New Podcast: “Turning Customers into Advocates” featuring Andrea Kayal, Upserve

New Podcast: “Turning Customers into Advocates” featuring Andrea Kayal, Upserve

Our latest Above the Cloud podcast features Andrea Kayal, chief marketing officer of Upserve, a business management platform for full-service restaurants that emerged out of Swipely back in 2016 following two key acquisitions. In May 2016, Swipely became Upserve, switched from a horizontal to a vertical focus and acquired Breadcrumb POS from Groupon to serve as the foundation for what would gradually become an operating system for restaurants.

Upserve more recently acquired Simple Order for inventory management, with an eye to helping restaurants manage costs and improve profitability. Other elements of the platform, notably its Workforce tools for employee management, were built internally. Upserve recently launched Tableside, a mobile POS designed to make payment acceptance at the table more efficient. Back in October, the company replaced its founder Angus Davis with a new CEO, Sheryl Hoskins, most recently CRO of ACTIVE Network.

We covered a lot of ground with Andrea in our roughly 30-minute conversation, including the restaurant landscape, how Upserve acquires customers, how it views its competitive environment, and what challenges it addresses for restaurant owners.

In the following video excerpt from the podcast, Andrea talks about how Upserve leverages its customer base to drive growth. This will be the topic of a talk Andrea will give at the LSA’s upcoming LOCALOGY: ENGAGE conference in Washington, DC.

You can listen to the full podcast here. The conversation with Andrea begins at the 1:19 mark.

Andrea will be speaking on the topic, “Turning Customers into Advocates” at the LSA’s upcoming LOCALOGY ENGAGE: SMB/SaaS conference, June 3-4, in Washington, D.C. For information on the event or to register, please visit Localogy.com. Here she explains why the event is a good fit for her. 

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Add Your Voice to Our SaaS Engagement Survey

Add Your Voice to Our SaaS Engagement Survey

Anyone who builds or sells SaaS products for small businesses knows that it’s all for naught if your customers are not engaged with your products on a daily basis. Businesses that do not rely on your products will eventually stop using them.

And the engagement cycle — the time you have to establish regular usage of your product — keeps getting shorter, as customer acquisition costs keep rising.

The LSA has built an entire event around this issue, Localogy Engage, which kicks off June 3 in Washington DC.

In order to ground the conversation on SMB software in a shared understanding of the issues, we’re conducting a survey of SMB SaaS professionals on how they deal with the engagement challenge.

Here are some of the issue the survey dives into:

  • How much time do you have to establish usage before a customer becomes a churn risk?
  • What tactics are deployed to drive engagement and reduce churn?
  • Which of these tactics are most effective?
  • What are the principal causes of churn?
  • What monthly churn rates are typical for SMB SaaS products

The survey will be open for a while longer. Please add your voice by completing the survey below. It only takes a few minutes and responses are anonymous. Results will be shared in a white paper and presented at the Localogy conference.

Create your own user feedback survey

Why Are Sales Engagement Platforms So Hot?

Why Are Sales Engagement Platforms So Hot?

We saw the news this week that the sales enablement platform SalesLoft has raised $70 million, giving it a $600 million valuation. The D round was led by Insight Venture Partners, will go toward fueling the Atlanta-based company’s growth, specifically to fund geographic expansion (the company opened a new London office recently) and invest in technology like it’s AI-driven sales coaching network.

Sales Enablement is a hot category, particularly in B2B software sales, which faces a constant battle against high churn, rising customer acquisition costs, and uneven sales performance. The idea behind sales enablement platforms is to provide sales organizations with the tools and resources they need to produce consistent sales results.

SEPs began as content management systems that sales reps could use to access information to help develop sales messaging, nurture leads, and so on. They’ve evolved into very sophisticated platforms that mine reams of data to engineer all the elements of sales. SalesLoft, for example, provides email marketing, and call dialers, sales coaching, and training (increasingly AI-driven), intelligence and analytics, and so on.

How to sell software effectively to SMBs will be a foundational topic at the LSA’s upcoming Localogy Engage conference, June 3-4, in Washington D.C.

New Podcast: “Robot Waitresses” Featuring Rebellion Research

New Podcast: “Robot Waitresses” Featuring Rebellion Research

Our latest Above the Cloud podcast features a conversation on AI with Alexander Fleiss, CEO of Rebellion Research, a New York company that delivers AI-driven investment advice to its clients worldwide. Andrew is also a lecturer on AI at Yale, Amherst, and Rutgers. As Alexander puts it, teaching is his passion.

We talked about how small businesses already use AI, but largely indirectly through the software they use (he cited Zendesk as a good example). In fact, most SMBs using AI probably do so without any awareness that they are.

We also talked about how small businesses in some ways are in a better position than large organizations to deploy AI because they have simpler problems to solve and small data sets to work with. And then we got into the fun stuff. Robot dog walkers. Robot waitresses. Robot financing. All the Jetsons, Cyberdyne, dystopic stuff people love to talk about.

One of his more interesting predictions was that driverless car will be prevalent by 2025 and that one outcome will be that cars will become homey, social spaces once car owners no longer need to worry about doing the driving.

Alexander comes down on the side of AI creating more and better jobs than it kills. I express some skepticism that every displaced worker can be retrained as a programmer, as Alexander argues most can. We didn’t even get to the threat AI represents to knowledge workers like accountants, lawyers and even, gulp, writers. And Alexander made this feel a little scarier when he talked about how the advent of 5G (over the next couple of years) will accelerate the rollout of robots that replace laborers — drivers, waitresses, dog walkers, landscapers, and so on.

Here are a few choice comments from Alexander. I encourage you to listen to the full podcast below.

Why SMBs May Have an Edge over Big Firms in Implementing AI

“When you are a 10-25 person small business, first of all, you have less data, so it’s easier to work with. You have fewer customers, fewer products, fewer targets to hit. If you are a very large business, you have a thousand bullseyes to hit. As a smaller business, you don’t have as many bullseyes.”

Why AI Might Gain Traction First in a Vertical Category

“When it comes to working with AI, the narrower you can be, the more you can contain your dataset into a vacuum, the easier it is for AI to work.”

Why AI Will Be a Net Positive for Job Creation

“Throughout history, progress consistently has brought more jobs at higher pay and in a better environment…The Uber driver who gets replaced by a driverless car will make more money as a programming assistant and will get to spend more time with his loved ones. And he won’t have to worry about robbery or getting into accidents.”

Why Unleashing the Bots Will Disproportionately Benefit Small Businesses

“Small businesses have a much greater share of their cost in labor than large businesses. So having automated trucking, waitresses, etc., will help small businesses boost profits more than larger businesses, which are already very efficient.”

And How Will Small Businesses Pay for Those Robot Waitresses?

“In a few years you re going to see advertisements for bot lending that say, ‘pay us $400 a month (to finance the bot) or pay your employee $2,000 a month.'”

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New Podcast: “Happiness and Efficiency in the Workplace” featuring 7Shifts

New Podcast: “Happiness and Efficiency in the Workplace” featuring 7Shifts

Jordan Boesch got the idea to build a great software product from watching his dad struggle with a combination of excel spreadsheets and sticky notes to juggle the employee schedules at the Quiznos franchises he ran in Saskatchewan.

This week’s Above the Cloud podcast features an in-depth conversation with Jordan about how he took his original product, build for his dad, and evolved it into 7Shifts, a SaaS company based in Saskatchewan (if that counts as a pun) that raised $10 million in January. Now, 7Shifts is poised to be among the leaders in the competitive restaurant management software category.

Here is some of what we covered in the podcast.

Building a Tech Company on the Prairie

Jordan incubated 7Shifts in the Bay Area but eventually moved back to Saskatchewan to grow the business. He acknowledges there are pros and cons to growing a business away from a known tech hub like the Bay Area, Austin, New York, Toronto.

One pro is that 7Shifts is a big fish in a small pond. As he puts it, “We sneeze and we’re in the newspaper” in Saskatoon. A low cost of living and high quality of life are other advantages. Two key challenges are access to “smart” capital (the kind that comes with seasoned mentorship) and access to senior talent. To address the latter challenge, the company has opened an office in Toronto and is flexible about remote work.

Making the Pivot from Horizontal to Vertical

Despite its origin as a solution for his dad’s restaurants, 7Shifts was an all things to all people employee scheduling tool in its early days as a company. The decision to go horizontal turned into a nightmare when requests began pouring in from customers asking for product tweaks that were specific to their industries.

One big reason for the pivot to a focus on restaurants was that in Jordan’s assessment, “The restaurant industry was super antiquated. It had no technology. We had a massive opportunity to have a strong impact on an industry that no one was really looking at.”

There was also an emotional element to the decision to go vertical. He realized that the product as it stood “was not something where people were like, ‘I can’t live without this product.’ And I wanted to build a product where people felt that.”

Will Restaurants be a Winner Take All Category?

We asked Jordan about a recent conversation we had with SurePath Capital CEO Mark MacLeod, where Mark asserted that restaurants could become the first winner take all category in the SMB software space, which is generally noted for its fragmentation.

Jordan agreed only up to a point. First, there are a few different slices of the restaurant market to fight over. Point of sale is the big battleground, where Jordan sees a “winner take most” showdown between Toast, Touch Bistro, and others.

7Shifts plays in the “employee lifecycle” segment, which Jordan has ambitions to dominate. He defines employee lifecycle as hiring, training, scheduling, payroll, and retention.

“Of all the challenges restaurant owners face, labor management is still the number one thing restaurants complain about,” Jordan said.

The LSA’s Tech Adoption Index backs this up. In Wave III of our small business survey research, conducted last October with more than 1,000 U.S. SMBs, 47% of respondents in the “Dining and Entertainment” vertical cited “recruiting qualified employees” as a top two concern. This was the highest of the seven verticals measured in the survey.

How 7Shifts Uses Automation, AI, and Machine Learning

7Shifts makes ample use of machine learning to optimize and automate employee scheduling, factoring in seasonality, weather trends, manager behavior, sales data, guest counts and other factors that impact demand and employee performance.

“When we tell a manager we can automate the scheduling process, they are often like, ‘Well, I don’t believe in that.'” Jordan said, “When we ask why, they say, ‘My gut instinct.”

It’s a process to convince them that automation works and frees them to focus on other tasks.

“There is this ego aspect with restaurant operators and managers,” Jordan said. “We have to ease them into how this is going to help them.”

You can listen to the full podcast here:

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