#40 Podcast – IRIS, Russell Bigg (Transcript)
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#40 Podcast – IRIS, Russell Bigg (Transcript)

Posted on
February 13, 2023

In the latest edition of the Evolve Pipedrive Podcast we sat down with Russell Bigg, the Chanel Director for IRIS to learn more about how IRIS can help sales team get rid of background noise. 


- Russell Bigg is the EMEA Channel Director for Iris Audio Technologies, a four-year old audio technology company on a mission to enable the world to listen well.

- The company has developed an AI powered product called Iris Clarity which was officially launched in December 2020 and has been well received around the world.

- It can be used in call centers or other hostile environments like coffee shops with loud noises and it works bi-directionally by blocking out background noise from both parties while understanding different ways of speaking including monotone conversations, singing voices etc.

- A research conducted last year supports this argument as it found that 69% agents suffer from poor sound quality due to background noise when communicating with customers over voice calls.

Watch the full episode here

Full Transcript (automatically generated)


Today I have a great pleasure to be joined by Russell Bigg, the channel director for EMEA at IRIS now IRIS is an audio technology company on a mission to enable the world to listen well.


I'm really looking forward to this conversation for a couple of reasons, one because Russ is one of the first people I spoke with when I was trying to start the Evolve Patcher podcast when our sourcing pitching the idea to all these businesses uh trying to secure guests and I really love this energy he's willingness to help, plus I was very jealous of his trainer collection because it was a lost hobby I had from my early 20s and I'm so happy that Russ has got his trainer collection behind him now um so without further ado, Russ welcome please can you introduce yourself and IRIS to our audience.


Thanks for having us back I appreciate to be here, hello everyone so my name is Russell Bigg, I'm the EMEA Channel director for IRIS audio Technologies um I've only actually been with IRIS a very short period of time in uh just about two months now so not a huge amount of time however I do have some experience in in the world of audio. IRIS is an amazing place to be, amazing company great culture and and like you say enabling the world with a mission to enable the world to listen well. 


there we go so listen up. so what is IRIS, you're in the UK right so where's HQ? What is a typical IRIS customer look like? obviously coming from your background is IRIS servicing that that environment and tell me a little bit about the team as well


Absolutely so let me let me start by you know the organization itself, we're based in London just off of Oxford Street so a lovely lovely location. As an introduction to our business and our products, I guess really the purpose of today is to let you know and get you to think about what we're doing and what we're going to achieve because we think we've got something really interesting. 

So I guess you know what I want to talk about is one product particular today we have a big road map but really focus on product today and that's taking the market by storm and we think you know the impact certainly is having at the moment is is tremendous and you know it's introducing us to a bigger world so we are you know extremely excited and how things are progressing and where things are heading, not just from a company perspective as we're growing and growing at a fast rate but also where our product is being placed and who's utilizing the the product. 


What product exactly is this because I've been on your website right I've had a little introduction to the product book and there seems to be a number of different areas that you guys have been focused on so so a lot of our or most of our listeners are on pipedrive or they're considering the CRM switch so what product in particular are you talking about there



Okay so to make it so let me explain so IRIS audio technology is is our company and IRIS Clarity is a particular product we're talking about today so I mean there's a bit of background to that so first of all you know we're a business that's very much more considered very much startup and we're going through series A funding right now, we're four years old originally the idea was to take as you mentioned at the start is to make the world listen well and that will continue.

It remains our strap line and that has also then manifested itself into initially into a piece of hardware in the sense that we made some headphones with some really pioneering concept of using AI to remove background noise so in the early days and we talked about the early days it was only you know four years ago the company was accelerated with a partnership with Red Bull racing where we actually worked with Red Bull over the 2021 season and worked with their pit lane to really stress test the application. 

So effectively the most hostile environment we could get in order to test it out and it was a great success. So that's kind of you know the biggest stress test and we've done that more so recently and I can't really go into much detail about that at the moment but you know we've done we've continued stress testing the product in those kind of environments and also even further hostile environments so you know it's a product that's ever evolving.

To be you know quite quite honest with you know that the inception of or where we found ourselves at the end of 2020 and Covid came along we found ourselves thrust back into you know the world and we were thinking what about how can we elevate this application to do something you know more mainstream so by taking away the hardware and then putting it into an application so we talked about the headsets and we took away that Hardware application and then put it into an application and so they can be used in a wider context. So particularly you know what was happening at the time so when all call centers in the world were thrust back to work from home and all the challenges with the noise that came from that and effectively that gave birth to the product that you see and well here today.

It's been a tremendous journey in a short space of time and if I may it's kind of we've really only launched it officially last summer, so December 22. but we had a pre-launch in the Expo in London in 2021 which was great and at that time the product was only in beta format but after the general availability last year it's just been extremely well received around the world.

We're not even scratching the surface of that now so what IRIS Clarity can actually do and we've focused our attention on you know the contact center market because it's an obvious place to accelerate the growth of our business but also because of those thousands of agents that are suffering from this problem and so you know hopefully today on this podcast we're going to talk through some of that research we actually conducted last year that really supports the argument and also uh give you maybe some a surprise of exactly the magnitude of the problem in both terms of what the consumers and all the standard experience that they're trying to you know trying to achieve in business today through through voice. So yeah a lot going on. 


That's very interesting. So before we jump into research I'm going to be very ignorant because what I don't know right and just say how does this help and just so this is 2020 right the amount of people that have jumped onto having to do more zoom calls versus in person. The amount of whether it's call center agents having to work remotely or even going back into the office and wanting to have a better um quality of cool you know less downtime things like that so I'm sure there's a load of different areas that we can touch upon but like as an individual that's working with a remote team across Europe if I'm working I've had examples where I'm in a coffee shop and Marco that some of you guys may know listen to this or may have dealt with him, I've got crying babies next to me and and he can't hear me, what I'm trying to say and I'm literally repeating myself four or five times and I think this point touches on the hardware software piece right. So I’ve got these airpods that have noise canceling, they're great I've had work going on here and I can't hear anything which is wonderful that's one way right, so what Clarity is doing is it's bio-directional, am I touching on the kind of business pain that it's solving here. 


You're absolutely spot on. So that scenario is very common. So a lot of organizations you have that not just home-work environment but people working in coffee shops and other areas but also Imagine from the consumer point of view. The customer they're in these environments right and so yeah I'm talking to you and I'm an agent and I'm asking you for your credit card details and all this stuff over the phone and you're in this noisy area and quite frankly I can barely make out what you're saying and I'm having to ask you to repeat yourself and actually on the similar angle I've got agents all lined up next to me and you know there is a lot of conversation going around and there's a lot of that passive noise all around me that is also interfering our conversation which you're hearing.  So because IRIS Clarity is bi-directional it will ensure that it blocks out both of those background noises for each party so no more can you hear my background noise so all the people talking around me and you know taking other credit card details and all that which obviously you know we won't touch upon but yeah that happened I've experienced it, but you are I'm also not hearing that baby crying or anything in the background because the way that we've over the last four years we've trained the product to be the very best it can be in terms of under understanding the spoken word. 

So it's true to say there's a lot of headphones that cancel out the background noise so they will either create you know a different type of noise to block out that noise but aren't and there's a lot more mechanics and don't get a ton of AI it goes into that as well so I will never belittle their product but for the purpose of this our USP as you mentioned is bi-directional so you know the headsets you get out that will certainly enhance the experience but it won't suppress all the noises from both directions and in terms of contact center you know you know this is this is a huge a huge issue across those 16 million that was we mentioned before. So it is about the type of headset, it is about the environment but if you add IRIS Clarity you don't need to think about those things anymore because we'll focus on the voice.

I was talking to the CTO the other day and we were discussing around you know the sort of language and the different ways that the AI is learning and it's silly things like the monotone that you and I could probably speak in and then it's the stereo then it's the singing voices as well and you don't really think about it you know it's picking up and understanding and learning all of those different ways that the spoken word is actually translated and not just from a language point of view but just really in the way that it is actually spoken. It absolutely sorts that problem out that you're talking about. 

We're extremely excited about this from a business standpoint. But what does it actually mean to a business to improve this, well let me take one step back and only because I think it will set the expectation around this, the return on investment and you know the stats that we've got. So obviously the basics here are how the product works, it's ultimately working in the background and removing that background noise with a latency of less than 10 milliseconds to understand all of those spoken words. I mean most importantly as we just said from both sides of that conversation, I can't re-emphasize that enough whatever you might think about noise in terms of noise cancelling headphones your agents or stuff that that's very well and it's great for the wearer but obviously and it has that impact to the agent's experience but that's not helping the person speaking to them so that's obviously why and then if you think about that hostile environment which you mentioned with like the the race cars and other the extreme environments you know that has a huge impact on how people and their productivity. And because the product is working on a very low CPU usage the application that runs on the desktop so it's an application that sits locally on the desktop and that's an important factor to know you know it's already it just it's taking the audio that's coming through at such a speed, the latency is you know you can't even hear it today.

There's a lot of stats, so I guess really the best place to start is much like the product when we released it last year, last summer we commissioned a market research study to a thousand customers surveyed and I think it's 500 agents Etc and these are some of the highlights or things that are highlighted in the summary.  

In this study 85% of those advisors said that background noise was resulting in wasted time on both sides. So we have a return on investment calculator which we'll go to and talk about but essentially that's a huge amount of time that people are saying you know that noise is affecting their productivity hugely. And 85% of those advisors say that that's the case so let's have an example for our listeners here.

So background noise is getting in the way of a transactional conversation, it could be what's your address, can you please repeat your address, so background noise has a huge impact on you know the flow of the conversation. This element of repetition which we keep going on about and it is wasted time because like you said in that example you know you can say that again or I didn't get that or was it a two or a three or you know those kind of things are really and they add up you think about one call you know that that could have 10 to 15 seconds delay and if you break that down like we've done in the ROI calculator there's some significant costs are associated to wasted time not just productivity but also costs. So this survey is obviously in that particular example. 85% of those advisors said that the background noise is wasted time on both sides so that's that productivity, but I guess Bruce if you look IRIS Clarity does, we're seeing greater than 10% reduction in agent handling time it doesn't seem like a huge amount but it is massive because you think about the productivity and the accountability and effectiveness of those agents handling that call. Reducing the time it takes to complete that call makes them so much more efficient moving forward and how they can get on and there's a lot of other factors within the surveys we'll talk about in a minute.

Enabling IRIS Clarity we're increasing that productivity which in a contact center world having your agents more productive even five percent is amazing, however more than 10% is even better. 

According to the research, 87% of people or customers have had to repeat themselves and that's not just through background noise and that's not just because of the customer that's also the agent because that affects that customer experience and as you know as a company you want to have those high levels of standards around your customer experience. If you're saying  87% of those customers are saying they had to repeat themselves due to background noise that's a lot and that's the environment, that's the customer's environment. 

So imagine if we take away that noise from that customer, just from that customer, there's even fewer mistakes made and this will knock down the effect on I guess compliance. If you think about that as well because if I'm going to read out something to you and you acknowledge it and say yes and we've got some poor examples of non-compliance you know you say something and at that particular time and there's background noise that completely cuts it out that is sensitive information. Also how does that repetition affect your customers csat surveys and those kind of things. So with IRIS Clarity we saw 30% less repetition with fewer mistakes, that's a big big growth and you know we're seeing that.

The final one slide  in this survey is around the negative impact on mental health and well-being of agents. So a massive 69% said that the background noise has a negative effect on their own mental health and well-being.

I mean that's horrible you know, and we know in the contact center world that there's a lot of burnout. I mean 28% of agents leave in the first year. We know that one of the leading outbound insurance companies you know they have this type of journey so they're always reusing those warrant claims and the average hiring fee if you think about the average hiring fee against an agent per hour or if you look at it over the onboarding, it's around 6,000 pounds. That includes the resource fee, the training, the hourly rate, the time you know, two months or so if we with with the clarity application enabled for these agents that's 69% that will increase the retention and the reduction of onboarding costs for these. So those 28% average are leaving in the first year you know Clarity will have a big effect on that and they'll be less likely to move on because they’ll be a lot happier with their environment. So all of those things combined has a huge effect on how Clarity reduces agent handling time and return on investments are actually impacting those people.


I think that's a really powerful message. So thank you for sharing that. 


I mentioned at the start we're a very fast-paced you know organization things are growing and developing very very quickly we're learning from each deployment and we're learning from each you know each implementation and testing and other things like that so if you think about this. So we have a real-time solution which essentially is the IRIS Clarity and the application we're talking about today, but then we also have something for post call. So after the event and this is really designed to support those organizations that have a ton of recordings which sometimes that audio is inaudible, so you really don't know what's going on and essentially with that you can upload those recordings into what we call IRIS Clarity Studio and it will clean those recordings up. It will clean out all background noise and any distracted noise and focus on the voice so you'll have a much more coherent, much more audible and much more compliant recording. And where you know that is that will be launched soon I don't know when the day is yet because we're still thinking about it.

Fom our perspective we want the world to listen well so we want to enable organizations to have a tremendous experience and enhance all their customers and the retention. One of the things we want to do and want to offer is the ability to use our API’s and have an SDK of our product embedded or baked into solutions so much like you know some of these people do with like Pipedrive or other CRM platforms you know we want to be able to offer that to these vendors and mprove your audio quality and also improve your post call recordings.

If you're storing a load of recordings in Pipedrive and you want to get those recordings out and make them a lot more audible then the SDK will allow you to do that en-mass and you can pump them all in and then the clean versions will come out. 

That's a really exciting part of the business.

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