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Meet Helen Zolotavina – How to Keep Flexible and Customer-Centered During Lockdown?

Today we have selected Helen Zolotavina to take her interview. She is the Project Manager and Account team lead at SmartHub.

First, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone had to make significant adjustments to their usual work schedule. I want to note that our team quickly adapted to the new conditions of work. While working remotely for almost a year, we’ve managed to build a well-coordinated mechanism for online collaboration. As a result, we’ve drastically increased productivity in comparison with the previous year. Meanwhile, effective teamwork helped us resolve complex issues, fearlessly meet new challenges, and become even closer as a team.  

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

For about five years, I worked in jurisprudence, but at some point, I decided that it would be cool to challenge myself with something completely new. I ventured to the unexplored programmatic grounds in 2019 when I joined the SmartHub project as an account manager. The transition to the ad tech industry wasn’t just a career change for me; it was also a giant step out of my comfort zone. I grew and developed professionally with the project for two and a half years, and I am very proud of the results that we have achieved together as a team.

How does your company innovate?

We are constantly working on developing our product based on analyzed customer requests and the requirements of the industry. When IAB introduces new requirements for the ad tech industry, we try to implement them as soon as we hear about them; for example, last year, the seller’s authorization standards like sellers.json or adx.txt and the possibility to use those standards were integrated, so we could effectively safeguard our clients. 

Recently, we’ve also added several important integrations: VAST and Prebid server. This significantly increased the profits of our clients as more opportunities translate into higher incomes. What differentiates us from all other solutions is the opportunity to successfully combine trading across different connection types (VAST to RTB, RTB to VAST, RTB to Prebid, etc.). This is an innovation that only SmartHub has implemented so far. 

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

The beginning of 2020 was tough for the ad tech industry. Some companies have been forced to reduce their costs, close offices significantly, or completely shut down their businesses. In these difficult circumstances, we made a smart move and shifted the focus to the struggles and needs of our clients like never before. We’ve transformed our pricing model, made it more flexible, and developed special offers and discounts to offer our clients the most loyal terms of cooperation. 

Realizing that our clients need technical support and ongoing advice on building business processes, we have developed a successful client interaction program. A detailed review of platform activities, training sessions, and optimization calls are the pillars that we’ve built our new customer care.

It is also worth noting that despite the minor (fear-induced) difficulties that the ad tech industry faced in early 2020, later on, the lockdown boosted ad sales as users began to spend more time online.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Since the market is rapidly developing, we need to quickly respond to new challenges to “keep pace” with ad tech innovations. For instance, if there’s great demand for a certain technology or functionality, there’s no guarantee it won’t lose its relevance in a very short period. Therefore, sometimes it is a difficult choice to prioritize and assess the practicality of new integrations.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

We use up-to-date and secure software to organize a flexible development process and prompt response to customer requests. As well we use an extended knowledge base for updating technical documentation about our platform. We apply video conference and chat software for our daily communication, e.g., Skype, Zoom, and Slack. Aside from this, to streamline our daily workflow, we use a CRM system and task tracking software that helps us to stick to deadlines and stay productive. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Many companies offer alternative solutions; we still have unique features and competitive advantages that help us stand out. We always go the extra mile when it comes to customer care. Our special approach to the clients and the reputation of a stable and reliable tech provider (that we established during these years) play out as our strong sides. We always put the needs and requests of our customers first. This rule applies to the account management team and the tech team – this is an important part of our company philosophy.

Your Final Thoughts

The majority of companies have been dealing with digital transformation during the last couple of years. Adtech companies are not an exception. Setting your ad exchange is not a piece of cake, and it requires immense knowledge and skills to set up and configure everything right. If the client doesn’t have sufficient knowledge in certain areas, comprehensive customer support can define why they prioritize one solution. Realizing how important support can be for any complex technical solution, we are constantly working to improve the customer experience with our product. 

These days entrepreneurs are looking to simplify programmatic business entry, and our product made it possible. Thanks to technologies like the white label, companies build their self-branded marketplaces based on the pre-built core while saving money and time. Plus, they receive all-encompassing customer care and ongoing business development advice. Furthermore, if our clients require additional people for their team, we are ready to streamline rare talent attraction by selecting and outstaffing ad tech employees according to their unique requirements. 

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