The findings of the survey show that 71 percent of UK contact centres were not fully ready for remote working under the lockdown restrictions.
The recent nationwide survey conducted by the global leader in cloud customer experience and contact centre solutions Genesys in partnership with a customer experience technology specialist, IST, surveyed 150 UK contact centre executive and managers.
According to the results, only 29 percent of the businesses said that their contact centre were fully prepared for remote working.
Two-thirds (66 percent) had to invest in additional hardware such as laptops, networking devices and media servers. Twenty-eight percent of UK contact centres had to purchase additional remote-working licenses and an additional 14 percent had to incorporate new automation. Increased call volumes called for new port licences which were purchased by 9 percent of contact centres.
More than 80 percent of the surveyed managers said that 75 percent of their contact centre staff transitioned to remote work and more than 50 percent of the managers said they have all of the contact centre staff working remotely.
On the other hand, around 60 percent of UK contact centre managers say cloud contact centre solutions helped their contact centre operate even better under COVID-19 conditions than under normal circumstances, with 38 percent of the managers choosing cloud solutions over on-premises software.
Mark Armstrong, sales director for commercial and mid-market at Genesys: “The pandemic has put contact centres in an unprecedented situation. Businesses needed to either move staff remote, or ensure strict social distancing regulations in the workplace.”
“While businesses were addressing the health and safety of their workforce, they also needed to deal with an increase in demand. Leveraging technologies such as the cloud has provided businesses with the tools to handle the challenge, whilst ensuring high levels of service to consumers.”
When it comes to challenges of the unprecedented circumstances, ensuring staff wellbeing was the biggest challenge to transitioning to remote working, according to 58 percent of contact centre managers. The restraints of their current technology were the major obstacle for 35 percent of the managers, while an additional 34 percent were worried about the effectiveness of their workforce.
According to interaction data from the cloud contact centre platform Genesys Cloud, UK businesses faced an increase of 33 percent in customer service inquiries between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020. To deal with the increased demand, businesses chose a number of solutions – 34 percent opted for chatbots to provide quick answers to frequently asked questions. Almost 30 percent wanted to incorporate robotic process automation (RPA) in assisting agents, while 25 percent sought implementation of voice biometrics to identify callers and save agents time.
Genesys, the global leader in cloud customer experience and contact centre solutions helped Food4Heroes, a not-for-profit organisation deliver 100,000 meals in over a month by providing the organisation with Genesys Cloud webchat.
Food4Heroes works with local catering companies to provide nutritious and healthy meals for frontline care workers and NHS staff.
The organisation is leveraging technology from Genesys to efficiently manage the scope of demand, serving 24 hospitals across the UK, and currently employing 820 volunteers.
John Brownhill, co-founder at Food4Heroes says: “Since starting Food4Heroes we have grown rapidly in terms of the number of hospitals and catering companies we work with.”
“One of the challenges we had was that people who wanted to volunteer or donate didn’t have a mechanism to contact us immediately if they had any questions. The chat is helping us actively convert queries into donations that we could potentially lose if people didn’t have means to talk to us directly.”
The simplicity of Genesys Cloud allowed the volunteers to work quickly, regardless of their location.
“Our agents are all volunteers ranging from 18 to 60 years of age. One key requirement was to have an intuitive solution that they could use from their homes,” Brownhill explains.
“Prior to this, our volunteers had not worked with such technology, so having something that is easy to use has been a great benefit to us. Training is straightforward and something we do virtually. After half an hour introduction, the volunteers are comfortable going on queue.”
As innovation in CX technology continues to reshape how brands interact with customers, the tech leaders behind this growth are also envisioning and creating the workplaces of the future.
At Genesys, global leaders in omnichannel CX and call centre tech such as Genesys Cloud, that drive for constant improvement in the brand and customer relationships is matched by their commitment to ensuring your employees remain engaged and that call centres operate as efficiently as possible for those on either end of the telephone line.
That passion for employee experience at Genesys is embodied by the firm’s Vice President of Product Management responsible for Workforce Engagement Management, Cameron Smith (pictured).
His love for AI advancement is all about efficiency and simplifying the working environment, to the benefit of employee, employer, and customer.
Cameron’s remit is all of Genesys’ workforce engagement products, including its Workforce Management package and Agent Assist, and if any person alive knows about where technology can take employees in the coming years, it’s Cameron.
Speaking with Customer Experience Magazine, the US-based tech guru discussed how employee experience systems are on their way to catching up with CX software advancements, and what it will mean for how we work in the coming years.
Cameron: “I look after all of our workforce engagement products. So, basically nearly everything that is touched upon or acted by employees falls into my domain,” Cameron said.
C: “Just as the technology has been trying to improve the consumer side, that tech is a few years ahead of the employee side. It’s about efficiency – how can we simplify the work environment?”
Cameron explains that an increase in self-service and automation can often mean an increase in complexity.
C: “Contact centres are seeing more things like blow-outs in handle time, and labour costs increasing, because of this complexity, so the focus for us on the AI side is – how do we help the employee with that experience that’s now prevalent in interactions they take every single day?”
C: “A couple of different use cases – one of our virtual assistants is about helping the agent and guiding and coaching them through interactions – even doing basic things like understanding the transcription of the call in real-time, or doing things like knowledge-search or searching for documents.”
C: “Or, you may have an insurance company that has lots of different policies and procedures around particular products – having the ability to actually search for that saves the employee a couple of minutes, but more importantly the employee may not even know what they’re trying to search for, so we can apply that tech here.
“Another use case would be the employee’s performance and management, and getting coached and trained.”
Before the rise of AI, Cameron outlines, most organisations utilised a “one-size-fits-all” system for training – an approach that simply won’t cut it in today’s world of personalisation.
C: “Now we realise how important that personalisation is – not everyone’s the same, and there are multiple profiles inside your contact centres that need to be trained, coached and educated in a different way,” he continues.
C: “So, understanding who that employee is, understanding how they feel and applying that recommendation back to either the trainer or the coach, we then ask – how do we make Rachel a better performer? Or help Michael, who is struggling with x, y or z?
C: “Of course, this makes the lives of the team leaders a little easier too, and that contributes greatly to the overall operational efficiency.”
Meanwhile, one bugbear that Genesys workforce tech aims to eradicate is high churn rates of staff.
C: “It’s very region-specific, country-specific, and even organisation-specific in terms of what brands really want,” Cameron continues.
C: “For us it’s about making sure we’re covering all our bases, pushing the envelope in pushing ever-more capabilities to employees – as much as we can!
C: “For years, contact centre agents have been tightly controlled and managed, and with that comes inflexibility. As a result, contact centres traditionally have high attrition rates. A multitude of studies have shown that if you give more flexibility to employees, the more enablement they have to self-control, then high attrition rates will fall.
“However, not every organisation is ready for that level of self-management – each has their own process of change to go through. In terms of end-goal, we want to create an environment that’s really flexible and that works with the employee and helps balance their life.
“Contact centre work can be very hard after all, and providing tools to help and coach employees to be high performers, potentially without human assistance – that’s where we want to get to.
“Early adopters of our Agent Assist AI system – those agents have told us that not having to remember every single thing, due to the help from the tech, makes their lives easier, and for new-starts it prevents beginning call centre work from being overwhelming, and makes the environment a little less daunting.”
From his vantage point, Cameron sees a future workforce that puts the hours in remotely, and an employment model resembling something closer to Uber than traditional shift-work.
C: “We’re on the cusp of seeing some of our high-tech clients reaching a ‘gig economy’ relationship with their team. This gives their employees the ability, like an Uber driver, to say ‘I’m available between 4 and 10 – give me work for those hours’.
C: “That’s a change in the dynamic of how contact centres will run. It’s not huge yet, but it’s starting to grow. That will be the next big thing, but it will very likely mean some interesting changes in government policy and legislation, as well as in HR departments.
C: “This could mean the end of wasted labour in contact centres. There’s an opportunity to tune requirements. Employers can think about how they pay – should they pay per minute, or per outcome? As a company, you might put out a higher rate on a better outcome at a better peak period. Employees could bid, and go for that work.
C: “So as a contact centre worker, you may end up in a scenario where you don’t have to do 40 hours to get the same money – you just have to pick the right 16 hours.
C: “All these changes are definitely coming. Our high-tech newer customers – companies that have only been around a few years – are thinking along these lines. However, it will be a challenge for those firms that have been around for decades to make that change, as many are very much still stuck in the ’40 hours a week’ mindset.”
Overseeing workforce engagement advances means Cameron faces the same challenge as his colleagues revolutionising CX – where does the “human touch” fit into the plan?
Brands fear customers will miss an element of human interaction as they engage with chatbots and virtual assistants, and the same can be said for the employee/employer relationship.
Cameron explains that a full-blown AI HR experience is not on the horizon, with brands likely to take a “light-touch” attitude.
“As it stands today, you’re not going to have a full performance management conversation, for example with an AI. But over time we can build a system that delivers, for instance, selected training that’s been highlighted for you because of things about your performance the AI noticed. We could augment a lot of that.
“However, I think the human touch will always be there, especially from a HR standpoint.”
A vital component of human HR is of course empathy – which some will tell you is beyond the capabilities of today’s AI tech. Yet Cameron suggests that holy grail may not be as mythological as it currently appears.
“I think we are probably closer to AI empathy than many think,” he adds.
“If an organisation applied the software in an empathetic way, we could probably get there today. It comes down to design and process in how we do that. Look at the likes of Amazon Alexa, and how it appears empathetic by randomly telling us to have a good day after we ask it to tell the time.
“That’s pre-programmed empathy, rather than selective empathy, but we will get there one day, for sure.”
So what’s next for employee engagement advances according to Cameron? Where can AI take us and our call centres in the years to come?
“Not here yet but certainly on people’s minds is ‘contact centre operational automation’,” he adds.
“It’s the ability to automate components of the operation. An example is a workforce planner today would stare at a screen at 11am, after everyone has called in sick and think, ‘ok, now what?’.
“In the future, the AI will be able to say, ‘ok, based on everything that’s happening, we should do…’
“You’re going to see those ‘next best action’ type processes go into a whole range of different call centre operations. Depending on how that’s adopted, you could see that automated end-to-end, and in some organisations, that’s what they really want to see.
“So operational resources will see the biggest change automatically, and that’s going to translate into more employee flexibility and a richer environment to operate in.”
Leader in contact centre solutions and cloud CX Genesys and their long-established partner nGUVU have joined forced in strengthening and bettering Genesys’ workforce by implementing gamified solutions such as machine learning and behavioural analytics.
Applying gamification to Genesys’ workforce engagement managemenet (WEM) suite allows businesses to fundamentally increase employee engagement, customer retention, and cost savings.
A well thought-out combination of advanced cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies including gamification and machine learning will transform ordinary transactions into meaningful connections, reminding customers about Genesy’s central vision, which is Experience as a ServiceSM.
Examples of immediate improvement of key business metrics can be seen in the results of two companies, Carestream Dental and Senske Services. The former, a global provider of imagining systems and practices management software for dental practices, has seen an increase in employee performance corresponding to 12 new team members. The latter, a tree and pest control company, notes 15 percent higher revenue since incorporating the nGUVU solution.
According to a prediction that two thirds of global workforce will be comprised of Millennials by 2025, turning to solutions that favour game mechanics, friendly competition, and rewards will ultimately lead to evolving workforce.
nGUVU Chief Executive Officer Pierre Donaldson said: “This marks a major milestone for nGUVU, and we couldn’t be more excited to join the Genesys team. The scalability we gain from Genesys Cloud WEM benefits our existing customers and gives organisations of all sizes across the globe a powerful gamification solution to help their employees become more effective and engaged.”
CX and contact centre software firm Genesys has expanded its partnership with Microsoft for a brand new cloud service promising “superior interactions” for customers.
Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure will be available later this year and will enable firms to achieve the security and stability required to manage the complexities involved with connecting every touchpoint throughout the customer journey.
To accelerate adoption, the companies are providing Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure through a joint co-selling and go-to-market strategy, in which customers will benefit from a streamlined buying process that puts them on a clear path to the cloud.
With its multi-tenant architecture, Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure will give customers the ability to innovate faster and improve their business agility. In addition, by running the Genesys Customer Experience solution on this dependable cloud environment, enterprises will be able to maximise their investment in Microsoft Azure through simplified management and maintenance requirements, centralized IT expertise, reduced costs, and more.
These solutions aim to make it easier for enterprises to leverage cloud and artificial intelligence technologies so they can gain deeper insights and provide tailor-made experiences for their customers.
Microsoft’s US President, Kate Johnson, explained: “Large contact centres receive an exceptionally high volume of inquiries across a growing list of channels and platforms. One of the biggest challenges is connecting the details of every interaction across all channels to ensure each customer has a seamless experience.
“By leveraging Microsoft’s Azure cloud and AI technologies, Genesys is helping enterprises create a seamless customer journey with Microsoft’s trusted, secure, and scalable platform.”
Peter Graf, Chief Strategy Officer of Genesys, added: “We are thrilled to give large enterprises the opportunity to run their mission critical customer experience platform in the cloud environment they already know and trust – Microsoft Azure.
“Together, we’re making it simpler for even the most complex organisations to transition to the cloud, enabling them to unlock efficiencies and accelerate innovation so they can build deeper connections with customers.”
The companies are also exploring and developing new integrations for Genesys and Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure Cognitive Services to streamline collaboration and communications for employees and customers. More information will be released about these upcoming integrations later this year.
Nemo Verbist, senior VP of Intelligent Business and Intelligent Workplace at NTT Ltd., one of the top five global technology and services providers for the world’s largest enterprises and a partner of both Microsoft and Genesys, sees great value in the partnership.
“Many of our customers have standardised on Microsoft solutions, and Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure gives them an additional opportunity to take advantage of their investment,” he said.
“Together, these solutions provide enterprises a secure and powerful foundation to communicate with their customers in creative and meaningful ways.”
Omnichannel CX and contact centre solutions provider Genesys is rebranding its flagship software as a service (SaaS) offering.
The company is changing the name of PureCloud – the world’s leading public cloud contact centre platform – to Genesys Cloud.
The move is to reflect the evolution of the company and mark the launch of Experience as a ServiceSM powered by Genesys Cloud, which enables organisations to achieve true personalisation at scale.
Genesys CEO Tony Bates, explained: “Through Genesys Cloud, we’re delivering Experience as a Service to make it easier for organisations to foster customer trust and loyalty. This starts by helping them know their customers as individuals, not profiles or segments, and leading with empathy throughout every connected moment.
“When businesses can provide distinctive experiences tailored for each customer, they’re achieving the level of personalisation today’s consumers are looking for – and that’s what we enable with Genesys Cloud.”
Black Friday offers will not be luring a majority of customers to the UK’s high streets this year, with new research showing most will stay at home.
Contact centre and CX tech specialist Genesys has released a study on the annual sales event, which shows that 74 percent of consumers polled say they will not venture to brick and mortar stores for Black Friday events.
Over half (53 percent) of those asked said they never attend Black Friday events, while 30 percent said they were put off by crowds. Twenty-one percent said they used to attend, but have since stopped.
Over a quarter of respondents (27 percent) said online shopping was an easier option. However, where this is seen as more convenient, 85 percent of UK consumers base their purchasing decisions on how well a retailer deals with customer service issues.
The second biggest influence on spending decision for 43 percent of consumers is value for money.
Mark Armstrong, Vice President for UK and Ireland at Genesys, said: “During this heightened shopping season, consumers not only look for the best possible deals, but increasingly base their purchasing decisions on how well businesses respond to issues, such as making returns and requesting technical support. Therefore, it is important that regardless of the sales channel, whether in-store or online, brands provide positive experiences and have the means to effectively communicate with customers to solve queries or complaints.”
As the move to cloud platforms speeds up, the pressure is on to take advantage of bots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) – especially for IVRs.
Many businesses are at a standstill in adopting AI because they’ve done nothing to their IVRs for a decade or more. Their old IVRs are complex and slow to update, with mediocre customer experience, at best. But most are terrible. The State of IVR in 2018 noted that 83 percent of customers would avoid a company after a poor experience with an IVR.
I recently phoned my utility provider, and the IVR pushed me through eight different menu options. Each option took five to 20 seconds of listening time. By the time I got halfway through the eighth option, I had forgotten what the first one included – and I had to go back to the beginning. Consumers are frustrated by long IVR menu choices.
They’re even turning to online cheat sheets for ways to bypass a particular company’s IVR and get to a live agent.
Fear of change, even when it makes sense
Despite the evidence that customers are frustrated with IVRs, and the rapid decline of the old-school telephony, businesses are still reluctant to change. Some pushback occurs because of successful containment rates of IVRs. For others, it’s fear of changing menu options for customers who know exactly which number to press to self-serve.
One bank told me that they were reluctant to change because they have many customers who program their IVR options into their phones, including their PINs. Banks are exposing themselves – and their customers – to major security breaches, instead of doing anything about it.
While some try improvements like adding automatic speech recognition (ASR) with predefined expressions, they fail to recognise that it’s a short-sighted solution to a long-term problem. They need to fix their outdated design.
IVRs and the challenge of multiple intents
In traditional IVRs, customers select only one option at a time, and the IVR can process only that one intent.
However, most people multitask. Let’s say you dial into an IVR to change your address and open a new savings account. Then you remember that you need to add someone to your existing account. Typically, you’d complete one task and then return to the IVR or have an agent transfer you to another department to do so.
That’s because when those secondary intents come up within the conversation with an agent, the agent isn’t equipped to help. The secondary intent is often not dealt with, recorded or tracked. The customer still needs support, but the case is closed. And all that valuable customer information is lost – along with customer satisfaction.
Voicebots identify multiple intents upfront. They can handle many of them within the IVR and, if needed, pass all those intents on to an agent. Your IVR can become a conversational IVR, capturing context and vastly improving the Customer Experience through personalisation.
This is key to exceptional CX – and using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) within your current IVR makes it possible.
Voicebots and conversational IVR
Google led the modern revolution of conversational AI with NLU.
This technology makes it possible for a voicebot to hold a conversation and conduct back-and-forth questions, prompts and answers – without the customer having to use predefined expressions. In this way, every customer has a hyper-personalised experience.
Conversational IVRs go beyond understanding words as experienced with ASR, to determine what the customer wants and to help the agent understand and respond effectively. Machine learning capabilities enable these increasingly rich conversations – and continually optimise the IVR and improve the Customer Experience.
After the voicebot identifies the intents and self-serves where possible, customers can still go through a standard path within the IVR – or they can be routed to the relevant skilled resource to help them. Voicebots offer a massive opportunity to streamline the entire interaction process.
Let’s say I call my mobile carrier because I’m going on holiday and I want to know what the charges will be when I go overseas. With that one utterance of “I’m going overseas”, a voicebot would understand that this statement likely will require additional information.
The voicebot could ask: “Would you like to enable international roaming?”
If I answer yes, the voicebot could automatically process that request and then inform me of the expected tariffs. And, it can still pass this on to an agent if my questions are too complex. It’s a fluid, hyper-personalised conversation, and it doesn’t have to be complex.
You don’t have to change the entire IVR to use voicebots.
Voicebots move Customer Experience to the forefront
Voicebots not only solve long-standing IVR problems, they also take advantage of the data you already collect. Compare the advantages of conversational IVRs led by voicebots to traditional IVRs that put customer experience second to containment. The time savings, Customer Experience and overall improvement in operational efficiency blow traditional IVRs out of the water.
Most UKemployees anticipate a positive impact from artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace, a new report from Genesys has revealed.
The global leader in omnichannel Customer Experienceand contact centre solutions studied the evolving relationship between employees and technology in the workplace. They found that 64 percent say they value AI, but the exact same percentage believe there should be a legal requirement for companies to maintain a minimum percentage of human workers and for relevant bodies to implement regulation around it.
The survey also found that while employees welcome new technological tools, a significant majority (86 percent) expect their employers to provide training for working with AI-based tech, as less than half of all respondents say they possess the right skills.
When asked whether they would use augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) for job training, more than half (53 percent) of employees said they would be willing to do so. This finding is significantly higher than those who would be open to being trained by an AI-powered robot, with just over a third (35 percent) of employees accepting this method.
The convergence between humans and technology is increasing, as reflected by the fact 41 percent of millennials say they spend at least half of their time at work interacting with machines and computers rather than humans. These findings suggest that when it comes to implementing new technologies, employers will need to find the right balance between tech and human workers.
When it comes to how employees expect to use new technologies, 58 percent would like to use a digital or virtual assistant to support them in managing tasks and meeting deadlines. This appetite for virtual assistants suggests that the widespread use of technologies like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri in workers’ personal lives is opening people’s minds to the possibilities that similar AI-driven assistants can bring to the workplace.
Meanwhile, almost a quarter of workers believe AI will have a positive impact on their job in the next five years, and
69 percent say technology makes them more efficient at their jobs. Forty-three percent say new technological tools in the workplace save time and allow them to focus on other things.
Mark Armstrong, interim Vice President for UK and Ireland at Genesys, said: “Employees across the UK are ready to embrace new technologies in the workplace. The research shows that UK workers understand the benefits of AI and are overwhelmingly positive about its potential impact. It is also evident that employees understand that businesses will need to leverage AI and other emerging technologies to maintain longevity, as only 21 percent believe their companies will remain competitive without it.”
An upcoming webinar will shine a light on how midsize call centres can adapt and thrive in the digital era, with expert advice from Genesys and Frost & Sullivan.
Hosted by Customer Experience Magazine, the free webinar will take place on October 17 at 11am BST, and will feature Alexander Michael, the Director of Consulting at F&S, who will be joined by Genesys’ Nick Wingrove, the firm’s VP of Solutions Consulting for the EMEA region.
The pair will deep-dive into a collaborative report, Midsized Call Centres take a Digital-first Approach, which examines how how call centres in the UK, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands are dealing with the changes in customer engagement and their impact on business.
The whitepaper is part of a global series on how CX is the main factor in call centre operations, and explains how most call centres are taking a digital-first approach to customer engagement, with the majority considering, or utilising, cloud technology to boost performance and meet goals.
The webinar will see Alexander and Nick discuss how mid-size businesses approach CX and which technology trends will shape their operations going forward. The CX approaches of these firms will be compared with that of larger organisations, to provide insight into the most effective methods of customer engagement today.
CXM Editor Paul Ainsworth said: “Competition is fierce, no matter which industry you operate in. Mid-sized businesses face consistent pressures to define and implement strategies that will enable them to successfully acquire and retain customers.
“Knowing how your peers have accomplished this gives you an advantage. Leveraging the results from the recent Frost & Sullivan global mid-market study, you’ll get details on real-world Customer Experience initiatives.”
There was something strange in the neighbourhood of Denver, Colorado this summer at the Xperience19 conference, hosted by Genesys.
The theme for one memorable breakout session on how to build a chatbot was spooky comedy classic Ghostbusters, and as you might expect, plenty of fun was had along the way.
Armed with a Dialog Engine Natural Language Understanding (NLU) model, Intelligent Automation, our Genesys skills, and the Genesys® PureConnectTM application, our attendees set off to build.
As in all ‘Build-a-Bot’ workshops, a team of experts was in attendance to provide information on how to build a chatbot – but not just any chatbot!
This was a Ghostbusters chatbot, and to get into the ‘spirit’, the Genesys experts were decked out in Ghostbusters hooded jackets, thanks to Joe Ciuffo.
As more businesses embrace bot technology and understand its value, more people come to us for advice and instruction.
This session was no exception, with around 80 keen delegates in attendance. Armed with laptops open and ready to go, Marc ‘Venkman’ Sassoon took to the stage, first asking the audience if they remembered the famous 1984 movie itself (thankfully they all did, despite some being born after the year of release)
He then created a use case: in the movie, Janine, the Ghostbusters’ sarcastic secretary, struggled with customer service. Due to a ghost invasion in New York City, the team’s phone was ringing off the hook, making it tough for Janine to keep up with demand.
This Genesys Ghostbusting team had a solution – it quickly deployed a Genesys artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot that uses Intelligent Automation with Dialog Engine.
Yours truly, Jonathan ‘Stantz’ McKenzie, joined Venkman onstage to showcase the power of these technologies. The process was simple – we just needed to assign it with Dialog Engine utterances, intents, entities, and slot values, before letting it get to work.
Build, test, and update the bot
Armed with this intent – to use a bot to handle customer conversations by chat or voice demand – Marc showed the attendees, in detail, how to build a chatbot using Intelligent Automation. He selected some of the 80-plus pre-built microapps Genesys offers. These include the Intelligent Automation Natural Language Menu microapp, which seamlessly integrates with Dialog Engine NLU.
The chatbot was taking shape.
For the bot, NLU does an analysis of each utterance, classifies the entity, and selects slot values from each utterance, as shown below.
Once Intelligent Automation and the Dialog Engine are configured, flow and NLU combine to deliver the chatbot.
The next step was to test it, with attendees using a conversation about ghosts spotted in the boroughs of New York.
The final task was to make changes to NLU models, update the utterances, add more entity types, and of course have some fun. Each update occurred instantly and was visible in both Intelligent Automation and the chatbot.
Give chatbots and voicebots a try
According to Accenture, well-designed bots can resolve 80 percent of customer interactions. Bots also make it easy for customers to engage with you in the ways they prefer – whether it’s calling to schedule a Ghostbuster, chat online, or self-serve in any number of ways.
Global leader in omnichannel CX and contact centre solutions Genesys has announced the creation of two business units, Genesys Cloud and Genesys Core.
The firm, which is sponsoring the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, is enhancing support for its diverse, global customer base, which includes organisations of all sizes, spanning private and public cloud, hybrid, and on-premises deployments.
Customers will benefit from faster delivery of targeted portfolio enhancements and artificial intelligence-driven applications at scale. The Genesys Cloud division will unify the company’s next-generation public cloud solutions and services by combining the PureCloud and workforce engagement management (WEM) groups. The second unit, Genesys Core, is comprised of PureEngage and PureConnect on-premises and cloud.
The company has appointed two general managers to lead the business units: Olivier Jouve takes the helm of Genesys Cloud, and Barry O’Sullivan heads up Genesys Core. Both executives report directly into Genesys CEO Tony Bates. The company also announced that Peter Graf was appointed Chief Strategy Officer.
Tony Bates said: “This new structure enables us to provide even greater value to our customers and partners by rapidly delivering innovation across our market-leading product portfolio. I want to acknowledge the tremendous work Peter and his team have done to deliver AI-powered, cloud-based common services that make this new structure possible.
“I look forward to his contributions as our new Chief Strategy Officer as well as those from Olivier and Barry to drive our future growth and disruptive vision of hyper-personalisation.”
As general manager of Genesys Cloud, Olivier Jouve adds to his existing responsibilities as Executive Vice President of PureCloud, the company’s leading Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.
In addition to continuing to head its operations, product strategy and commercial activities, he will take on ownership of the company’s WEM business. Since joining Genesys two years ago, Olivier has been instrumental in continuing to drive the triple-digit revenue increases PureCloud has experienced since its launch, furthering its hypergrowth. His career spans more than 30 years and includes senior executive roles for IBM, such as vice president of offering management for IBM Watson IoT, among others.
Meanwhile, Barry O’Sullivan moves from the Genesys operating committee and joins the company as Executive Vice President and General Manager of Genesys Core. In this role, Barry will leverage his extensive industry, AI, and unified communications knowledge, along with his intimate understanding of the business, to take the Genesys Core division to the next level.
Previously, Barry founded and served as the CEO of Altocloud, the cloud-based customer journey analytics provider acquired by Genesys in 2018. Earlier in his career, Barry was senior vice president and general manager for Cisco Systems, leading several multi-billion-dollar divisions including Collaboration, Unified Communications and Voice over IP.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have executives of Olivier’s and Barry’s calibre leading our business units. With their extensive experience, strong leadership and incredible business vision, they are each ideally suited to help us continue to solve our customers’ toughest challenges and further propel our ongoing momentum,” added Tony Bates.
In addition, Peter Graf will transition from Genesys Chief Product Officer to a new role as Chief Strategy Officer. He will be responsible for developing, communicating, sustaining and executing the Genesys strategy, and will also assume responsibility for strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions, business operations and disruptive innovation for the company.
The G-Summit Europe event, hosted by global Customer Experience and contact centre solutions firm Genesys, is underway in Amsterdam.
The three-day conference brings together CX professionals from across Europe to share the latest in technology solutions and good practice, and features guest speakers including Huib Van Bockel, the former head of Marketing at Red Bull Europe and author of The Social Brand, and Dave carroll, whose famous viral video, United Breaks Guitars, helped usher in a new era of accountability to customers.
Genesys customers, including, Heineken, Kiwi.com, and Lowell Group will illustrate how they are using innovative technologies such as the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), digital channels, and more. G-summit Europe will also celebrate agents from Swisscard, Harambee and Ving as Genesys CX Heroes for going above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.
Merijn te Booij, Chief Marketing Officer at Genesys, said: “Through G-Summit Europe we aim to show attendees how immersive, experiential service is the new standard for every customer, every time. Attendees will glean insights from industry experts and businesses that have had success using innovative technologies to empower their employees and turn conversations with customers into the best-connected moments across marketing, sales and service.”
Meanwhile, Genesys is making it even easier for businesses to extend the power of its PureCloud software with the launch of single-click free trials for Premium Applications. Now available on the Genesys AppFoundry, this is the industry’s first fully self-service, automated free trial program available on a dedicated CX marketplace.
Jeff Wise, Vice President, Application and Developer Marketing at Genesys explains: “Our free trial program is a truly modern approach for companies to buy software. We’re offering a hassle-free way to try trusted apps, integrations and services that seamlessly tie into our leading SaaS solution, PureCloud.
“In a matter of minutes – not days or weeks – customers can test drive solutions to help them address real business challenges and deliver value. This is just the latest example of how we’re removing barriers to help businesses build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers and enrich their employees’ experiences.”
Quickly and without risk, Genesys PureCloud customers can sample a variety of select integrations, applications and services that work in lockstep with their cloud contact center software. Currently, there are 11 free trial applications from AppFoundry partners including: Avtex, CustomerView, nGuvu, PureInsights, Softphone, Survey Dynamix, CoBrowse, SmartVideo, Outleads, and more. These span a variety of capabilities including business intelligence, workforce management, CRM and more.
With fully automated installation and setup, Premium Applications are built to accelerate speed-to-use and deliver optimal time-to-value.
Softphone, a leading contact centre solutions developer & system integrator, currently offers free trials of four Premium Applications on AppFoundry.
Alan Lugiai, Softphone chief executive officer said: “We expect free trial offers to generate an incredible response from Genesys customers. This is a tremendous opportunity to help even more businesses amplify the value of their Genesys Cloud Customer Experience solutions by giving them friction-free access to and integration of our products.”
Businesses have 30 days to evaluate the offering and can choose to license or cancel at any time without friction. In addition, Premium Applications are fully integrated with PureCloud’s subscription and billing system, further streamlining and simplifying the entire process for customers.
Learn more about Premium Applications providers and the full roster of Genesys AppFoundry partners here.
Global companies are expecting to apply artificial intelligence (AI) within their organisations in the next few years, but are lagging behind when it comes to discussing the ethics of the technology, it has been revealed.
New research from CX and contact centre solutions firm Genesys has revealed that more than half of all employers questioned in a multi-country opinion survey say their companies do not currently have a written policy on the ethical use of AI or bots, although 21 percent expressed a definite concern that their companies could use AI in an unethical manner.
Genesys, which is sponsoring the upcoming 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, questioned 1,103 employers and 4,207 employees regarding the current and future effects of AI on their workplaces. The 5,310 participants were drawn from six countries: the UK, Germany, the US, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the employers surveyed expect their companies to be using AI or advanced automation by 2022 to support efficiency in operations, staffing, budgeting, or performance, although only 25 percent are using it now.
However, in spite of the growing trend, 54 percent of employers questioned say they are not troubled that AI could be used unethically by their companies as a whole or by individual employees (52 percent). Employees appear more relaxed than their bosses, with only 17 percent expressing concern about their companies.
Twenty-eight percent of employers said they are apprehensive their companies could face future liability for an unforeseen use of AI, yet only 23 percent say there is currently a written corporate policy on the ethical use of AI/bots.
Meanwhile an additional 40 percent of employers without a written AI ethics policy believe their companies should have one – a stance supported by 54 percent of employees.
Meanwhile, just over half of employers (52 percent) believe companies should be required to maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery. Employees are more likely (57 percent) than employers (52 percent) to support a requirement by unions or other regulatory bodies.
The Genesys survey found that millennials (ages 18-38) are the age group most comfortable with technology, yet they also have the strongest opinions that guard rails are needed. Across the countries, the survey questions about AI ethics resonated more with millennials than with Gen X (ages 39-54), or Baby Boomers (ages 55-73).
Whether it’s anxiety over AI, desire for a corporate AI ethics policy, worry about liability related to AI misuse, or willingness to require a human employee-to-AI ratio – it’s the youngest group of employers who consistently voice the most apprehension. For example, 21 percent of millennial employers are concerned their companies could use AI unethically, compared to 12 percent of Gen X and only six percent of Baby Boomers.
Steve Leeson, VP UK & Ireland, Genesys, said: “As a company delivering numerous Customer Experience solutions enabled by AI, we understand this technology has great potential that also comes with tremendous responsibility. This research gives us important insight into how businesses and their employees are really thinking about the implications of AI – and where we as a technology community can help them steer an ethical path forward in its use.”
He continued: “Our research reveals both employers and employees welcome the increasingly important role AI-enabled technologies will play in the workplace and hold a surprisingly consistent view toward the ethical implications of this intelligent technology. We advise companies to develop and document their policies on AI sooner rather than later – making employees a part of the process to quell any apprehension and promote an environment of trust and transparency.”
A thought leader and visionary when it comes to bleeding-edge Customer Experience technology, Chris Connolly is an interesting man to know.
A man fortunate enough to be Vice President of Product Marketing at Genesys, his genial Aussie exterior belies a knowledge of exciting CX innovation that will make your head spin. That knowledge was among the fuel that fired this summer’s Xperience19 conference in Denver, Colorado, where the latest advancements in CX and call centre products were divulged and debated.
The hugely successful gathering was also where Chris (pictured left) spoke to Customer Experience Magazine about his role at the organisation which is changing how customers interact with brands forever, and as he explains, that’s an ongoing evolution – one that will never cease as long as creativity and the ability to identify and incorporate excellence remains a central tenet of Genesys, which is sponsoring the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards.
“I try and tell great stories about our amazing products,” is how Chris modestly describes his role, which involves keeping the company at the forefront of the technology curve as Customer Experience continues on its unstoppable rise to become the key differentiator for firms jostling to outshine others in a crowded commercial playing field.
It goes without saying that artificial intelligence (AI) plays a central role in keeping Genesys products, such as PureCloud, at this forefront, and Chris, currently based in Raleigh, North Carolina, tells us he believes that the time is right for innovation in company structures to match the growth in technological prowess.
This, as he explains, is all about establishing trust – and not just for customers.
“We have done research, and engaged in debates around the world which are focused on enterprises and how they perceive AI as affecting their customers, and their workforce,” he says.
“Through those debates, there’s a concept that’s becoming more popular in organisations – the role of Chief Trust Officer.
“They wouldn’t be in HR – they would be there to make sure data is clean; to make sure it’s not biased; and to make sure the bots are not taking the organisation down paths they don’t want to go. They could also look at human aspects, such was what happens if an employee is displaced by a piece of AI or automation, in which case they could have that trust officer on their side.”
As current AI tech has the ability to transcribe conversations in full and mine them for data to enable actions such as targeted advertising, there is, as Chris says, a concern over being able to trust the endpoint that you are talking to.
“Some of the newer voice endpoints in your home, such as Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Home – they are listening to what you say, so do you trust Amazon to choose the brand of paper towels you put in your shopping basket?”
However, talk of trust and AI ethics can oftentimes overshadow the positives of the world of CX tech, and there is plenty of those to choose from.
Chris, as VP of Product Marketing, is all about that, and is excited to share details of the innovations Genesys has been working on for its wealth of global clients.
“One that comes to mind first is something we call predictive routing. There was a TV show in Australia in the 80s called Perfect Match, similar to Blind Date in the UK, which tries to pair a contestant with their ideal dating partner. Well predictive routing is a little bit like that. What it does is look at everything we know about a customer when they call.
“So as that ringtone is ringing in your ear, we have a wealth of information about you – what you’ve done, what you’ve purchased previously, how many times have you called, how quickly you speak…that is all pulled up in real-time. Then we also know a ton of information about employees in the workforce – what training they have been on, who was the trainer that trained them, how many days off do they take a month, do they speak quickly, are they male – a ton of information!
“Predictive routing matches that customer and that employee together using machinery. And so, what I think people don’t realise is there is so much intelligence now that goes into who you speak to when you call an organisation or when you chat with them. It’s revolutionary in terms of what’s there.
“Added to that – and this is something people kind of know, but I don’t think they realise the ease in which organisations are able to do it – is understand your digital footprint on a mobile app or website.
“We can see in real-time genuinely every click that you make, where you are, what your screen is browsing. We can tell what you’re looking at with your eyeballs based on where the page is scrolling to.
“All of that information is being pulled in now to engage you better. Engage, in this sense, might be a piece of content, and that’s sort of traditional, but increasingly AI tech is being used to predict things like – should you speak to a human?Should you speak to a bot? What should the bot say? Should we rout you to another piece of content?
“The visibility and clarity surrounding your digital footprint when you turn up to someone’s dot com is amazing. I don’t think people realise that there are folks sitting in a building somewhere watching their web traffic in real-time.”
That might, of course, nudge us as wary customers back to the issue of trust, but Chris is what he describes as an “evangelist” on the idea of convenience trumping privacy for the vast majority of consumers. That’s not to say that extra protections shouldn’t be implemented to ensure responsible use of our data, hence his championing of Chief Trust Officers earlier in our conversation.
“This generation – in fact all generations almost – will happily yield their private info over if it makes things easier,” he says.
“And yes, it’s not for everyone and there will be hold-outs, but on the whole, they are giving it up. That said, this is where we need a bit of regulation, both from governments and from industry; self-regulating, for an organisation to be smart enough to know they have a responsibility not to abuse that power.”
Chris refers to the ongoing industry debate around data collection – how much “protection” does a firm like Genesys bake into their products, versus letting the buyer of the product choose it for themselves.
“We have to walk this fine line. So the steps we are taking include being very open and transparent about our AIprincipals and ethics standards. We are publishing guidelines on what you should and shouldn’t do. We have debated that with industry analysts and lots of different customers, and have gravitated to a set of principles regarding transparency and responsibility.
“Another step is from a pure technology perspective: we are providing tools for anonymised data. So when data goes into our Genesys cloud, we strip it of anything sensitive and just put a number in place. Our clients still know who it represents, but we don’t, and that keeps us protected, and therefore customers protected from data breaches also.”
Thanks to his role at the coalface of creativity at Genesys, Chris is ideal to probe for tidbits of tech trickery – magic that will pilot our customer journeys as they wind ever-onwards to a future featuring myriad possibilities.
So what’s on the horizon? What’s the Genesys genius we can expect down the line, but “aren’t quite there yet” with?
“I feel like we’re so close to two things: one is what I’ll call interaction summarisation, and this is using sequence-to-sequence learning, or machine learning. This is when you provide a pattern and say ‘given this pattern, I want you to produce this pattern’. The inputs are words, so you give it text and say ‘here’s a sequence of words – I want you to reduce that to two sentences’.
“Where we are now is that we can do real-time streaming of audio into automated speech recognition and we can get the transcripts back in real-time – that’s achievable today.
“The next step is taking the conversation you are having with a bot, either by voice or by text, and summarising it to ‘this is what you’re actually talking to us about’.
“What that then allows is for the employee to essentially do a ‘hands-off’ interaction. So the call might drop into their ear and they have a great conversation with the customer. Normally, at the end of that call they have to go ‘wrap’; they have to tag it – did you buy this or that? There’s follow-up notes to consider.
“Well with interaction summarisation, all that goes away.
“Now we have a conversation and the AI is listening to the call. It transcribes it, and the interaction summarisation says what’s going on and what’s needed as the follow-up. So the agent is basically hands-off, and that’s a very cool new way of working.
“Imagine not even needing screens, because it’s all done for you. So we are really close to that tech – that sequence-to-sequence learning or summarisation.”
The second innovation close to changing the face of customer contact forever, Chris states, is journey forecasting – tech that can replace the use of the Erlang C formula, which ‘predicts’ waiting times for callers.
“Where we are today is we have models being run to do forecasting, like workload demand forecasting, which can be applied to anything – such as how many street lamps are going to be broken in a particular city, or how many garbage bins will be intact after a storm.
“In the contact centre, it can be used to predict, for instance, how many agents you’ll need tomorrow. That’s current state, but we are on the cusp of journey forecasting, which goes beyond that one interaction.
“Let’s look at the example of an expecting mother. In that pregnancy journey there are lots of milestones that happen – for instance, calling about health insurance. It’s not one interaction with the healthcare provider – it could be 10 over the nine months. We have the math now to forecast journeys and every business process along the way. We will also be able to forecast the impacts and the resource demand. That is so close, like within a 12 to 24 month window.
“The problem with manually mapping customer journeys is that no matter what you invent, a customer is going to do something different. So what’s happening is we can apply machine learning to do pattern recognition. It will actually have more of a profound effect on the workforce than the customer.”
With passion for his products on full display, Chris is a true advocate for the advancement of Customer – and Employee – Experience, and brands can feel safe in the knowledge that the quest for improvement with Genesys will never come to an end, no matter how many technological milestones are reached.
At its best, science fiction taps into our contemporary anxieties to predict the fate of humanity.
An episode of Doctor Who, for example, featured robotised mega-corporations, human irrelevance, and despair. The Doctor may be sci-fi fantasy, but the issues are real.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is reshaping many sectors – for both good and ill. Gartner predicted that artificial intelligence would generate $1.2 trillion in business value in 2018 – an increase of 70 percent from 2017. But on the negative side, it creates much anxiety about the elimination of jobs, and prolonged focus on the cost and job-cutting aspects of AI has overshadowed how the technology can help human employees.
The CX example: how tools can hinder trade
In the customer service sector the rise in AI, decision-support, automation, and chatbots has exploded across the industry, driving multi-channel customer experience (CX). But adoption of these technologies for employee engagement has been slow. Contact centres have some of the highest employee turnover rates in the world, and there’s been troubling analysis suggesting new technology is inhibiting employee performance, engagement, and satisfaction.
Gartner analysis reveals service representatives use the mindboggling average of 8.2 different systems and tools during a customer interaction. Small wonder, then, that talk-time is up nearly 14 percent while call volume has remained the same.
We have amazing systems driving less-than-amazing experiences for the people charged with using them. A primary source of the problem stems from something obvious. We’re measuring the wrong things.
Just exactly what should we measure?
In our rush to capitalise on AI technologies, we’re failing to evaluate the way they ultimately integrate into human workflows. In the customer service sector, technology is better at handling many discrete tasks but does not replace human representatives.
It’s becoming standard practice, for example, for companies to host automated, largely self-service interaction options for customers that are always available. Digital account portals supply constant access and handy personalisation capabilities, while well-designed chatbots and virtual assistants are excellent at taking orders, payment processing, status checks, or informational queries.
But for more complex requests that require human nuance and context, technology-enhanced services can complicate the situation. When dealing with the customer, human agents are at a loss without access to what transpired during those digital interactions. And even when human agents can access those systems, they shouldn’t be flipping back and forth between applications and databases while attempting to deliver proper support to a customer.
This problem is perfect for AI solutions. Analytics engines that deliver historical and/or relevant customer information to support agents automatically and in real time can speed rather than delay productive conversation. Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems recognise spoken keywords and supply agents with useful prompts or notes, sparing them from app fatigue and task-switching. Virtualised on-demand training systems can keep them stimulated and engaged.
This employee-centric AI deserves more study and development. Systems that aren’t generating a positive Employee Experience will negatively affect the Customer Experience they deliver. Exploring ways AI can better serve employees is the solution. And measuring how employees view these tools should be the first metric for success, not an afterthought.
Collaborate to work out what best to measure
Applying AI to better serve the employee is crucial, but should be measured and managed with caution, given the enormous amount of data available.
One of the greatest struggles from an AI development perspective is determining how often a system should prompt the employee and whether there should be a trigger. Can such a mechanism be ranked? Do we allow the employee to turn off certain notifications because they’re annoying?
There’s a risk of overdoing AI assistance for Employee Experience. It could get very frustrating, very quickly. The only way to arrive at balanced employee-centric AI application is through collaboration. The people using the technology should have representation at the development table, which is also an excellent way to increase job satisfaction.
The future will require us to adapt what we measure
As AI technology becomes integrated into the enterprise, we must adapt how we gauge human performance. In CX management, technological innovation dictates that businesses restructure how they view customer contacts and the human staff who perform those jobs.
Contact centre positions will no longer be entry-level or outsourceable roles. With automation handling all the basic contact tasks, human customer service becomes a more specialised profession. Savvy and emotionally intelligent customer service employees with thorough understanding of a business and its technology will be a necessity. They’ll be managing only the most important, complex, or delicate customer concerns.
Today’s metrics, such as talk-time or calls-per-hour, provide little quantification under such circumstances – but the quality of this work will largely determine a company’s reputation among human beings.
Global Customer Experience and contact centre solutions leader Genesys is preparing to host one of Europe’s most exciting CX gatherings in Amsterdam next month.
The G-Summit Europe event will bring together customers, partners, and technology solution providers to share insights and explore ways to “turn mundane interactions into highly personalised customer experiences”.
Genesys, which is sponsoring the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, is hosting G-Summit Europe in the Dutch capital on September 10-12, and a range of speakers will discuss cutting-edge CX solutions at breakout sessions and other activities during the course of the highly anticipated event.
Guests will include Huib Van Bockel, founder of Tenzing Natural Energy and former head of marketing at Red Bull Europe. The author of The Social Brand, in his keynote speech Van Bockel will take attendees on an exploration of how organisations can achieve greater brand engagement and loyalty by doing more for the people who matter most – their customers.
Meanwhile, a decade on from highlighting the uncontainable power of poor CX with his viral video United Breaks Guitars, Canadian songwriter, author, and social media pioneer Dave Carroll will also take to the stage to share why empowering people to deliver moments of connection is so important in a digital world.
Notable Genesys customers, including, Heineken, Kiwi.com, and Lowell Group, will illustrate how they are using innovative technologies such as the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), digital channels and more.
G-summit Europe will also celebrate agents from Harambee, Swisscard, and Ving as Genesys CX Heroes for going above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.
Topics to be covered during G-Summit Europe will also include machine learning, voice and chat bots, customer and employee experience, cloud, and much more. Deep-dive breakout sessions will also cover the importance of blending the human touch with artificial intelligence and digital technologies to provide optimal service.
Merijn te Booij, CMO at Genesys, said: “Through G-Summit Europe we aim to show attendees how immersive, experiential service is the new standard for every customer, every time. Attendees will glean insights from industry experts and businesses that have had success using innovative technologies to empower their employees and turn conversations with customers into the best-connected moments across marketing, sales and service
It found nearly two-thirds of employees value new technological tools such as AI in the workplace. In fact, 64 percent of UK employees say it makes them more effective and allows them to focus on other tasks.
The findings reveal an overwhelmingly positive outlook from employees, despite the negative headlines anticipating such technologies would replace humans in the workplace. More than two-thirds of employees say they don’t feel threatened by technology at work. They don’t expect the technology to become a threat anytime soon either, given that 59 percent don’t believe AI or bots will take their jobs within the next ten years.
In fact, employees see AI as pivotal to business success with more than a fifth saying they believe AI or bots will be crucial to their companies ability to stay competitive in the future. While the survey shows that people are more excited about AI technology than fearful, it also found that in the long-term they want assurances from their employers in the form of training. The research showed an overwhelming majority (86 percent) of employees expect their employers to provide training that helps them prepare for an AI-enabled workplace.
Meanwhile, a fifth of employees say they are already working with AI, while just 16 percent report a negative experience of new technological tools in the workplace.
Other findings include 64 percent of employees believing there should be a requirement that companies maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery, and 41 percent of millennials saying they spend 50 percent or more of their time interacting with machines and computers rather than humans.
Steve Leeson, Vice President for UK and Ireland for Genesys, said: “It’s encouraging that the UK’s workers recognise the potential new technologies such as AI have to make their jobs more fulfilling and the value it can bring to businesses.
Some jobs will evolve as human work combines with the capabilities of AI. It’s increasingly important for companies to assess the need for training programs to help employees further skills like creativity, leadership and empathy, which AI just can’t replace.
“Businesses that adopt a blended approach to artificial intelligence, where AI-technologies work in unison with employees, will get the best out of their technology investment and their skilled workforce.”
The finalists in the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards have been announced, with some of the UK’s best-known brands preparing to compete for glory in London’s Wembley Stadium this autumn.
The gala event – which this year is marking ten years of celebrating the very best CX in Britain – will take place on October 10, when finalists will make presentations before an expert panel of judges in a bid to secure one of 24 category titles that reflect every aspect of customer centricity.
New categories for 2019 include Employee Experience, Employees at the Heart of Everything, Hospitality & Leisure, Retail, and Professional Services, and the awards will be presented during an evening black tie dinner ceremony.
The finals, which are chaired once again by international CX consultant and author Ian Golding, is also one of the UK’s best CX networking opportunities, with hundreds gathering at the iconic venue to support colleagues and celebrate what makes the UK a beacon of customer-centricity in a rapidly changing business landscape.
The UK Customer Experience Awards is accredited with the prestigious Gold Awards Trust Mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council, and as always is proud to be partnered with Cranfield School of Management, Barnardo’s, and the Customer Experience Professionals Association.
Also partnering the Awards for 2019 are data consultancy Kantar, and Customer Experience tech giant Genesys.
Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “Congratulations to all of our finalists, and I look forward to welcoming them to the home of champions, Wembley Stadium, later this year for the biggest UK Customer Experience Awards to date.
“The event has grown exponentially to become the biggest CX event of its kind in the world, and we are incredibly proud to be marking its tenth anniversary. Customer Experience is now a brand’s most defining characteristic, and it is impossible to overestimate its importance to the economy. These awards play such an important role in not only celebrating achievements, but also setting the standard for organisations to follow if they are to be successful in this new era where the customer really is at the heart of everything.”
The recent Genesys Xperience19 conference in Denver, Colorado, saw some of the most exciting developments in Customer Experience technology showcased to an eager global audience, and in case anyone was under any illusion about the future of CX – it involves AI.
The tech itself is dispassionate, and can appear benevolent to users as it cheerfully helps them along their customer journey. However, decades of pulp sci-fi dystopia has left AI with an image problem – no matter how helpful it may seem, some simply cannot shake the idea that bots might someday pull a Hal 9000 and see humans as inferior and deserving of subjugation…or worse!
Such fears ought to be dispersed when one discusses the details of AI technology with the real intelligence behind it – someone like Olivier Jouve, Executive Vice President of Genesys Purecloud, perhaps the planet’s most popular contact centre platform.
Olivier took on the role of PureCloud EVP in 2017, having spent over three decades honing his craft in pioneering customer sentiment technology development, including through senior positions at IBM.
His impressive resume also reveals a stint as an associate professor in computer science at Leonardo da Vinci University in Paris, and today, with a 150-strong AI team under him, Olivier is one, if not the world’s foremost authority on AI and its ability to make our journeys as customers easier.
He knows, in detail, how much his tech helps us in our lives – often without us realising it – but still the idea that AI will have a negative impact on humanity can cloud the vision and judgement of some sceptics who see it as an evil overlord-in-waiting.
Fresh from a timely Xperience19 breakout session on AI Ethics, Olivier took time out to chat with Customer Experience Magazine about his work, its reputation, and just how much AI is used for the betterment of our lives as consumers.
Speaking of the “creepiness factor” that some associate with AI, its access to personal data, and how it could be used in the wrong hands, he describes why being open and honest with customers, and letting them see the advantages with their own eyes, is the best way to go.
“We want the customer to know that we respect their data, and we need them to see what data we are using, so they are able to opt out if they so wish,” he explains.
“In the way we build our products, we do a lot of design thinking with customers to understand where the limit is. You know, what type of data they are comfortable with.
“And of course, you are being careful not to introduce any bias, which is something that’s very complex – not using any gender, or lifestyle, race…whatever, that could turn your model into something that is going to be targeting a specific minority.
“This wasn’t on the table 15 years ago when we were already scoring contact centres for next best action, cross-selling, up-selling, and so on, and using that data. Now there is much more sensitivity about how you use the data, and I think that’s actually a good thing, as it forces us to be clear from the get-go.”
Olivier highlights that those who are creeped out by an AI’s use of data, to the point where they will walk away from it, are a small minority compared to those who see the benefits and remain loyal to brands brandishing the tech.
“Companies which use AI the right way will enjoy great benefits, by being fair and respecting privacy,” he adds.
A common cause of ‘creepiness’ is the notion that a customer is unaware if they are interacting with a human or a bot on their journey with a brand, but as Olivier sagely states, that uncanny valley effect is being superseded by good old fashioned customer satisfaction when the AI does its job – and does it well.
“Me, personally, I don’t care if it’s a bot, as long as I get what I want, quickly, and with a great experience,” he continues.
“I don’t think customers care as much about the technology they use as much as the experience they have. I do think we should disclose that it’s not a human though – that should be part of the disclaimer. But at the same time, I don’t see that as something that should be discouraging people, who may think ‘oh no I’m not talking to a bot as I won’t get anything from it’.
“That’s also a danger of going to market too quickly with AI tech – some chatbots don’t provide the right experience. There are, however, things chatbots and voicebots can do very well, and I think we should double down on those.”
As Olivier points out, it’s not as if customers aren’t already used to interacting with bots on a less ‘intelligent’ level already.
“When someone asks for the balance of their bank account, they don’t care if it’s a human giving it to them, so people are already used to this sort of automation. We just have to be careful that if we go deeper with more complex things that users don’t get the feeling we are not responsive.
“People like empowerment, and chatbots can be great for that. But there are still some limitations, so we are not yet at the stage where AI is going to replace humans. We have chatbots that are very specialised and do things very well, but we need to find the right moment where you have to hand over to a human.”
Yet will there be a day when there is no human to hand over to? Will we fleshies be redundant in a future where all the work is being done by bots?
“I don’t think it will replace humans, as we are putting humans into something they are really good at, and so I see that more as a collaboration between AI and human – something we call blended AI. We can do sentiment analysis automatically, but it has limitations,” Olivier replies.
So what are these human skills that we can still feel superior to the bots on, and that customers still desire on their journeys? What’s the key difference that currently keeps humans in contact centre customer-facing roles?
“Empathy – we aren’t there yet,” says Olivier.
“Humans are great at it, and we need to think of the overall CX, the CX we want to provide. AI does things a human cannot do because you could not integrate all the different insights you have about a customer, but AI is really good at that.
“However, to take the conversation to the next step, at some point currently you have to hand over to a human. Of course, even humans need to be taught empathy in some cases!
“Perhaps in 10 to 15 years we will be able to train AI better in applying empathy, but for now that’s why we need this combination of human and technology.”
Ok, enough of what humans can do better than bots! It’s time to let Genesys genius shine, as Olivier outlines exactly why today – not years from now – AI is simply superior in most non-emotional ways to humans when it comes to steering customer journeys and earning the desired end result – superior Customer Experience.
“Our products work on finding the best agent for an incoming call or interaction, something we do very very well thanks to machine learning. The AI is understanding what the topic of the interaction is and uses historical data and a sophisticated decision tree to move the interaction forward.
“We want to optimise the customer journey, so we have a solution called predictive engagement. We can look at what a user is going to do on a website, view their navigation, and see at which moment he or she might need some help, and decide what the best outcome is for this customer.
“Once you have this interaction you can develop additional models which could be for retention or selling – more things we do very very well that a human couldn’t match.
“When you do next-best action and you have a customer calling who is ready to leave, our tech knows if you go for a specific action, there’s an 85 percent chance that this person is going to remain as a customer, for example.
“That’s from crunching a lot of data, gained through similar situations, and handling so much data – well that’s not something a human can do.”
Other than the aforementioned empathy, does Olivier feel his AI is lacking in any other areas that might be beneficial to overall CX?
“I think what AI does not do very well yet is go deeper into the conversation,” he tells me.
“We see breakthroughs when we look at things like Google Duplex, where, you can find yourself questioning if you are interacting with a real human or not, but an AI able to handle 100 percent of complex interactions? I don’t think we are there yet, though we are making a lot of progress.”
Despite my impatience as a customer to know when exactly this will be possible, Olivier sensibly refuses to give a date.
“I don’t like giving predictions, but I see how fast we are moving forward. I think Duplex was really a breakthrough – suddenly you see something and you think ‘wow’ – the voice, the type of interactions…it’s all very human.
“I don’t think it’s about developing the technology now – it’s about the right data and making it accessible. All of that is moving at an exponential speed. What’s really accelerating AI is that everything is in the cloud. Every single interaction from the employee or customer’s side – all that is feeding our AI platform. The more data we have, the more we are going to be able to power the customer journey.”
In the midst of such dazzling tech capabilities, it can easy to forget any regulation necessities to protect data and ensure AI is used for the good of humanity.
“It’s our responsibility to propose how we want to be regulated. It’s the right time to do the right thing,” adds Olivier
“Over 30 years I’ve been through a few AI ‘winters’, where AI had been at peak hype, but then died. I don’t want this one to die because some people are not responsible, so I will do whatever I can to make sure we are doing the right thing.
“There remains a fragility to this whole sphere, caused by the actions of Cambridge Analytica for example, which rocked people’s confidence in AI and data use, but I believe what we are developing at Genesys is promising, and beautiful, in a way that will not kill the hype this time around.”