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Q&A With Pete Eyre, Managing Director, Vevox

Business Info learns how a smartphone-based live polling and Q&A tool can help improve employee engagement

Business Info: What is Vevox for and who is it aimed at?

Pete Eyre: Vevox is a cloud-based software platform that creates a channel for employees to communicate with employers on a level playing field. Employees can log into an app (a web app or smartphone app) with complete anonymity and answer live polls or ask questions. Anonymity increases feedback by removing fear of judgement by colleagues/bosses or the fear of looking stupid for not knowing something.

Business Info: What is Vevox’s background?

Pete Eyre: Our background was in live polling for events and occasionally TV. People were given a clicker device when they entered a conference, which they would use to vote when polled. In the pre-smartphone era, that was the only way to do it. Now, of course, everyone has a device in their pocket that is way more advanced and able to interact with cloud-based applications. The arrival of the smartphone was the technology trigger.

Business Info: Does Vevox do the same things it used to or has it become more sophisticated in terms of functionality?

Pete Eyre: The fundamentals are the same. The two use cases are answering live polls to measure learning, understanding or feedback and submitting text-based questions, which people couldn’t do with clicker devices. That’s where we see the real power of it, particularly in corporates – the ability to log in and ask a question during a meeting and for others to ‘like’ it, so that the most relevant questions rise to the top.

In company meetings, the voice that shouts loudest isn’t always representative of how people feel. Vevox gives people the opportunity to say ‘I don’t think this view is representative of everyone in the business’. It’s become a good leveller in that respect and brought management and employees closer.

Another difference is that in the old days everyone had to be in the same room, but today Vevox is cloud-based so anyone can join in. We have arranged a global ‘town hall’ for a pharmaceutical company where 100,000 people were invited to attend. It meant that everyone, from one person at home to a whole team in Singapore, could contribute to the meeting.

Business Info: Is Vevox limited to meetings or could someone submit a question at other times?

Pete Eyre: You could use it in that way, but there are other channels that allow people to do that – Slack, Teams et cetera. Vevox is generally for ‘in the moment’, live meetings.

Business Info: What’s the maximum capacity you can support?

Pete Eyre: We can support any size meeting. The largest we have done had 100,000 invitations, but most are between 50 and 500 people.

Business Info: Are there many providers offering similar solutions?

Pete Eyre: There are a few, and in terms of functionality we are reasonably similar. That said, we have really focused on answering the needs of internal corporate communications. We take security very seriously and have enterprise-wide installs so anyone in an organisation can make their meetings interactive.

For us, the existence of other suppliers is confirmation that this is a tool organisations need. We attend a lot of conferences for HR and comms directors and when they talk about the stack of software platforms they need to function, they always include a live polling and Q&A solution, as well as a system like Slack or Workplace by Facebook or Microsoft Teams.

Business Info: Do you mainly target large corporates or do you also address the needs of smaller businesses?

Pete Eyre: We cover the whole range, but we are focused on medium to large corporates. That is our sweet spot because they make great use of Vevox and because their security standards are very high. There are other products that might do the same thing as us ad hoc for a conference where security doesn’t matter, but we need our clients to know that everything is done in a safe and managed way for employees. There’s also the training and resources we provide. At the other end of the scale, we have people running pub quizzes on Vevox.

Business Info: How many customers do you have in the UK?

Pete Eyre: We have a free account people can use to interact with up to 10 people, and about 1,000 individual users sign up for that every month. We now have tens of thousands of users on the free trial, some of whom will go through the process of becoming a paid user.

Business Info: How is the paid for version priced?

Pete Eyre: You can ‘pay as you go’ for a 7-day period, but most customers buy a 12-month subscription for £790. This allows them to use all the functionality and invite up to 1,500 people to any meeting and use it for as many meetings as they like. It used to cost a conference organiser £4,000 to get this kind of functionality in a room for a couple of hundred people. So the change has been massive.

Business Info: What do your customers tell you are the main benefits of the solution?

Pete Eyre: One of the things we are really proud of is that we have nearly 500 Trust Pilot reviews and we are rated 9.5 out of 10. The themes are really clear: people say Vevox has changed the way they interact with each other; they say it is slick and simple and really easy to use; and while software companies can be faceless, people appreciate all the advice and support we provide.

We have really focused on how to differentiate ourselves as a software company. The quality of the software can take you so far, and has to be excellent, but someone can go out and write a similar product, so what’s really important is the infrastructure, the support, the relationship with your clients.

Business Info: You would have thought some of the conferencing products would have modules that do the same thing as you.

Pete Eyre: We are very good for dispersed meetings and are always used in conjunction with something like Go To Meeting or Skype. You can chat on GoToMeeting, but chat will be identified and one of the reasons people use us is because Vevox is uncoupled from the rest of the systems they use. Every other system you use as an employee is linked in some way to your credentials, your log-in, but Vevox is genuinely uncoupled, anonymous and individual – anyone can use it on any device; it doesn’t even have to be a work device.

That said, you can have identified meetings for certain purposes, for example if you are holding a quiz or doing a health and safety test and need to know the results.

Business Info: A potential drawback of anonymity is that it encourages people to be abusive. Is this a problem you have encountered and how do you stop it?

Pete Eyre: This is a common concern of customers at the start. It is very rare we see any issues, but we do have moderation controls within the system that provide reassurance for people who are new to Vevox. Everything sent in goes to a moderator to approve before it is forwarded to people’s apps and onto the main screen. This is a really important part of Vevox. People might say ‘Why wouldn’t I use Twitter for this?’ and the reasons are that with Twitter you are identified (admittedly you can use an alias) and there is a lack of moderation.

Business Info: Are there any other selling points you haven’t mentioned?

Pete Eyre: Just its accessibility; anyone can run one of these meetings. At the meeting organiser end, we have domain recognition and single sign-on, so people can access this as easily as any other piece of software.

Also, you can theme and brand sessions very easily. It takes 30 seconds to drop in a logo and do some theming. We’ve also completely white-labelled Vevox from a participant perspective, so organisations have a channel they completely own – it’s their app, their channel, specifically for employee feedback. It says to employees ‘we take what you think seriously’.

Business Info: As a software company you must have to strike a balance between keeping it simple and accessible and adding new functionality and updates. How do you prevent bloat?

Pete Eyre: Our mantra is to get better and better, not bigger and bigger. We do add new features, but we try to be very careful how and when we add them and for what specific purpose, which is why we are so focused on our target market. For example, there’s a survey tool in there that’s useful for people at the end of meetings, but we are not trying to be Survey Monkey. That’s a different market. A lot of the development we do is not to do with new features, but integration with other applications like universities’ learning management systems. We want to be the best product, not the product with the most features.

Business Info: Are workplace trends like wellbeing and mental health having a big impact on demand?

Pete Eyre: Absolutely. The recurring conversation we have with customers is that to attract the people they want they have to have strong values and follow them through. Employees want to feel they are being looked after and cared for. Vevox helps with that.

More practically, a couple of weeks ago a client told me that he had received a comment via Vevox saying ‘How can you expect accounts to do their jobs using laptops from 2010’. They investigated and found that accounts really did have laggy laptops that took a long time to load up. Before the next town hall meeting, they replaced all those laptops. That’s a really good example of a direct action coming about because someone had the confidence to voice a gripe anonymously.