Data access will open up the possibility for AI to grow

Aram Melkoumov – Crowdlinker

About this episode

In this episode, we chat with Aram Melkoumov, CEO and Founder of Crowdlinker.

We will cover:

– How AI has shaped the tech industry
– Customer service trends in the industry regarding customer experience
– The future of Artificial Intelligence, how personal data will help enhance customer service and security challenges tied to that evolution

Listen to the full episode or read the transcription below. 💪

Read more
This video is hosted by YouTube. By watching this video, you are accepting the terms and conditions of YouTube.

Interview Transcript

Jordi Torras:

Hello, everybody, and welcome to this new addition of The Future of Customer Service, our podcast by Inbenta. We are really happy today and very honored to have Aram Melkoumov with us. Aram, thank you so much for being here.

Aram Melkoumov:
Awesome. Well, thank you for having me, Jordi. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Jordi Torras:
Absolutely. So, Aram, I would love if you could, you have a very interesting story and we’ll love all to hear is like, maybe could you tell us about yourself? Who’s Aram?

Aram Melkoumov:
Sure. Sure. So I’m an Armenian-born tech entrepreneur, I grew up in Canada. I went to school in Canada for my degree in entrepreneurship. And when I graduated from university, I launched my first startup. And 15 years later, I’ve done four startups all in the tech space. And my current company, Crowdlinker, I’m the CEO and Co-founder of, is one of the leading digital product studios in North America. We work with organizations from startups to enterprises, helping them with everything from product strategy and vision through design, user experience design to then engineering.

Building up the software, the very software applications that we service to our clients. And product management is a big part of our service offering. It kind of ties everything together. And yeah, we’ve built about 60 digital products to date. We’ve been around for 10 years. My team is predominantly based in North America, but I’m in Barcelona, in Spain, which I moved to about two and a half years ago now with my wife and three kids. And I know you’re based from there. So we’ve kind of swapped places in a way. And yeah, I’m a huge tech geek. I’ve done a few investments in some companies now as well over the years. And I’m a mentor and advisor to startups in various VC organizations.

Jordi Torras:
Wow. So you are what they call a serial entrepreneur, right? So a Romanian serial tech entrepreneur.

Aram Melkoumov:
Serial. Yeah.

Jordi Torras:
It’s serial, I don’t know, when you have many startups already in your history. So that’s amazing. And also, yeah, that’s true. You are now having this podcast from Barcelona, which happens to be the place where I am from. So yes, absolutely. You grew in Canada, now I am in sunny California, so we kind of swap places a little bit. And I think we had this discussion before is the reason is paradise is always somewhere else, right? So if you are in Canada, you go to Barcelona. You’re in Barcelona, you go to California. Always looking for these paradises. That’s amazing. So about Crowdlinker, we have seen amazing customers that you work for and when you are kind of helping them in all the digital creations. So you have a lot of experience in data and technology with very big brands.

And for those listening to this podcast, I think it’s Crowdlinker.com, this is the website. So you can go there and see what you guys, what this Aram and the team are doing. But I would like to ask you in particular about artificial intelligence, right? And Inbenta, we work in the space of artificial intelligence, machine learning, especially for Natural Language Processing. So I would like to know, to pick your brain on how do you think AI has shaped the tech industry and how it’s doing now? And what do you think is going to happen in the immediate future?

Aram Melkoumov:
Yeah, well, thanks. I mean, it’s a very big question. But I would say AI, in my opinion, in my eyes, having been working in the product space for a while, initially kind of started off as basically advanced analytics in many ways, if I was to kind of phrase it that way. I think where we’ve kind of gotten better at is the technology, the access to various environments through AWS now, offering its own quantum computing as well that you could use for AI purposes and machine learning. There’s been a massive investment and advancement I think in AI. A lot of companies have now started picking up AI as something that they do and building up the capabilities in their organizations to service it.

But the way we look at it, there’s some various components. So there’s like Natural Language Processing, there’s machine learning algorithms, and algorithms can be very basic. 10 years ago when we started our first company, we had a very basic algorithm that was trying to recommend what kind of content you should watch and consume online. And for us, we classified that as a recommendation algorithm. And it had some machine learning that we were trying to do with it. But at the end of the day, at the time, it was just really, I would say we were harnessing various data points and mining and manipulating things to kind of get some objectives that we wanted to hit with our product.

Kind of fast forward to today with some of the clients that we work with, I think the models have evolved. There’s been an abundance of various Python and open source libraries that have become available, that you really start modeling things a lot quicker. The path to entry has gone down considerably. But I think the part that still needs to take place is trying to figure out what is your objective that you want to achieve with AI? At the end of the day, all the tools that we touch from our Apple music recommendations to Siri and all that kind of stuff, it’s all AI machine learning-powered engines that are powering these experiences.

We don’t really know how it works or what happens in the background. But for us as the end-users, we see a better experience in our life. And so I think success of AI is going to get to the stage now, or in the very near future, where there’s going to be things happening in the back end that you are not even asking for it to do, but it’s already kind of doing it for you, but it’s so seamless. And the experience around it is so natural that you think is just a simple kind of feat to accomplish. But behind the scenes, there’s tons of different algorithms running from one permutation to another permutation, and trying to make the best type of outcome for you, for today life.

Jordi Torras:
Yes, I am muted. Thank you. So I’m not a professional podcaster as you are. So I keep forgetting that. So, and you guys are experts in user interface, right, user interaction? And I think you’ve seen, and I kind of mentioned that with all these examples of how AI and machine learning has been improving and tailoring and kind of changing the way users interact with companies by allowing AI to incrementally improve these experiences. And so my question here is when it comes to customer success, customer service, what are the trends that you see in the industry? How is that is evolving in relation to what you guys do in terms of user experience?

Aram Melkoumov:
Yeah. So I think if you go back a few years, you saw the rise of from a customer success standpoint, you saw the rise of chatbots. Chatbots were a big thing where there was like nobody really on the other end, it was a bot that was responding back to your basic kind of inquiries that you had and funneling you to the best kind of place, which was either like an FAQ or actually getting in touch with a real human being. And you have companies like in Toronto called Ada, which has now grown very well over the years as being a leader in the chatbot space, in terms of integrating their products into the foundations of a lot of organizations and tying into the data layers quite closely in order to make it feel like you’re talking to a human at the end of the day.

And a lot of companies, organizations that we come across, are trying to bring down the cost of the human element of having large customer success teams in order to support their end-users and turning to things like chatbots and other kind of automation. And so when it comes to UI or user interfaces or user experiences, you want to try to make things as seamless as possible for your users. And so I recently came across a company, which I think is doing something pretty interesting called Cohere. And they’re a product company that caters to organizations that want to take the customer success to a next level where you can have real-time, in person type of troubleshooting experiences done online.

So you’re on your website for your say utility provider or whatever it is. And if that company is using their product, a customer service rep can basically jump into a call with them and really start showing them where everything is on the screen, so that it feels like they’re actually there with you. And I found that to be pretty interesting. Because if you look at customer success or customer service, a lot of companies, other than chatbots, use things like knowledge bases and companies like Zendesk exist to handle support tickets and stuff like that. But the real-time component of being able to get somebody right away to come onto you instead of by phone, but to jump into your kind of like session with you and to cater to whatever your problem is, I think that’s pretty interesting from a solution standpoint. And so I found that their way that they’re tackling that from user experience is something I haven’t come across yet before. Because finally the technology is there to do something like this.

Jordi Torras:
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense, right? Because we come from a place where basically there’s a chatbot where you exchange messages, but now if you want to really help you need this telepresence, right? You have to sort of be there and say, hey let me see what you do. Let me see your application, because that’s the way that we can help. So these conversations will get a lot more complex, including not only just chat messages, but exploring things together, exchanging images, pictures, documents. And then that’s the way that you can really help. That’s fascinating. And when it comes to the future, right, so how do you think that artificial intelligence will shape society and customer service in particular for the next decade or so? How do you see all this revolution going along?

Aram Melkoumov:
Yeah. So I think a big part is data access is going to be something that should open up the possibility for AI to grow. I feel through integrations of various products tying in together and speaking together can lead to a very kind of cohesive experience for end-users to enjoy. Where if you look at Apple now, they bought a company which was doing shortcuts, like automated steps. They bought that company, they’ve integrated now into their own ecosystem. And the interesting thing with this addition is that it now allows the app ecosystem or app developers in Apple’s developer community to integrate into the shortcuts. So basically if I leave my house, turn off these lights, start my car, send out an order to get a Starbucks order fulfilled, get somebody to come walk my dog while I’m gone, based on when I leave. And all these kind of automations I think will be possible through just better integrations of various products and the API or like the open APIs that could be available.

So I think there’ll be a big change there, but I think access to personal data will help enhance that layer of customer service that I think doesn’t exist. So if the population will be open to sharing information about themselves, their health, like through getting access to Apple Health or other apps out there that do that, tying into my patient records, my last time I had a surgery. There’s a bunch of things that you could give access to. Then you could start having your digital identity being created properly around your preferences. And so once that’s possible, then that opens up, I think, a wide variety of possibilities for organizations to tap into that kind of data. It could be anonymized, right, potentially on a blockchain? But then they could create these very unique experiences.

And so one of our clients that we work with is a leading sports entertainment company, and they’re owned by a telecom company. And so 5g is starting to grow in adoption. And so one of the things that they were speaking to us about was the idea of like, okay, it’s game night, there’s a hockey game going on, I want to get to the game. What level of steps does it take in order for me to kind of have a good night? So it could be like, okay, I’m meeting up with my friends. So get an Uber to go and coordinate a pickup of all of us to go to the game. Then here’s my drink preferences that I like, or what I like to eat. Find the most relevant restaurant that we could go to after the game based on all of our preferences.

And basically tracking your movement in terms of like where you are on your journey and even in the arena as well. So I think the possibilities can become endless in many ways. But I think data is the foundational part of this to be successful. AI is just dependent on the richness and the accuracy of the data that it has to work with, at the end of the day. And so that data can grow through partnerships or through integrations with others and enhance and enrich that kind of data set to provide better recommendations ultimately at the end of the day which are seamless, right? You don’t really even see what’s going on, but it’s just happening.

Jordi Torras:
Totally. And then, of course, you’re talking about companies and data and how this data is then accessed by AI to help customers. But of course, as you, as everybody knows, there is a potentially a dark side of all that, right? It’s like, okay, how this data could be used to exploit people and how could criminals have access to more data? So I believe that together with AI and better and more refined user experiences, I believe that combined with that, there is also a security industry that is going to grow with it. I think it eventually will come hand in hand, right?

Aram Melkoumov:
Oh, a hundred percent. I think it starts off also with AI ethics. So there’s some organizations that have the foresight in order to see the potential forthcomings of what AI can be manipulated to certain people who want to take it for advantage. But I think if you build in the right AI ethics into the decision making process of any kind of modeling or engines, and obviously all user data can be protected properly or anonymized in a way so that nobody within the organization or nobody trying to tap into that data can extract information out of it. That’s where things like the blockchain can come in handy. So there’s definite issues. Elon Musk, I think, said that we should fear not nuclear weapons, but fear the advancements of AI. If it’s not properly controlled, it could get out of control and ruin us apparently. Which I can see. There is the potential there. But I think if we put in the right kind of stop gaps in place to prevent that from happening, it could prevent termination day.

Jordi Torras:
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Aram Melkoumov:
Judgment day, right?

Jordi Torras:
Exactly. Yeah. And then there are these other guys, if you know, Gary Marcus, he has this book called Rebooting AI, and it’s been a critic on the hyper optimism of AI and saying, AI is amazing, machine learning algorithms are helping us a lot, but there’s a lot of work to do. So a decade ago already we were promised self-driving cars, and they’re not there, at least it’s not something that you can see every day.
And certainly we still see problems and some crashes. So it’s like still, if you look at the efficiency of machines driving, simply humans are better at driving than machines. That happens today. So at this point, I believe we can still be safe about this Armageddon arriving here on AI. I think there’s a long way for machines to improve. Listen, that conversation is so amazing. But you know, we have some certain time constraints here. So what I would like to do is if you could let our audience know how to contact you, how can they find Aram Melkoumov, if they, sorry, I tried so hard.

Aram Melkoumov:
It’s okay.

Jordi Torras:
Is that an originally Armenian last name?

Aram Melkoumov:
No, it’s not. So my actual last name is Melkoumon, which is a very Armenian…

Jordi Torras:
Melkoumon. I can say that better, Melkoumon.

Aram Melkoumov:
That’s better. It’s easier?

Jordi Torras:
Yeah. For me it is. I’m kind of from the Mediterranean, so I can say these things. Melkoumon, I can say that. All right. And then it was evolved to Melkoumov over time?

Aram Melkoumov:
Melkoumov, yeah. I think my great-grandfather changed it when he was trying to get out of Armenia during the Turkish, how do I put this, the Turkish, how do I be politically correct here?

Jordi Torras:
Well, it’s a holocaust. You can call it anyway.

Aram Melkoumov:
Genocide. Yeah. Yeah.

Jordi Torras:
It’s a genocide.

Aram Melkoumov:
During the genocide.

Jordi Torras:
It was a genocide. I don’t know what is and what is not politically correct, but there is a Wikipedia page called the Armenian genocide. It’s there, it happened. Some folks might want to deny it, but hey. So that last name changed during this time, trying to escape or to kind of get through a land that at that time could mean the difference between life and death, I’m assuming. So, thank you for sharing the story. Here we are now living in Barcelona, and look at looking at AI. So, I think I didn’t let you answer the question. So, best way to contact you?

Aram Melkoumov:
Yeah yeah, sure. So best place is just search me on LinkedIn. You could reach me there by message. Or you could email me at Aram, my first name, @crowdlinker.com. Those are my two best places, aside of phone, which I’m actually not that on top of these days.

Jordi Torras:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. The phone is something that rings from time and time and I never know it’s happening. And many calls says scam likely. So why you should take that call?

Aram Melkoumov:
Exactly. Yeah.

Jordi Torras:
All right, Aram, thank you so much for being here, really appreciate. And for the audience, soon we’re going to have another next chapter on our future on customer service, and we are very much looking forward. Thank you.

Aram Melkoumov:
Awesome.

Jordi Torras:
Have a good day.

Aram Melkoumov:
Thanks, Jordi.

Read more
Ebook

How can chatbots serve your omnichannel strategy? Download our ebook!

Omnichannel strategies involve, of course, several channels, but did you ever thought about chatbots?
Discover how to easily integrate a chatbot in your omnichannel strategy and explore the benefits of an ‘omnibot’