Interactions 2013 – We Have Liftoff
While many of its competitors have reported decreased sales and revenues for first quarter 2013, Interactive Intelligence just announced total orders up 31 percent from 2012 first quarter, and total revenues up 39 percent to $73.2 million. While some of its competitors have had to explain to stockholders about recent poor performance, Interactive Intelligence continues to not only grow, but remain profitable, separating the company from most of its competitors. At the company’s “Interactions” event for customers, partners, consultants, and analysts in Indianapolis this week, I got to view some of the reasons why the company has been so successful.
Founder and CEO, Dr. Donald Brown, still calls the shots, and he is one smart man. Case in point – a year ago at the analyst and consultant event, Dr. Brown was asked by one of the consultants about what he thought of WebRTC. He responded by asking, “What’s WebRTC?” After that, Dr. Brown researched and learned about WebRTC, and recognized the impact that it will have on contact center technologies and customer service. Fast forward to 2013, and Interactive Intelligence now has a team of engineers working on WebRTC, and is embracing the new capabilities that this technology enables – all within a short time period.
The company is clearly not afraid to embrace change. It was one of the first companies to develop a Communications as a Service (CaaS) offering for contact center, and spends about 20 percent of revenues on R&D. For the coming year, the company will continue to heavily invest in R&D, sales, and marketing, while looking to maintain profitability and be cash flow positive. Brown told the analysts and consultants at the event, “We want to make strong investments, but don’t want to spend more money than we’re taking in.” Perhaps this is based on Brown’s Midwest common sense mentality, but this is a far cry from what we’re hearing from most other vendors these days.
While companies like Microsoft and Cisco are considered “marketing machines,” and other companies focus primarily on technology and practically ignore marketing, Interactive Intelligence seems to have found the right mix between innovation and marketing. Marketing is led by the always-affable Joe Staples, who informed us that yes, the Goat campaign lives on, and the company will continue to focus on brand building, with the new theme of “Exceptional Customer Experience.”
While we didn’t hear many new announcements at the event (and of course some of the most interesting future-looking plans are NDA), Interactive Intelligence continues to incrementally improve its product offerings. The big focus right now is on the cloud, and the company recently introduced CaaS Small Center, a hosted offering targeting contact centers with 10-50 agents. This service has good potential, but will also create some challenges for the company, which is using a newly created direct sales force for this service.
My only disappointment is that the company was forced to backpedal a bit on its social customer service strategy, as one of its primary partners, Radian6, got acquired by Salesforce.com, and its work with partner Buzzient stalled. Interactive Intelligence is working on a new strategy focused on integrations, but will not have anything productized for several months.
In addition to sessions aimed specifically at the consultants and analysts, I also attended keynotes, general sessions, and breakout sessions on mobility, cloud, business process automation, and more. One of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address from Gene Kranz, lead Flight Director during NASA's Apollo 13, and Captain Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13. They were inspirational and entertaining. I’ll leave you with some of their quotes that were especially meaningful:
Our nation understood that there is no achievement without risk.
Always expect the unexpected.
We learned about leadership – when there’s trouble, leaders are out in front.
Success would only come as a team, so we became one. We left our egos at the door.
Missions run on trust – trust allows us to make split second decisions.
There are three types of people: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that just wonder what happened.