Answering 1 Million Phone Calls a Day with Ben Ayed

March 1, 2023
Here is how retail automotive can learn from Amazon.
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While Ben Ayed worked at Amazon, he learned that the customer was number one, and so even though they had over 1 million phone calls a day, every single call was answered. Fast forward to when Ben noticed a 72% drop rate in customer booking on Xtime, he was ready to answer the call and come up with a solution. He’s an entrepreneur, an inventor and his company was the first winner of our Pitch Tank tournament.

What we talk about in this episode:

0:00 Intro with Michael Cirillo, Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier.

4:44 Ben talks about living in Silicon Valley, and how to identify and approach the tech leaders to help get your idea and company to the next level.

9:30 Ben casually drops into the conversation that he holds over 50 patents, including one for 2-factor authentication.

14:45 After taking a job at Xtime, Ben noticed that they had a 72% drop rate in customer booking, so he set out to fix that. The end result was Autoservice.AI.

19:45 “Robots for retail” is how Ben describes the goal of AutoService.AI. Robots give you scalability and the ability to have a close to 100% Service Level Agreement with a customer.

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Michael Cirillo: 0:00We're sitting in church one SundayUnknown: 0:07

This is auto collabs.

Michael Cirillo: 0:10

And you know, the wooden like, pews. And our pastor gets up and and he's like, preach. He's given a sermon. And then he's like, do you want to know what Jesus said, and from the back of the thing we just hear and I'm like, that's where I learned the nose trick, but to suffocate yourself so that you don't breathe. But I was like, squeaking out of my ears. It was like ah, and it just would, for all the sound engineers in the room set. Sound waves sine waves, the

Kyle Mountsier: 0:49

corroboration it was in one of those old churches that had the really high ceilings anyway. No bass trend, then all of a sudden it was singing it was like, Oh,

Paul Daly: 0:58

I don't know why anybody to Crowdcast

Michael Cirillo: 1:05

Oh, my gosh. Oh, man.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:07

Thank you for hanging out with us today. We're hanging out with Ben Ayed. I don't know. There's

Paul Daly: 1:12

really no relations between that first story.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:17


Paul Daly: 1:18

Oh, you want that on the podcast? No, it is on the podcast. Podcast. We just record anything we think Michaels gonna say something he'll regret and that's, that's the start to our podcast.

Michael Cirillo: 1:29

That's the start to our formal partnership.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:32

Oh, man. Oh, yeah. This Wait, hold on this is we got to take a little 30 Extra to that. I think for the Auto Collabs Audience? Yeah, we have the Auto Collabs audience listening to an Auto Collabs podcast where a so Michael Cirillo is an official part of Team ASOTU as the Chief of Staff, so yeah, if you don't know that, give him a little congrats on the old LinkedIn machine or the Facebook hurry. And yeah, welcome him to Team ASOTU. Officially,

Paul Daly: 1:59

we officially wore him down, Kyle. Well, we

Michael Cirillo: 2:01

know why we're all here. Yeah,

Kyle Mountsier: 2:03

yeah, we got dirt on him now. We

Michael Cirillo: 2:12

we reviewed all the immigration papers, we got them.

Kyle Mountsier: 2:15

God. Oh, man. Well, hey, look, all of that kidding aside, we're really excited to introduce you to Ben Ayed a new friend of ours and the winner of pitch tank at nada, that first championships. So we hope you enjoy this. All right, we are here about to make some trouble as Paul J. Daly said right before we got on the call with Ben Ayed, the winner of our very, very first 2023 pitch tank championships. He's the founder and CEO of AutoService AI, we'll get to that in a minute. Ben, you live in Silicon Valley, what is what we found out, we won't give your exact street address, we'll just tell people halfway where you are in the world. But you live in Silicon Valley. Tell me about that. Because it's got to be a distinct thing, walking around with some of the world's brightest developers and technology companies. And that and you've been a part of some of them. Talk about just like, What is that like being in an environment where you buy a coffee shop, and this guy just coded how to crack a government safe, right?

Ben Ayed: 3:28

It's a, it's a very interesting experience. I mean, I grew up in I was born in Europe and France. I grew up in Africa. I started my company when I was in Africa, actually. I my first customer was in Australia. And then this rail in the US, I was shipping these interesting invention, that kind of Bluetooth marketing device. And then as a dream of, you know, every inventor kind of future intrapreneurs like Silicon Valley, right? You, you know, and then and then I made it. I'm so glad they came here. It really, you know, is what is in a fame tour. Right now I meet with some of the leaders in the industry. I had the company security, I met with Dr. Tyrell Gamal, the inventor of SSL security, like when you go on the browser's HTTPS. Yeah. With Diffie He's the inventor of diffie hellman algorithm is used in security. It's really really nice, you know, whoever you want to meet, you know, his right in at the coffee shop in Palo Alto. And he

Paul Daly: 4:30

saw do these do these people have like, like you recognize them, by the way, they look like how do you identify or are they just local celebrities and, like,

Kyle Mountsier: 4:38

these are tech celebrities.

Unknown: 4:41

It's like you need to know like, who to look for obviously, right? If you're doing something interesting, you need to know how to find you know, the people and who are they and how to approach them. It's part of the game, but they're very approachable. That's what you find here is like, you know, especially when they're in the neighborhood Nice to meet with them. They're very open. You know, some of them join my advisory boards, we chat regularly. It really, really boost your creativity in an interesting way. And then there's this Yeah, this walk, you know, you walk in, you know, University Avenue or, you know, and then you know, everybody's talking about round A and round B. And what about joins, there's

Michael Cirillo: 5:23

a checklist for identifying tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley? It's like, do they drive a Prius? And are they wearing hoodies that Yep. Okay, there's two of the three requirements to be a tech entrepreneur, you go to when you go to say, Seattle, it's different. It's like, are they holding a lifetime supply of Starbucks and have those tweed jackets with the elbow pads?

Kyle Mountsier: 5:48

You had to go out and you had to go out and like that. That's

Michael Cirillo: 5:53

that what does it mean, though growing a business. In that environment? What does Paul kind of set it under his breath? A little bit? I heard it, he said, proximity? What does that proximity mean? For you growing a business? Does it accelerate it? Does it sometimes get in the way? What could you share with other entrepreneurs in the space?

Ben Ayed: 6:12

Yes, you go through different life cycles, right? I mean, initially, you know, when you're young, you want to meet a lot of smart people, and you want to kind of bounce your ideas and learn from them. And, and, you know, maybe collaborate with some of them, there's a lot of tech events. So that helped a lot. And then, you know, I was at a phase where, you know, stuck in so many companies, you know, like, I could grow, and they could, you know, really find some beachhead and go in, but that could not grow, like some of the big, you know, companies like Amazon, for example. So, in, you know, in my career, I had to make a choice, like, you know, I really need to go and know, and to stand with Amazon, you worked for Amazon? For one, yes, yeah, I had to take time off, you know, from my product, my companies and really go and, you know, put myself on the block, and so myself, and then go from the inside and really understand which, you know, it's different. It's actually even different night, I worked in Seattle, I actually flew every week to Seattle, my wife said, you have to do it, you have to go, you know, and for two years, I was back and forth every week, you know, but the lessons you learn at Amazon is more than you learn in Silicon Valley. It's it's incredibly interesting company. And that's, you know, I mean, the training that the brain training, and that you get out of it is, it's out of this world, you know, so

Kyle Mountsier: 7:34

So how do you think those lessons have prepared you for founding something that is uniquely your tech? For the automotive industry? What What were some of like, the key moments that you can say, that was a moment that's been pivotal in my approach to technology now?

Ben Ayed: 7:51

Absolutely. Well, I mean, you know, my family is entrapreneurs, you know, and someone that was super successful. And since I was young, I was groomed to be kind of entrapreneur, at least in my mind. And then I had my company out of my first company, and it was out of university, and then had my second, but then, you know, at some point, you know, like, everyone, you learn more, and you make mistakes, and you raise money here and the luring people and, and, you know, what I'm fine finding now is, you know, having had a lot of experience having worked for Amazon, it also works for XTime, like, you learn a lot, you know, with age, you learn a lot of, you know, you know, kind of, you know, DNA of these companies, which makes a company to be successful, and then what it makes the company be super successful. And then, you know, what are some of the opportunities in the market, and you get some from here, some of them from there, and you're able to kind of push them together and, and put them out. The funny thing is, initially, my very first companies were my inventions. It's like, oh, I need this for myself. I'm like, Oh, it's a great thing. And you tried to push it and you create for the market. And then as you start working for some other companies are actually able to spot some needs in the market. And like people telling you that they need this and, and now you're able to bring that invention brain with that market brain, put them together and bring something that's interesting. In most cases, I'm that kind of person is very persistent. And very, there's a problem, I have to solve it, right. But most of the times, I'm ahead of the market after the patents right. Today, probably both 150 200 million people using some way technology one way or the other. When you log into Google, you're using my technology. When you look at like the two factor authentication Google is using. I invented that when, when you

Paul Daly: 9:43

hold on, hold on if we have a mic do we have on here? I just want to drop that mic right there. Okay, he's like, Yeah, you would have been able to log in today if it wasn't for me.

Michael Cirillo: 9:56

Wait, so you're saying you're the Dude, I gotta complained to thought two factor authentication.

Ben Ayed: 10:04

I don't really want this simplified life of millions of people

Paul Daly: 10:07

what he likes. What think?

Kyle Mountsier: 10:14

What's what's unique about? Okay, so let's talk about that because I think that this will draw this conversation forward. But when when you were presented with I don't know if this was with a company or this was a patent that thing got bought. But when you were presented with this problem, when when you were thinking about the login authentication, I'm guessing it's something around ortho or something like that. I don't know exactly what your patent is on. But when you were presented with that initially, and that was going to get plugged in to something, what was the challenge you were solving? And then how did that how did that get solved in the in the piece that you have had to play?

Ben Ayed: 10:48

Yes, I was solving how you can secure iOS apps on iPads. And then I was able to tie them into a device initially. So you can secure them with a device, and then it was able to tie them into your mobile phone. And then a patented that login to apps with through Bluetooth with another device that does the kind of two factor authentication. I mean, I learned this thing, you know, because I had to solve some, some needs that I had, or some market needs. And I had to hire the doctors and security that instructed me about this and this and that, and you know, we're able to craft things and then start to work in some customers like, I think local police at the time, were the you know, they had iPads and bikes, and you know, policemen are carrying them bikes, and they were interested in securing them with a phone. So somebody, they dropped their iPad, you know, you stopped working or the app stops working. So they were doing that. And then they're like, Okay, well, we want to bring this to the PC. How can you do that? So then you start thinking about how can security browser with your phone, right? And that became the you know, how you can lock your browser or your Kuwait locks or, you know, you, you have your phone, therefore, you can open your apps in your browser. We had the I think the chief of police of local police is like, I got like, I got 50 passwords and have to log into seizures for you know, federal database and, and can you help me with that? So we're able to kind of have them

Paul Daly: 12:19

you're like, you have a very interesting life. It's like all the things your beliefs are

Kyle Mountsier: 12:26

really external those like forehead has been like this for about seven minutes. furrowed brow

Michael Cirillo: 12:32

Ben's the Liam Neeson of technology. I have a very particular set of skills, skills. Over here, I'm like, oh, yeah, Ben, will I built a HTML website with Yahoo geo cities when I was 13. Today,

Paul Daly: 12:53

that's better than I'm doing. Better than I'm doing.

Michael Cirillo: 12:56

I just spectacular. Wow. I had no clue. How does that position you, kind of touching on on Kyle's point, I'd really love to get your insight into how all of that experience position you to do what you're doing with Auto Service AI.

Ben Ayed: 13:13

Yeah, I mean, you know, it's one of those things right. You know, you're no, I yeah, he was I worked at x time. So had a time where, you know, I was burned out by Amazon and I needed some break a company, you could just go and do you know, I was a product director so I didn't have to do that you just show

Paul Daly: 13:32

up eat the doughnut. Yeah,

Ben Ayed: 13:36

you know, make good money all this stuff, right. And meanwhile, I had this project I always have you know, 10 projects on the side like try this and this and that and you know, trying to start different companies. So I needed to break I needed, you know, to and then I discovered this whole world of automotive and I was looking at x times I think, I think 100 million dollars a year and they have 100 people sitting in front of me and you know, most of them are you know, I mean they don't look like the smartest people they don't even two jackets or anything I don't want to say anything bad at one point we had the president of Cox automotive come and and he made a speech right and then I had to go to my boss and said look, not a single time did he talk about customer he didn't mentioned the word customer once what kind of a company is this? How can you make a million dollars or they even mentioned customer in the speech to employees last point our you know, it's anyway it was it was interesting company I don't know what we're trying

Paul Daly: 14:39

to get let you get yourself in trouble. That's what we do. Yeah, no. And

Ben Ayed: 14:43

so I was you know, looking at the data we launched two way texting my buddy launched the consumer portal and you know, had the lady that worked on the, the dealer portal, right. And then, you know, I like the stats from my buddy. Every week we come in, we have 72% dropout rate on consumer booking Right? Like, what is this? Right? You know, how could you be in a business where 72% of people cannot even use your tools? Right? So after a while seeing meeting after meeting and the same numbers don't budge, you know, in our head, like I have to go solve that problem for him right? So I went in you know, in my garage, my blimey you know, kind of God. You know, like play with this technology and, and AI and all that stuff. And they build a little mock up. And then in, you know, Amazon words, and they have to, you know, when you have an idea, you have to go and write what's called a six, six page, your document, right? explore it, and where it's going to be in 10 years and why you should do it, and why now and FAQs. And so I wrote that and then went to my boss, I was super happy. I had set up a meeting with him and said, Look, you know, I think we're doing things wrong. But there was more prototype, but like, six pager, you know? And then the guy looked at me like, who are you? Who do you think you are, you can, you know, do these things and come and tell us what you should do. And that's how

Paul Daly: 16:00

you know you're on the right path. By the way, that's how you know when somebody your boss done something, right? Thank you for that.

Ben Ayed: 16:07

And believe me, he put a black mark in a bag and they had to leave. Good afternoon, that's how you know I found that out the service a it was like five, maybe five years ago or something like that. And, and they knew the market initially started working the restaurants I went to net my neighbors they had restaurant, we use it to sell menus, believe it or not sell it on the phone. And then I had had a customer friend of mine and Realtor in the East Coast. And they called them and said, Hey, I'm building this thing, would you be my customer? Say yes. And said go? How much would you pay me for this, like 100 bucks. So okay, dandy. He was my first paying customer, I think the rest of my second paying customer. And then the story that holding it because thinking like if we were to cater to the biggest problem, which is, you know, restaurants really, really tough business, right? They don't pay much. You have all these weird menus, and you have people speaking to you with, you know, Chinese accent speaking Vietnamese menu. And imagine like how you have to cater to all these words, seven different kinds of languages or started seeing different accents. And we have to make it work. And we did succeed. So when we went to dealers, we had this, you know, platform that's super, super strong. And they won who did and starts working. Right. So my long as he has been on there for four years, you know, start seeing the money comments like, wow, increase 15%. And, you know, service, and it's like, wow, yeah.

Michael Cirillo: 17:41

You know, you mean, the nice thing about a Vietnamese menu is that once you learn what number 54 is, you just always order. The last? That's it I learned at once. I'm wondering, could it get that predictable for service menus, if customers just knew they were coming in for the number 12 and knew what that meant?

Kyle Mountsier: 18:04


Ben Ayed: 18:06

big problems. If we could teach, you know, then they could go to x time online and then book themselves and, you know, two minutes, you know?

Kyle Mountsier: 18:20

Like with all the so Auto Service AI just so if someone doesn't know, like, I'll give them the brief rundown because I want to ask the deeper question than just like, what's the product basically, it's a, it's a, it's a phone service that intercepts the call and utilizing AI allows the customer to book an appointment without a human interaction, and then taps into your appointment setting system to make sure that it's honoring, like, all of your hours your availability, puts the appointment in so that the customer can just do it seamlessly. And it saves a lot of time on both sides. But when when you're looking at this, what are most people where's their trip up? Because I'm guessing that the reason why most people go from like the website to the phone is because they've had an issue that like it wasn't as easy as they wanted it to be. What's that, like, first layer that most people are attempting to have happen, that you're seeing in these conversations? Maybe with your data, that that are the barriers to creating a service appointment that requires the phone call.

Ben Ayed: 19:22

So I mean, there were a couple of ways to answer so number one, we're really not necessarily like service only. We're really like, you know, robots. If you can think of it just you know, I have a business and I have people but my people are, you know, can only work eight hours and you know, I need 24 hour service. Okay, well, I put the person in the robot, right? So it's like robots for retail. It can do you know, silly stuff. And, you know, yes, we answer the phone. We actually do other things for them. But but that's the philosophy is like, you know, we it's not about replacing people, but it's like the idea that people and robots complement each other, and can make the customer experience bulletproof. You know, and impeccable. You know, like, as a as a person, you know, and, you know, when I'm dealing with a customer, right, I only have limited data, I can only deal with one person customers that tie, literally, if I'm at a store, I'm on the phone with, you know, whatever, if I'm even doing work in a house, like I can only do one job at a time, I only have one time and I'm linear, right? And therefore, you know, when you have a business that sometimes they have peak time, we have 10 customers come to them, you know, at the same time, right? And you know, there's only one salesperson, all you need to do, right. So you're gonna have that person that's going to take care of one customers really well. And then you need these robots that if you happen to have more than one customer come in, then the, Rob's gonna go and take care of all the other customers. And that way you have, you always have some of the time, you know, you're taking care of hundreds of the customers. Now the Robots, you tell me, well, they're not as good as human. But they're good at other things, which is scalability. Okay, so now you have the customer experience with the Robots, you have the scalability, and with that you cover 100%, like you have a service level agreement, Mr. Customer, even if you bring in hundred customers to us, they come on the bus and come to my shop, I'll be able to serve you all, at any time. 24/7. You know, and if you want the personal attention, yes, we do have people they're gonna give you personal attention to those that need personal attention, that have complex problems, right? The ones that that really need problem solving. So you know, that and what we're finding the MCS is explosive, whatever you take,

Kyle Mountsier: 21:39

I love where you said, you have a service level agreement with your, with your customers, for those that maybe aren't in technology, or don't, you know, haven't seen what is known as an SLA, right? Always in an SLA there, especially at enterprise agreements, there's this little section that's called uptime, right? And the greater your SLA, typically, your uptime goes from anywhere from like, nine point 1% to 99.9%. uptime, right? Depending on the degree of your enterprise SLA, meaning that's how it's going to serve, right, your website will always work or the technology will always work. That's, that's software, right. In a dealership, like our uptime is, is typically like 60%, right? Because that's how much of a day is it? And so you get

Ben Ayed: 22:28

to like 99.99% uptime, that always open businesses, Sales Service parts, you know, what if we,

Kyle Mountsier: 22:36

what if we just started like assigning like, we're like, we have a new service SLA for all of our customers, and we just, like slid that over at time of delivery. It's like, we're gonna give you 99.9%

Ben Ayed: 22:47

I mean, we have time, we have three things, right? Number one, you know, we're always going to be there for you, you call us anytime, there's always gonna be there for you, your car breaks or you want to buy something, you want to get them whatever, right. Number two, if you know, nobody is somebody cannot help you now, within one hour, somebody will help you. Okay, so regardless, if you leave a message, you know, because yeah, I mean, maybe I can't help you, because I'm limited, but I'll guarantee to you that your problem will be solved, like somebody's gonna come to you, and you'll help you then one hour. And number three, we're never gonna queue. You're never ever is always going to come. Whether it quickly, somebody to take care of you. There's nothing like not even a minute, you know, waiting, it's, you know, our lives are worth a lot more than then having to wait in front of a business to buy something, right. So, and it all translates. I mean, this comes from Amazon, this is something they drill into you, right? They want, we all get one hour of training. Like they hire 80,000 people a year, whatever. They don't get one hour training the drill to you. They want. We have you know, when I was there, we had maybe 100 million customers in the USA. We get maybe over a million calls a day, guess how many calls we miss? Zero. Wow. So you imagine like I go to work at x time, and I hear that does drop rate and the juxtaposition themselves? This is a zip.

Michael Cirillo: 24:20

Wow. Well, Ben, it is been an absolute pleasure. First, I want to congratulate you on winning the pitch tank at nada. That's phenomenal. Congratulations on the success you're having, and basically infiltrating every touchpoint of my life that I didn't know you were involved in. But I certainly want to I want to thank you for sharing some time with us today here on the auto collapse podcast.

Ben Ayed: 24:42

It's been a pure pleasure and thank you so much. Everybody gets 30 seconds of fame right in the life and thank you for offering me that.

Paul Daly: 24:53

Okay, how legit is it when the person you're interviewing is like I invented two factor authorization

Michael Cirillo: 24:59

The visual that came to my mind was my wife and I laying in bed and like him sitting up against the headboard between us. And every time I like weird, like I opened my cell phone and just like I invented that my wife goes to like, turn out the light. Oh, I invented that. Just like the clapper. And he's like, oh, yeah, I patented that. Because what did he say? He said he had like, over 100 patents or something? I hear that right?

Unknown: 25:23

Yeah, no 50 over 50 patents and like a millions of people millions upon millions of people utilizing some level of his technology. And what I love about that, is that, that you constantly see these these solopreneurs or entrepreneurs, just, there's an insatiable appetite for creating solutions to problems that they see in verticals. And so having never been in the auto industry enters Xtime and goes, I see a problem, I need to create this solution, and then brings that back and now enables dealers to better serve customers and create an incredible lifetime value because the ability to schedule a service appointment, it's so important. And it's it's something that's hard, because of like the available staff that we can put into those positions. So But how about like, how

Paul Daly: 26:12

about the fact that circle, when you think of the importance of bringing outside automotive perspective into automotive when he's like, I stepped in from Amazon, he's like, you know, what, we took a million calls a day, 1 million, you know, how many we dropped 00. So all of a sudden, like, it's, it's, you know, I have a friend who was a special forces Marine, and he would always say, it's not what you teach, it's what you tolerate. And that just reminded me of that moment, like it just was the norm is the norm for automotive to tolerate that level of dropped calls or unanswered calls when there are lots of scenarios and examples of the fact that like, hey, zero is the tolerance level, right? We should have a solution. So that zero get trapped. So I was really impressed and encouraged by that fact that that outside automotive thinking is making its way inside automotive.

Kyle Mountsier: 27:02

Well, there wouldn't be half. Oh, no, you're gonna you're gonna keep going, you're gonna be gone.

Paul Daly: 27:06

I bet you've done enough to do before,

Unknown: 27:12

right. So Patton, Michael Cirillo and Paul J. Daly, we hope you've had a ton of fun today hanging out with us hanging out with Ben Ayed on here on auto collabs we'll see it. Sign up for our free and fun to read daily email for a free shot of relevant news and automotive, retail media and pop culture. You can get it now at That's If you love this podcast, please leave us a review and share it with a friend. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you next time.

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