Time to evolve a Siri-like CHATBOT

2016 is shaping up to be the year of the Chatbot. From Jarvis, Mark Zuckerberg’s Iron Man-inspired assistant, to Microsoft’s rather unfortunate Tay experience, chatbots have been making the news this year—although as of yet, nobody seems to have figured out a way of getting them to write it. So what are these exciting new digital automated friends doing to help where they are most needed, in the customer experience.

Automation in customer experience is all about making things faster, easier and more streamlined for customers—so automation can be said to deliver a more personalized experience, as we don’t have to repeat ourselves multiple times, and explain our problems to different agents every time we contact an organization.

Pretty much any organization today has some sort of customer experience process in place, and that process has evolved along with technology. From the traditional call center, with rows of agents handling multiple calls, we have moved on to the contact center, and multichannel communications, to the omnichannel experience. Customer experience professionals love the omnichannel. It allows them to shift their customer experience from a fragmented model (when you call the contact center 10 times, you get 10 different contact center agents, and you have to authenticate yourself and your problem 10 times too), to a seamless, or “smart” omnichannel experience (you make contact one time from any communication medium and enjoy a continuous conversation).

With a multichannel Contact Center, the goal in delivering an awesome customer experience is gluing the pieces together: linking the various knowledge and functional teams to customer service, delivering new capabilities and features that, eventually, enable us as customers to call one time, and see our problems solved. This first-touch resolution wasn’t possible before and vendors continue to bring new tools and technologies to achieve that. Customers however want more as they evolve as digital citizens.

At heart, many brands are still providing customer service the same way: you initiate communication with a person in the contact center, and they respond, albeit now that can be done via phone, e-mail, text or social media. And, let’s face it, people still don’t like contacting customer service. We are still really reluctant to make that initial contact—we don’t get the immersive experience we seek as consumers.

The promise of artificial intelligence to deliver the combined objectives of first-touch resolution and immersive experiences is almost complete. Avaya is leading this transformation with an upcoming evolution in its technology, where chatbots, amongst other modular analytics tools, are only the beginning of a brave new digital world. Our R&D and customer experience folks are perfecting that digital persona “who” is intelligent enough to learn from experiences, predict your preferences, and resolve your problems—almost before you know you have them.

So why stop there, I ask? I don’t want to talk to a robot, I want to see them, joke with them and maybe play a game together. The technology to allow that to happen is here, isn’t it? We have headsets, digital glasses—surely, whatever is coming can catch up with my dreams. Maybe. In the meantime, we have to live with Siri.

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Has WhatsApp Video Missed a Trick?

In today’s mobile-led world, there is no doubt that messaging apps are becoming the preferred means to communicate with friends, family, and even work colleagues. So the announcement that WhatsApp Video is here has been met with mass excitement.

But while the ability to have WhatsApp video conversations with family and friends is a huge benefit—there really is nothing like seeing your loved ones live—it’s not so clear what effect this is going to have on the business community. Is Facebook presenting an offer that businesses can’t refuse? The short answer is no.

WhatsApp users are surpassing the 1 billion mark, that’s almost 15% of the world’s population that businesses could target. Today, many businesses are integrating social media platforms into their customer experience and this trend will soon be the norm. Businesses are striving to deliver seamless, contextual and pleasurable experiences for their customers—based on their favorite apps.

Key to driving this trend is how open these social apps are and how easy it is for businesses and the developer community to integrate them. That means not only with other social platforms but also with business applications that enterprises use such as the contact center, CRM system, and many others.

While WhatsApp is still closed, the most highly-used social apps in Asia are taking a different approach. WeChat in China and LINE in Japan—which are used by another 15% of the global population—have taken the “open innovation” path, and delivered a platform upon which businesses and developers can innovate new solutions and applications, and integrate with other software vendors.

We at Avaya have long decided to take the “open innovation” approach, where we’ve not only opened up our tool box for our partners and customers to innovate on, but we also partnered with growing social media apps, including LINE and WeChat, to find new ways for businesses to integrate within these channels.

So a large BPO in Japan can offer a fully integrated customer experience solution that gives a true edge in customer engagement. Taking this a bit further, when social media apps are open, and present a platform for innovation, transforming experiences to include virtual assistance, automated chatbots, and artificial intelligence becomes easy and fast and the competitive landscape becomes more exciting, dynamic and relevant.

Whatsapp had announced their intention to integrate into enterprise in August of this year, but as yet has not progressed very far. On the other hand, sister app Facebook Messenger has taken a leap ahead by not only integrating into the enterprise, but providing Chatbot integration for customer services as well.

The question is when will Mark Zuckerberg actually merge the two applications together, bring the best of all worlds under one App, and provide a phenomenal customer Omni-Channel experience linked into AI tools such as Speechbots (like Amelia), chatbots, and business intelligence tools at the same time?

Mr Zuckerburg we are waiting!

Artificial Intelligence in 2017: the Next Step for Enterprises?

Next week is IP Expo, one of the UK’s main business technology events. One of the key themes of the show is Artificial Intelligence, something that shouldn’t really be a surprise considering the technology is fast becoming a reality in the enterprise, with chatbots, predictive intelligence and robot PAs. In fact, according to a new research commissioned by the organisers of IP Expo, 37% of respondents believe that AI will be a main technology focus for businesses in 2017.

At Avaya we’re also taking a step into the AI arena and are working on a SaaS self-learning chatbot that businesses can use with all types of social media platforms to improve the customer service they offer. Part of our Avaya Oceana™ solution, it will be capable of holding intelligent conversations with customers, answering their queries, and resolving customer service issues. It works by leveraging self-learning artificial intelligence technologies to model customer language and dialogue interactions. As such it’s able to predict customer preferences and resolve problems—almost before the customer knows they have one.

One stat that really caught my eye in the IP Expo survey was the rise in concern around AI—32% of respondents claimed they are worried about AI replacing human jobs overall, with 19% admitting that they are more concerned about their own jobs being overtaken by a robot than they were a year ago.

Personally, I think these fears are largely unfounded. Yes, the AI revolution may potentially result in the loss of some jobs. However, the increasing use of AI will give way to new jobs, and most certainly new industries. What is more, there is one aspect in which AI will undeniably prove useful—freeing up our precious time.

Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at the Avaya chatbot as an example. It provides automation and analysis of customer interactions, delivering efficient self-service. This functionality isn’t making agents redundant—quite the opposite: it’s making them more valuable. Chatbots are increasingly being used to take away the menial tasks from agents, allowing them to focus on the human element that is so crucial to driving customer satisfaction and enabling them to provide better and warmer collaboration with their customers.

Ultimately though, there is one key element that will never change regardless of technological advancements: the customer. I believe AI will support this continued focus on the customer because it will enable agents to spend more time assisting customers in the best possible way—the personal way.

If you’d like to find out more about the impact of AI on businesses, or hear more about our new chatbot, please visit our stand at IP Expo on the 5th and 6th of October at London ExCEL.