Speaking from his kitchen which, thanks to COVID-19, doubles as his office, Adam Slagowski, founder and CEO of Tactis, spoke candidly about the origin and thinking behind the newly formed customer experience agency, borne out of the merger between two longstanding DC firms, Blue Water and MissionSide.
Craig Strydom: How did the idea for Tactis come about?
Adam Slagowski: Well, you might be surprised to learn that the dream of Tactis was formed over ten years ago, and that the business plan was created not that long after that. Over time, we worked very hard to execute on a plan that has today culminated in the formation of the new company, named Tactis.
CS: Can you elaborate?
AD: Well, specifically, ten years ago, when we were working on the 2010 census, I had the idea to use the 2020 census to get the revenue needed to build an innovative, full-service customer experience agency, and the way to do that was to get the money to buy an agency. And that’s why we acquired Blue Water, and now’s the time to bring them together.
CS: It’s great when a plan comes together.
AS: [Laughs] Well, it didn’t happen straight away. In fact, the evolution of artificial intelligence and machine learning, well that wasn’t something that was around really, or should I say, in 2010 it was more of a vision than a reality. And over time, as we’ve executed on that business plan, we’re bringing those advanced technologies into it.
CS: What were the holes that you were trying to fill?
AS: For me it was quality of customer experience. When I put this thought together in 2010, digital self-service was just getting going, compared to today where it is ubiquitous across all platforms. Granted, people were able to buy things on the web, but beyond e-commerce, there was not a lot there. Also, the quality of the interactions and the user-experience, that didn’t really take off until a couple of years later.
CS: How is Tactis unique, a one-of-a-kind customer experience agency?
AS: Tactis is quite unique in this space for its size. As a company, we are able to bring together in a native way digital self-service, the latest in artificial intelligence (IA) technologies, machine learning, while at the same time, which is highly unusual, we offer high-value contact centers to be there in times of peril for the brand, like the COVID-19 pandemic, or when exceptional use-cases present themselves for which brands find themselves unequipped to handle.
CS: So, it’s a ‘traditional digital agency’ meets ‘contact center agency’ story?
AS: Well, it became clear to me early on that traditional digital agencies use technology for customer service but are lacking when it comes to human touch. And that customer center agencies were successfully using people but were lacking in technology. So yes, one could say it is that kind of story.
CS: What do you mean by ‘human touch’?
AS: Well, new technologies create customer experiences that allow the user to solve as many transactions as possible on their own, with the least amount of friction, and on their own terms. But by ‘human touch,’ we mean also having a human in the loop during those times when we are not smart enough to think ‘technologically’ of every use-case, especially at times when external events like COVID-19 intervene. That’s the power of the human touch.
CS: So, it’s a bit like ‘the power of human touch’ enhancing ‘the power of technology’?
AS: Well, at the end of the day, it is the people in organizations who are the ones that save brands, save the mission, save the reputation. Likewise, as an organization, we are fortunate to have a passionate group of talented employees ready to bring the ‘power of human touch’ to life.
CS: Who is Tactis pitching itself to?
AS: Tactis’s capabilities span the full spectrum of integrated marketing communications for federal government, commercial and non-profit. However, the new website splits the user experience between Commercial & Associations, and Federal & Non-profit, utilizing a self-selector. Both could consider using both sets of services, namely advanced customer experience technologies, and contact center services. Tactis is able to bring self-service and the human aspects of customer experience together.
CS: Why do you think Tactis has what it takes to compete?
AS: Our offering is a real game-changer. Traditional digital agencies think they are smart enough to think of every use-case and utilize the latest in digital self-service in order to handle every customer service situation. Contact center companies, on the other hand, have a hard time breaking away from the traditional way in which they work and struggle to incorporate technology. We bring the two together.
CS: Tactis places a real importance of having a comprehensive strategy. Why is that?
AS: Well, when you go onto the big omnichannel contact center technology company websites, you realize that they don’t utilize real digital solutions. They claim that they can reduce costs and things like that on the contact center side through intelligent agents and bots and things like that, which might be partially true, but it only works when it’s done in conjunction with a comprehensive digital strategy that puts digital self-service first. Just pushing people to a bot doesn’t really improve the actual outcome, or customer experience itself. It just deflects.
CS: How is the Tactis approach different?
AS: To fix the quality problem that I mentioned in the onset of this interview, you have to have a comprehensive strategy. That is where we start. The other thing is that the technologies have to be there, to be able to not only capture the transaction data (what happened during each customer transaction) but also the interaction data (how have they interacted with you across channels).
CS: Why is this important?
AS: If you are able to get both the transaction and the interaction data and tie the systems together in a way that allows you to see all the interactions, then you can really uncover the unmet user needs. This will help drive both innovation and constant improvement, and ultimately, ensures that brands stay on top of changing preferences and technologies.
CS: Do you have anything to add to employees?
AS: The idea of human touch is very inspiring to our employees. The best customer experiences, we all know, are performed by people that really enjoy their jobs and believe in what they are building. I feel that this business model will inspire employees to continue to develop their own skills, continue their improvement, and get really excited about the possibilities out there, especially in the realm of digital self-service, artificial intelligence or machine learning, and the power of human touch. I believe it will inspire the brands that choose to partner with us too.
CS: Thank you!