots to enterprise-wide global deployment.



Which industries do you believe will be impacted most by the Bot revolution?


Business Automation, Logistics, Appointment and Personal Reminders, Support and Marketing.


In the future, I am most likely to have my Bot be my:


Personal Shopper

Travel Agent

Personal Trainer

Business workflow automation

Tech Support

Parking/navigation support

Personal assistant


What was the highlight of your Chatbot Summit Experience?


We're beyond the hype of chatbots. Now it's time for the technology to solve real-world business problems or be relegated to a business technology fad that failed to find a practical application in enterprises. I particularly appreciated the VC panel where Kobi Samboursky, Founder and Managing Partner at Glilot Capital Partners, said that chatbots should be viewed as an infrastructure component. He explained that the real interest from VCs is in domain-specific applications that leverage chatbots and other AI technologies to solve a real business problem.


For example, Glilot has chosen not to invest in chatbot companies but has invested in an early stage startup called Exceed.ai that solves for marketing lead automation. In fact, I believe only the companies who focus their chatbots on performing domain-specific tasks—and performing them exceptionally well—will be around in two years.


Since Vonage is a leader in cloud voice and messaging, I was invited to participate in a panel titled "The Voice of the Bot." With the industry having entered a “face the reality” phase with bots, it's important to temper expectations and realize that voice in bots will prevail only in very specific domain use cases that mandate voice, such as field technician communications, appointment reminders, emergency alerts, etc.


While broad, forward-looking statements like, 'bots will move to voice because Millennials demand voice' and 'internet search is moving to voice' are correct, in my opinion they are moot at this point. The bot industry needs to roll up their sleeves and get specific about the problems their technology will solve in the short- to mid-term.





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