Asia Blockchain Review recently spoke to Mike Driver and Sam Upra, Co-founders of Salutat, a company that combines behavioral psychology and machine learning to provide a customer service solutions platform that automates and enhances digitized conversations with customers. The co-founders talked about addressing the obstacles that financial institutions have in communicating with customers, employing messaging apps to open up new channels, and the importance of customer service in the digital era.
Asia Blockchain Review: Can you tell us about the inspiration for founding Salutat? How are you using machine learning and neuroscience to offer better customer service?
Mike Driver: Firstly, thanks for speaking with us, ABR.
Besides the general, high-friction experience of dealing with my own banks as a customer, the main inspiration for Salutat came when I (Mike) was working at IFC, the investment arm of the World Bank. We had a big portfolio of banks and other types of lenders such as microfinance across Asia, and each lender was facing digital transformation. There was a need to improve the way that they collect and use data to understand their customers better and provide more tailored content through a mix of channels that includes OTT (over-the-top) smartphone chat.
Sam and I actually met through an OTT Linkedin chat soon after, so we like to joke that Salutat was founded ‘the Salutat way’. We started working on a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that uses machine-learning and brings over best practice from tech companies such as his former employer, Agoda. We then teamed up with a behavioral psychologist expert and a neuroscience professor at NUS and UNSW, respectively, and set out on a research and pilot phase that spanned the outskirts of Nairobi to Thailand’s border with Laos. In the end, we built Salutat, a system that intelligently processes customer data into tailored customer product/service and breaks down internal silos.
ABR: Who are your clients, and what services do you offer?
Sam Upra: We definitely work on more of a partnership basis than a supplier basis. This is the best way to drill down on specific use cases and ensure that Salutat fits their needs. So far, we are working with SME lenders, microfinance companies, and emerging market banks. We have also had early discussions with other types of financial and non-financial institutions.
We offer different modules depending on what the customer requires. This enables partners to manage customer information better using smartphones and has built-in data analytics that creates operational efficiency and superior customer engagement.
ABR: What are the benefits of contacting customers via messaging apps such as LINE and WhatsApp compared to traditional call centers?
MIke Driver: Well, I wouldn’t say it has to be one or the other, but it should be coordinated. Too many times we hear about situations when a marketing message is sent to a customer, or a conversation takes place with a call center agent, but the relationship manager has no idea about it.
We are closing the loop and putting everyone on the same page.
ABR: How is Salutat integrating various banking and non-banking software to enhance your clients’ stack?
Sam Upra: We operate with an open architecture approach, meaning we integrate with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems or can become the CRM ourselves.
We work with any Core Banking System or other system that is in place.
ABR: As you were founded in Singapore, why did you decide to set up another office in Thailand? What is the potential for Salutat in the Thai market?
Mike Driver: Yes, we were founded in Singapore because it is a fintech hub. Sam is Thai and our first client was based in Thailand, so this is our cultural and technical home. We also have a business development center in Europe. We are hiring data scientists and software developers in the Bangkok hub, as we see a lot of potential there. Please get in touch if you are looking for a challenge and want to learn more about the roles available at Salutat!
ABR: Can you tell us about your plans to expand to countries like Myanmar, Kenya, and Zimbabwe? Who are your clients in these markets?
Mike Driver: We have a global vision, which we realize has its difficulties for a small company, but this is a universal problem that we are working to solve and our partners have global footprints. Whatever we build has to work cross-language and cross-culture.
With that said, our current focus is on East/Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. We are working with leading microfinance players including Baobab and Advans. We are very proud to have such wonderful partners.
ABR: What is Salutat’s roadmap going forward?
Sam Upra: The roadmap is to add more banks and financial institutions as partners and expand geographically in countries where we see strong potential.
Our product is expanding every week with new features and integrations.
ABR: In the digital era where everyone has access to digital tools, why is customer service more important for businesses than ever?
Sam Upra: There is a clear need for financial institutions to collect and use data to understand customers better and create more holistic omnichannel relationships.
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