Steve ForcumMarch 13, 2019

Digital Mixology – Chapter I - Smarter Solutions with Artificial Intelligence

In my last blog post, we discussed the growing importance of voice in modernizing a customer engagement platform. In this first installment of our digital mixology series let’s learn about the first ingredient in our recipe for transforming customer service—artificial intelligence.

Unrealistic Expectations

Even more so than Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence is an overused, miss-understood technology term. Never before has an emerging technology engendered so much fear, anticipation, and inflated expectations.

Many of the brightest minds on the planet, including none other than the late Professor Stephen Hawking, have expressed their reservations and fear about the rise of Artificial Intelligence. During an interview with the BBC, Professor Hawking cautioned that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” (Source: Click Here) The fear of AI grew in 2017 when it was reported by the Telegraph that “Facebook shuts down robots after they invent their own language”. (source: Click Here) Elon Musk, who once compared AI to “summoning the devil” and “an immoral dictator from which we could never escape”, now operates a startup which suggests itself to be months away from merging the human brain with AI. (Source: Click Here). In 2018 Google stoked fear in the labor force as CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled a new product named Duplex, complete with a full demonstration of the a virtual assistant at I/O, the annual developer’s conference. During the demo Duplex calls a local hair salon, converses with an unsuspecting receptionist in perfect English, complete with “uhms” and “ahs”, to schedule a haircut appointment.

As is the case with most emerging technologies, outsized expectations and ethics questions plague AI.

As it turns out, Facebook’s robots aren’t gaining self-awareness. Based on this sample transcript, I’d hold off on rushing to gain fluency in Facebook’s new robotic language.

   Bob: “I can can I I everything else.”

   Alice: “Balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to”

(source: Click Here)

Meanwhile, Google wrestles with both controversy (source: Click Here) and ethics (source: Click Here) circling Duplex. It seems that our evil robot overlords will remain in the realm of science fiction and movie screens for the near future.

The Super Heroes of the Call Center

While most companies claim to “put the customer first” the reality is the customer experience is radically different before you make a purchase and afterwards. Before a purchase companies bend over backwards to understand their target customer through research and advertising however once a purchase is made, well it’s as if the company has forgotten who you are. When something requires a call to the contact center for assistance, or to make another purchase, callers are greeted by inefficient automation that seems engineered to frustrate not facilitate speaking with someone. Customers seemingly wait forever for someone to answer the phone and when they do it seems like the agent can’t rush to get off the phone fast enough.

While a fully staffed robot call center remains firmly in the future, Artificial Intelligence can make your post-sale experience mirror your pre-sale experience—personalized, efficient, and profitable. In our digital mixology recipes, Artificial Intelligence adds a hint of lower wait times, the subtle taste of improved agent efficiency, and a healthy pinch of improved profitability.

Pair Better

In the past advertising was all about plastering your logo and product on billboards, television advertisements, and trade show banners. You never knew who was looking at your signage and advertising. Internet advertising however, especially on social media platforms, taps into incredible amounts of data to enable your business to reach the right customers, at the right time with content and advertising that motivates a purchase decision.

Today’s contact center is about as effective as a billboard. Calls are placed into queue in the order in which they were received, not based on who the caller is or why they’re calling. Callers simply wait their turn until they speak with an agent who may or may not really understand what the caller is asking them for. For example: a customer visits their cellular provider’s website and was looking at the newly released iPhone. After looking at their account page and upgrade eligibility, they place a call to the contact center. The caller before them in line had a similar journey but is interested in the latest Samsung Galaxy phone.

If the next agent available for a call uses an iPhone, AirPods, an iPad, and a MacBook, wouldn’t it make sense to connect the second caller with this Apple loving agent? Today’s first in, first out method of call distribution would ignore this data, instead mis-matching the caller looking for a Samsung Galaxy phone with the Apple-loving agent.

With Avaya and A.I.Connect partner Afiniti in your Digital Transformation strategy, we pair better. A blend of public and private data helps profile the caller, their reason for calling, and all available agents. Callers are paired with exactly the right agent for their call, regardless of their place in queue. This use of Artificial Intelligence has been proven to drive increases in customer satisfaction and revenue, so much so that instead of purchasing Afiniti software you simply pay a percentage of the increased revenue.

Once a perfect pairing has been made there is another opportunity for Artificial Intelligence to further improve efficiency and profitability. Call Center agents truly are unsung heroes. Every day they wrestle with extraordinary burdens. After a long period in queue, sometimes a caller’s patience has run thin. Agents need to listen to an often frustrated customer while maintaining their helpful demeanor. The agent must identify the caller’s problem, spend time finding a solution among troubleshooting guides, consulting with experts, and searching through knowledge bases.

Unless your HR department can find agents who were born with a sixth sense, your business needs to help them develop one. Smarter solutions powered by AI can dramatically improve customer satisfaction and deliver the right solution with less time spent on a phone call. As it turns out, AI grants super-powers to your agents, all without a radioactive spider bite.

When callers enter the queue they are notified that their call MAY be monitored for quality purposes. With AI, EVERY call is monitored for quality. Avaya Conversational Intelligence converts the discussion from speech to text in real time, analyzes what was said and suggests potential solutions to the agent, eliminating the time wasted searching manually! These super powered agents can handle up to 100 additional phone calls per month!

Sometimes words alone don’t tell the full story and misunderstandings can quickly escalate. This is where Avaya A.I.Connect partner Cogito saves the day. Cogito also listens to every call, focusing not on what was said but HOW it was said. With a unique blend of natural language processing and artificial intelligence Cogito can sense the emotion of a call, coach the agent in real time to slow down their responses, adjust their tone, and even notify contact center supervisors when calls need immediate intervention.

This super-hero team up of Avaya Conversational Intelligence, Afiniti, and Cogito can dramatically lower customer wait times, increase customer satisfaction, and drive new profitability from the contact center. These Artificial Intelligence solutions also helps to prevent agent burnout and improve employee satisfaction.

The next installment of our digital mixology course will examine the ingredients for making the enterprise more responsive leveraging the Internet of Things. To learn more about Avaya Artificial Intelligence solutions visit our website, visit the Avaya pavilion at Enterprise Connect, or contact your local Avaya business partner.

Digital Mixology – Chapter I - Smarter Solutions with Artificial Intelligence

Steve Forcum

Steve Forcum, an Avaya sales engineer, can explain complex technology in simple terms. Forcum is a trusted advisor to many of the largest businesses in New England and beyond. He has developed a platform of engagement, interacting with customers, partners, and other followers on all forms of social media.

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