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Rana Gujral, CEO Behavioral Signals: Using empathy means you respect your customers

Rana Gujral is an entrepreneur and CEO at Behavioral Signals, an enterprise software company that unravels behavioral signals from speech data with its acoustics based deep learning technology.

As a thought-leader in the AI/technology space, Rana often leads keynote sessions and joins panel discussions at industry events such as World Government Summit, VOICE Summit, The Next Web Conference, Collision, and The Web Summit. His bylines are featured in publications such as Hacker Noon, Voicebot.ai, SpeechTechMagazine, and is a contributing columnist at TechCrunch and Forbes. He’s been recognized as among ‘Top 40 Voice AI Influencers to Follow’ by SoundHound, ‘Entrepreneur of the Month’ by CIO Magazine, awarded ‘US-China Pioneer’ by IEIE, listed as a Top 10 Entrepreneur to follow in 2017 by Huffington Post and an AI Entrepreneur to Watch in Inc Magazine. In 2020 he won “Contributor of the Year: Chatbots” in Hacker Noon’s Noonie’s Awards. 

More about Behavioral Signals and Rana’s experience as an entrepreneur can be found below:

What’s the story behind Behavioral Signals?

Driven by a passion to bring the company’s ground-breaking patented speech-to-emotion and speech-to-behaviors technologies to market, CTO Alex Potamianos and Chief Scientist Shri Narayanan founded Behavioral Signals in 2016. Shri is a Professor of Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC). He founded and currently directs the Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL) at USC. Alex is a well-regarded innovator in the field of speech and natural language processing, interactive voice response systems, and behavioral informatics.

With the goal of enhancing and forever changing the world of business, we believe technology is at the core of what can be achieved. Behavioral Signals’ algorithms analyze human emotions and behaviors, transform data into usable information, and lead to making better business decisions and increasing profits. Until now, human emotion has been considered impossible to quantify and impossible to measure. With our patented analytics engine, we measure and interpret the “how” part of human interactions.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Innovation in the field of AI is hard. Bringing AI into production and introducing it into real-world workflows is harder. Using lots of data offline and training a highly sophisticated and perfectly engineered model is at the core of an AI-based solution and requires significant effort and expertise. Data collection and clean-up can make this even more challenging. We worked through some of these early challenges. Lastly, making the model work in real life alongside pre-existing industry infrastructure and integrating it into current operational flows has been a learning experience. That said, we’ve successfully worked through the majority of these issues and are excited to have concluded several key technology partnerships with industry leaders.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Our research-based Emotion AI technology, our amazing team, and the recognition by the industry. We take a lot of pride in our research accomplishments, but we’re equally thankful for the industry accolades. In fall of 2019, our technology was listed as a use-case leader in Gartner’s coveted Maverick Research that profiles cutting-edge technologies. Earlier this year, we were included in Gartner’s Hype Cycle, where our technology was rated as ‘transformational’ and listed in an OMDIA report as key industry leader for AI technologies for the banking and financial services industry. In October, we were listed as a Gartner Cool Vendor 2020. We were also named as the most innovative AI company of 2020 by Hackernoon.

What is your vision for the future of Behavioral Signals?

We want Behavioral Signals to be synonymous with AI Mediated Conversations. AI can play a significant role in conversations, either that means introducing empathy in interactions, resolving conflict, or improving performance. Our technology can guide the conversation dynamic with the ultimate goal to improve the outcome, whether that has to do with better customer experience, increased collections, or faster resolution times.

Whatever the objective, there is always a catalyst that would allow both sides to reach the desired result. That contributing factor is usually a simple and naturally occurring human process: the affinity or rapport developed between people. Regardless of the type of business communication (sales call, support, collection), it will always be an interaction between real humans, where rarely is the affinity identical between two pairs of people. We have specific behaviors and traits that help us get along with some people better than with others. This is where Behavioral Signals technology thrives with proven results. Our Emotion AI algorithms, developed from years of research and experience in NLP and Behavioral Signal Processing, are proving to be effective for many of our financial customers, banks, BPOs, and Collection Agencies.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Adapt. The pandemic, although very serious, is a temporary problem. There will always be periods, during our lifetime as an entrepreneur, where something affects our economies. Operating our businesses during troubled times is a testament to what kind of leader you want to be and how you are able to show resilience.

While the pandemic has led to some unforeseen challenges, particularly for startups and entrepreneurs, many new opportunities for growth have presented themselves. For example, we are seeing an unfortunate spike in non-performing loans. We strongly believe that empathy goes a long way in serving both the bank that has loaned the money, but also the customer who wants to pay back what she owes. Focusing on empathy means you respect your customers, you treat them well, taking into account the pressures of this economic down-turn, and help your employees perform their jobs well. That is where AI technologies like our AI-Mediated Conversations can come into play, pairing the right employee with each customer for a productive conversation that can lead to mutual understanding and problem resolution.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Right now, I’m reading two books. Don’t Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth About Language by David Shariatmadari and How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do―And What It Says About You by Katherine Kinzler.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss about their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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