by Susan Wright
Advancements in technology have led to rapid growth in the cloud computing industry. These advancements serve as a catalyst for the ‘software as a service’ business model, wherein users are given access to databases and providers manage the platforms that run these systems. Cloud computing enables the sharing of resources over a network and works to converge infrastructure. This process simplifies how both individuals and corporations maintain interoperability and reduces the traditional costs associated with the necessary software. To analyze the effectiveness of cloud computing, a recent study conducted by Manchester Business School found that 88 percent of cloud users said it was a cost-saving technology and 56 percent said it had helped them boost profits.
While cloud computing now serves as a key technological element in many of our daily lives, individual markets, such as cloud-based contact centers, are expanding on this technological element in a new light. Cloud-based contact centers eliminate the need for inflexible hardware-based contact centers and integrate diverse capabilities into a single software. One such company, Echopass, is the market leader of cloud-based contact centers in North America. I recently had a chance to sit down with Vincent Deschamps, Chairman and CEO of Echopass, to get his insight on cloud-based contact centers.
Tell us about yourself first. What is your management style? Where did you go to school and work in the past?
I am an over the top results oriented aggressive person with a kind heart and a great work ethic. My mom is my role model – she started college at 64, got her masters in geriatrics at 68 and started working teaching “old people” (her words) to be useful. They forced her to retire at 89 and she lived till 97. I am not as old as she was when she started college so my style is stay active, and surround yourself with great people.
Tell us how your company started and when. Who was involved and what did each person do?
Echopass started in 2000 to develop cloud based contact center infrastructure for Fortune 500 clients. The company is venture funded by Canaan and NEA – two of the most prestigious VC firms – who are still actively engaged. I was recruited as the third CEO in 2003 after a few missteps and I have been here since. Echopass is the market leader in cloud contact centers and has many accounts including Pepsi, Sony, American Express and GSK.
Tell us an interesting story about your business. Were there any “wow” moments? Anything funny or unusual?
When you lead a venture funded business you need to ask yourself – Does this business have a right to live?. Otherwise, why are you there and why would you take money to fund your business? Early on, I found myself asking that question a lot. The business became profitable in 2008 and we answered that question for the last time. I had a lot more hair when I started this job 10 years ago; it’s either the job or my two sons – not sure which took my hair.
What is your role in the company now?
I am the chairman and CEO – when you hold these titles you are also the chief motivator and need to stay very engaged with your people and your clients. Sometimes you even have to help clean the lunch room as well.
What does your company sell and how does it make money?
Echopass provides cloud based contact centers for the enterprise marketplace. We offer complete solutions that encompass over 40 discrete and separate applications. These operate in a seamless fashion to provide the full services necessary to run a leading contact center today – everything but the people to operate the center we provide from the cloud. Our services are delivered in a cloud model that provides greater agility, innovation, security and business continuity than on premises and legacy solutions, and does so with approximately 30% savings for our clients. The cloud is built on a Software as a Service model with clients paying only for what they use in a highly scalable environment.
Which companies do you consider to be competitors?
Verizon, AT&T, Avaya, Cisco, and Interactive Intelligence are our primary competitors.
What makes your products and services better than competitors’ offerings?
We care deeply about our clients success – we meet quarterly with every client to evaluate success – as a service we look to earn the clients trust and business each and every day. Echopass is the market leader in the cloud based contact center market. That has been accomplished by providing world class applications sourced from partners that offer Gartner Magic Quadrant recognized solutions, and which are further enhanced by Echopass development resources to provide comprehensive and seamless operating environments across all applications for our clients. Providing significantly enhanced operating efficiencies, lower costs, improved revenue generation, while providing an enhanced customer experience are all key to today’s balance in the demanding large enterprise contact center. Our continued and relentless focus on improving our client’s contact center operations are well received and support the long term partnerships that we develop with them.
What are revenues so far this quarter? Year? What is your quarterly revenue growth from this same quarter in 2011?
Less than 200 million. While we don’t divulge our revenues due to our private company ownership, Echopass continues to lead the market and enjoys robust annual growth of over 25% each of the last four years.
Does the company have any cash flow from financing activities? What is your total debt, if any?
Along with being profitable, Echopass is cash flow positive. While Echopass has enjoyed the support of premier venture capital partners in the formation and building of of the company, we don’t require additional funding to support the company’s long term growth.
Where do you see the company in five years in terms of revenue and profitability?
Our profitability continues to increase based on our business model each year, and we see continued and robust growth within the expanding cloud segment of the contact center market.
How big do you think the market in which you operate will be in terms of total revenue in 2015? 2020?
A pre-eminent research firm in this market, Frost & Sullivan, has estimated that the total market in 2015 will reach $2.5 billion and grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 12% per year to over $2.99 billion by 2017 (the furthest out the research report covers). What forms of marketing do you use to attract clients? Echopass utilizes a full portfolio of marketing including an extensive partner network, marketing events and conferences, and a complement of digital marketing programs and tools (i.e. email, web search, social media, inbound).
How big is the company in terms of its workforce?
Echopass employs less than 250 employees that are located throughout North America to support our clients.
What are the biggest growth catalysts (new technology, new offerings, etc.) for you right now? Tell us about any patents or other IP.
Today’s contact centers are undergoing dramatic change due to the quickly changing communications marketplace, and the changing needs of customers. The advent of multiple channels for communications into the contact center such as text via mobile devices, social media, website integrated chat, and email are all putting stress son both the agents, mangers, and the infrastructure necessary to support today’s demanding and highly mobile customer. Coupled with the strategic necessity to competitively differentiate today’s customer service offerings and improve customer loyalty, along with tighter cost management is all requiring contact centers to implement new technologies to keep pace with today’s communications savvy consumers. Echopass stays on the forefront of developing customer trends and has developed key elements of technology and IP that support the growing requirements of enhanced customer service. A key example is the recently announced EchoCallBack offering that allows contact center customers to choose whether to wait for an available agent or to be called back at the time and place of their choosing thus enhancing the customer experience as well as smoothing the peaks of high number of customer calls for agent populations.
Have you faced any regulatory hurdles, or anticipate any in the future? Explain.
We have many areas where we have achieved compliance for specific industries, for specific types of data and for security and performance, We are always investing in compliance and regulatory changes in the industry.
Is there any announcement you’d like to make?
Yes. Echopass recently received a very prestigious award from a major analyst firm in the contact center space, Frost & Sullivan. For the second year running, Echopass was awarded Market Leadership in the Hosted Contact Center market. We are very pleased with this award as it comes after 13 years of hard effort in building a world class organization and offering for the most demanding segment of the market, the large enterprise. Frost evidenced the effective execution, leading security and privacy capabilities, a keen focus on the enterprise, the “all-in-one” Echopass suite of solutions, and a very credible and visible brand name as key criteria for their recognition. We are very pleased with the award and especially so for the tremendous efforts from our employees who help our clients achieve success with their customers.