When Stéphane Berthier joined Uniphore of Palo Alto, CA, as CFO this past January, the move no doubt raised more than a few Silicon Valley eyebrows.
For more than two decades, Berthier had served a list of prestigious Bay Area tech companies as a top audit partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers, where his impressive tenure had originally been kicked off by his relocation from France to better serve one of the firm’s most coveted Silicon Valley clients: Hewlett-Packard.Read More
During the next two decades, Berthier would become inducted into Silicon Valley’s coterie of familiar advisors and consultants known to provide sound advice to IPO-minded technology start-ups as well as software firms struggling to replace “on premise” customer revenue with new cloud-driven funds.
“I stayed 20 years and loved every aspect of client service—this was a tough decision for me, but I think that it was the right time,” says Berthier, who describes Uniphore as being uniquely positioned to pursue the fast-growing tech opportunities in conversational AI.
Asked what his priorities are when it comes to the CFO role, Berthier doesn’t hesitate to tell us what he believes distinguishes great CFOs from good ones.
“From the accumulated knowledge gained from my experience in dealing with CFOs, I would say that a great CFO is someone who not just can report the numbers but also knows how to influence them,” he observes.
He continues: “It’s like landing a plane on time: People expect that, but what sets an airline apart is the customer experience. For CFOs, it’s insight into how to influence the numbers.”
Certainly, the notion that Berthier was vacating his esteemed industry practice to become one of the very CFOs he had for so long served came as a surprise to both past and present CFO clients. For some, Berthier’s January appointment begged the question of why the CFO advisor’s aspirations had not surfaced sooner.
Says Berthier: “There had been other opportunities to leave along the way, but I finally realized that I needed to be in the driver’s seat—so it just became a matter of finding the right company.” –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: So, tell us about Uniphore …
Berthier: Uniphore is the leader in Conversational Service Automation. If you think about a call center, call centers historically have used technology to slash cost. This was the main driver, right? But there are two megatrends that have changed this logic.
First, there’s the mass adoption of social media platforms, smartphones, and user-friendly apps, and customers’ expectation are changing. Nobody wants to be waiting an hour to get connected to an agent, right? Over 40% of calls today don’t get answered to the satisfaction of the company.
I think that the other megatrend is the explosive growth of machine learning tools that have brought AI capability to the call center and changed the way in which you interact with your clients.Read More
We have a number of product offerings, but the first one that comes to mind is an autopilot type of automation through which the interaction between the customer and company is actually through a machine. This is for high-volume, less-complex transactions.
This offering allows you to unload a lot of volume so that you can make sure that when the customer has a live interaction with agent, the interaction is really focused on the value added—on what truly makes a difference with the customer.
We’re solving real problems, and you know, it’s just fascinating.
As for my priorities, one is to build the team and put all of the systems in place. This has just really started, so I’m going to finish it and constantly look for what’s next. Then it’s build the relationship, build the partnership with the rest of the organization, right? Get to know people.
It’s challenging, as you know, in this COVID environment. I’ve met maybe five people in person—that’s it. All of the rest has been via Zoom. So, for me, it’s building these relationship, understanding the culture, and inside an environment like this one, this can be very difficult, as you know.
Value Quote: “When you work at companies that are experiencing exponential growth, the key aspect of the CFO role is to know what you are going to need 2 years from now. Whether it’s systems, process, or people, you must know what you will need next.” jb
Uniphore | www.uniphore.com | Palo Alto, CA