New Kids in the Customer Interaction Management Space: Talkdesk

By Nicolas De Kouchkovsky
26 Nov 2018

On the heels of a large $100 million B-round, Talkdesk held its third customer and partner conference, OpenTalk. In seven years, the company established a name for itself in the contact center market. Let’s explore this new entrant in the customer interaction management space.

Born out of a Hackathon

Talkdesk was born out of a Twilio hackathon late 2011. The legend has that it created its first call center application in 10 days. In any event, it won the contest, thanks to the simplicity of the solution and its integration with CRM applications. Taigo Piava, CEO and co-founder moved then to the USA to bring to the market a “Zendesk for Voice” while his co-founder, Cristina Fonseca, stayed in Portugal to develop the product. The company focused its initial efforts on users of Desk.com (now Salesforce Essentials). Until then, the low-end CRM market could not afford the complexity and price of call center solutions. The simplicity and affordability of the Talkdesk solution opened up this underserved segment. 

The company took off in Summer 2013, growing its Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) from $150K to $2.5M in 12 months. This explosive growth led to a $3M seed round later that year. Summer 2015, it reached $10M ARR and raised an additional $21M. Summer 2017, the company passed 50,000 seats. It now claims 1,400 customers and I estimate it will cross the $40M revenue mark this year.

Simplicity

Talkdesk was created on a vision of simplicity. Its three tenets include the cloud, the User Experience (UX) and integration with CRM applications. Talkdesk is built on Twilio Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS). The company has embraced a broad UX definition encompassing both the usage and the deployment of the product. It adopted a self-service model allowing small teams with no IT support to set up the software. It used the “create your contact center in 5 minutes” slogan for its first marketing campaigns. It eventually built 25 pre-packaged CRM integrations, still instrumental in 70% of its wins.

Moving upmarket

The company started to move upmarket two years ago. CK Kannan, head of product management, shared with me it was triggered by an inflow of larger projects. I also heard that it was difficult to maintain high growth levels with the sizes and churn levels of small deployments. This evolution, albeit frequent among cloud contact center providers, is not an easy one. Larger contact centers expect a much higher degree customization. They are seldom willing to compromise on features. Eventually, enterprises are more demanding in terms of architecture, in particular for security, telecom, and high availability. It is not just a delicate transition, it challenges the simplicity of the software.

CK explained to me that Talkdesk plans to tackle this challenge in multiple ways. First, it is preserving its focus on the specific needs of the various market segments by having three profiles for its solution, small call centers with less than 50 seats, mid-market up to 200, and large over 200. Second, it is expanding its integrations beyond CRM to provide complete solutions to its customers. The company launched a marketplace, AppConnect in April 2017. What is different and yet unique is that Talkdesk is taking the responsibility for the overall solution. To enable this model, the company didn’t just create APIs, it mandated how integrations should be built.

At OpenTalk, Peleton and 2U discussed their experience using Talkdesk for larger projects. Peleton provides luxury stationary bicycles and treadmills for at-home fitness. It uses Talkdesk for 140 employees in the sales and member support departments. 2U offers digital education programs. It uses Talkdesk for support, admission, and financial aid, totaling 1,000 users. The projects have in common two attributes. Users extend beyond the contact center, making usability and the ability to work from home very important. At the event, Talkdesk announced Talkdesk Mobile to further allow any customer-facing employee to engage with customers on the go using a mobile device. The two companies have also put the customer experience at the core of their business models. 2U has created a platform, 2UOS, to facilitate online learning. Peleton is changing the at-home workout experience by connecting customer communities and instructors. They both uncovered plans to leverage Talkdesk to enable new experiences.

Innovation

Talkdesk has placed innovation at the center of its growth strategy. It claims half of its now almost 500 employees work in R&D. It made several announcements at OpenTalk. It introduced Talkdesk Self Service SDKs, a set of components that let you enrich the voice self-service experience with callbacks, visual IVR, or integration with knowledge bases without programming. The company also announced a 100% SLA program. Details were not provided, but Talkdesk shared its intent to compensate customers for any downtime or voice quality under a 4.2 Mean Opinion Score (MOS).

The company unveiled its Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy, Talkdesk IQ. The approach consists in leveraging all the data Talkdesk has been collecting to provide recommendations across the product. Suggestions range from providing the caller’s mood to identifying trending topics, through pinpointing a branch of an IVR workflow that should be reviewed. 

Keeping in mind Talkdesk is also used as a sales dialer, its interaction management footprint can be summarized as follow:

In a short amount of time, Talkdesk has become a key player to follow in the customer interaction management space.

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