Technology

Introducing ContextSmith, the First Customer Intelligence Platform that Extracts Insights from Your Inbox

Wow, six months ago, my co-founder Richard and I were still meeting at McDonald's, hacking away, getting fat on the late night snacks, and convincing our wives that we were really working.  Since then, we have doubled our team and are backed by some really great investors and customers.  We've been beta-testing our software for months now, and today, we officially announced the launch of our product!  In case you're not familiar with us, ContextSmith is a Account Intelligence Platform that aggregates and monitors all account touch points from your team's inbox, delivering real-time 360 view of your account's lifecycle – increasing revenue and productivity.  We help B2B companies avoid awkward but realistic situations like:

  • Sales rep pinging a customer for reference, only to find that the account is being escalated.
  • Sales hand-off process to Customer Success or Services is basically forwarding a bunch of emails around.
  • Looking like an idiot when your customer (or your boss) ask you about the latest status, and all you can think about is spending hours searching your inbox, stitching data together from multiple sources, and asking others to summarize key account activities.

You're busy, we get it.  There's no time nor resource to keep track of everything that's going on with your accounts.  ContextSmith prevents things from slipping through the cracks and fire drills, because we stay on top of your customers for you, giving your team and cross-functional teams visibility into complex, high-touch projects.

How Our Secret Sauce Works

We use a couple different proprietary technologies to automatically aggregate and structure everyone's emails. Rest of the post may make us seem like we're the startup jackpot - scoring every single technology keyword that investors are looking for - so I apologize in advance! One thing to keep in mind, though, is how we apply these technologies differently than how people typically think of them, so let me quickly explain how our technologies work. 

Augmented Intelligence

We believe in augmenting human intelligence, not replacing it.  A precursor of anything we do with the customer data, is to aggregate and structure everyone's email conversations.  We can centralize your whole team's inboxes into one place, and cluster them into "project steams", so anyone can follow conversations like they follow Slack channels.  The clear benefit here is inter-team communication is completely eliminated without cc'ing everyone else, and added benefit is for Sales and Product team to listen in on conversation about critical customers.  No one is flying blind anymore, and teams don't have to spend time looking for information from their inboxes.AI structure email

Data Science

After we automatically cluster these "project streams" (you can modify them, of course), we layer analytics on top.  This is where  executives can get an overview of all critical accounts and high-level action items to move the customers along their lifecycle.  ContextSmith identify trends and alerts the team when there's a drastic change in customer behavior.  One interesting analysis that we present is how busy is the team and whether they have successfully achieve goals for customer touches.data science

Natural Language Processing

The main value proposition of our product is to be able to extract negative sentiment, risks and action items directly from email content.  ContextSmith continuously monitor all communication traffic and extract risks, negative sentiment, and critical due dates that may otherwise get drowned in your emails.

Get Up and Running in Minutes

Finally, one nice advantage about ContextSmith is that there is nothing to download or install.  We plug in directly into your email server's API, so your whole team can be up and running in minutes, not months.  Not only do you not have to invest in resources to set us up, we will be able to deliver value to you almost instantly.Want to see it in action with your own data?  SCHEDULE AN EXCLUSIVE DEMO with me!

Why Customer Collaboration and Technology are a Winning Combo

Every successful project requires a cohesive team effort; however, getting people to work as members of a team is often more difficult than it sounds. Customer-facing teams such as Customer Success and Sales face an even more arduous challenge of collaborating with customers and vendors outside their organization, resulting in miscommunication and huge loss in productivity. Fortunately, advances in technology now make it easier than ever for organizations to build teamwork and bridge inter-organization communications, encouraging people to strive toward a common goal. Here are some ways that modern technology is enhancing team collaboration in businesses both large and small.

Inter-Organization Communications

Communication that happens outside of your organization, unfortunately, is still mainly through emails.  The problems with email is that communications tend to be in silos and its inability to share information easily without spamming the audience.  Some smarter CRMs, such as SalesforceIQ, integrates directly with Gmail and shares them across the Sales teams, alleviating the pain of tracking communications with the customers and sharing them within the organization.  Some Professional Services Automation and Customer Success tools are also integrating directly with cloud email providers.  Accelo has out-of-the-box email integration as a PSA platform, and ContextSmith automatically tracks every email leaving and coming in from an outside organization.  As email systems migrates to the cloud, we'll start seeing enterprise software bridging the gap of inter-organizational communications.

Bridging Location Barriers

Getting everyone together to collaborate on a project can be challenging whenever team members are scattered. Thanks to advances in technology, individuals no longer have to meet face to face with customers in order to work together. Video and web conferencing software, such as Google Hangouts make it possible for employees to “meet” regardless of location. Internally, we're using Uber Conference, which is friendlier for customers because it doesn't require any downloads or a Gmail account.  The added bonus using a web conferencing software is whenever one person is unexpectedly called away from the office, as he or she can get together remotely with the rest of the group so that progress isn’t stifled. Groups are even free to meet with experts who might be across the country or across the globe in an effort to gather additional information.

File and Document Sharing

Some projects require individuals to perform certain tasks before getting together with the group. It can be difficult for everyone to do his or her part if there is only one set of documents for members to share. Cloud-based computing takes away this obstacle by allowing everyone in the group to access documents and make changes. File sharing software, such as Box, allows individuals (inside and outside your organization) to upload and share documents document and files.  The best part about Box is that it tracks every single versions, so if someone accidentally overwrites important documents, those can be recovered.  Google Docs is also one of our favorites that we use internally everyday, as it allows teams to edit the same document at the same time.

Enhanced Communications Through Shared Inbox

Good teamwork requires excellent communication between all the members, something that can be especially challenging when each person has a very busy schedule to juggle. Unfortunately, communicating with B2B customers still requires emails.  I've personally worked with customers using various different way to centralize all communications, such as Microsoft Sharepoint and SAP JAM, but those require customers to sign up into a new software, which can be challenging if you're working with a large organization.Fortunately, some technology makes it possible to communicate with external customers easily through "shared inbox" concept.  FrontApp is one of the newest kid on the block that uses everyone's inbox to build a shared communications platform to help customer support teams.  Zendesk Inbox is also a new product that embraces shared inbox, and is suitable for small businesses that doesn't require a full-blown heavyweight Zendesk platform.  All of these software claim to make teams more productive, but perhaps the biggest selling point is to be able to scale your customer-facing teams without important information falling through the cracks. 

Efficiency and Time Savings

One of the biggest advantages of technology is the fact that it saves time and allows people to work more efficiently. Documents can be edited and uploaded in a fraction of the time it used to take, and research efforts can also be streamlined. Every piece of software that you use everyday automates a small part of an otherwise mundane or error-prone task.  Not only do teams gain productivity through efficiency and time savings, I'd even go as far to argue that these tools actually also helps build team morale and team culture, something that is highly valued but unmeasurable.These are just a few of the ways that modern technology enhances teamwork, within and outside of your organization. Generally speaking, the more skilled people are at utilizing technology, the more cohesive they become and the better able they are to overcome obstacles in order to meet their collective goals.