Tag Archives: Technology Articles

Increase Personalization in Call Centers by Accessing Relevant Data

By Daniel Fallmann

Today, many call centers have their general scripts and rules they follow when a customer calls. However, consumers have increased their expectations regarding their personal customer experience. With increased competition in every industry, organizations cannot afford to lose valuable business because of poor customer experience efforts.

With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, companies can begin to access relevant data to personalize a customer’s call center experience and make the journey more relevant. Personalization to scripts and approaches from call centers allow customers to feel understood by the brand, building a solid level of trust and loyalty.

To offer unique and personalized experiences, support teams will primarily need access to relevant data surrounding their customer and their journey with the brand. Without doing so, you’ll just be another call center not optimizing the power of connected data.

Gain Entryway into Relevant Customer Data

Access to relevant and personalized data requires the connection of structured and unstructured data sources. Before calling, a customer may have interacted with your product or company hundreds of times. Artificial intelligence allows companies to connect data from all these interactions in a 360-degree holistic view.

From activity on your website (form downloads, support requests) to emails, call transcripts, and purchase information, data can be captured, analyzed, and utilized in the form of customer journey maps. Seeing the full story of a customer gives workers in the call center all the information they need to help a customer quickly and in a personalized manner.

In a recent Gartner survey, 83 percent of respondents reported that their organization struggles to use customer journey maps to identify and prioritize CX (customer experience) efforts. Being in the other 17 percent can play a pivotal role in transforming how people view and talk about your brand—ultimately, coming back to purchase more and increase business.

The connection of scattered data also allows customer support teams within call centers to access information about related problems and other customers with similar buying habits. Doing so helps call centers see what has worked well in the past and can assist them in shaping their approach for future like-minded consumers.

However, not all data is for everybody’s eyes and data privacy needs to be enforced by giving the proper access rights to each department. AI-solutions, like such, give management the ability to restrict sensitive data to support teams, ensuring compliance and privacy standards are always upheld.

How Does This Look in Real Life and Real-Time?

If a customer calls with a problem, innovative AI-based solutions can first identify who the number belongs from, using data that the company has previously collected. Prior to picking up the phone, the support agents’ screen will show them all the relevant information regarding the customer in an easily digestible format. Therefore, they can already begin personalizing their introduction to the call.

When a customer starts explaining why they’re calling in, the agent will already have a full view of different touchpoints that have occurred. Examples of different touchpoints include web activity, form downloads, conversations with chatbots, previous calls, email communications, and purchase orders.

In addition, the call agent will also be able to search for any piece of intelligence they may need to help the customer in the quickest, most efficient, and personalized manner. If this specific customer calls about a broken appliance, searching for that appliance will extract all the relevant data to steer the representative in the right direction.

Call centers can even take it a step further and search for a particular issue with that appliance and then be fed with information from corporate documents or similar customer interactions in a matter of seconds, eliminating long wait times or needing to put customers on hold.

Conclusion

In the digital times we are living in, innovative companies are well underway transforming their approaches to customer service and customer experience. As an example, chatbots are constantly learning from corporate data to better understand and assist with customer needs directly on the homepage of consumer-facing websites. In addition, management teams are using data in real-time to enhance their current CX strategies and business roadmaps.

There is no reason why people tasked with handling customers on the frontlines in call center roles shouldn’t be equipped with this type of technology. After all, the capacity to personalize and organize data makes life easier for your workforce and gives your customers a unique experience to highlight their individual importance.

Daniel Fallmann founded Mindbreeze in 2005 at the age of 23, after he finished his studies in computer science. He has many years of experience in the computer and information technology sector. As Mindbreeze’s CEO he is an example of high quality and innovation standards. From the company’s very beginning, Fallmann, together with his team, laid the foundation for the highly scalable and intelligent Mindbreeze InSpire appliance.

Talent, Tech, and TAS

How Telephone Answering Services Use Automation to Thrive

SingleComm: cloud-native omnichannel TAS solutions


By SingleComm

In today’s workplace, hiring exceptional talent has become an impossible task for telephone answering service (TAS) companies. With the great resignation showing no signshttps://singlecomm.com/ of easing, companies realize the challenge of building an exceptional team.

Even after hiring, companies can lose agents to burnout caused by high call volume, not to mention high stress. So how do you build an efficient, reliable TAS business without onboarding additional, difficult-to-find talent? By turning your attention to automation tools that empower your team to deliver results.

The Costly Conundrum That Challenges TAS Companies

With unprecedented labor shortages, TAS companies realize hiring is taking longer than expected. This shortfall in human resources leads to:

  • Slower growth
  • Overworked agents
  • Unsatisfied customers

Of course, hiring talent is just the beginning. Companies are also tasked with retaining top employees. According to a study by Microsoft, more than 40 percent of the global workforce is considering leaving their jobs. Employees want to feel valued without feeling overworked.

This presents a challenge when call agents feel worn down with reduced staffing, high call volumes, multiple handoffs, confusing scripts, and time-consuming tasks. It’s a costly conundrum.

But the solution doesn’t have to be hiring and the months-long wait to bring on team members, which may eventually lead to more turnover, more risk of burnout, and more lost revenue. The modern, recession-proof solution is in empowering talent through tech.

The Focus on Automation

As stated in the Harvard Business Review, better retention comes from improving employee satisfaction and reducing environmental pressures. Advanced automation accomplishes this by elevating your team’s performance, making them feel valuable and confident while also relieving environmental pressures.

Instead of looking for outside help, agents will feel they have the technology to exceed customer expectations. Your team will be able to do more for less without the need to invest in IT resources, licenses, and other technology.

With cloud-based automation tools, agents no longer have a need for softphones, VPNs, and remote desktop servers. Some of this cloud architecture also includes built-in resilience and PCI, SOC2, and HIPAA compliance.

Improved retention comes from finding ways to support and empower your agents with seamless tools. It’s an opportunity to do more with optimized efficiency.

Start Doing More with Less

Implementing advanced cloud-based tools for your business elevates your team’s performance and efficiency while other companies wait to hire. There are several key time-saving automation tools that reinvigorate call agents and improve workplace efficiency. These include:

  • Personalized Scripts:Empower agents with customized messages that help them easily and confidently navigate scripts while decreasing agent training and ramp-up time
  • Automatic Dispatching: Eliminate agent error with automatic dispatching that frees them up to do more of what they do best: support and represent your clients
  • Omnichannel Strategy:Use a TAS solution that offers a fully integrated suite of digital channels, including web chat, two-way SMS, two-way email, social, and messaging channels
  • Business Intelligence: Employ a business intelligence tool that offers custom reporting without the need for programmers

Leveraging these cloud-based automation tools is possible, which provides your team with the automation tools and confidence to deliver exceptional results. This offers your organization the opportunity to pursue actionable customer insight that allows your team to work smarter, more coherently, without waiting for another hire to arrive.

SingleComm: TAS solutions

With a combined sixty years of industry experience, SingleComm delivers a TAS platform with fully integrated voice, omnichannel, scripting, and dispatch. Enjoy peace of mind with built-in resilience and redundancy with their cloud-native platform. Access a fully integrated suite of channels, including messaging, web chat, two-way SMS, two-way email, and social.

Get customized messaging, automated tools, and PCI, SOC2, and HIPAA compliance, all without the need for IT resources or licenses. Run your business more efficiently and easily than ever before with this innovative TAS solution from SingleComm.

Embrace SaaS Flexibility

Tap Internet Provided Services to Maximize Outcomes

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

SaaS (Software as a Service) is a subscription service that provides software solutions from a centrally located host. It also goes by other names, with some vendors making distinctions between various offerings. For our purposes, however, we’ll look at the concept generically.

SaaS offers several benefits not found in traditional premise-based call center solutions.

Affordable

SaaS is a subscription service, usually paid monthly, often in proportion to usage or configuration. As a monthly expense it shows up on your operation’s income statement. The SaaS provider handles all support and maintenance.

This contrasts to a premise-based system that’s installed at your call center. This system requires that you purchase it, install it, and maintain it. The purchase price appears on your balance sheet. The distinction between income statement and balance sheet is significant from a financial and tax perspective.

Scalable

When you buy a system, you make a guess at the size of the system you need. This includes the number of stations, ports, and options. The result is that you may pay per capacity you never use or find yourself under resourced and needing to buy more.

With SaaS you can make quick adjustments as needed to scale up to handle additional traffic or cut back to save money.

Portable

Moving an installed system from one location to another is a time-consuming, expensive task. It involves downtime, which inconveniences callers. With SaaS moving is easy. All you need is a quality internet connection and a device (usually a computer) to connect to it. This is ideal if you need to react quickly to changing situations such as a pandemic, manmade catastrophe, or natural disaster.

Current

When you buy and install a premise-based system, you quickly find using a platform that’s not running the latest version of software or you find yourself buying periodic updates. With SaaS this is never an issue. The provider keeps their hosted solution on the latest version, and all you need to do is login to access it.

Summary

Using a SaaS solution for your call center provides many advantages. It is affordable, scalable, and portable. It’s always up to date. Though you may have a business case or strategic purpose for purchasing, installing, and maintaining a premise-based system in your call center, don’t accept this as the default solution.

Give SaaS thoughtful consideration.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

AI is Transforming Contact Centers


By Donna Fluss

Artificial intelligence (AI) is awe-inspiring. While these technologies are in their early days, they have already demonstrated their ability to function as a change agent in contact centers, customer service departments, customer experience (CX) functions and sales organizations.

Artificial intelligence, particularly when combined with automation and analytics, has the potential to fuel the generational leap necessary to transform today’s service and sales organizations. It can turn them into intelligent and engaging departments that anticipate customer needs and deliver a consistently outstanding experience customized to address each customer’s inquiry and personality.

AI Drives Contact Center Innovation

Artificial intelligence is underlying and driving most of the innovation in contact center systems and applications, which is necessary to help organizations provide a service experience that meets today’s exacting customer expectations. It is also vital to provide agents with the intelligent tools and automation to empower them to become customer advocates, enriching their jobs and helping to engage and retain them. It is playing a pivotal role in elevating the perception of the contact center to essential corporate contributor, as well.

AI Use Cases

While AI fuels one’s imagination with visions of computers taking over the world, when it comes to service, sales, and the CX, consumers are already happy to interact with intelligent self-service solutions that can handle most of their requests yet have the sensitivity to know when to transfer them to a live agent.

Contact center leaders appreciate AI’s ability to match customer personality and communication styles to the best-suited agent. Artificial intelligence is enabling companies to give agents the scheduling flexibility they demand, and, while enhancing employee engagement, it’s also improving companies’ ability to deliver the service experience their customers expect, one application at a time.

Final Thoughts

The addition of AI technology in contact center systems and applications gives companies an opportunity to re-invent their mission-critical service organizations. AI can alter the dynamics of contact centers by automating many of the low-value activities historically performed by agents. And even when AI cannot fully automate a task, it can provide guidance or perform a portion of the activity, which will improve agent satisfaction, decrease handling time, and enhance the CX.

Although AI technology is in its early days, it has already demonstrated its ability to improve productivity and reduce costs in contact centers while delivering benefits to customers and employees alike.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.

For a detailed analysis of the role of AI in contact centers, its maturity and specific uses by application, see DMG’s new report on the State of Artificial Intelligence in Contact Centers, released January 2022.  

The Truths of System Hardening

Startel delivers best-in-call contact center solutions

By Shawn Griswold

Today you must take initiative to deal with security and system hardening. Flying under the radar, hoping and praying you will be okay, is no longer an option. Cybercrime is exploding. Crimes like exfiltration, ransomware, extortion, and sale of personal data are on the increase, and they are even being combined.

Previously threat analysts were only worried about ransomware, now they must worry about the ransomware actors exfiltrating data: turning around and locking us out of our own system, and then threatening to sell our information if we don’t pay. And they do sell data if the victims don’t comply. Sites like Klep exist to sell data. 

Why do they do this? For one, it’s safe for the bad actors. The countries that harbor these threat actors will not prosecute if they don’t harm anything within their own country. In Russia, for instance, where many of the threat actors attacking the U.S. reside, threat actor’s software can check the localization of a computer, and if it resides in any of the former soviet states, the software will automatically uninstall itself. They know better than to do business in their own backyard. But they can attack the United States all they want, and they will never face prosecution. So, it is a safe crime for them. 

As far as money goes, just to give you an idea, is a company called Darkside. It was in the news recently. The FBI blamed it for carrying out a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which crippled fuel delivery across the Southeastern United States. Darkside made $17 Million in seven months. It’s very profitable. Darkside began as a software company that provided services. Revel makes even more than that. 

It’s an easy business. Darkside took all the work out of creating ransomware. You can go on to a webpage, order your ransomware software, customize it for the environment you need it for, create it, and deploy it. You don’t even need to know how to write ransomware. 

Tools stolen from government hacking teams are used to commit these crimes. Equation Group, the hacking arm of the National Security Administration had malware code stolen by another hacking group called The Shadow Brokers and is now being used to commit crimes globally. As these tools have been stolen and released it makes things so much easier for the criminals.

From 2018-2019 ransomware attacks increased by 300 percent in the United States. In the first nine months of 2020 it has increased an additional 400 percent.

The other thing to keep in mind is that for those under a regulated environment such as HIPAA, PCI, ITAR, and FERPA, it really doesn’t matter. Ransomware equals a breach. And breach means disclosure. These are the things we try to avoid.

One of the biggest attack points we are seeing is VPN. This year alone, VPN attacks have increase over 2,000 percent. The number one way these threat actors are getting into corporations is by attacking people’s less secure home networks. Ultimately your security is no better than the end point. For example, the Colonial Pipelines breach came because of a compromised username and password for a user’s home VPN. The threat actors got ahold of it, and they did $5 million dollars in ransomware damage, plus the subsequent security costs to the company in mitigating future attacks. 

Another scary example occurred at the Oldsmar Water Treatment Plant in Florida. According to federal investigators an outdated version of Windows and a weak cybersecurity network allowed hackers to access the water system and momentarily tamper with the water supply. 

So, what can you do? Use system hardening.

What is system hardening? These are steps you can take to make your cyber security system more secure than what a default installation provides. You may be surprised that most systems are insecure by default for the sake of user convenience. Many companies want to make their software easy to use and easy to set up. But that doesn’t make it secure. 

For example, by default Microsoft Windows does not have the password lockout turned on. You need to go in and manually set it so that hackers can’t just “brute force” their way into your system. By default, it does not have password history turned on. So even if you tell it to change the password every thirty days, your old password will still work unless you turn on password history. As your passwords keep changing, you are only adding more opportunities for hackers to guess a password. 

These are the types of security measures you need to harden.

Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus

This should be mandatory and set to automatically update. Scans should also run automatically. Likewise, they need endpoint protection and intrusion protection. They need to do a certain amount of firewall and exfiltration. They just can’t let anything go out the door. 

If you are running in a domain where you have control over all the endpoints, you can investigate installing a central managed server where all the definitions are downloaded to it and then pushed out. Completely take it out of the hands of the agents or end users. This is a pain but cleaning up after a ransomware attack is far worse. The average cost of cleaning up after a ransomware attack is around $1.2 to 1.5 million. 

Web Proxy

Do not allow agents to browse the internet freely. Create and maintain whitelists or required internet sites.

Firewalls

Companies put a lot of time and effort into securing what is on the outside trying to get in, but they don’t put the same energy into securing what’s inside trying to get out. Many companies hinge everything on the hacker never getting in. But there are multiple ways they can, and once inside what security plans do you have in place? 

Focus on inside to out as much as you would outside to in. You must assume they will get in. This is what the hackers are relying on. That once they can get in, they can exfiltrate the data without any barriers. Therefore, your inside to outside rules must be well defined and only allow outgoing traffic that is necessary.

Updates and Patches

You must apply all high and critical updates within thirty days of release to maintain security compliance. For example, the NotPetya virus caused $10 billion in damages because users did not apply a critical patch. If you are running in a domain, it is highly recommended that you use the Windows Server Update Service. The WannaCry virus was launched out of North Korea and was successful because nobody heeded the warnings from NotPetya and did not patch. This sort of security laziness is the initial cause or shortcoming of many system breaches. Do not delay these patches. 

And if Windows releases a patch outside of their normal patch cycle you should apply it immediately. If they feel it’s critical enough to offer it outside of their normal patch cycle, then you can be sure the virus is bad. They only do that when things are critical.

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is an inspection of the potential points of exploit on a computer or network to identify security holes. A vulnerability scan detects and classifies system weaknesses in computers, networks, and communications equipment and predicts the effectiveness of countermeasures. Some places where you can have this done are www.OpenVAS.org and www.tenable.com

Other Best Practices

Rename the default administrator and disable the account. Do not make it easy to hack a known default administrator account. You should always rename it to something other than administrator. The first account that a threat actor would want to access is the admin login. Don’t make it easy to find. Also, keep the system security group as small as possible. And do not allow users to run as local administrators.

It is also highly recommended to use a Server 2021 or later Active Directory Domain. This centralizes the management of authentication and access. Update group security policies per NIST or CIS standards. Once again default policies are not secure. For more information visit www.nist.gov or www.cisecurity.org

Harden web servers to meet OWASP standards. For more information go to www.owasp.org. Also look at www.ssllabs.com.

Educate Your Agents

Another thing many security admins take lightly is educating their employees about security risks. You should train your workers so they understand the risks involved with browsing the internet or opening spam emails. 

One way many security admins are gauging their workers knowledge and adherence to rules is to send out a faux phishing email from an anonymous source to see how many people click on it. You can even offer incentives to get that click rate as low as possible.

Conclusion

If there is one thing you should be learning from all of this is just how easy and risk free this crime is. For many hackers the only security protocol they must contend with when hacking your system is figuring out your name and password. Once inside they can easily move about. But if you take the steps mentioned above you will make it harder for the hacker. 

Many hackers are lazy and do not have time for redundant security measures. Once they realize how slow their progress will be, many will just give up. This is not because it is impossible but because it will require extra work. 

While we cannot guarantee a failsafe security system, we can make it harder for the hackers to hack.

Startel

Shawn Griswold is the security analyst for Startel Contact Center Solutions. Shawn has been involved in software engineering for over thirty years and has been providing cyber security for Startel for the last six.

How AI-Powered Technologies Can Help Reduce Contact Center Agent Burnout

By Seb Reeve

The global pandemic has put more pressure than ever on every one of us. Healthcare workers face untold challenges in treating patients, and not just those who become sick with COVID-19. Grocery store, delivery, and restaurant workers, now rightfully seen as the essential workers they are, must overcome their own fears and risks as they continue to work through a crisis. Contact center and office workers now work from home, trying to balance the demands of their careers with the demands of their families, many of whom are now schooling from home too. 

And as more consumers shift their typically in-person interactions into more virtual and online spaces, the changes have likewise put more pressure on contact center agents to respond to a rising number of calls in an uncertain environment. Working in these high-stress environments—in combination with longer working hours—means many agents are at risk for burnout.

Burnout Basics

Burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a “special type of work-related stress,” marked by physical and emotional exhaustion, a sense of reduced accomplishment, reduced productivity and effectiveness on the job, and even dramatic consequences for overall health and wellbeing. 

From a business perspective, agent burnout often leads to turnover, which is extraordinarily expensive, often about 20 percent of the employee’s salary. In an industry with turnover ranging from 30-45 percent, preventing burnout is not simply good for people, it’s good for business.

Preventing burnout is incumbent on all of us. It can start with small, people-first strategies, such as encouraging teams to disconnect and recharge, as improving communication and feedback, and managing workloads to ensure they’re within appropriate boundaries. 

Investing in technology platforms can go a long way toward supporting agents and helping to prevent burnout. Providing the tools and technologies that help everyone do their job better will not only optimize employee workloads, but it can also alleviate the stressors that contribute to burnout. It’s also worth considering which technology platforms no longer serve agents or the organizational vision, and instead add unnecessarily to agent workflows on a day-to-day basis.

Technologies That Alleviate Burnout Stressors

Today’s contact centers can choose from a range of technologies that help agents do their jobs better and more efficiently. For example, artificial-intelligence-powered solutions such as virtual assistants can shorten call handling times by engaging a broader audience and answering repetitive questions. With a digital, automated interface, the virtual assistant can engage callers in natural conversation—either via voice or text—to respond to requests and answer questions with personalized responses in a self-service environment. When a live agent is needed, the virtual assistant uses skills-based routing to deliver the caller to the best agent to handle their issue.

Enabling the virtual assistant not only delivers prompt, live assistance to customers, it frees agents to handle the more complex, high-value calls that matter most and are most meaningful.

Similarly, automated customer service messaging platforms can help engage customers, providing immediate answers to their inquiries, again while alleviating the burden on live contact center agents. Proactive notifications built into these platforms can deflect the number of inbound calls to a call center, which has the added benefit of supporting customer service efforts. 

Preventing Burnout

AI-powered technologies also provide the analytics and reporting to improve live engagements and deliver frustration-free customer experiences. Analyzing 100 percent of call center customer interactions provides visibility into trends, outliers, and opportunities to build, train, and coach a high-performing contact center team—one that’s free from many of the stressors that can contribute to burnout. 

Beyond supporting agents with AI-powered technologies and tools that can reduce burnout, these solutions can contribute to a healthier bottom line—from improved customer service and digital experiences to reduced employee turnover. 

Seb Reeve is the Market Development VP at Nuance Communications.

Vision 2020


By Donna Fluss

We’ve entered the new decade with great momentum in technological innovation. Startups and large enterprises are investing billions in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation-based initiatives that will change the way we live our lives and conduct business over the next ten to twenty years.

Technologies we’ve talked about for generations, such as self-driving cars, will alter the way people get around, making the argument for or against new transportation business models from companies such as Uber and Lyft merely a stepping-stone to a vastly transformed future.

DMG’s crystal ball shows an amazing outlook for the world of service and contact centers. In 2020 we’re going to see new and continued investments that will finally allow companies to decrease the number of live agent resources needed in contact centers, which is the number-one goal for these people-intensive organizations. 

Self-service solutions—the preferred way for consumers in the more advanced economies to obtain assistance—will experience a resurgence as AI-related technologies emerge that provide omni-channel concierge-level service. (Displaced contact center employees can move into new functions, such as administering robotics and AI initiatives.)

The workforce, populated increasingly by millennials, will continue to take the reins from boomers and Gen-Xers. This will intensify the need to satisfy the lifestyle requirements of the most technically advanced generation of workers. The digital transformation will continue to take place slowly in many companies. 

Investments to replace forty- to fifty-plus-year-old solutions that remain at the core of some of the largest corporations in the world, including major banks, will finally occur, as the resources and cost required to support systems built in the dark ages of technology will be too high. This doesn’t mean that it will be easy; it just means that it will happen, as the alternative is no longer viable. 

The changing workforce will drive much of the innovation in companies. More business (and personal) activities will occur through mobility. The need for enterprise-wide workforce management (WFM) solutions to help companies find, hire, train, and schedule the resources needed to operate their business cost-effectively (not just in their contact centers) will supersede negative preconceptions. A new generation of flexible, AI-based WFM solutions will emerge to support this. Designed for real-time, omni-channel, and multifunction forecasting and scheduling, they will share only a name with the solutions of the past. 

After decades of claiming to need highly knowledgeable workers, enterprises will implement new systems, training programs, and policies, driven by the vast amount of data required to support a hybrid human and automated workforce. It’s still debatable whether every employee will have their own automated bot to assist them, as it’s likely unnecessary, but there is no doubt that many types of automation (and workflow technology) will emerge to handle tasks that do not require or even benefit from the cognitive capabilities of live employees. 

This will be a major boon for contact centers and back-office operating departments, where employees are still engaged in many repetitive, noncognitive tasks that require them to cut and paste data into multiple nonintegrated systems, manually create and enter summaries of customer conversations, place orders received via faxes (yes, this still happens), manually perform fulfillment activities, and more.

New automation and AI-enabled technology will deliver innovations that make it easier for companies to support the work/life balance requirements of millennials and, looking to the future, Generation Z. As these capabilities enhance the customer and agent experience and improve productivity, adoption will be swift.

Smart technology will position companies to improve the customer experience, provided the initiatives coincide with changes to outdated policies and procedures. One of the biggest impediments to delivering an outstanding customer experience, regardless of technology, is the conflicting goals of sales, service, and marketing. For digital transformation initiatives to succeed, enterprises must invest in reinventing their relationship with customers and employees, as much as updating their technology.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.

Three Ways AI and Machine Learning Is Improving Live Chat


By Dan Somers

Many companies are implementing live chat because it offers a better experience for some queries and with some customers. It also offers cost savings for companies compared to voice. Indeed, the channel has been growing 87 percent per year, according to CustomerThink.

BoldChat found that the top reasons given for why people prefer live chat are immediacy of responses, 71 percent; ability to multitask, 51 percent; and don’t like talking on the phone, 22 percent.

However, canned responses, complex queries, or poor staffing can lead to the opposite experience. This results in channel switching, repeat calls, abandonment, or even churn. Misunderstandings can happen more frequently than during a telephone conversation, and with both customers and agents multitasking, there is plenty of room for error. Offshore chat operations often compound these concerns with cultural issues and additional misunderstandings.

However, new techniques in AI and machine learning make the analysis of live chat both easy and immediately actionable. Here are three ways these tools can transform chat optimization:

1. Human in the Loop AI

The technology runs automatically in the background until it needs a nontechnical person to assist with tuning the models in a rapid and efficient way. It prompts for a human only when needed. This frees up agent resources and maintains a current, fine-tuned, and accurate model.

2. Automatic Identification of Sentiment and Intent 

Models can automatically tag the chats with customer intent, sentiment, and emotion, such as if they’re considering leaving or expressing some other actionable emotion. This frees agents from several seconds of manual work (that is, after call work), where they can only typically do one tag at a time even if there are multiple issues to address.

3. Automated Next Best Action 

Use these models to drive insight specific to the customer in the moment through the automation of next best actions, enhancing the overall customer experience. They can plug natively into chat software APIs to automatically classify tags tuned to the specific requirements of the business.

Chat provides many benefits to both businesses and customers. Take these three steps to optimize your chat services for even greater results.

Dan Somers is the CEO of Warwick Analytics, developers of PrediCX, a machine learning platform that generates automated and customizable models specific to a particular chat stream.

Robotic Process Automation: It Is Here to Make the Change

By Ray Naeini

The impact of emerging technologies on our lives and our businesses cannot be ignored, dismissed, or avoided.

The replacement of plain old telephones (POTs) by smartphones, fax machines by emails, pagers by text messaging, and in-store shopping by online buying are all examples of the inevitable impact of technology on our lives and the way we do business. We should embrace these new technologies, not resist them. 

The latest wave of emerging technologies delivers intelligent automation solutions that play an important role in the implementation of a digital transformation strategy—a strategy embraced by businesses around the world in response to demands from today’s digitally oriented customers—as well as the need for productivity and optimization in managing businesses in a highly competitive and global environment.

The two most essential technologies that power intelligent automation solutions are artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA). AI and RPA are rapidly changing everything in our personal and business lives.

Many enterprises have employees manually performing repetitive tasks—such as order processing, customer profile updates, and claims processing—every day. As the volume of workloads increases, they must add more manual labor, which may not be cost-justifiable. 

Robotic process automation (RPA) can automate such repetitive tasks and empower companies to cost-effectively manage large or fluctuating workloads. RPA does not necessarily replace employees, but it can augment the work of each employee to be more productive in processing larger workloads.

Additionally, AI can empower RPAs to become intelligent process automation, analyzing and automating more complex tasks that require AI-based analysis of data to reach certain decisions. RPA solutions provide a variety of options in automating processes. 

Attended, Unattended, and Hybrid RPA 

RPA can automate repetitive tasks autonomously and without any human intervention, with human interaction, or using a combination of both.

Unattended RPA automates processes without human intervention. The workflow is created by a process manager and activated based on a schedule or triggered by an event. It usually runs on a server and in the background, independent of human involvement.

There are certain processes, however, that cannot be entirely automated. Hence the need for attended RPA, which automates certain segments of the process. Attended RPA interacts with humans at certain points of a process that require intervention by an employee. Attended RPA increases the productivity of employees and eliminates errors by automating certain portions of a workflow previously executed manually by employees. 

Last, both attended and unattended RPA can work together as a hybrid to maximize automation and productivity. 

Rule-Based or AI-Powered Analytics-Based

RPA’s process automation can be rule-based for evaluation of structured data used in the workflow, making decisions by applying rules to such structured data. For example, if the city of residence is in a structured field, rules can evaluate the city in that field and make decisions. 

Analytics-based RPA, powered by AI-driven analytics, is intelligent process automation. It can analyze unstructured data and discover actionable knowledge, intent, categories, named entities, or sentiment to make decisions.

PrePackaged or Customizable Process Automation 

Prepackaged RPA offers a plug-and-play solution for predefined process automation. An example is using automated and adaptive intelligent real-time routing to direct customer service calls to the most-optimized point of service. 

Another example is a desktop transaction automation, which is an attended RPA. It runs on an employee’s desktop and interacts with the employee to optimize his or her performance. Prepackaged RPAs do not allow changes to the workflow by users.

Customizable RPA, on the other hand, provides users with a no-code platform to map, create, and customize the workflow of their processes using drag-and-drop desktop tools without any need for software engineers. They can test or place into production custom workflows, activated based on user-defined schedules or triggered by an event. No-code platforms are popular due to their capability in customizing a variety of processes rapidly and without generating software codes.

Ray Naeini is the CEO of OnviSource.

Is the Future Our Friend or Foe?


Be Ready for Artificial Intelligence to Revolutionize Your Call Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections Magazine

One of the spaces I inhabit is the call center industry. Another of my worlds is writing. These two areas intersect in this column. Another commonality is how technology, specifically artificial intelligence (AI), will affect both sectors.

Futurists in the writing community talk about how AI will arise as a disruptive force. Indeed, the disruption has already begun, with computer programs writing poetry, song lyrics, a screenplay, and even a novel. Much of the writing community isn’t aware of this emerging reality.

Other writers deny that AI even exists and consider it a pipedream. Some see it as the end of writing as we know it and a threat to their livelihood. Last are those, like me, who see AI as a tool that will help us write more, write better, and write faster. Yes, writing as we know it today will change dramatically, but that change is something to embrace.

AI is also making inroads into the call center industry, and the reactions to AI in the call center space are much the same as in the writing world.

Blissfully Unaware

Many people in the call center industry aren’t aware of the burgeoning developments with AI and how it will dramatically change call centers and their provision of customer care. They view AI as the topic for sci-fi movies, scientific labs, and a far-off future reality—one that will occur long after they no longer care.

Instead, they focus on the day-to-day urgencies of hiring, training, and scheduling agents. They look at metrics such as first call resolution, speed of answer, and average call length. They consider the number of calls in queue, time in queue, and abandonment rate. And their world focuses on resolving customer complaints. There’s nothing wrong with these worthy pursuits, but it keeps them from considering tomorrow and embracing the future.

Deny It’s a Threat

Others acknowledge the existence of AI, but they don’t see how it could help call centers serve customers better. If anything, they assume AI will make customer service harder and therefore perpetuate the need for live agents. To them, AI is another call-center fad that will receive a lot of hype for a few years and then fade away. Their response is to maintain the status quo and pursue business as usual. 

Fearful Over the Future

Next, are the Luddites, those who oppose technology. Though some call centers embrace technology much more than others, every call center has some degree of tech in its infrastructure and operations. These people have formed a comfortable truce with the tools they use, and they don’t want any more of them.

They have enough, and everything works fine, thank you very much. More tools, especially AI-powered solutions, makes them shudder. They fear that self-learning programs will take over the call center space and eliminate their jobs. 

Embrace It with Optimism

The final group looks at AI as an intriguing call-center solution. Yes, it will fundamentally change how call centers operate. And this transformation could happen much sooner than most people suspect. Yet instead of fearing uncertainty over the unknown, these forward-thinking futurists welcome AI as a smart solution to many of the challenges call centers to face.

Yes, in some cases, AI will replace jobs, just as answering machines, voicemail, automated attendants, and IVR have done in the past. In other cases, AI will assist call center agents, helping them work more effectively and efficiently. This will occur just as our existing tools have improved the results produced from our prior toolset. Then, now, and in the future, the customer benefits by realizing enhanced outcomes.

Thanks to AI, in the future you won’t need to hire as many people to staff your call center. And those you do hire will benefit by having AI to guide their work. These employees will find their call center job less dreary and more invigorating. The days of routinely shuffling through repetitive calls will end, replaced with variety in handling challenging calls that AI can’t address. This will provide the opportunity to excel in call-center work as never before.

AI isn’t coming. AI is here. What role will it play in your call center?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.