How AI links crop spraying and the contact centre
Avaya thinks artificial intelligence can transform the call centre. We believe it can power a smarter workplace. Come and visit us at UC Expo to find out how…
Just about everyone in the UC space recognises the potential of artificial intelligence.
That’s why, just days ago, Avaya announced a strategic partnership with Afiniti to develop AI systems to improve the contact centre. Specifically, the deal will integrate Afiniti’s Enterprise Behavioral Pairing software with the Avaya Contact Centre platform.
The news wasn’t too much of a surprise. After all, Afiniti was one of the companies selected for the A.I.Connect project which Avaya launched last year to encourage developers to explore this big idea.
Clearly, AI technology is an intellectually demanding topic. That said, it’s pretty simple to grasp the essence of what it delivers.
And a good way of thinking about this is with farm machinery. Seriously!
200 years ago, the big breakthrough of the industrial revolution was the brute strength of machines. They could do much more work than men and horses. And so the manual plough became the labour-saving tractor.
Today’s the ’cognitive revolution’ of AI delivers the same labour saving benefits, but through the power of logical reasoning. So, to stay with the farming metaphor, a machine can now not only perform physical work, it can make decisions about the best way to do it too.
Which explains why farming giant John Deere spent $305 million to buy a company that trains crop sprayers to spot weeds and only apply herbicides where needed.
So what’s the equivalent of this labour saving ‘brain’ power in the contact centre?
Well, smart machines are already capable of making calls, sending emails or handling chat sessions themselves. Hence the slow creep of bots into the workplace.
However, the bigger impact will come in the way AI improves the performance of human agents.
Think about a typical day in the life of a call centre worker. They have to know who’s calling; what they need and the company’s response.
Historically this is provided to the agent via a combination of IVR (the caller answers pre-recorded questions to route their query) and pre-written scripts.
On top of that, an effective agent will want to manage the interaction so it enhances the customer’s perception of the brand. This is no mean feat given many people are getting in touch because they’ve got a complaint!
For this to happen, they need to know the customer’s prior interactions with the business and what information to give out; when and how. Up to now, agents have had to rely on patience, good humour and old fashioned human instinct.
AI transforms both elements of this process. An AI-based system can examine a customer’s prior engagement with the company and route them to the best placed agent to answer the call. It can also track conversations to make suggestions to operatives in real-time.
Meanwhile, at a more holistic level, it can analyse collated data sets of all call sessions. It can pull out insights to make suggestions on how to resolve issues, up-sell additional products and services and so on.
Don’t get us wrong – humans will still be at the heart of the process for the foreseeable future. Formation’s model is based around the notion that new technologies like machine learning can help, but we mustn’t underestimate the importance of empathy in managing customer relationships. Until computers are able to know how and when to console, cajole and share a joke, people will remain in the box seat.
At Formation, we’re watching the evolution of UC and AI closely. We are working towards our own vision of the smarter workplace – an environment in which employees work more flexibly and interact with customers more intuitively.
We can start to make this happen by moving comms to the cloud, using software tools to make better decisions around call routing. So, for example, a company could suddenly let agents work anytime and anywhere. The cloud-based UC system would direct incoming calls to exactly the right agent at the right time.
And by building custom tools inside Avaya’s Breeze platform, we can even embed these intelligent links into familiar software like Skype, Salesforce or a web browser.
End result? A more efficient business with happier staff and an improved customer experience.
According to tech analyst CCS Insight, the corporate world seems to be ready for this. Its survey of IT decision-makers in July 2017 found 58 per cent are using, trialling or researching the use of AI in their organisations.
Its report said: “We’ve seen a lag in macro productivity since the 2008 financial crisis (because) we waste a lot of time doing mundane tasks, like searching for data, booking meetings and mixing cumbersome legacy technology with a complex web of disconnected enterprise and personal apps on a daily basis.
“In this context, new AI capabilities pose exciting opportunities to evolve workplace technology.”
If you want to know more about Avaya’s AI adventures you should come to UC Expo this week (May 16/17) at ExCel in London.
And if you’re curious about how Formation is using AI to power a new kind of workplace, you can kill two birds with one stone. Formation will be exhibiting on the Avaya stand both days. Come say hi!