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Customer Care is About 'Putting the Customer Back to the Heart of Your Business' An exclusive Q+A with Eric Dos Santos, co-founder of Dimelo.

Courtesy of Stankevicius MGM

Customer care is one of the most crucial success factors which determine company's growth. It is super important to keep your company's customer service department at top-notch performance. We have interviewed Eric Dos Santos who is a co-founder of Dimelo, a startup which provides a customer care platform.

Eric Dos Santos is a customer care expert regularly invited to conferences in Europe, Middle East and Asia to talk about the Digitalization of Customer Care. In 2005, Dos Santos and his co-founder Stéphane Lee built Dimelo to help large companies move from traditional customer care channels to digital ones.

Through Dimelo, companies can receive, route and treat messages coming from any digital channel (email, live chat, messaging, in-app messaging, social media, etc.). As of today, Dimelo treats over 14.5 million messages each month in 51 countries around the world and works with major players in multiple industries: TelCo (Orange, Ooredoo, Proximus), Banking (BPCE, HelloBank!, BNP Paribas), Insurance (AXA, Allianz), Utilities (Engie, Total), Retail (Sephora, CDiscount).

Last year, Dimelo enjoyed 40 percent growth that shows a bright future for the startup co-founded by Dos Santos.

You have been in customer care space for over a decade. What does customer experience mean to you and what triggered you to start your own company in the Customer Care sector?
Dos Santos:
Customer Care is about putting the customer back to the heart of your business. When we started Dimelo, customer service and corporate communication was something vertical. We knew things were happening and the status quo was about to change. The collaborative web was revolutionizing company/client relationships – Amazon was leading the way with its unique vision of what customer service meant.

From this traditional vertical type of communication, we are now in a mode where we, customers, can choose the time and place we wish to interact with companies. We are no longer forced to respect specific working hours or limitative channels for contacting businesses. Internet and mobile have enable the rise of a brand-new species of customer care where the client is in control. Today, I can contact most companies on my own favorite channels: Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Web-Chat, Viber, etc.

Technology has revolutionized international communications as well as company-client relationships. As you have founded Dimelo, a platform for customer care interactions, could you tell more about it and share the idea behind it?
Dos Santos:
Back when we started Dimelo, we knew customer/company relationships were about to change and we had to arm companies with tools to manage this evolution.

Your processes and logistics are completely different when you manage phone calls, emails or live messages in your app. When Dimelo was born, smartphones had not been invented, twitter did not exist and Facebook wasn't even available in France yet. I am talking about a time when you could have a chat with someone for over an hour without checking your phone, your digital wall or your emails. Things have changed a lot in the past few years and people's habits have evolved greatly.

Dimelo is built to help companies adapt. Since sending a letter or giving a call during working hours is no longer enough for customers, businesses must offer and integrate new channels that suit their clients' expectations: email, web-chat, messaging, social media, etc. Dimelo digitalizes companies by helping them connect all these channels to reply messages from all sources in a unified platform.

Dimelo is being used by companies in 51 countries today are there major differences from one location to the other?
Dos Santos:
There are, of course, some differences in terms of channels (WeChat and LINE are major messaging channels in Asia while Messenger and WhatsApp are very popular in US and Europe and Viber has a great footprint in Middle East and north Africa). There are also differences in terms of customer expectations or behavior; For instance, in Europe, clients tend to go straight to the point while in some Asian countries people can have personal conversations with customer care agents.

That being said, new technologies have reduced cultural differences. Amazon, Uber, Google can cross boundaries because, beyond cultural differences, we all aspire to the same level of comfort and convenience.

Dimelo is present all around the world because the need to upgrade customer care and adapt to people's expectation is the same all around the world.

What are your plans for next three to five years? Considering that AI are entering the technology industry, are you going to upgrade Dimelo into the next level?
Dos Santos: Dimelo already uses AI Machine Learning. Our platform understands messages in 72 languages and learns patterns, allowing it to categorize and route messages according to the content, context and agents' competences.

But there's still a lot to do! Technologies are evolving at lightning speed and what makes sense today will be obsolete tomorrow. The topic of AI is especially interesting. Today we still are in a "declarative customer relationship": people must "declare" their problems, what they want, what they need. I believe in the near future there will no longer be a need to declare anything, AI will simply detect and understand your needs, contact your internet provider when your box is acting up or inform your smartphone brand when you damage your screen. Chatbots will handle more and more advanced conversation, answer basic problems and enrich databases with customer details.

Yet, AI will never replace humans. First because people need a human touch, an actual contact with another person. In Myanmar, some of our client's customers contact customer care agent every morning just to wish them to have a good day, and wish them a good night before going to bed. This, no machine could replace. Beyond the emotional aspect, there is the limit of human complexity: a machine could be trained to recognize and understand most situations, but there are always situations so complex and unusual that only another human could understand.

In your opinion, what companies should focus on when it comes to client relations and communication? And what is the common mistake that companies do, which makes them lose clients?
Dos Santos:
One of the most common mistakes company make is to lack trust and care toward their clients. I always take the example of my local supermarket: there might be only 1 percent of people stealing items from the store, yet 100 percent of people entering or leaving the store get their bags checked for stolen items. Customers are suspected to be guilty by default. Amazon has a completely different approach: regardless of the problem you may have had with your product or delivery, Amazon will find a solution, a replacement or a reimbursement. You are considered honest by default.

Something similar happens everywhere around the world: some companies would offer great discounts to prospects, but decline similar treatment to their most loyal customers.

With Dimelo, we focus on giving companies all the tools they need so they could recognize and treasure their customers, increase client satisfaction and reduce churn. After all, studies show that the quality of Customer Service is a major aspect in a customer's decision process when selecting a brand.

What changes do you see in customer care industry in the near future?
Dos Santos:
In the past, we had no Facebook, no mobile, no internet. Today, these tools seem obvious to us, we couldn't live without them.

I strongly believe that in the near future, contacting companies on your own channels, on your own schedule, and getting quick replies will become the new standard. And there will be no way back.

Companies such as AirBNB, Uber, Amazon, Jumia, Alibaba have revolutionized customer experience. They have raised the bar for all businesses, making convenience and speed an expectation to everyone. Soon the same will apply to customer care, and companies that will delay in adopting these new technologies will suffer greatly from their competitors.