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Editing by: KT Maschler
When it comes to thought leaders in the home builder industry, Bassam Salem, CEO and Founder of AtlasRTX is on the top of the list. We were grateful to sit down with Bassam and discuss communicating with customers on their terms. Bassam discusses how technology can solve business problems, assist with customer service, and boost your ROI. We dive into artificial intelligence (AI), metrics for response time, surprising stats for when home buyers are searching online and so much more.
Bassam was born in Egypt, lived in France and England as a child, and then immigrated to the US as a teenager to attend university. He started young, entering high school at age 12, programming professionally at age 15, and completing his first master’s degree at age 21.
Bassam founded Mindshare Ventures in early 2016 as a management consultancy & venture firm dedicated to helping technology startups and entrepreneurs succeed. His primary focus right now is on his latest Mindshare Venture: AtlasRTX, a customer engagement platform that combines artificial intelligence/chatbots, messaging, and human-augmented engagement to allow businesses to offer their customers, partners, and employees the real-time experience (RTX) they expect.
Prior to founding AtlasRTX, Bassam was Chief Operating Officer at MaritzCX, the world’s largest customer experience technology company with annual revenues of $200 million. As COO, he was responsible for all operations globally with a team spanning 18 offices around the world and numbered over 600 full-time and over 1,500 part-time staff.
Before MaritzCX, Bassam was Chief Business Officer at inContact, the largest cloud provider of enterprise software for contact centers. He was responsible for all customer and revenue operations of the $200 million, a publicly-traded company that has since been acquired by NICE. During his five-year tenure, the company’s market cap grew from $98 million to over $600 million. Prior to inContact, Bassam was with other leading-edge technology companies such as Omniture (acquired by Adobe), Attensity (acquired by inContact), Siebel Systems (acquired by Oracle), IBM, and Philips Electronics.
Bassam holds B.S., M.S., and M.Phil. degrees in Computer Science as well as an M.B.A. in Management of Technology from the University of Utah.
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[00:00:00]Greg Bray: And welcome everybody to another exciting episode of the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,
Kevin Weitzel : and I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse
Greg Bray: and we are excited today to have with us, Bassam Salem, the CEO of Atlas RTX. Welcome, Bassam.
Bassam Salem: Good morning. I'm really, really glad to be here.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time. Why don't you just give everybody that kind of quick introduction of who is Bassam, tell us a little bit about yourself?
Bassam Salem: Oh my gosh. You, you're really opening up that much.
Greg Bray: [00:01:00] I say, I said quick, I say quick.
Bassam Salem: Uh, well, uh, I'm a, I'm based in park city, Utah.
And the head of the company, Atlas RTX. Uh, we build artificial intelligence technology for sales marketers and service folks, mostly in home-building. Um, I'm originally from Egypt, but I've lived in the U S uh, for now, 34, 34 years. So this is really home. I'm old, but I'm not that old and I'll keep that in my introduction.
Kevin Weitzel: So it's actually funny you say well not funny, it's interesting you say Egypt. Uh, I'm the son of a, I'm a first-generation American, uh, but one of the Holocaust survivors. So, uh, I find a lot of interest in, um, people that become nationalized and naturalized citizens by virtue of the proper pathway. And then, you know, whether it be through, you know, education or, you know, just through that desire to be an American, just give me any kind of a insights of that pathway that you took.
[00:02:00] Bassam Salem: Um, I, I jokingly say I'm not an immigration attorney, but I could play one if I had to. Um, although things have changed in the last 33 or 34 years, I, um, we did come here as foreign students on foreign student visas.
It's hard to do, you have to get lucky. And my parents applied for many years, uh, to get it. Uh, I'm not gonna bore you with the whole story, so I'll just make a, you know, tell you that, um, we went from green cards to, sorry, from a F1 visa student visas to H1 To green cards to eventually citizenship.
Um, it's a, it's a painful path and one that I don't, um, I don't judge others by, uh, that is, it's hard for me to sit here and say, everybody should do it the way, we had to do it because circumstances are so different for so many people. Some are fortunate and are wealthy, and, uh, our government lets wealthy people come in on investor visas.
Right? Not everyone has that option. We didn't have that option. [00:03:00] So, uh, you know, I, I, uh. We could have a two-hour discussion on immigration and my thoughts on it as a, as an immigrant myself, but I'll let, I'll spare you that to other than to say, um, I'm, I'm very, I really respect people who come here and, and push through and become, become citizens.
Kevin Weitzel: I find that in the professional world, their desire to be American is so strong and their desire to succeed and to prove themselves is so strong that they tend to be, some of the best employees, some of the most innovative people, literally in the entire body of, uh, of, of available talent on the planet. Really, uh, because of that desire.
Bassam Salem: You know, when, when, um, your parents, in my case, I'm going to give credit to my parents. When your parents give up their profession, their families, their friends, their ecosystem, their social status, everything, and come here. Um, the bar is high, right? So like, I, I can't waste what they gave up.
I have to do, I have to make them proud and I find myself as I [00:04:00] approach 50. I still think about making them proud to this day. It's still what motivates me. Uh, to a great extent.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah.
Greg Bray: Isn't that, isn't that interesting how, um, we, we always are looking for parental approval, no matter, no matter when or where we end up at some level, right?
Bassam Salem: It's a good sign for us parents that our kids will care about us again, I hope, I hope.
Greg Bray: Fingers crossed. Right? Yeah, that's for sure. That's for sure. So Bassam, tell us then, you know, kind of how you ended up more in the home building world because obviously you're, you kind of talked about technology and kind of more from the computer side and now you're in building and that's kind of gotta be an interesting twist of fate somewhere along the way there.
Bassam Salem: Uh, no, thank you. And that, that's absolutely true. I, I, um, my path can be summarized into, it's a lot of technology and a lot of customer experience.
And, um, and when I wanted to found this company and create this company, uh, I really wanted to build [00:05:00] technology that helped customer experience. Be better. And I wanted to focus on the parts of customer experience that had ROI where we can say, you know, um, let me show you why it makes sense to do this better.
Why it makes sense to treat your customer better or to, to do things differently. And candidly, early on, we explored a number of different verticals and a number of different use cases within each of those verticals. And home-building is really, really interesting, and I'm sure we will talk about this a bit more later, but, um, the ROI on home building is so enormous when you think of homebuilding as a retail, the retail portion of home building, if you can improve any metric in the funnel by even just a little bit, the dollars make so much sense.
So it was really a sensible, like, okay, this is the place to go. Prove that good customer experience pays off. This is the place too, to, uh, to do it. And, um, I'll [00:06:00] spare you the story about the the, the particular clients and so on. But I do want to shout out to one particular home builder. Uh, we love all of our clients, but one particular home builder really was the first to believe in us almost five years ago, and that was Woodside Homes.
You said, you know, I see what you're talking about. Can we try that, please? And, uh, it really, it really got us started, uh, started in this industry.
Greg Bray: No, that's, that's terrific. I know, um, you know, I was, I was kind of looking back cause like, when did I meet Bassam? Because I feel like I've known you forever.
Um, but it was actually just a couple of years ago. Right? And, and so I was thinking, you know, I think it's that, that commonality in the sense that, that I come from that computer science background and then have ended up in this business and marketing worlds and trying to apply those solutions and understandings.
And, and I think you've got kind of a, a similar journey there. Um. Looking at how do we solve business problems with technology. [00:07:00] Uh, you know, and, and often sometimes that comes into play where it just happens to be the first client and you go, Oh, we're going to be in this vertical now because we have a client.
And so we're kind of, we're going to try and leverage what we've learned from this client. And, and to hear you talk about how you saw more of the ROI opportunity because of the type of product and the journey that that customers have. I think that's important to realize that because you've been coming at this from that angle from the beginning.
I'm not just, Oh, I've got this cool technology idea. Who wants to buy it? Please somebody buy it. You know? And, and just, and just looking, you know, for, for a market.
Kevin Weitzel: You guys with your big old fancy educations and your computer skills, and I'm just a knuckle dragon, mouth freed, and Neanderthal. Um, can you explain to me what Atlas RTX even is?
I don't really, I mean, I kinda know. I don't really even know what, what the whole scoop is.
Bassam Salem: Oh, come on, Kevin. Our, our mission is, is really simple. [00:08:00] And, and that is, we really believe that AI and humans can be better together. And that AI is not something that humans should fear. It's something that humans should and will harness to do things well, to do things better, and to make their lives more comfortable.
And AI, artificial intelligence is such a big field. You can apply to so many things from driving, uh, you know, self-driving cars to computers that can, uh, appliances that tell you when they're empty to whatever. We've chosen a very specific place to apply AI and humans are better together.
And that is the customer experience. So our mission is to help businesses create better customer experiences that have ROI, of course, create better customer experiences through the use of AI, augmenting humans.
Kevin Weitzel: So you're saying that, uh, not necessarily replacing like an online sales counselor or somebody that sits in front of the computer and waits for chats come through.
You're talking about an interface [00:09:00] that basically assist that person.
Bassam Salem: This, this is the same question that comes up for everything, right? Every advancement in every piece of technology. Um, it's, it's always doing the stuff we don't want to do and allowing us to do the stuff that we do want to do. So, uh, yes, so specifically, I mean, there are many use cases, but let's talk about the one for an online sales counselor.
Um, an online sales counselor wants to. Engage customers effectively answer their questions and get them to show up at a, hopefully a model home of some sort or a sales center and, or make the purchase and who knows down the road that might, uh, that might be expediated expedited a bit, but, uh, that's their objective.
Um, they don't necessarily want to talk to everyone who has a simple question at two in the morning and doing so in Spanish. I think that that's, um, that may [00:10:00] not be the most effective use of their time because the question may not be something that really warrants their time. So absolutely. In the OSC use case, um, uh, let's be candid and honest that you bring that up because it's a topic that, that, uh,
Kevin Weitzel: It's hot!
Bassam Salem: From time to time, yes, absolutely. Um, it's, um. It's okay to fearmonger. It's okay. Um, we fearmonger first when we don't understand, but then when we do understand, like, okay, I get it. I'll tell you, our, the online sales counselors who use our platform love the fact that they're now dealing with qualified leads, that they're not having to respond within six seconds.
Having that lead abandoned the chat, um, they can make way more money. Because the chat bot is an assistant to them. And let me just be blunt about it. Instead of feeling like a call center agent, with all due respect to call center agents and OSC needs to sell, [00:11:00] this is a sophisticated, this is a, this is a meaningful purchase.
Um, and OSC needs to be a sales manager, not a call center representative. And that's what we're essentially doing is let's let technology. Play a bigger part than before. So instead of using a live chat tool, you're using a chat bot tool. But you're now getting the help of that assistant, and that assistant is doing a lot of stuff you don't want to do and can allow you to sleep and can allow you to go get a cup of coffee and not worry that you just missed the one lead.
But that was about to show up at your site in the last 15 months.
Kevin Weitzel: But you also said a, I just caught you saying in there that it can answer it. 2:00 AM so obviously. It works all the hours that you are not on the clock, but you also said it can answer in Spanish.
Bassam Salem: Uh, absolutely. So, um, uh, let me start by saying we love AI.
We love computer science and I love computer science. And um, chatbots are still [00:12:00] not as smart as a human. But they can do some things that humans can't do, one of which is the one you just alluded to. They can speak practically any language in real-time.
They can do it anytime day or night, and they'll tell you a reference to the 2:00 AM, uh, convert a message because 2:00 AM for some reason is a hot hour in the middle of the night. People search for homes. Um, and they can do it within split-second responsiveness. We are all. So impatient these days. The thought of waiting for something or waiting for someone to talk to us or answer a question is just no longer, no longer consistent with what consumers expect in a good customer experience.
It's like, I want it now. I want it now. I want it now and in the channel I want it right, and I'm, that's too much pressure on an OSC. That's again, where technology comes. Any language, night or day. Really, really quickly.
Greg Bray: Bassam, what, what is kind of the metric for how long people are [00:13:00] willing to wait? You know, you talk about that want it now feeling and, and I certainly been there. I want my answers now. You know, everybody stopped what they're doing and answer me, but what we did do we have some real numbers to kind of back that up.
Bassam Salem: Oh, absolutely. And, and it varies by stage in the funnel stage, in the customer journey. So if I'm, if I'm going to a website as an anonymous visitor to a website, my patients is going to be a lot lower than if I'm going to, and I'm not going to name a brand, but if I'm going to my cable provider or my whatever, and I'm really pissed that it's not working and I can't, right.
I might be. I might be a little bit more willing to wait there because I'm pissed and I need a problem solved. Let's go back up to the funnel. In marketing use cases where where this applies, we are seeing the empirical evidence that abandoned rates happen after six seconds, so six seconds, you click. And if nothing happens for six seconds, we literally don't have the [00:14:00] patients to be looking at the tab.
We will just go click another tab and it sounds unreasonable. It sounds unreasonably fast but go, go watch how often you will just stay on a screen for more than six seconds. It's really rare. There's some use cases that might have that up as a, you know, as high as eight or nine, but it's certainly not 20 seconds. It's in the single digits of seconds before we leave.
Kevin Weitzel: And I've been on like best buy looking at tech and I'm just gonna mention best buy cause that's where I go for my tech, cause I'm knuckle dragger. But, um, when I go to best buy and I see that little chatbot come up, I've actually looked at it and then I've asked it a question and you're like, where do I find the Bose speakers?
And, uh, it is painful. Counting those seconds. It's like minutes going by waiting for that thing to answer me. And you can see it kind of thinking. It's like, Oh, well he just asked about something and maybe Bose speaker. Yeah, I'm totally with you on that patients. And I think that the culprit of that, and one of the major factors is cell phones and our smartphones.
Bassam Salem: You're so, you're exactly right, [00:15:00] Kevin, and you're saying something that's making me want to act and do a little optimization in our, in our platform already, because our old version of our bots. Used to respond immediately, imperceptibly fast, right? Boom. You type in something, boom, because it's a computer, it can certainly answer a question, a single question that fast.
The problem is it created an unnatural experience because of our cell phones. Like you just said, we're used to the dot dot dots... We're used to not getting the response right away, so we introduced an artificial delay. I can't remember exactly the number of, that's probably a second to
Greg Bray: much less than six seconds though.
Bassam Salem: Much less than six seconds. Exactly. Um, but I'm feeling like we are now getting further down the impatience, a pipe, so to speak. And I think even now, a second and a half or a second feels too long. I think we [00:16:00] need to compress that and make the dot.dot happen faster. So it moves quicker because the bot absolutely can go faster than than it is.
Greg Bray: Well, and, and to this point of being impatient, I just gotta throw in here that this also applies just to website, page load times. It applies to all kinds of interactions. Um, you know, sitting on hold on the phone, you know, it's, it's not just related to chat, uh, you know, in, in the webpage at all. We're, we're impatient everywhere that, that we do.
And we've, and, and again, it may not be fair. It may not be reasonable, but that's the people you're dealing with and we have to figure out how we accommodate that as best we can if we want to connect with them and continue the conversation.
Bassam Salem: Absolutely. Greg and all these crazy people we're dealing with are us.
Greg Bray: Yeah, that's true.
Bassam Salem: We are. We are these people who are so impatient. I am totally impatient now. You know.
Kevin Weitzel: So the chatbot, is it just a standalone platform, or can it interface with like [00:17:00] a, you know, CRMs? Can it interface with texting? You know, I guess the SMS services can, it can interface with like an email channel or, and I, we already know that it can draw in a conversation to a real person. Right.
Bassam Salem: Absolutely everything you just said. The answer to each of those questions is yes. I mean
Kevin Weitzel: Wow
Bassam Salem: It's, it's a, it's a player in an ecosystem. It's the, again, in a marketing setting, we'll, we'll keep the marketing, uh, hat on since this podcast audiences is marketers. Um, so we'll talk about online sales counselors, for example, as opposed to the field sales reps or service or warranty or other use cases.
Um, in that use case, it really is like a mini assistant to the OSC and it's working on her or his behalf. It can integrate into the CRM. It can notify the salesperson that everything, the say, the OSC salesperson can monitor all of the conversations. They can look at, uh, the, the this is what's so cool.
Instead of just getting a lead from the chatbox. Um, [00:18:00] you can get a lead, not just name, contact info, but the history of the transcript. What did they already ask about? What did they care about and what are they likely wanting to talk to me for? And that creates a such a different experience when the human now enters the equation, whether it's real-time while they're on the website or candidly, and we can talk about this, uh, in, in the course of this conversation.
Five minutes later or five hours later, which is more likely the case because experiences are so fast now that it's so hard for the online sales counselor to be able to jump in quickly enough. Too much pressure for them. Their value is not sitting there waiting. So they can answer within six seconds.
Their value is in nurturing the real relationships that do need to be nurtured. So we get these leads to them and they are, they have much more context. And when they jump in, it feels much more like a service-oriented, uh, engagement than it does a selling engagement.
Kevin Weitzel: So when the bot [00:19:00] reaches back out to the client cause it does that. Correct.
Bassam Salem: We absolutely have use cases where it can reach out to you and do a followup on behalf of the sales team.
Kevin Weitzel: Does it do that via email or cell phone? What's, what's the preferred method or are there stats behind those?
Bassam Salem: Really, really, really good question. Today about the only practical way to reach someone is via text.
Phone call, answer rates have flattened. And uh, I've been talking about this metric for for a while, so I won't belabor it too much, but it's still roughly three to 5%. Three to 5% of phone calls are ever answered. So not very effective email I will update you email open rates for the first time are now approaching single-digit percents.
So it wasn't long ago. We were saying 20% but it's dropping at 50% so you know, would go 20% but dropping. Then we went to 18, then we went to 14, then we went to 12. Um, of late. We're seeing open rates in many cases in the [00:20:00] eight, nine 10% range. So that's just open rate, not response rates. So we just, it doesn't make sense because it makes sense for certain use cases certainly, for a really high up in the funnel where you have no relationship whatsoever. Once you have a relationship with someone, think about how we interact with our significant others, our friends and family. Even we don't call, right? Even we don't email anymore. We text.
Um, if you email someone, that almost seems like a business outreach, right? Did something go wrong? Kevin? Are you mad at me? Why are you not texting me anymore? So, uh, we use texts. As the outbound approach, and there's a benefit to that. And that is, it's also real-time. So RTX stands for realtime experience, the RTX and Atlas RTX.
And what that enables is when we send someone a text message, the implication is they will reply faster, which always is the case. And likewise, [00:21:00] when they reply, they're expecting a reply back. That's not what happens with email. What happens with email is if we're lucky, they may read it. If we're lucky, they may click a link and one of the million times they might reply back.
That's, that's the kind of, of, of cadence that we'd expect there. So text just really changes the equation and really becomes fundamental to real-time experience.
Greg Bray: So, Bassam, I want just a slightly different twist on, on some of this. Um, I can imagine. That someone, um, adds a system like this to their website, which is now quick to respond.
So you're getting, you're getting more interaction. Um, it's 24, seven. So you've got wider coverage, um, multiple languages, you know. With the data that you were able to collect from those, you know, additional experiences. What types of aha moments have you had or surprises have there been like, Oh, who knew that 2:00 AM was the top hour?
[00:22:00] Because before we weren't even getting data that anyway was even trying at 2:00 AM, for example, or, gosh, who knew that this question was so popular because we never knew they were even wanting to know this type of information. Any anything that stands out like that, that you've learned?
Bassam Salem: Oh, absolutely. I'll focus on one because it shocked even me. I mean, I think we all knew that people go onto websites after hours. We all know that, but we don't, I don't think I appreciated how much more frequently we do that in general, and we do that specifically in home-building. After hours than we do during our office hours, believe it or not, across our platform for home building between 50% and 70% of the chats happening without chatbots are happening after hours and on weekends.
So let me restate that. Between 50 and 70%. So more chats are happening after hours than [00:23:00] during the day. What that means is if our objective is to use the website as a means of engaging our prospective customers, engaging if engagement is one of the measures, and it certainly should be, then just by introducing this capability, we can engage between two and three times as many prospective customers as we were before.
Now we'd have to qualify them and figure out which ones warrant and deserve to have the experience, then go to a live human. And you will be amazed because the next metric will tell you is we have realized how dissatisfied so many customers are with the service and warranty experience. And they try to reach service and warranty.
They can't and, and there, their, their perception is, man, it was so easy to reach people when I was trying to buy this place. Now that I'm living [00:24:00] here, I can't get ahold of anyone. So where do they go? They go onto the sales channel, um, the, the live chat option on the builder's website, and now the poor OSC is stuck with an upset customer who wants someone to come to their house to fix a window. And she or he has no idea what to do now, do they pick up the phone and call a colleague or text the colleague or email the colleague and I do that. How do they patch the two in? That's a totally different department. How do I not piss off this customer, but I don't want to waste my time? With all due respect, my job is to go sell. Um, we have found that as many as, and I'm not exaggerating this, a third of some clients live chat traffic used to be.
Used to be existing customers. So think about using a chatbot to just filter that out and politely deal with it because, Hey, we're about a great customer experience so we can deal with it in two ways. One is connect [00:25:00] them to the right person. Say, I'm so sorry, you're having an issue. Here is how you can reach one of our humans, right?
Our human team. Um. Alternatively, we can actually do warranty bot as well. We could do a warranty bot that tries to answer some frequently asked questions, but let's keep that out of the equation for now. My point is let's clean the the path and that has definitely been a surprise for us.
Two to three times more traffic happening at night. And as much as a third of traffic, uh, of chats were from existing homes, a homeowner.
Greg Bray: Well, and of course, let's fix the warranty communication process in the sense of, tell these people who they're supposed to be calling and make sure somebody answers that call.
Right. So, so that they don't feel that frustration. That's, yeah, you're right. That's a whole another conversation at some point. But, but that's, that's valuable data though. Um, it it to, to be able to say, you know, this, because, at the end of the day, it's the frustrated warranty people. That are the ones leaving the bad reviews that [00:26:00] are then driving back on the SEO implications of the new customers who are seeing these frustrated reviews that are posted and everything else.
So, so we can't ignore the fact that warranty and service types scenarios do have a future marketing impact. Um, and that's, it's an area that we don't always really hit on. And I think it's just kind of a great reminder.
Bassam Salem: I love that comment. Uh, as one of my colleagues, uh, says frequently, um, every customer experience problem is a marketing problem.
Every customer experience problem ends up being a marketing problem. So you have to deal with it. And candidly, I think that could be said about a lot of things. Every customer experience problem becomes a sales problem, and every customer experience problem is obviously a service problem. So I think that's why we're so passionate about about customer experience in general.
And again, I know I'm trying to put my marketing side hat on for it for this podcast audience, but you're absolutely right. We can talk about how tech, technology can help great customer [00:27:00] experiences. Um, post-marketing and post-sales, because you could do a lot with technology that reaches out to you proactively and lets you know how things are going and asks for your input.
Do you have any questions? You have? Any concerns? Uh, imagine moving into the home and having a chatbot say congratulations. Welcome to your new home. Do you see anything at all that we can help you with? And having access to the automation to escalate to a human if you've got a problem. I mean, there's just so much we can do to create that awesome digital, modern, digital experience post-marketing, but it all starts, the first touchpoints are with marketing.
Greg Bray: No, absolutely. Absolutely. So Bassam, tell us then kind of my experience has been in general being being in the home builder marketing world for a long time now that that there is at least a portion, I don't want to put everybody in a box. There is a portion of this industry that is rather resistant to new technology.
You know, we'd done it this way. We've been building homes [00:28:00] since we were in caves. You know, we know how to do it we're fine. Um, what have you seen, or what types of obstacles have you had to overcome, kind of introducing pretty, a, a very new kind of technology concept over the last few years.
Um, just what some of the lessons you've learned from, from that part of the experience?
Bassam Salem : Really good question, Greg. And, and the honest answer is it doesn't feel that way to me anymore because my gosh, I'm talking about chatbots and AI. Five years ago that was crazy, right? People had no idea what I was talking about.
Not interested, not at all, I don't get it right. And it took the really progressive companies who said. I see it. It's always that way, right? It's always the first few sort of progressive, open-minded. I want to be the first, um, you know, two, maybe four, three, four years ago when people started saying, I keep hearing about this AI thing and I hear about a chat box, or, you know, I don't [00:29:00] know what it is.
Um, you know, that we started getting to that to about one to two years ago when we were, um, now we started getting clients reaching out or like, I see it working here and I see it working there. And, and where are the time now where just about any, uh, with all due respect to any, any, any sophisticated marketing associate, uh, organization, uh, sees this as, um, one of the tools that need to be in, in your um, your toolbox. It's just whether you've already implemented it or you're going to implement it in the coming months. Um, I will contend what I've contended for some time, but that's the timeframe keeps coming down within three more years. This will be a standard, a standard eight part of a website as a website is because.
It was only 10 or 15 years ago that people were still questioning whether a website was even, is it really that important? Right. Um, if I, [00:30:00] if I could just elaborate just a little bit more because I wanna I wanna hit directly the topic that you're bringing up, and that is, I think there has been.
More hesitancy of late from the ecosystem itself. So not the builders, but the ecosystem itself. Um, these are, these are crazy times right now. Um, if someone is listening to this and one or two years, they may have forgotten, um, uh, what, what was happening, uh, right now in, uh, in April of 2020. But these are crazy times and I think everybody is nervous.
Everybody is scared. And when you're scared, anything new, anything that moves the cheese so to speak. Um. Is is disconcerting. So, uh, I think all we can do is try the educate, uh, is to try to talk openly, uh, to talk in real terms and explain what's really happening and what this technology is. Because I'm afraid that the ecosystem components that are afraid of this [00:31:00] are really afraid for the wrong reasons.
It's, it's, uh, this is not technology that should be afraid of. .
Kevin Weitzel: I actually was, uh, while I was out, you know, talking with potential clients. Uh, I was just, uh, you know, gallivanting around and perusing their website and I noticed that they had Atlas chatbox. So I asked him, I said, you know, just out of curiosity, I noticed that you have that, Atlas RTX.
What do you think about that? They're like, it's all, it's awesome. They said, we'll never go back. So little feather in the cap. I'm not going to mention the builder, but I'll tell you offline. But, uh, but, uh, it was pretty interesting. They had such a strong opinion that they don't want to live without it anymore.
Bassam Salem: I'm really grateful and I can't wait to hear which, which one of our clients said, that's who we can thank them. But, um, I will tell you that, and we even understand today, there are still those who sort of, uh, let's call it crawl, walk, run. Um, so the initial intention, you know, we've, we've gone from two or three years ago from people in the ecosystem saying, um, no automation, no AI.
Chatbots are bad to now were the same people. Or saying [00:32:00] chatbots are okay. It's just only when the human's not available. Right. That's what they're advising. I still think that's wrong, by the way, but it's okay. We'll give them another two or three years and they will get there because what that drives people to do is the OSC goes, okay, I want to just dip my toe.
Can we try it when I'm, when I'm not here and when it's just overnight and on the weekends. And sure we can start out that way we can configure it so it's live chat. And you, you can use the live chat capability, but then you can try it out when you're gone. And it only takes about two or three months for the OSC to get comfortable.
Like, Oh, wait a minute, I'm getting these qualified leads. Um, and they're frequently better, better than the leads I was getting during the day, and I have all of the contexts and when I reach out to them, they really appreciate the fact that I have the history and I'm following up with them and I'm getting them to show up.
Why am I doing this to [00:33:00] myself? Can you please just turn it on? So it's 24 seven and now I'm getting these leads and I'm only engaging the ones that I really should be engaging and they start making, and I'm being sincere. I'm not just making this up. They start making more money because they're there.
They're delivering more qualified uh, visitors that ultimately buy these homes. So it's just a crawl, walk, run. And we're now in the walk phase. We're not quite in the run phase, but we'll be in the run phase in the next two, two, or three years. Um, and, um, I appreciate the fact that, um, you know, reasonable minds are calmly talking about this.
Again, let's not be afraid of tech. It's awesome. Let's just use it. Let's make it make our lives better. It's that simple.
Greg Bray: So Bassam, just from my personal experience, um, you know, when I, when I met you a couple of years ago, I was not familiar with the concept of chatbot at all. You know, you introduced that to me and it took me, I had to, I ponder a little bit, where does this fit?
And [00:34:00] I think I got it. Not, I'm not saying it took me like weeks and weeks, you know, but I think, I think I got it. And then. You know, we've had some conversations over that time, and I remember this year, you know, this last January at IBS. Being amazed at how many different times I heard people just generically mentioned the phrase chatbot in different presentations and things.
Whereas just two years ago I was sitting here going, what is this thing? I, I'm not quite sure, and just in two years it'd become all these marketing folks, just part of their list. It was in the toolbox, like you mentioned, you know, it was just one of the tools. Now that's just part of the list and not something totally where everybody's going, what.
How do you spell that? What does that was that mean? Do you know? Where does that fit? And I was really kind of amazed at how fast that's happened for something that really was pretty different and new just a few years ago. So that's kind of, Mmm been, just kind of my observation of, of that [00:35:00] journey there.
Um, but for those who, you know, you, I can see you've got the marketing folks who have seen this in action. They've, they've got, you know, um, industry colleagues who are using it at other companies, or are they, you know, they've been to the show and seen your booth or a demo. But now they're trying to convince the boss, you know, the guy who writes the checks to, to try who maybe isn't as comfortable with technology, maybe doesn't quite see the benefit.
What, what would you say to that VP of marketing who's trying to convince the CFO that this is something we should try? Is there, is there a way to kind of quantify some of these benefits.
Sorry, that was 20 questions in one. So you can pick which one you want.
Bassam Salem: No that was a great set up. Thank you. I, I, um, you know, ultimately I want to recognize, uh, I'm a CEO myself.
What matters is, am I able to. Uh, sell my offerings and delight my customers. So I work my [00:36:00] way back from that. I'm the CEO of a home builder. That's exactly my objective. I want to sell my offerings and delight my customers so we can grow and sell more and then and so on. So to sell more, you need to get more people to come.
Be a candidate to buy your house. Um, now whether that is happening virtually as much as it's happening today or in the model home, you need to get more people to show up there. Well, to get more people to show up there, you have to engage more people because if you don't engage more people, you're not going to get more people to show up there and to engage more people, you have to drive more traffic to your storefront.
And today there is no more relevant to storefronts in April of 2020 than a website. It's, it's the only relevant website today for most home builders across the country. Thanks in large part to the coronavirus situation. [00:37:00] So all of the traffic, all of the interest is going to your website. So now we've set that up, but the big question is where should we spend the money?
Should we spend the money just on the top of the funnel or should we make sure that we're spending the money in a really consistent way to optimize the funnel at every point? And what's happening today is we're all doing, again, with all due respect, we're all doing the easiest thing, which is to pay Google or pay Facebook and drive traffic.
So then we can be proud of ourselves and say, look, we increased our traffic to our website by 30% but if we were to look down at that objective of the CEO, the funnel coming backward, what's really important is did we drive. Pro prospect traffic to the model home so they can actually buy or not. And very frequently when we look at that metric, the spend that we just did driving more traffic didn't make a [00:38:00] difference.
I just spent a lot of time speaking. I know you can't say all of that to a CEO because she or he is already being onto their next email now. So what it ultimately comes down to is let's focus on the metric of how many leads am I converting from the website, and then how many of those am I able to get to show, to show up to, to buy?
And I'll tell you, we are seeing, and I'm not exaggerating, I'm, I'm actually, as a technologist, I try to be conservative. We're seeing an increase of two to three times conversion rates on the website using automation. So if you're paying all this money for traffic to your website, maybe you should take a little bit of it and apply it to optimize the website itself.
And I don't mean this a, you know, necessarily just for, for Blue Tangerine, but absolutely, I spend money on a, on a great website and spend money converting on that website. [00:39:00] And if you measure how many leads you're generating per unit of traffic, you will quickly reach the right answer. So per unit of traffic that I'm driving to the website, a unit of traffic is just an anonymous visitor.
How many leads am I converting? How many leads am I actually moving to the next step? And that is the metric that we can quantifiably tell you that with the help of automation and OSC will convert two to three times more per unit of traffic. And I'm being conservative. We have some clients that are doing way beyond that.
We, you know, uh, I can't promise that always, but two to three times per unit of traffic is a really meaningful increase.
Kevin Weitzel: When the auto industry implemented online sales counselors before the home building industry ever even thought of it. Um, the reason why they, every single major auto dealer in the country has OSC and why they have an online sales call back center is that.
80% of their [00:40:00] sales flow through an online sales counselor, 80% so you're talking about moving one or two or 3% that can make a huge difference by the end, by the time you reach the end into that funnel, think about an 80% swing in that touchpoint, creating or being part of that sale. 80%. That is a huge, huge number, and that has no sugar coating.
That's a hard number, and that's why the auto industry has gone from having the smarmy salesman on the floor to replacing them with greeters that just walk you over to a sales desk once they show you the vehicle you want to buy. Um, so I'm 100% on board with what you're saying...
Greg Bray: And Bassam, I just you're singing my song too.
Cause you know, we talk a lot to our clients about this idea that more traffic is nice, but not if it's the wrong traffic. And it's not about traffic, it's about leads. And it's not about leads. It's about the right leads and, and of the right people. And, and sometimes it's hard to measure that for sure.
You know, and you try to just kind of. Raise the, raise the the numbers on all just to try, you know, [00:41:00] cast a wide net. But, but that's, those are powerful numbers, you know, two to three times, uh, improvement there. And that turns into real dollars when you're selling hundreds of thousands of dollars, uh, a home you, you know, kinda thing.
Uh, so, so that's powerful. Well, we want to be mindful of your time, Bassam, you've shared so much with us today and, and just kind of wanted to, to kind of circle back and say, you know, what do you, what do you see. If anything changing as we move into this new normal, whatever that's going to be here in a few months as we come out of kind of this stay at home, um, period.
You know, what, what are some of your thoughts on what that might look like from a sales funnel and process standpoint?
Bassam Salem: Um, you know, I'm certainly, I'm certainly no expert, although I've spent a lot of time thinking about this naturally
So the, the good news here is in the medium and long term, we're totally fine. Um, we all need houses. People will be buying houses a year from now, three years from now, and five years from now. Their shape, their [00:42:00] size, their price point, their location, their features might vary, but people are going to be buying homes.
So that's great news for, for your audience. I think the question really is, what are we doing in the short term. How do we deal with these short term uncertainties and short term scenarios? And, and this is actually a place where there's a huge advantage, two new homes over existing homes. There's a huge advantage because, um, candidly, resale homes don't really, uh, don't, don't, uh, lend themselves to physical showings. Um, as if I wanted to sell my house, I really don't know. If I want to do an open house and have 30 people, I don't know, walking through and touching everything, so I'm not gonna do it. I'm probably going to take my house off the market unless I really have to sell. And I think stats are showing that resale inventory is quickly dropping very, very quickly.
And I don't know the quantitative amount of late, but it's in the tens of percents, uh, over the last, uh, last [00:43:00] few months. Whereas new homes. You can still show a new home, and I am one who's in the camp that very few people, I do believe some people will buy homes without ever seeing them. What happens today, but I think most of us still want to go smell and see a home eventually, right before we, we buy it, we're going to go and see it and we can do that with new homes.
Even in the short term. Because we can take precautions. Home builders can take precautions to do the showing. They can get people in there. You can leverage, uh, physical distancing or social distancing, as they call it. The sales agent can be present or may not be. And we'll talk about the principal. I, I'm going to call it remote selling.
I think if there's going to be a theme for me that I'd like to, uh, let your audience know about it. Is that I think there's going to be a lot more selling happening remotely in the next 12 months. That is, they might be in the home without you. [00:44:00] Or they might be in the home at 830 at night and you didn't know they were going to go then, but you need to let them go on their schedule, right?
So now you can engage them remotely and you can still collaborate and there are tools for that and we can discuss that another time. Remote selling might have to happen, but I think that this is a time when new homes are going to have a huge advantage. A huge advantage over resale for the next 12 months.
Greg Bray: No, that's, that's a great point. This whole idea of trying to sell my house and letting somebody come cough, in my kitchen, who I don't even know who they are, you know, is, is something that, um, is, is gonna make us all step back for a little bit. Um, and see how long that takes. But. That's a great, great point.
Well, um, Bassam, if somebody wants to learn more about you about Atlas RTX, what's the best way for them to kind of reach out and connect with you?
Bassam Salem: You know, uh, we, uh, we'd love to talk to anyone who'd like to learn more about AI in general, AI in home-building, uh, Atlas rtx.com is our website, and I'm [00:45:00] also on the, on LinkedIn and then social media.
So that'd be more than happy to at, to help answer any questions.
Kevin Weitzel: I've got three quick rapid-fire questions for you, Bassam, uh, the first one is very easy. The second two, a little more difficult, but just the first thing that pops in your head. Atlas RTX obviously speaks hundreds of languages. How many languages does Bassam speak?
Bassam Salem: Well, only one poorly three.
Kevin Weitzel: Perfect skiing or snowboarding. Being here in park city.
Bassam Salem: Skiing very poorly.
Kevin Weitzel: Okay. And last but not least, for the next time, we see each other, Dolma or Baba. Are we going to hit some, uh, some, uh, dolmades are we going to hit some baba ganoush?
Bassam Salem: You just made me so hungry, man. Thank you both very much.
This was, this was great. I really appreciate, uh, appreciate the time and I really commend you for, for doing this. It's fantastic.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you Bassam so much. We really appreciate your [00:46:00] insights and thoughts and we'll have to do it again soon.
Bassam Salem: I look forward to it.
Greg Bray: I'm Greg Bray from Blue Tangerine,
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with Outhouse.