Your Own Personal Assistant? It All Adds Up!

If you’re a highly paid CEO of a large multinational, then you probably already have a personal assistant taking care of your life, so you won’t need to read any further. If you’re not—and let’s face it you almost certainly aren’t—then imagine what life would be like if you did have such a personal assistant, your very own Jarvis.

For those who haven’ seen the Iron Man movies—also highly unlikely—Jarvis is Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence personal assistant. Jarvis takes over Tony’s life; there is really nothing Iron Man can do if Jarvis is down. Soon though we might all get the feeling of having a Jarvis of our own—and that’s because of companies wanting to achieve higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores.

Enterprises today are realizing that unless they are able to offer a singular, consistent experience to customers in this digital world regardless of modality of engagement—branch, voice, video, chat, SM or whatever—achieving a higher CSAT will always be a struggle. Today, most of these modalities (let alone all the new virtual reality gadgets and future ones) are still owned by different groups within the business, which have different strategies and technologies—and therefore deliver different experiences for the same person.

The fundamental problem is that all data—every person’s individual data—is siloed, and does not collate to help to drive a consistent profile of customers irrespective of how they choose to transact. That problem is being amplified by the minute as technology reaches an inflection point. There are already more connected devices than there are people on earth; by 2020 this will have tripled. And every single device coming online is generating additional data: some of it basic such as temperature or humidity levels, or more complex like stress levels of the human body. We are drowning in data lakes that require crunching, segmenting, and depositing in multiple lakes where we can apply logic. Hence the role of Business Intelligence: BI.

As these data lakes grow, business intelligence gives us the tools we need to design a unique data sculpture, for each and every one of us and our customers. Your data sculpture is made of bits and bytes that define who you are, your preferences, buying habits and patterns and every other aspect of you (or your customer), defined and redefined in real time—a dynamic DNA. From that data sculpture, companies will be able to understand everything about you—right down to when you are most likely to leave the lights on. And hence Data Analytics.

As we build data lakes that place you in your unique data structure, and apply analytics that predict what you will be doing next, we can now begin to build algorithms that predict patterns and outcomes, and take autonomous decisions on your behalf, just like Jarvis. With these algorithms, Jarvis, your new virtual assistant, will know when you are hungry, purchase the outfit you will wear for your upcoming gala dinner (you don’t need to approve that), and tell you to skip coffee at the end of the evening because the last time you drank coffee late, you had a sleepless night.

Your virtual assistant is only one of many outcomes of algorithms that we will soon be able to build to predict patterns and trends, and use in machine learning and autonomous decisions for devices from cars to robots and beyond.

How does this apply to CSAT scores? Artificial intelligence is starting to seed in pockets of our work and life environments. Before you get to your next promotion, you are likely to have a Jarvis of your own, whether you like it or not. Now look at it from your bank, hospital, school or retailer’s perspective: unless they have a Jarvis for you, their CSAT is not going upward anytime soon.

It took more than a century for scientists to confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity—but then, he was a genius. I’m certainly not claiming that status, but here is my theory: the inevitable outcome of combining Artificial Intelligence with Business Intelligence is an exponential record in your CSAT. Hence BI + AI = CX2™.

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What’s Next? Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Customer Experience

Last month Google hosted its annual Google I/O conference and their new CEO Sundar Pichai delighted an audience of tech enthusiasts when he said, “We have this vision of a shift from mobile-first to an AI-first world over many years.” At Avaya, we couldn’t agree more.

Don’t get me wrong: mobile-first has been and will continue to be a requirement for everything we do. Smart mobile phones are where business and work get done today. We are not dismissing or abandoning the value of developing with mobile-first as a top business priority. But from an innovation, what’s-next perspective, we agree with Google: we need to be innovating for a world that is quickly embracing AI-first.

Artificial Intelligence is becoming the new consumer expectation and with it comes virtual reality, chat bots and augmented reality. Technology that was initially considered for entertainment, science and gaming, has crossed over into our everyday reality. We have the smart phone user to thank for that. Look at the Pokémon GO cultural phenomenon. Nintendo with Pokémon modernized the popular children’s game that originally used paper playing cards into an AI-based augmented reality game played on the smart phone. Just launched in the United States in July, it already has daily usage numbers surpassing Twitter’s. In my adopted hometown of San Francisco this week, a Pokémon GO crawl is inspiring more than 3,600 people of all ages to come together to search for Pokémon. Talk about an overnight sensation that is driving cultural and social change.

The big question for us: How do we harness all that consumer enthusiasm for AI into business communications?

Like Pokémon Go that takes advantage of the most common communications tool today—the smart phone—we have to do the same; user experience is key. Avaya’s Emerging Products & Technology group in conjunction with their Customer Experience Centre in Galway, Ireland—the company’s global R&D facility that is accelerating future technologies in next-generation customer experience applications—is innovating for AI in business communications.

The team is currently working on an advanced chat bot that delivers an AI experience in the contact center by enabling machine learning to model customer language and dialog interactions. The result is intelligent conversations with customers and the ability for the chat bot to answer their queries or resolve customer service issues on any channel they choose. It takes SMS and web chat conversations, as well as integrates with social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Kik or WeChat and can be adapted for interaction in any language. The chat bot provides automation and analysis of customer interactions delivering efficient self service and agent-based customer care in real time.

With this technology, routine tasks for live agents are handled by the chat bot, making the business much more efficient. Over time, as the machine learning continues to collect data and intel from the system, the chat bot in turn “learns” more about the business and can become more versatile. If the chat bot is ever challenged, a live agent can quickly and easily take over. The advanced technology capabilities that AI enables allow us to augment existing solutions such as Avaya Oceana™, and ultimately create a more highly innovative customer experience.

While we always innovate for the future with our finger on the pulse of today’s evolving customer experiences, our customers who have been given a preview of what we’re doing with AI have validated that we are on track:

  • “This is a great way to bring self-service efficiencies to several of my customer touch points.”
  • “Automation/AI backed by context routing to agents…when needed, will help drive more efficiencies in our business.”
  • “Attaching automation bots to messaging platforms is important to us. It is where our customers are reaching out today and in the future.”
  • “The cloud makes sense as the way to deliver this social/messaging bot/AI technology.”

Pedro Domingos, a machine learning specialist and the author of “The Master Algorithm,” recently told the New York Times, “Whoever wins this race will dominate the next stage of the information age.” While we will look to technology giants such as Google to be a strong contender for winning the great AI race, we are confident that in our industry—business communications—we are well-positioned to not only lead the adoption of AI but win big.


How to Transform the Customer Experience with Chatbots

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—not least in how they are playing an ever bigger role in customer service.

While there has been a lot of speculation about how chatbots are going to replace human agents in contact centers, we are still a long way from that scenario. Rather, chatbots are freeing up humans and, somewhat counterintuitively, helping to deliver a more personalized experience. Automation in customer experience is all about making things faster, easier and more streamlined for customers so 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, which encompass traditional and digital channels.

As organizations embark on digital transformation initiatives an essential part of the journey is delivering a multichannel experience—allowing for consistent customer experiences from multiple touch points, and enabling customers to make contact via the mediums of their choice. Customers today expect to receive an always-on personal digital experience. Meeting that expectation is no longer optional.

Better Collaboration

The problem that customer experience professionals face is that there are just so many experiences—more than we poor humans can keep up with. Chatbots are increasingly being used to take away menial tasks from agents, allowing agents 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. This will not only increase CSAT scores and boost customer loyalty, it can help improve motivation levels for the agents themselves, which will help reduce churn and eliminate the need to keep training new staff.

This will also allow organizations to essentially retain and boost service levels with fewer agents and reduced costs on the overall contact center infrastructure. Today, a contact center’s costs are predominantly for agents and real estate. Technology and process design and operations come in a late second from a cost point of view. With a multichannel contact center, the biggest challenge 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 that put together tools and technologies to achieve that still lag behind.

And at heart, businesses are still providing customer service the same way: you initiate communication with 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.

Brave New Digital World

The application of artificial intelligence to deliver on 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 are only the beginning of this brave new digital world. Our R&D and customer experience folks are perfecting a digital persona that is intelligent enough to learn from experiences, predict your preferences and resolve your problems – almost before you know you have them.

Ultimately though, whatever happens with the technology, one element is always going to remain human: the customer. We are all unique individuals, even if we tend to have similar issues and problems. The best service—the kind that boosts CSAT scores, inspires word of mouth reporting, and ensures loyal, happy customers—will therefore likely require a unique, human response. Chatbots and automation will play a key role in delivering that service by freeing up agents’ valuable time to provide it.