Simon Vostry, the founder and CEO of ZOOM International (News - Alert), is a man who never gives up. He got his hands on his first computer as a kid and has been working diligently in software ever since. In the interview that follows, Vostry talks about his formative years, his approach to management, why he doesn’t like the term workforce optimization, how ZOOM provides customers with actionable insight, and his thoughts on what’s next for the company and the customer experience space at large.
What was life like for you growing up?
I was born in the Czech Republic during the communist era with both of my parents being on the black list. Luckily the iron curtain fell when I was 11 years old and new opportunities opened up for all of us. Around that same time a family friend gave us an old computer from Germany. That event probably decided my future – making software is something I immediately became fascinated by. Like a typical nerd I spent most of my time around the computer, not paying much attention to the outside world until college.
Where did you go to school?
I studied at the Czech Technical University in Prague. I founded the company around the same time, so it was quite a challenge to manage my time between school and full-time work. I met some great people there, some of whom became my colleagues at work, and who have contributed heavily to the success of ZOOM. We often worked the whole day, then studied for an exam the whole night, went straight to school, passed the exam in the morning (in most cases), and returned back to work in the afternoon. It was a crazy time, and one that I will always remember fondly!
What were your career goals when you were in college?
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and wanted to build a successful software company. This has never changed. I managed to make it all the way through a bachelor’s degree but dropped out shortly after starting the master’s. It was just crazy to run a company and study software engineering at the same time – it required a ton of time, time I didn’t have anymore.
How would you describe your management style?
I think it is a little chaotic. I’m obsessed with detail and tend to micromanage every now and then, but I guess my colleagues have gotten used to that. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a great team of passionate people as well as people with skills complementary to mine.
What are the qualities you look for in employees?
I look for people with passion, a good work ethic, a positive attitude, and a never give up mentality. Attitude is so much more important than skills. Our industry is changing and without constantly learning new things it is not possible to thrive.
When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
I’m still actively skydiving, which is a great sport if you need to clear your head. I have been doing this for 12 years now and love it. Also, I’m very passionate about running because you can do it anytime anywhere, and marathons are always a great combination of fun and pain! I’m a proud father of a 5-year-old daughter, and I really enjoy spending time with the family.
How do your personal interests reflect your management style and who you are?
I believe my passion and never give up attitude is something I share between personal interest and work. I think I must sometimes drive people crazy, but that is also something that moved us forward.
What excites you most about your job?
The ability to change – to innovate and to influence the lives of many people all around the world – excites me. ZOOM has customers in more than 90 countries today, so when I travel I can visit people in almost every city who use our products, have a chat with them, and learn how we can be better.
Tell us about ZOOM. What does it sell and to whom?
ZOOM is in the workforce optimization market. I really do not like the title of our industry since it is a buzzword that just a few people outside of our market understand. We provide solutions to improve customers’ experiences when they reach out to contact centers. The regulatory requirement of interaction recording is the foundation, but the value lies in what can be done with all of this data. How can you use this data to make customers more satisfied? How do you anticipate trends? Our typical customer has about 200 to 500 agents in the contact center, and we are trying to improve their operations, lower attrition, which is a huge issue, and increase profits. Our largest customer has more than 10,000 agents.
There are so many businesses selling customer experience-related solutions today. What’s makes yours special?
ZOOM has invested a lot of resources into developing our key technologies by ourselves including speech and text analytics capabilities. This allows us to design the products exactly the way we want without any risks and compromise associated with the use of third-party components. We take great pride in the user experience too. ZOOM uses its own solution to run our customer care department, and so far this year we are at a 75 percent Net Promoter Score based on hundreds of surveys collected. We believe this is by far the best in the industry.
What do you find most interesting about what’s going on in the areas in which ZOOM is a player?
I believe it is speech analytics, text analytics, and business intelligence. There is so much data our industry is collecting, and we need to find great actionable insight that will guide the customer to the next best action while also offering an easy to work with interface. We are investing most of our R&D resources here, and I still believe there is so much more that can be done. We will see this market booming in the years to come but only when we are able to provide customers with effective and easy to understand products. There has been too much hype around this in recent years, but customers often do not know how to use all of the available tools to really get things done.
What’s next for ZOOM?
We are in a very exciting time now – the company has about 140 people and is growing. At the same time we see a lot of consolidation happening in our industry, and software products that used to be sold separately from different vendors are all merging to provide a more seamless experience for customers. We want to continue to innovate while maintaining our super high customer satisfaction – that is something we are not willing to compromise on!
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere