The Silicon Review
Experiential AI at the Heart: Volume Is a Leading AI Agency Transforming Brand Engagement by Turning Content into Conversations Incorporated in 1997 with the vision that technology would rapidly permeate the sales and marketing operations of the future, Volume is an AI Agency, transforming marketing from a ‘push’ discipline to a ‘pull’ discipline, converting the ‘search’ generation to the ‘ask’ generation and disrupting brand engagement thinking by creating the next level of customer experience.
Initially, Volume was set up as a Graphic Design Agency in a home office, serving the emerging Technology Industry in the UK but quickly established a competency in web application development. From one person to over 100 people across four locations, Volume has grown to be one of the leading firms in the industry.
Volume’s largest client at its initial days was Dell and as Dell grew, Volume grew with it. Dell was an early pioneer in the use of the internet and Volume scaled its capabilities to support Dell’s 23 EMEA Business Units. The company’s software development team grew to build enterprise-class applications that complemented clients’ IT infrastructure. Its area of specialty extended to Learning Management Systems, Digital Asset Management Systems, CRM and Content Management. Today, Volume has evolved into an early pioneer in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and in particular, AI-powered conversational platforms and humanoid robots.
First Project Roll Out: LUSY
Pivoting a business is incredibly challenging, particularly when the pivot is towards new and uncharted territory. As Volume shifted from graphic designing to artificial intelligence, the first thing it needed to do was to build what it was inevitably trying to deliver – the ability to talk to a website in natural language.
Volume’s first commercial AI project was its own AI-powered conversational platform (LUSY). The aim was to replace Volume’s traditional web site with a system that could handle multiple questions about the company and other related topics.
LUSY went live in 2016 and soon attracted much attention around the world. As the world’s first commercial AI-powered conversational platform, LUSY has provided unique insights into how humans behave when interacting with a machine in natural-language. The platform provided the foundation on which Volume has built other commercial conversational platforms such as www.artesian.ai (Arti) for software developer Artesian Solutions.
Interview Snippet with CEO, Chris Sykes:
Q. Any company, big or small, must have the sense of authenticity and originality to succeed. Is your company a ‘Leader’ or a ‘Follower’?
Volume is definitely a leader and a pioneer. We took a bold step pivoting to the world of AI, which three years ago was in its infancy. The company has always tried to be ahead of the game and ensured it provides its clients with innovative solutions that give them a competitive advantage. Today Volume is recognized as a leader in its field and is cited by leading analyst firms in AI-related research papers.
Q. Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?
At volume, we have our proprietary employee engagement platform and our staff in each of our offices has open access to it. It allows our employees to comment and rate news articles about the company and to give congratulations and recognition to their colleagues who have gone that extra mile. The platform helps us measure the sentiment and engagement levels.
Q. About adaptability, how do you stay relevant to the consumer interests and needs in this highly volatile market?
At Volume, we’ve always strived to be agile and be able to react to a multitude of scenarios and opportunities. We are future focused and endeavor to try and predict market needs before they happen. We’ve learned that businesses today focus on two key activities - revenue generation and cost reduction. We have always been able to show our clients how we help them realize greater revenues and where we can bring efficiencies and cost savings into the mix.
Q. Customer service varies, but companies can still be successful. How do you maintain your customers’ trust and loyalty?
Our interpretation is – “never promise what you can’t deliver and understand that ‘good’ is not good enough.” At Volume, we always strive to exceed our clients’ expectations by showing continuous improvement and value-add.
We don’t want Volume to be seen as just another vendor; we strive to be seen as symbiotic partners. Our strength has come from our ambition to grow, not in size but in stature and how we are perceived by our clients. We want to be a tier one partner that is recognized for innovation, quality of output and delivering exceptional customer service.
Q. What makes Volume one of the ‘Best’ companies in the industry?
Our clients’ loyalty is the length and strength of our commercial relationships. We at Volume work day in and out to provide the best services to our clients. Our employee engagement and retention is another critical factor in the company’s success. We are being placed in ‘The Sunday Times Top 100 Best Small Companies to Work for’ this year, which is a testimony to our investment.
Furthermore, we work predominantly with technology companies such as Dell, Oracle, Intuit and Plantronics, which mean we are working in high-performance environments with intelligent people and with incredibly high expectations and performance. If that doesn’t make us one of the best companies in the industry, then what does?
The Future Vision
Going the extra mile, Volume has launched QBox.ai, its Training & Testing-as-a-Service for natural-language data models. It was developed to bridge the skills gap for understanding and managing the performance, accuracy & stability of natural-language data models. QBox allows organizations & brands to adopt an agile & agnostic conversational AI strategy, allowing models to be easily assessed & switched between NLP service providers.
Volume believes that by 2020 businesses will be more self-aware and although driven by profits and share value, the principles of the past will be superseded by the principles of the future focusing on people and cultural development, social responsibilities. Volume is already abiding by these principles and in two years, the company will establish itself as a visionary business that will punch well above its weight.
Meet the Chief
Chris Sykes, Founder & CEO: Chris established Volume in 1997. Chris was instrumental in helping the company’s lighthouse client, Dell moves from a print-to-inventory model to print-on-demand through an online portal that housed Dell’s digital marketing assets in raw and pre-compiled formats.
In 2000, Chris founded Then (UK) Ltd, a developer of Marketing Resource Management (MRM) software. In 2002, Then (UK) Ltd was recognized by Gartner and appeared in its 2002/03 MRM Magic Quadrant, as a niche vendor. In July 2004, Then (UK) Ltd was acquired by Aprimo Inc. Chris exited Then (UK) Ltd and continued to spearhead Volume.
As a futurist, Chris took the decision in 2015 to pivot the business towards Artificial Intelligence 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 & Virtual, and Mixed & Augmented Reality. Chris is a regular speaker and panelist at AI events and showcases.