MiaRec, Five9 CX, and AI (Oh my)
We thoroughly expected the Five9 CX Summit to be one of the most exciting shows we've had the privilege of presenting at this year but it far exceeded our expectations. Without fail, every show in the tech industry tells the participants that they're on the precipice of a new era, watching a paradigm shift, And even reading this you're probably thinking that I'm about to tell you that.
Yes, I am 100% telling you that. To paraphrase Rowan Trollope, Five9’s founder, “there will be more done with AI in the next 5 years than in the previous 25.” There's too much to put into a single blog about what happened over the week that we were in Las Vegas, so here are my critical takeaways.
There were workshops and presentations galore, and MiaRec even got to present a couple of times, but when Trollope’s Keynote took place, I finally understood for myself why so many users are, by their own admission, fanatics about Five9. From a triptych of gargantuan projectors, Rowan Trollope introduced Five9’s concept of “collaborative intelligence”.
For too long it has been assumed that artificial intelligence was developed to eliminate people in the workplace. The idea behind collaborative intelligence puts AI in its proper place, accelerating and optimizing human capability, not supplanting it. Human decision-making is irreplaceable, but much like a motorcycle can speed you to your destination far faster than your feet can, the combination of raw computing power helmed by a capable human being shows limitless potential.
Five9 see the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning expanding across every facet of their contact center platform, and they specifically look for the smart use of AI in the partners that they accredit. (Hint, MiaRec received our accreditation from Five9 shortly before we packed our bags and hit the show.) Every partner and presenter that we sat with and learned from had, just as we do, multiple applications built on artificial intelligence that aren’t meant to replace humans, but to enhance their ability to satisfy customers.
Focus On The Agent
From sitting with customers who all ran contact centers, we had what we suspected for a long time confirmed. Here's a break out of our learnings.
Contact centers are not factories
Gone are the days when agents were interchangeable drones in an industry that could sustain its high turnover rate. The great resignation and the pandemic have pushed organizations across the globe to reassess the way they care for the people that represent the company to the customer
This means training, coaching, and perhaps most important of all, monitoring for quality assurance needs special attention. One of the reasons we built our product to divide conversations in the topics is to help companies take just as close a look at their agents as they do their customers.
Agents often lack training, sometimes get frazzled or fatigued, and sometimes shine so brightly that they should be moved into training positions and promoted. The artificial intelligence component of our analytics platform is designed to help every company spot these and many other conditions.
At one of the round tables we sat at, the idea was suggested that the contact center doesn't need to be a high turnover business. Artificial intelligence and Analytics accelerate our human capabilities through collaborative intelligence, and we no longer miss the events that cause agents to quit or mistreat customers.
Contact Center quality management has been waiting for AI its whole life
I've often reported that quality managers often scan through no more than 1% to 2% of their calls in the hopes that they'll get a feel for what's going on inside the contact center. Imagine my surprise when one of our round table discussions revealed that some contact centers have quality managers reviewing 1 to 2 calls per month, not percent, just calls.
What that really means is that there's no quality control at all in some instances, and in others there's not enough to confidently score any metric in that contact center. At this conference, the number of tools built for real time analysis of customer interactions through machine learning proliferated and our whole team was blown away at the innovations hatched by the participating companies.
However, what stood out to me is that the vast majority of applications we encountered geared toward enhancing the in-progress interaction, whereas our company is uniquely positioned in a different vantage point. From where we stand, analyzing interactions after they occur allows us to build a growing knowledge base around the contact center that not only tracks the evolution of its performance, but helps us confidently make decisions to steer its future.
This, of course, is predicated on the intelligent use of machine learning. The raw volume of data produced by contact centers with as few as two hundred agents far surpasses most companies' ability to monitor even a fraction of the interactions. We didn't set out to increase that fractional value, we set out the score and organized every last call a company makes or takes. As the quality of connection and speech engines improve, the way a system is employed will be the defining difference between competitive intelligence and just another voice analytics product with high promise and low yield.
Happy customers have talked to happy agents
Improving CX is no more possible without taking care of your agents than growing good crops without good seeds. During our workshops we heard contact center administrators and presenters share a variety of learnings from their high-performing agents. Some smile when they others practice key phrases that steer the conversation towards positivity. Taken as a whole, they were two main components that made up successful agents: familiarity with the product and mental state.
Without both of these key components in place, contact center administrators laid out for us the inevitable decline we call internal churn. A vivacious agent that has to keep putting customers on hold to read knowledge base articles frustrates both the customer and themselves. A highly knowledgeable agent who isn't properly supported by the company burns out. Add to that the fact that remote work is becoming universally widespread which produces a new condition that we need to account for: isolation.
In contact centers of the recent past, fledgling agents could stand up, stretch, and turn to another agent for advice or just a friendly face. Coaching could happen over the shoulder and would successfully keep the call on track in far less time than it takes for an agent to read an knowledgebase article.
Remote work has deep benefits to employer and employee alike, but it has some challenges that are especially tricky to tackle. Some agents never set foot inside the premises of the company that hired them and this, we’ve learned, starts the agent at a disadvantage. New agents that are on-boarded remotely have to be engaged personally in some form to help them connect to your company culture as well as their products and services. Even showing them previously recorded successful calls can give them a sense of the place they’re working in as well as the standard level they should be rising to.
AI can be used to detect various call conditions through language, both in real time for coaching and for post call review, one of the most effective training tools in the hybrid and cloud-based contact center. Analyzing the language used on calls also shows us when an agent needs support. Unfortunately, customers can be angry, abusive, and downright rude, and even your best agent can only stomach so much of that before needing to go check in from a manager who cares. AI is the only way to fully scan for and detect the kinds of interactions that could be leading one of your agents to quit and add to the churn in your contacts Center.
Ultimately, what we're learning is that AI can help us listen to everything and prevent so many negative outcomes we simply used to accept as part of the failure margin. While some failure is inevitable in any business, we think that the margins can be dramatically reduced, and that high turnover needn’t be an expectation in the contact center.
AI For Speech Analytics, and Pretty Much Everything Else
It's encouraging, and perhaps a bit humorous, to feel relieved that AI isn't really going the way of all the science fiction movies that have populated our screens for the past few decades. The machines are not suddenly waking up and finding that humankind is a nuisance, but rather human kind is figuring out how to better serve itself by employing AI in the right places.
We walked away from the show having met and spoke with a high volume of incredibly bright and forward-thinking individuals. We got the sense that we fill a special place in our partnership with Five9, and that we’re in good company with like-minded organizations that want to drive transformation in the contact center by putting humans first and technology where it belongs, at our fingertips.
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