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Contact centers are in the midst of a massive transition with artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technologies. And competition continues to heat up as personalization takes center stage. Businesses need a solid strategy to harness AI and the cloud to make customer experiences personal, efficient and satisfying.
I discussed these topics with Antony Passemard, Conversational AI and Contact Center AI lead for Google Cloud, and Steve Leaden, president of Leaden Associates, an independent consultancy for contact centers. Here’s a summary of our Fireside Chat.
What are some of the AI developments you’re seeing with clients?
Steve Leaden: People have become comfortable interacting with chatbots. And now, with the rise of voicebots, we’re seeing the beginnings of dramatic changes in what’s needed, including staff augmentation and related costs — and how to manage them. For example, we’re helping customers adapt voicebot technology from mobile devices and use those assistants for day-to-day tasks in the contact center. With the power of Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and conversational AI, mainstream adoption is coming soon.
Can you explain conversational AI?
Antony Passemard: It’s all about voice technology that engages in natural language conversations, and 80% of contacts are through voice. Voice is everywhere: in the home, on phones with instant voice transcription and video transcriptions on YouTube. The best thing is that all that work we did to understand voice on IVRs is paying off in conversational AI. It’s an opportunity to balance operational costs with customer satisfaction. In the past, businesses had to choose one or the other — and if you went with fewer staff, it meant lower satisfaction scores. Not any more, as we use all of that history in the IVR from millions of users to power AI.
How is this ability to leverage existing data impacting AI implementations?
Passemard: Implementations are definitely faster, with a lot less tuning than previous models based on all of the heavy lifting we’ve done on the backend. Now we have our cloud-to-text API. When it’s integrated with the contact center, as part of the IVR or using conversational AI and Dialogflow – or part of Agent Assist – it’s out of the box. It’s very easy to enable Google Cloud AI solutions in the contact center through our partners like Genesys.
What can Agent Assist help with?
Passamard: As the live agent and customer conversations progress, it provides a transcription in real time. From there, we use the Google Cloud NLU engine to detect intent and proactively propose information to the agent so there’s less time spent searching. Agents are also guided and coached on how to answer questions. This reduces average handle time and call disposition because all those intents are captured. It also gives managers a full picture of contact center customer interactions.
Can you share any use cases you’re seeing with clients?
Leaden: Some of them are very simple, such as augmenting IVRs and getting customers to engage more with self-service. One client wanted to commit 30% of their environment for chat and voicebots to front end all transactions, using webchat to drive to the app. Voicebots are handling basic transactions without having to go to a live rep. These use cases address the big question of how to manage staffing levels during this era of customer experience that pushes you to improve KPIs and SLAs.
There are lots of use cases by industry. How does Google Cloud address all the unique terminology?
Passemard: When you build a standard model, you must train those models. For example, in healthcare, cobra is not a snake; COBRA is a type of insurance. Google Cloud does this with speech adaptation, which takes terms you provide the system and then biases the speech recognition model by weighting terms differently.
Genesys offers a Build a Bot workshop for businesses to get started with AI. What else do you recommend to your clients?
Leaden: First, look at how and where you want to transform your contact center, then consider the technology. It might be chat and voicebots, separate from IVR. We look at justifying costs through AI components, including optimization and front-ending conversations with voicebots. This management of staff helps manage licensing costs as well. It’s a shift to an omnichannel model and, with these improvements, we’ve seen huge cost savings.
In addition to cost savings, what are some of benefits of voicebots over an IVR?
Passemard: Giving customers a more personalized and engaging experience. You can’t do that with the “rigid tree” of the IVR. Whereas, conversational AI lets customers speak in a natural way with a natural voice — we offer nearly 200 voices to choose from. And bots keep the context, so if there is an escalation, you can pass it on to an agent. Remember, the number one customer frustration is having to repeat information.
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