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MEET THE PEOPLE Charles Upchurch, CEO, GMS

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What does your company do?

GMS is a trusted communications solutions partner for Enterprises and Mobile Operators Worldwide. Our CPaaS (Customer Platform as a Service) solution enables brands to unify multichannel customer communications via a single API and self-service platform. Complementing this is our AI-driven Chatbots and CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Service) platform – a comprehensive Conversational AI solution enabling brands to build engaging, two-way, 24/7 communication at any touch point, significantly enhancing the customer experience. We are also working to integrate Generative AI to enable enterprises to create communication content. Our goal is for all of these solutions combined to create a CXaaS (Customer Experience as a Service) platform.

As a trusted partner of Mobile Operators, we also enable their messaging business by optimising A2P, P2P and P2A traffic, protecting their networks through fraud prevention, and white labelling our communication solutions to grow their revenue from enterprise clients.

Which countries or regions do you feel represent the greatest opportunity for your telemedia services in 2024?

Our team have worked tirelessly to successfully expand the company’s business in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We are also strengthening our footprint in the Americas. Our growth has been outstanding for the last four years.

To what extent has the pandemic affected your customer’s behaviour and have you been able to explore new opportunities as a result?

During the global lockdown, the volume of business messaging and application activations increased significantly as online transactions increased and more people began to work from home. The pandemic prompted more and more mobile operators to trust GMS to optimize SMS revenue and prevent fraud on their networks.

This growth in our messaging and fraud prevention business enabled a reinforcement of our CPaaS business and to include an expansion into AI communication solutions.

What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome?

The main challenge we faced was adapting to new ways of working. The shift from in-person to virtual was a shock, but it allowed us to redefine the purpose of the office from ‘a dedicated place to work’ to ‘a place to meet and network with colleagues’.

Today, we have more meeting rooms, less dedicated desks, and a hybrid office policy, which improves collaboration and innovation amongst teams while providing better flexibility and work-life balance.

During the pandemic, we faced an additional challenge as Russia invaded Ukraine. While GMS is a global company based in Switzerland, our roots are in Ukraine where we maintain a significant support team for our global business. This challenge required rapid business continuity measures which resulted in new global support offices being opened in Poland and Pakistan. Our Ukrainian team are still an important part of our overall global support and their courage and resilience have been a source of inspiration for the entire company.

MESSAGING

Is SMS future proof?

SMS remains the only ubiquitous channel and I believe it will maintain a significant role in business messaging for a long time. However, as P2P SMS volumes have declined in favour of rich messaging offered by OTTs, I believe that new technologies will have their role to play in business messaging. The OTTs offer rich business messaging through RCS and WhatsApp and a variety of authentication technologies are being developed. GMS will continue to be a leader in innovation and offering all business messaging solutions to our clients.

Recently, the cost of international SMS business messaging has risen for enterprises. GMS is committed to fostering dialogue between enterprises and mobile operators and helping to facilitate solutions to this issue for the entire ecosystem.

What’s the secret to optimising engagement, sales revenues and retention?

The data is clear – ineffective communication with customers will impact a brand’s bottom line. Brands need to embrace a conversational approach and open two-way communications via channels their customers use and trust the most. Delivering timely, efficient, and highly engaging conversational experiences is critical for creating distinctive value and authentic experiences. Fail to get this right and consumers will stop doing business with a company and move to a competitor.

There are a number of elements to this:

  • Cross-channel tailored communication is king – customers will remain loyal to a brand if they are able to engage using their preferred channel. Tailored interactions are a way for brands not only to get a message across, but also foster trust and loyalty. When a brand uses customer-preferred communication channels, consumers are more likely to make a purchase or recommend their business.
  • Personalisation encourages engagement – consumers prefer personalised recommendations over generic ones. Amidst the oversaturated digital marketing arena, personalisation increases the likelihood of customer engagement. To enable this, brands need to acquire data and tools that let them analyse consumer behaviours and capture micro-moments when consumers are most likely to act on a need or desire.
  • The data points towards customers becoming frustrated when they hear from brands across various touchpoints. Consumers will engage with brands on their own terms, and so brands need to have the communication channels in place to enable them to do so.

What other messaging platforms do you offer and why?

CPaaS, AI Chatbots (powered by conversational AI).

What are the biggest challenges of offering CPaaS?

One of the biggest challenges of offering CPaaS is the complexity of ensuring enterprises have access to all of the required channels, complete campaign management, orchestration that optimizes how messages are sent, and functionality that serves the needs of all market segments. Our CPaaS offers APIs to the larger enterprises and self-service to smaller enterprises.

GMS differentiates its CPaaS by offering integration with our Conversational AI to provide access to multiple channels for two-way conversations and, soon, with Generative AI for data insights and content creation as well.

Another challenge is ensuring that the user experience of the CPaaS platform is as seamless and intuitive as possible. There are lots of different components to a platform with such complexity, so we’re constantly working to make the experience as smooth as possible for clients.

CYBER SECURITY

Is the industry doing enough to combat fraud and tackle cyber security?

The industry is making progress, but with cyber security and fraud we can always be doing more. Fraudsters are notoriously quick to adapt to new technologies, which enables them to develop new tools and techniques. This means that the industry must continue to invest in cyber security and fraud protection. It’s an ongoing race, and to step ahead of fraudsters, we must keep innovating.

Bringing innovation to this field means speeding up, providing advanced QoS and having continuous protection from vulnerabilities. Firewalls (Signalling, SMS and Voice) are an essential first line of defence against old and new frauds.

Regulatory compliance also plays an important part in fraud protection, and we have seen good progress in this area. Operators need to comply with regulatory requirements aimed at curbing scams and protecting consumers. A good example of progress in regulatory compliance is Indian telecom regulator TRAI’s block-chain based DLT platform. By requiring businesses to register telemarketing campaigns sent to customers on the TRAI Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) platform — a blockchain-based registration system that prevents spam calls – regulatory bodies have better monitoring and enforcing capabilities, which in turn fosters a more reliable and transparent communication environment.​

At GMS, we pride ourselves on always operating with transparency and integrity. As the industry faces increased challenges in this area, we’ll continue to innovate and offer the best possible fraud prevention and network protection solutions.

What action has your business taken to maintain/improve consumer/partner trust? 

Trust, integrity, and service quality are the cornerstones of GMS success. For 17 years, enterprises and MNOs have known that GMS follows a high ethical standard which warrants that trust. As an example, as GMS protects from fraud, our international A2P SMS rates reflect the official MNO rates, and enterprises considered GMS too expensive. Over the past few years, enterprises have understood that unusually low costs come with low quality and that high delivery quality is also important. Our high service quality has driven significant growth in our business with enterprises.

Our partnership approach with enterprises has resulted in a Net Promoter Score of 56 with enterprises and a tier one ROCCO ranking from enterprises and MNOs on A2P SMS and CPaaS. GMS doesn’t act as a platform vendor but shows enterprises and MNOs how to grow their business by better using communication solutions. That approach differentiates GMS.

Your words of wisdom: On a more personal level, what is the most inspiring piece of advice that has seen you through a life in business to this day and who gave that advice to you?

One of my university professors recognized that I was stoic and worked with me to understand my natural inclinations to find solutions for any problem, focus on positive aspects, and not to worry about things outside of my control. That mentoring has stayed with me all my life and is essential to my daily life.

That has been supplemented by experiences in my first career, as the Captain of an offshore semi-submersible drilling rig. We worked 6 years in harsh conditions off the Newfoundland coast, known as iceberg alley, where everyone’s life and safety were at risk every day, and tragically, a drilling rig 5 km from our capsized in a bad storm and all 85 crew members perished. Every day, I remind myself that in the most stressful business decisions, no one is dying, it is just business.

In the next 12 months what key technical developments or innovations do you feel will have the most positive impact on mCommerce (VAS / mobile payments / marketing)?

Moving forward, we want to further establish GMS as a customer engagement partner for enterprises in all types of communications with end-users. That’s what we’re focused on, so our strategy now is to grow our enterprise-facing business, both organically and inorganically through acquisitions, in the next 12 months. This includes Generative AI, which not only generates content but also provides data insights for marketing, and mobile identity, which will permit silent authentication and improve customer experience.

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