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Ed Kerr, of Practis, on using automated role-playing technology to improve customer-facing interactions

I had the great pleasure recently to interview Ed Kerr, Co-Founder and CEO of Practis, a company whose patented, automated role-play system helps train customer-facing teams to converse more confidently and effectively.

Ed has a long career as a professional actor, and odds are that you’ve seen him on television or in film (some of Ed’s stints include appearances on “House, MD,” “Snoops,” “Three Sisters,” and “CSI:Miami“). His experience as a working actor led directly to the development of Practis.

As Ed notes, conversational interaction is very much an art; the problem is that too many companies send their frontline forces into the field without sufficient conversational training. The result is that these folks must “practice” on customers, which often leads to suboptimal results. This problem is especially acute for younger people who, unlike their elders, have likely spent more time texting information that conveying it face-to-face. Practis provides an automated way for these folks to come up to speed by providing a framework providing direction and feedback on the way they interact. (Ed calls Practis “a smart mirror” that allows sales and support people to “see themselves as the customer sees them.”)

Ed and I trade notes on the value of practice, which is at the core of virtually every effective sales training program and, of course, essential in the performing arts. As he notes, “in acting, your acting coach, or your director will come up to you and make sure you understood what was going on in the scene, and what was your relationship with the other person, what was your intention in that conversation, what were the tactics that you were going to use in realizing your objective, because your objective is another key part of it, and what was at stake if you didn’t get it. That’s a framework for how an actor might approach a scene. Well, it’s really no different from how someone might approach a moment as a cold-caller or when someone’s knocking on a door. And when someone comes to the door, there are all kinds of different ways that you’re gonig to have to overcome some of the different things that get thrown at you. And the more that you can have some exposure in advance, you can go in with a certain confidence that ‘well, if I get, I’ve seen it before. I can handle it.’

Practis has been successfully used by quite a few companies with active sales and customer rep forces, including Terminex, Orkin, QED, and others, and I was interested to learn about other industries that could potentially benefit from what Practis offers and how the technology could be used to reduce employee churn and improve executive media training across many business verticals.



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