Wouldn’t it be nice if every business website we visited could answer our questions easily, directly and correctly?
That’s what the AI search company, Yext, is asking us to consider — and not just for websites, but for all business owned platforms, both internal and external facing. And it’s a question Deepika Rayala, Yext’s Chief Information Officer, can answer directly:
“It can,” she says. “But you need Yext Search Platform to do it.”
Today, using search on our laptops, mobile phones, and other devices is second nature to us. We often do it without even thinking about the complex process that takes place behind the scenes in order to deliver a direct answer to questions about topics ranging from the best winter shoes to Omicron variant symptoms. We’re accustomed to getting our results within seconds.
“Our online day is punctuated by multiple visits to a search engine,” Rayala says. “Most of the time, that will be Google.”
We all know on one level that a simple Google search will do the trick. That’s because, over the past few decades, the search giant has led the way on consumer search, introducing a satisfying AI-powered search experience that billions around the world have been accustomed to.
At the same time, when we search for information about a specific business on Google, we are all at the mercy of its algorithms. Those algorithms can surface ads as results — including those for competitors — as well as third-party blogs and websites boosted by SEO that may contain spam or outdated information.
For some of us, that experience might still be preferable to going to a business’s official website, which is also typically powered by an outdated technology called keyword search. Keyword search typically returns a list of irrelevant hyperlinks that people have to scroll through to find an answer to their query. Rayala says. “It’s an extremely frustrating experience that happens all the time, all around the world.”
So, what if we could leave keyword search in the past, take only the best parts of Google’s AI-powered consumer search, and use it to transform the enterprise search experience? This is where Yext comes in.
Founded in 2006, Yext (NYSE: YEXT) is a global enterprise search company that builds AI-powered search solutions for businesses to plug into their websites, customer support sites, apps, intranet, and more. While it might not be as much of a household name as Google, it’s a major fixture in the enterprise search space — one you’ve almost definitely used before while browsing sites.
“Our business strategy and growth plans stem from Yext’s bold mission to transform every enterprise in the world through AI search,” says Rayala.
“We often say, if you’ve ever searched for information about a company online, chances are you’ve interacted with Yext”. Yext currently works with more than 2,500 businesses and organizations around the world to transform their digital experiences with AI search.”
AI is the key word here, since it’s the foundation of Yext’s search platform — and what differentiates it from typical keyword search experiences. It starts with Yext’s knowledge graph technology, which can consolidate a business’ facts from different sources into a brain-like database that can be mined.
“Every company knows its own data the best, and they should be the source of truth for that data,” Rayala says. “By storing and structuring their data in a company-specific knowledge graph, they can power a Google-like search experience that is powered by their own knowledge graph.”
Once an Answers search bar is implemented on a website, AI also comes into play with the ever-evolving machine learning models and algorithms that continue to learn from the queries on your site. By understanding even the most complex natural language queries, the platform can deliver a direct answer. Sometimes, this answer can be accompanied by images, videos, or even action buttons like “get directions.”
While the backend technology is impressive, Yext is most excited about the variety of ways that their platform can be used. AI search has broad applicability, so we’re setting our sights not just on horizontals like marketing, customer support, developers, and workplace but are also focused on verticals like financial services, healthcare, retail, the public sector, and more.
Indeed, Yext recently expanded its AI solutions to new areas, enabling businesses to implement modern search experiences in key area such as customer support sites and support agent dashboards. These solutions are also optimized for their specific industry. For healthcare organizations during the pandemic, for example, Yext’s Find-a-Doc solution proved extremely helpful.
“ One such example is our ‘Find-a-Doc’ AI search solution for healthcare organizations that is designed to improve the pre-appointment patient experience by enabling patients to identify the right provider quickly and easily on a healthcare organisation's website,” says Rayala. When a patient searches for a specific doctor speciality, location or other criteria, Find-a-Doc will rely on advanced NLP to actually understand the patient's query and return the doctors that match their criteria — complete with headshots, contact information, and helpful prompts like ‘make an appointment’ and ‘get directions.’”
According to Rayala, Yext — as a global company — is committed to constantly expanding the number of languages its search platform caters for. Currently, its site search product exists in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.
It’s easy to see how Yext’s solutions can offer a seamless, digital experience for end users. But for businesses, Rayala explains, there are even more benefits to reap: increased conversions, reduced support costs, expanded insights, greater productivity, and more.
Samsung, for example, turned to Yext to transform its help centre. First, Yext helped them build a robust knowledge graph that consolidated all their help articles, FAQs, YouTube videos, and more, then implemented an AI search experience on the site.
“Now, when a customer asks Samsung a complex question, the Yext algorithms powering the search experience understand the question and provide a direct answer,” says Rayala. “They surface dynamic content like photos, help articles, and calls-to-action — not a list of blue hyperlinks.”
Ultimately, within eleven weeks of launching with Yext, Samsung experienced significant growth in every major customer satisfaction metric, increasing its Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 45%, Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) by 33%, number of resolved issues by 15%, and number of completed surveys by 8x. Tapping into Yext’s performance analytics, Samsung was also able to boost click-through rates (CTR) by 40%. All told, Samsung increased customer engagement with its help site by 19%, streamlining the path to resolution and delighting customers along the way.
While it may seem like building this kind of search experience — knowledge graph and associated integrations — would take months, Rayala provides a real-life example of how quickly customers can be ready to go with Yext Answers.
“We have the technology, integrations, algorithms, and expertise necessary to deliver a world-class search experience out of the box. We’re able to get businesses up and running with AI search relatively quickly so they can start enjoying its perks.”
Another example she offers is Yext’s work in the public sector during the early phases of the pandemic.
“Within the span of 60 days, when the world was scrambling for information, we were able to build custom information hubs to help the World Health Organization (WHO), the US State Department, and the states of New Jersey and Alabama deliver accurate, up-to-date information about COVID-19,” she says.
It’s clear how proud Yext is of their customers. And the same can be said about other partners. Listed below are some of the IT partners that have helped Yext on their current transformation journey.
Take Yext’s relationship with professional services network and accounting firm PwC, for example, which Rayala says strengthened when Yext needed to implement updated product and pricing strategy to support an ever-increasing volume of transactions.
“PwC helped us with complex challenges by integrating technology, business, and employee experience,” Rayala explains. “They brought strong technology expertise and the ability to affect global transformation at scale, ultimately helping us drive meaningful changes to our processes and ways of working.”
In terms of meeting the challenges of managing a rapidly growing SaaS environment, Yext turned to the software-as-a-service (SaaS) management platform, Zylo.
“Implementing Zylo has also enabled us to have a more streamlined and decentralised management where certain SaaS apps can be procured and managed by the lines of business,” she says. “However, all apps are still managed under the purview of the overall governance process when it comes to contract renewals, compliance, spend and usage tracking. This allows for quicker time to market and efficiency.”
Yext is also working closely with San Francisco-based workflow management company, Pipefy. “By using a tool such as Pipefy, we’ve been able to automate complex workflows in one unified platform with an easy-to-use interface,” says Rayala.
Alongside her duties as CIO, Rayala serves as the executive sponsor of Yext’s Employee Resource Group (ERG), Embrace, which supports employees of colour and contributes to the broader inclusive culture behind Yext’s products — one that Rayala says she is very proud of.
As an executive sponsor, Rayala advises a core team of employees on events and activities and joins safe-space meetings to understand how employees are doing on the ground, especially when external events impact them.
Rayala says, “Leaders should step outside of their daily work and dedicate time to learn from, work with, and support employees, especially in endeavours such as running ERGs. These forums help employees feel more connected and go a long way in building company culture.”
Rayala believes that the most important leadership quality is being genuine. “When you’re leading a team, it is critical for people to trust you enough to come along with you on the journey — and authenticity is the key to building that trust.