• November 1, 2016
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Zang Sends the Right Message for OwnerListens

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OwnerListens helps more than 11,000 U.S. and Canadian businesses resolve customer issues via text messaging. But the Menlo Park, Calif., start-up had its own customer issues until it chose Zang as a text messaging platform and customer service interface provider.

OwnerListens was primed for growth—texting is becoming ever more popular as a customer service channel—but was being stymied by a lack of available phone numbers, high costs, and jumbled messages, especially long text messages of more than 160 characters. Its two previous service providers were simply unable to meet the company’s needs, according to Eli Lipstein, head of product at OwnerListens.

When consumers send text messages to any of OwnerListens’ clients, the company receives and analyzes the messages and routes them to the right person, department, office, or chatbot within those companies. The companies can then respond on the same platform via text or email, or through an integrated dashboard.

Central to OwnerListens’ solution is text-enabling its clients’ existing landline phone numbers, but its previous providers couldn’t do so cost-effectively or quickly, Lipstein says. Without available phone numbers to assign clients, OwnerListens found it hard to provide the service level customers expected.

Zang, which is owned by Avaya, quickly gave OwnerListens greater functionality at a reasonable price, Lipstein says.

Zang surfaced after Avaya’s acquisition of Canadian firm Esna last year. Zang was launched in March as a separate company because its business model, based on providing a cloud communications platform and communication applications-as-a-service, is radically different from Avaya’s.

OwnerListens adopted Zang earlier this year. Today, it handles 5,000 text conversations—typically involving multiple messages back and forth—per month.

“A lot of messages go into each conversation, so costs can add up,” Lipstein says, “but with Zang we’re saving thousands [of dollars] per month. Zang is helping us keep costs to a minimum.”

Zang is also scaling with the company. As OwnerListens has grown, the five-year-old company built additional tools for businesses to scale their messaging with customers. These have included escalation, time-based routing, suggested responses, and integrations with commerce systems from Wix, Shopify, Magento, SquareSpace, and a few others.

In the past two years, as messaging took off, OwnerListens has also been adding support for multiple instant messaging platforms and apps, from Twitter to WhatsApp to WeChat.

When OwnerListens came across Zang and saw it could build what the company needed within a platform-as-a-service model, it was a game-changer, he says.

Smart apps built on Zang’s cloud-based platform enable click-to-connect communications with high-quality video, chat, voice, SMS, and document sharing from mobile, web, or desktop environments. Zang’s highly interoperable platform provides complete workflow automation and sophisticated application development capabilities.

During the rollover to Zang, Lipstein acknowledges there were some “bumpy spots along the way,” but says Zang’s engineers were quick to work through them. Zang’s support channel has been very helpful, he adds.

For the time being, OwnerListens primarily supports text messaging, which Lipstein says has shown an open rate of greater than 98 percent, with roughly 95 percent of them read within the first three minutes of being received. “Anyone can use [text], and it’s available on every phone made today,” he says.

Going forward, though, OwnerListens expects to add multimedia messaging service (MMS) and tighter Facebook Messenger integration to its offerings, and that is a priority for Zang as well.

“Our end goal is to support customers on many different platforms,” Lipstein says. “So far Zang is doing a really good job for us. As part of Avaya, they can offer a lot of great things.”

Adding capabilities will be easy, he adds, “because Zang has a really great [application programming interface] that is easy to hook into.”

The Payoff

Since adopting the Zang platform to power its text messaging solution to clients, OwnerListens has been able to do the following:

  • handle 5,000 conversations per month between consumers and businesses;
  • deliver text messages that have a 98 percent open rate, with 95 percent of them read within three minutes; and
  • save thousands of dollars per month in communications costs.

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