We talked to Mr. DELIAGA Ákos, founder and CEO at Talk-A-Bot, about automated chatbots and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
DELIAGA Ákos: Thank you for your question, luckily we have avoided the virus so far or we did not realize that we have been infected. Some staff members had light symptoms and fell out of work for a week or so, but that was all we sacrificed for Covid-19.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Talk-A-Bot.
DELIAGA Ákos: After gaining an MSc IT Engineer degree from Budapest University of Technology and Economics and afterward having 10 years of experience in business development in Central-Eastern-Europe and South-East-Asia at HP I decided to sharpen my managerial skills by enrolling in the MBA program at Central European University. Talk-A-Bot was a capstone work idea for me and for some fellows. During the MBA on a study tour at Nasdaq, we had the opportunity to meet with Josh Machiz, the digital marketing manager of NASDAQ. when I asked him about what he thinks about chatbots mentioning we would love to have Nasdaq as our first client. The following day he started in his Time Square office negotiating on what chatbots can bring into client services, marketing, HR, and so on. This was the turning point when we felt we were in a good moment with a good idea. Soon after this Talk-A-Bot has been invited to participate in the Rakuten Accelerator Program, powered by Techstars. Since then four years have passed and we proudly consider ourselves as one of the biggest chatbot agencies in Central and Eastern Europe even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
How does Talk-A-Bot innovate?
DELIAGA Ákos: Our company has three separate DEV divisions:
- One that develops custom enterprise-level chatbots where we always come up with new ideas and every new client needs a new integration that can be added to our core.
- The second is what revolutionizes corporate internal communications by providing a tool that makes the management able to reach every single employee easily on their personal smartphones. This is called CHEQ and it is a GDPR compliant system that has end-to-end encryption that allows management not only to send their top-to-many messages but also encrypted personal files to individual employees (such as regular payroll, bonus, IRS docs). CHEQ is simultaneously available on-demand on Viber, Messenger, Microsoft Teams, or our white label app (downloadable from Google Play or Apple Store). CHEQ is available now in 7 languages and it is rapidly growing. In these times when the number of management (top-down) messages and (down-to-top) questions of employees dramatically increase in order to handle the Covid situation’s both rationally and emotionally, the communications ability of companies became a critical business element.
- And last but not least we have a top grade division called Passion Fruit. This unit involves the ones we think are the future of chatbots and are often turned into products.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
DELIAGA Ákos: As we have a business presence in Singapore we were able to foresee potential aftermaths of the government-imposed measures well in time so we decided to use it as a strategic turning point. Before the local government announced its lockdown decisions (that was just a year ago) in Hungary after a short analysis and rapid development we offered our internal communications tool (the above-mentioned CHEQ) free of charge. It is a chatbot customized specifically for the current pandemic situation (under the name CHEQ Crisis), free for 2 months to all companies that have a headquarter in Hungary.
In contrast to the 25% of income loss we suffered from retaining CHEQ clients, we gained 50% by CHEQ Crisis from those who decided to stay with us after the 2 months of the free period.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
DELIAGA Ákos: Successfully handling a never-seen-before situation requires not only people having a strong out-of-box attitude but also a staff that is mature and flexible enough to adapt to the new situation. A staff that is instead of being frustrated by everyday changing situations it feels inspired and comes up with new ideas. We made changes in some positions and in some key areas we strengthened our competencies e.g. by hiring from the generation that experienced the previous global economic turmoil.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
DELIAGA Ákos: At first the four founders did everything. Then we started to split the roles, hire junior people in order to delegate recurring tasks. Today we work with over 35 full-time professionals, we use Hubspot as CRM, marketing, and sales automation. We went through a full organizational development process with an external consultant to make sure that our goals are aligned, everybody’s on the same page, and that our largest cost/asset is used efficiently. We now have a matrix organization, well-defined roles and responsibilities, and full 2nd line management. This is a very strong foundation for further development.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
DELIAGA Ákos: We never had any government grants. Talk-A-Bot bootstrapped for 2,5 years based on client revenue. Since then we had a total of 1,5M EUR investment in the firm that helped us a lot to develop our product and the sales force. Grants and investments seem to be very attractive, but they come with a lot of strings attached. The only sustainable way to grow is to grow on client revenues. This is what we always try to maximize.
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