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50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2020

An Interview with Chris Sykes, Volume Ltd Founder and CEO: ‘Our Accomplishments and Triumphs Derive from Great Teamwork and We Seek to Continue Nurturing Employees’ Potential’

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“We’re trusted by organizations such as Accenture, eBay, HSBC, Siemens, HULU, Vodafone Group, and the American Red Cross.”

To say that we live in interesting times is an understatement. The rate of technological advancement over the past 10 years has accelerated exponentially. The proliferation of smart devices, persistent connectivity, and social technology, as well as global events like the recent pandemic, have significantly impacted our society in the behaviors and expectations of how we act as customers, employees, managers, business partners, or suppliers.

In every industry, companies are planning, or are actively involved in, some kind of digital transformation to respond to these evolving behavior changes. And they want to take advantage of the benefits these changes present. Many are adopting digital technology to improve customer experience, streamline operations, and open up new business opportunities.

One of the emerging technologies in this evolution is conversational artificial intelligence (AI). The year 2020 will be an exciting time for conversational AI, as chatbots join forces with other digital assistants and integrate deeper into back-end technologies to deliver better user experiences and increase productivity.

In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Volume Ltd — an award-winning innovation company that specializes in the development of Conversational AI platforms and the AI middle-ware that helps businesses self-manage and scale their chatbot real estate. It’s also focused on creating immersive learning experiences and scenarios via technologies such as AR, MR, and VR.

The company was incorporated in 1997 and is headquartered in Wokingham, Berkshire.

Chris Sykes, Volume Ltd Founder and CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Q. Explain your AI-powered conversational platform expertise in brief.

Volume is a Gartner-recognized developer of NLP-based conversational AI SaaS products. The company is trusted by organizations such as Accenture, eBay, HSBC, Siemens, HULU, Vodafone Group, and the American Red Cross. Its products help global enterprises and SMEs dramatically enhance their customer experience and increase operational efficiency.

Q. Customers are sensitive and protective when it comes to their personal data. AI chatbots need to collect information and data which are relevant and need to transmit it over the internet securely. Do you make sure that it’s safe to share information with the chatbots?

All our products are GDPR compliant. It's also not mandatory to chat with our chatbots, so essentially an individual is opting into a conversation voluntarily. A link to our privacy policy is also clearly shown if a person is unclear on how their personal data will be used.

Q. How do you manage to overcome the challenge to identify the emotion from the user’s voice and respond to it accordingly?

The ability to accurately detect human emotions and for the chatbot to respond accordingly is very much in its infancy, not just from a technology standpoint but also from privacy and ethics. There are many use cases where human emotion detection would be beneficial but there are areas of caution when a chatbot 'thinks' someone is in a particular state of mind and gives its response as a result.

Q. What does an average day at Volume Ltd look like?

Although each day can present something very different, every day on average is an exciting one and always entail an element of collaboration, whether that's with team members or with clients – current and prospective.

Our naturally-proactive teams along with their positive approach will be either creating great work with forward-thinking tech or gearing ahead for the next project.

Q. Developing such advanced technology needs experts in the house. How did you manage to form your dream team?

We started by focusing on our existing teams -- upskilling them and leveraging their interests in research and development. Once this was established, we turned to hire through various vigorous stages to ensure that we hire a variety of people we needed with different levels of skills and experience. We're always on the lookout too for new and talented people motivated by Tech and AI to join our teams.

Q. Growing the company based on employees’ passions must priority. Do you ask your employees what they are interested in doing and how they would like to see their career unfold?

We enjoy getting to know our people, including what makes them tick. We need to be able to give the power back to our people…to decide what they want to do in line with the business and also how they'd like to progress, therefore self-motivating themselves. We want our people to have the freedom to explore too whether that’s ideas particularly with forward-thinking tech and how we approach situations or any interest in their personal lives.

Q. A good workplace stresses teamwork while still encouraging individual achievement and creativity. Does your company follow the same strategy?

Our accomplishments and triumphs derive from great teamwork but we understand; that can only happen until each team member is feeling and doing their best. Therefore, we encourage individuals to contribute their skills, share their experience, viewpoints, appreciation, and recognition (internal or from clients) in order to bring them together to generate creativity, productivity, engagement, communication, and efficiency.

Q. What does the future hold for Volume Ltd and its employees? Are exciting things on the way?

The global pandemic has shone a bright light on emerging technologies like speech recognition and voice-first devices, where there is no physical contact needed. With businesses large and small forced to change their modus operandi, we will see a greater interest in our products and services. This is indeed exciting for us and our employees. Working from home and remotely has helped us to improve the quality of output and productivity. Employee wellbeing is front and center and working in an industry that will be very much part of the future, there isn't the worry and anxiety faced by many in sectors directly impacted by the 'new normal'.

Chris Sykes: A Bankable Leader

Chris Sykes, founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Volume Ltd. He established the company with the vision that technology would rapidly permeate the sales and marketing operations of the future. As a futurist, Chris decided in 2015 to pivot his technology-biased digital agency towards AI and looked at how it could be applied within a sales, marketing, and customer experience context. Chris coined the term ‘experiential AI’ and has since built the three pillars that underpin EAI – AI-powered Conversational Platforms, Humanoid Robotics, and Virtual, Mixed, and Augmented Reality.

“The global pandemic has shone a bright light on emerging technologies like speech recognition and voice-first devices, where there is no physical contact needed. With businesses large and small forced to change their modus operandi, we will see a greater interest in our products and services. This is indeed exciting for us and our employees.”