When we build scopes of work for client projects, Artificial Intelligence (AI) inevitably comes up. It’s typically phrased as a requirement. “Any new system must use AI.” But what exactly does "It has to have AI" mean?
What makes an AI-powered technology special in comparison to other software programs is that it can ‘think’ for itself. In business, AI is being used to enhance and supplement human interaction between customers and businesses; to provide automated self-help in customer support and service centers, to create a web or chat-based sales platform, to mine data sets and provide the kind of rich intelligence a business can act on.
Just like any computer program, AI receives input, and then does what it’s programmed to do with that input, and creates an output. Type the word ‘hello’ on your keyboard into a word-processing application (input), and ‘hello’ appears in a document on your screen wherever your cursor was at the time (output). The difference between AI and a standard computer program is that standard computer programs require their input to conform to the rigid structures it has been programmed to expect. AI can take input that doesn’t follow a strict set of rules and first interpret it into something meaningful, then execute against that understanding. Think of how you interact with Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant versus a phone menu where you have to press a number key to select an option. That's AI.
AI is so powerful because rather than it being a single software program called AI with limited capabilities, the technology is a set of computing capabilities that when bundled together create the simulated natural interaction experience.
These key AI components allow integration into present systems and also can work independently to create the capabilities Call Centers are looking for today.
Here’s a summary:
Natural Language Processing/Natural Language Understanding - Natural Language Processing (NLP) is just as it sounds; computing technology that takes input from a human being, in the form of speech or text, and interprets its meaning into something useful. Making NLP computing work involves recognizing speech, understanding natural language, and being able to generate natural language responses. Allowing customers to navigate automated self-help using commands in their natural language rather than have to follow strict response rules is an example of NLP in the business AI stack.
Sentiment Analysis - Sentiment Analysis detects, classifies and analyzes the tone, wording, volume, pitch and other characteristics of a human speech (voice or text). Sentiment analysis is widely used in the contact center world to analyze recorded calls between customers and agents for quality assurance and training purposes. Sentiment analysis is also being used to drive routing and service decisions during live interactions (transfer callers who are exhibiting frustration with an automated system to a live agent, for example).
Machine Learning – Straight from Wikipedia: Machine learning (ML) is the scientific study of algorithms and statistical models computer systems use to effectively perform a specific task without using explicit instructions, relying on patterns and inference instead. Machine learning algorithms build a mathematical model based on sample data, known as training data, in order to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to perform the task. AI is fed examples of interaction to follow, then ‘learns’ the most successful responses so it can achieve greater and greater success at handling the interaction.
Object Recognition - Object recognition allows the camera (and other sensors) on any device to recognize and categorize objects. It is the genesis of facial and fingerprint recognition. Human beings are object and pattern-recognition machines; we can recognize all kinds of objects without much effort, even objects in differing conditions, lighting, orientation, distance, motion, etc. Computers equipped with cameras and other sensors can ‘see’ objects, but still struggle to interpret what they’re seeing. Object Recognition is a discipline in computer science that tackles this challenge, a vital component to replicating natural human interaction in the AI stack.
Augmented and Virtual Reality – Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive computing experience laid over the top of a real-world environment. Objects that reside in the actual-world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information. Imagine pointing your phone’s camera at a shopping high street and seeing offers and deals floating above the shops in view. Virtual reality is a fully-immersive simulated environment that replaces the real world. Both are being used in the AI stack to create richer digital interaction experiences for customers.
We hope this brief rundown of the computing power that’s driving the business AI revolution has been helpful. Next, we’ll walk you through products and services that are available now through our vendor partners so you can leverage the AI stack to create all kinds of automated workflows.
If you’ve been contemplating the implementation of AI technology into your contact center, contact us at City Communications. We can help you make the right decisions to maximize your return on investment and explore new technologies for your contact center
The subject of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come up a lot lately. Some people fear it intensely. Some executives want it. Some IT and telecom managers want to understand how to deliver and manage it. And a thousand companies want you to believe they can deliver it.
When we drill into what AI means to these various people, one of two operating perspectives is usually at play.
The first perspective is gloom and doom. AI is coming to take your job. AI will be used to trick and con people. AI will gain awareness of itself and begin to act with its own survival and interests in mind, turning against human beings in the process. These fears are stoked in the media, in movies and television, and especially in our social media feeds.
The second perspective on AI says that the technology will enhance humanity, raise us a level up the evolutionary scale. AI will make smarter business decisions than us. AI and Machine Learning promise to improve customer experience infinitely, making interactions between customers and your business so natural that customers will prefer it to working with your human staff. This version of AI is served up to us in ads and the think pieces our bosses are clipping out of magazines and dropping on our desks when they say “get me some AI.”
The truth is, AI isn’t either of those things. Sure, AI and machine learning is already having a positive impact in customer interaction, bringing efficiencies and competitive advantage to those who insert it into the right places in their workflow. But AI is not the second coming. It can’t solve all the world’s problems. It is a burgeoning technology that still needs time to evolve.
AI you can actually buy
Understanding what AI is and how to take advantage of it as the modern business tool it is means understanding two things.
The first understanding is that AI is not a single thing. AI is not an individual technological instance. It is, instead, a stack of software programs and technologies used in different configurations. Properly combined, this stack of capabilities can automate workflows to either reduce the amount of expensive human labor involved, or increase productivity and efficiency beyond the capacity of your human employees. We’ll be posting more about this in our next blog entry, but the stack includes natural language processing, sentiment analysis, machine learning, object recognition, and so on. Well executed, these tools can create automated interactions that can look and feel like a natural, albeit augmented, experience.
The other important understanding about AI is to know the difference between the fact and fiction of AI. Rather than expect the technology to deliver false promises, it’s better to understand the realistic, ready-to-use AI applications that exist today, that you could apply to your business if you wanted to. Bots, robo-dialers, intelligent interactive voice response (IVR) systems, virtual contact-center agents, speech analytics (keyword detection and sentiment analysis, and AI-powered data analysis are all available if you know how to build a scope, find partners who specialize in delivering the AI stack and can properly manage an AI project. Which, by the way, we do ;-)
So what do you think? What do you want to know about AI? What do you want out of the technology? How do you see it used in your business?
Stay tuned for more posts on the subject of AI (we’re going to drill into the AI stack so we can all understand it better, and spend some time breaking down the different AI-powered solutions on the market).
If you’ve been contemplating the implementation of AI technology into your business, contact us at City Communications. We can help you make the right decisions to maximize your return on investment and explore new technologies for your contact center
Contact center data is fricking fascinating. Most contact center systems come with reporting and monitoring tools that come with almost every contact-center system. Some are better than others, but most give you the kind of standard and custom reports, supervisory dashboards, and wallboard data to help you manage your contact center. The challenge for most of us is that the data is too exhaustive to digest and make sense of.
Advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and modern understanding of the psychology of our ability to interpret massive data sets visually (rather than in text, tables, or simple graphs), your current contact center reporting system lets you understand your business about as well as a mechanic can diagnose a poor-running car by looking at its license plate.
We recently connected with an innovative service provider that has adapted a data visualization and consumption tool whose original purpose was to help military leaders consume massive amounts of data generated by modern, interconnected warfare systems. By representing complex data sets in visual, pattern-based presentations, they can be consumed and understood at a significantly higher level than the raw data contained within them.
Now adapted to visualize contact center (and other business) data, their system can improve your understanding of your organization in three powerful ways.
Empowered and engaged agents strive for personal achievement.
At the agent level, this new data visualization tool provides a desktop dashboard applet/assistant that gives agents real-time feedback about their performance. Data is presented in a compact, visual way. Agents who strive achieve the goals and KPI’s set by their employers (agents who want to ‘win’ the contact center game and elevate themselves) can use the tool to measure their performance against goals and see how they rank against KPI’s and their colleagues. Think of it like a Fitbit for agents. Empowered agents achieve more. Empowered agents are more engaged with their work. An empowered agent workforce is more productive. Successful agents are more likely to stick. Empowering agent leads to efficiencies that lowers contact center labor cost.
Operation Intelligence improves supervisor-to-agent ratios and lowers workforce costs.
At the supervisor level, this powerful data visualization tool offers dashboards and triggers using pattern-recognition technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning to give supervisors the ability to spot where they need to coach their teams on the fly. This powerful assistive technology allows supervisors to serve more agents. A higher agent-to-supervisor ration means lower contact center labor cost and happier, more productive supervisors.
Real-time feedback loops offer drive contact center strategy and performance.
At the management/executive level, this category-establishing system visualizes the big picture. You’ll identify patterns in data and behavior that allow you to make quicker strategic and tactical and yield greater possible results. Imagine being able to look at one screen and know, from a pool of 1,000 agents, who your low performers are? Or imagine being able to ingest thousands of data points and identify a new opportunity for efficiency gains instantly? How could you drive results with that kind of insight?
Have you ever seen a video of a child receiving hearing aids or glasses for the first time? That’s the same ‘Wow!’ moment we had seeing this system in action the first time. We’d like to share it with you.
Fill out the form below, for a short introduction.
The contact center is the primary point of contact with customers in the after-sales field, and in some cases, it serves as a point of contact in making before-sales decisions and even making some sales outright. This makes quality management in the contact center especially vital, and knowing how to address some of the most significant issues of quality in the contact center can represent new sales, kept — or even recovered — customers, and a better bottom line.
Taking Care of Issues of Quality Management in the Contact Center
Addressing issues of quality management in the contact center can deliver some significant benefits, but it's all about understanding how these issues impact operations.
No One Wants to Work a Call Center Job. Less-than-pleasant working conditions, low pay, and a perception that the job itself is a career dead-end add up to make employee attrition a severe problem. There are several options to address this, including raising pay, limiting total numbers of calls handled, and instituting gamification options to take advantage of natural competitive urges. Which is best will vary by office.
The Customers Aren't Happy Either. Dissatisfied customers are likely planning to leave, by some reports, and this makes first-call resolution vital. To get there, you need the best in call center agents — see the previous entry on how to get those — and you need to improve the quality and quantity of information available to those agents. Be ready to empower agents to do what it takes to satisfy a customer and if an agent ever has to explain to a caller why his or her hands are tied, scrutinize those circumstances.
You Have All the Tools You Need, and Then Some. It's important to have the right tools for the job, but having them intermingled with every other tool in the hardware store will make them tough to reach when they're needed. Consider consolidation, slimming down the total tools you have on hand to focus just on what's needed. Look into new software that combines tasks and puts the right tool close to hand.
The Best Way to Address Quality Management in the Contact Center
These points will help you address several significant issues of quality management in the contact center. For those who haven't found their particular problem discussed, however, there's always more help available when you reach out to us at City Communications. Follow that link to check out our free download whitepaper explaining issues of cloud contact centers, then check out our other offerings to help fill in the gaps from there. Your contact center can be a powerhouse for your business, so get in touch with us to make it all it can be.
When it comes time to take advantage of developments in cloud-based technology and build a cloud contact center, the good news is that there are plenty of alternatives out there to choose from. This is also the bad news; with so many options, the chance of picking a sub-optimal one increases dramatically. So how can a business make the distinction between a cloud provider that will make it rain and one with its head in the clouds? A few key points will help determine the best in the field.
How to Identify the Best in Cloud Contact Center Providers
Knowing the difference between good and bad providers can help keep many problems from ever arising. Since you count on your contact center being operational to handle customers, that makes the selection process that much more vital to your company's health.
Consider Your Needs. There aren't really “good” and “bad” providers, so much as there are ones that work better with what you need than others. Knowing just what you want to accomplish with a cloud provider can better help you distinguish among the various options in the field. For instance, some providers will put a particular premium on data security above many other attributes.
Start with Cloud Native. Even as you consider your needs, it's a good plan to start your search with “cloud native” operations. These have historically worked well with cloud contact center operations. Research from the Aberdeen Group found that CLTV rates improve 17% on average, and first-call resolution (FCR) improves 10% over other alternatives. Even interactive voice response (IVR) systems get a 14% better completion rate this way.
Continually Update Your Considerations. In the same way you'd give an employee a regular review, do so with your cloud provider. Determine if it's had issues in uptime availability, or if it hasn't introduced the features you're looking for. In so doing, you can tell fairly rapidly if you're not getting the most out of the cloud contact center and if you need to make changes.
What to do When You Need Help Setting Up a Cloud Contact Center
Picking the right provider for your cloud contact center can be a challenge, so it's useful to turn to a firm that has plenty of experience as a cloud service provider. Start by getting in touch with us at City Communications. Not only do we have a wealth of cloud contact center experience, but we can offer immediate information as a free download— just click on the preceding link — that will show you exactly what we can do in response to your needs. So click the download button, and then reach out to us to make the cloud contact center process that much easier.
Avaya's Cloud Service division offers SIP service in a burstable, pay-only-for-what-you-use model. Is this a visionary low-overhead and high-availability way to provision SIP trunking in your communications network?
On a call with Avaya a few weeks ago, they told us that in order to empower developers to turn up and turn down applications using their CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service) product quickly, they had purchased and integrated a SIP carrier into the platform.
The most interesting aspect of this carrier SIP service was that they sell it on a metered, per-minute basis. Meaning, you don't have to contract for fixed, standby SIP trunks to connect your communications application to the outside world. You pay for SIP channels and minutes only as you need and use them.
We then learned that this dynamic SIP service was available as a stand-alone offering (you didn’t have to be a developer to have a dynamic SIP account). Which begs the question; could our clients leverage Avaya's burstable (dynamic) SIP to gain greater bandwidth, network redundancy, and cost savings for their communications networks?
SIP trunks (channels) are a critical piece of communications infrastructure. You cannot make or take voice calls on your business phone or contact center system without them. A correctly-engineered communications system will contain a ratio of SIP channels to system users so employees and customers will not encounter the dreaded fast-busy signal. Maybe that ratio is 8:1 (1 SIP channel for every eight system end-points). Or maybe it’s 10:1. Whatever. The art of communications-network design is getting that ratio right.
Most systems are overbuilt and have too many SIP channels available. You pay for all those trunks regardless of whether you use them or not. You’re burning money when these resources are idle or unused. So if you need SIP, and the two ways SIP is currently sold favors the carrier, Avaya’s new pay-as-you-go pricing be a more efficient way to manage the phone calling demands of your business. It’s worth doing some analysis to find out.
Some companies have a drastically changing need for carrier services throughout the year. Operate a seasonal business, and the resources you need at peak could be a huge factor greater than the network you need off-season (we even have customers who completely shut down for periods of time every year). Launch a big marketing or advertising effort, and your call volume jumps significantly (for a while). So how do you manage a communications system for a business that may need a hundred lines of SIP access in July, but only one in January?
Most of our seasonal clients contract for all the lines they need for the peak, and simply leave them idle for the off-peak need (and amortize the cost across their annual budget). Others constantly turn up and turn down services trying to capture those savings; navigating the logistical minefield of contracts, minimums, and fluctuating pricing. Dynamic SIP solves for both problems.
With a dynamic SIP connection in place, your system can open channels for calls up to an almost unlimited quantity (bandwidth and provisioning permitting), anytime you need them. And if the service sits idle, the nominal costs are negligible.
Clients bring us challenges all the time that no existing cloud-based phone or contact-center system can solve. They may want a unique call-flow, need multiple systems to integrate with each other, or want contact center data managed in a very specific way. In most cases, to get the job done, we either contract with the professional services group from one of the major companies to modify or integrate their products to give the customer what they’re after, or work with a developer to design an application in a development environment like Twilio. Both approaches can be costly and tricky to execute well.
Avaya’s dynamic SIP sits inside a development environment. Because it’s designed as a service to help developers create new applications for communications systems, you get access to powerful new carrier-level features and services beyond traditional SIP. These services – carrier-level metadata and text capability at the trunk level, for example - means if your phones and underlying phone system are capable, you could add powerful new dimensions to your call-routing and system management.
It depends on your specific application and will take educated analysis, but yes, we believe that dynamic SIP is a vital new tool to help customers optimize their carrier networks. For customers paying for SIP channels that sit idle much of the time, or who buy channel/minutes bundles and have standard business usage, there is likely a cost saving. High-volume contact centers and clients with technical needs can gain access to rich carrier metadata and build amazing new workflows and applications. And clients with seasonal, or widely-varying SIP needs, can leverage the service to scale their voice networks up and down dynamically. Do any of these scenarios fit you?
When you're ready for the best in technology consulting and management, reach out to us at City Communications. We can provide both experience and expertise on a wide range of topics. We'll help keep you in the game, no matter what your reason for calling in help may be. Drop us a line when you're ready for that little extra help in keeping your operations up and running
Can Avaya's Dynamic SIP Give You A Better Voice Network?
Avaya's Cloud Service division offers SIP service in a burstable, pay-only-for-what-you-use model. Is this a visionary low-overhead and high-availability way to provision SIP trunking in your communications network?
SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) trunking is the modern telephone line, a data service that provides you with the connections to the public communications network your business needs to make or take phone calls. Chances are you’re paying for SIP service in your business in one of two ways.
The first way is per channel. You contract with a carrier for SIP channels connected to your on-premise or cloud-based phone system. You purchase enough SIP channels to have an active phone connection for as many simultaneous calls your business needs to make. You then pay by the minute for the time you connect to domestic or international long-distance numbers (inbound or outbound). Your rate on both channels and minutes is based on your negotiating power. Alternatively, your carrier may offer a bundled SIP service; channels and (usually domestic) long-distance minutes together in packages at a flat, per-channel fee.
For efficiency, carriers route all their customer’s SIP calls out to the public network on a set of carefully-managed master trunks, a pool of resources shared across their entire customer base. For stand-alone trunk customers, carriers profit by selling you capacity at the highest rate they can get from you. Unless you’re the single-largest customer they have, you are not getting their absolute best rate. For bundle customers, carriers use the law of averages to charge you a price that covers how many minutes of toll calling the average business user makes, and profits every month you don’t use all of the minutes and SIP trunks they have allocated to your account.
“Why do we pay for SIP channels that sit idle 90% of the time?”
But if the technology exists to pool resources like SIP trunks and access to the public network for calls, why do individual business customer have to pay for channels or minutes they may never use? Why do we pay for SIP channels that sit idle 90% of the time, just in case you need them in your busiest moments? Can’t an individual customer get access to a pooled SIP service on a pay-as-you-use-it basis, access SIP channels on the fly, or turn up and turn down channels only when you need them without carrier minimums and penalties?
On a call with Avaya about their Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) product, we learned that to empower developers to turn up and turn down applications using their platform quickly, Avaya purchased and integrated a SIP carrier. Which means Avaya, and developers on their platform, have immediate access to provision local, mobile, and toll-free telephone numbers, as well as have SIP trunking and long-distance phone services ready to make and receive calls to and from the public network.
The most intriguing aspect of this carrier SIP service was that Avaya sells it on a metered, per-minute basis. Meaning, you don't have to contract for fixed, standby SIP trunks to connect your communications application to the outside world. You pay for SIP channel and minutes only as you need and use it.
Interested in learning more about how you can leverage Avaya’s Dynamic SIP to improve the efficiency of your voice network? Contact us for a free consultation.
Scottsdale, Arizona, February 2019 – City Communications, a boutique telecommunications management firm with a nationwide client base, has hired leading contact center technology expert Darren Prine to lead its business outreach and consulting initiatives.
Prine brings with him a wealth of contact center experience. Well known as a cloud solutions expert, Prine has successfully sold cloud-based contact center solutions for three different companies. Operating from his home base in Southern California, he’s the current President of the Southwest Regional Chapter of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP), which hosts multiple customer-care events annually in four states. Prine has been listed multiple times in the Fonolo Top 10 Call Center Tweeters to Follow list, and has also been listed on International Customer Management Institute’s Top 50 Thought Leaders.
"In the past, I only represented one company and one solution,” Prine says about the move. “When you only represent one company, your solution to everyone's problem is the one you sell, not always the one that is best for the customer. With City Communications, I represent over 100 different providers. Now I can help companies source the best possible solution, whether for their contact-center technology, the underlying network, or of the other technologies that intertwine in the modern enterprise, without bias."
“We are thrilled to have Darren on our team,” says City founder and partner John Casas. “As cloud-based communications services and networking technologies evolve and expand, customers need a team working for them that can provide the most comprehensive set of option from the open market. As one of the leading subject matter experts in this area, Darren adds significant value to our client advocate practice.”
Prine joins a tenured team of industry veteran project managers, consultants, and communications-services leaders at City.
City Communications is a leading boutique telecommunications management firm that works with clients nationwide on a wide range of voice and data projects, selling and managing solutions from over 100 providers. Founded in 2001, City specializes in Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), Avaya IP Office cloud migrations, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), SD-WAN, and Wide Area Network planning, procurement, and management.
For more information about this press release, please contact Steve Medcroft at (602) 515-0320 or by email at email@example.com.
If you've already made the decision to upgrade your contact center, discover the five vital questions to ask before deploying new contact center software. Doing so will help you make the most of the deployment and ensure that you've made the right decision for your business. Questions ranging from integration to tools to upgrades and more will help you start the process of integrating a successful contact center with a clear goal in mind. And once you're ready to begin, reach out to us at City Communications for assistance. We have the contact center and UC tools you need to reach your objectives.
Now that you're aware of the questions you should be asking before deploying new contact center software, it's time to get started. At City Communications, we can give you the guidance you need to help make your contact center the best it can be. Our range of options and UC tools will equip you with the services you need for successful integration. If you're ready to start the process, contact us today. No matter where you find yourself in the journey, we can meet you there and ensure you get the resources that best fit your unique business needs.
The best contact centers aren’t just focused on technology — they’re putting a lot of effort into making sure management knows what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and how to support their workers in the most productive manner possible. It’s not easy to manage a contact center, but with the right approach and the best tools, yours can be highly productive.
Targeted coaching techniques can be a big advantage to employees who need that extra bit of personalized training. However, the best management environments are those where communication across the entire department is a priority. Good communication leads to faster conflict resolution. Furthermore, a lower level of conflict also improves workplace morale, which leads to better engagement and retention.
Despite adopting top-notch management techniques, there are still many disadvantages to taking on an on-site approach to managing a contact center. In fact, many organizations are leaving it up to a third party, and this approach is catching on.
Stop Wasting Time
The prospect of having outside project management assistance for better outcomes is fast becoming a go-to decision for companies small and large. When you manage a contact center with professional assistance, you can get customized solutions without having to carry all the extra baggage that’s involved with an on-site management scenario.
With a managed service provider, you can stop wasting your staff’s time waiting on hold with carriers and trying to figure out what issues are negatively impacting productivity. It’s “dirty work” that can be handled by someone else, preferably a team of experts that make it their full-time job.
When you land on the right provider, you’ll get a veteran staff that has all the telecom experience necessary to track your issues and handle all of your trouble tickets, billing issues, adds, changes, moves and more.
Finding the Right Carrier
The right telecom management service will coordinate and record your services and issues with all your data and voice carriers. The best managers will serve as a one-stop portal where all the information you need is only a click away.
Rather than pay for a suite of services you don’t need, find a telecom management provider that offers low monthly fees, yet can still keep an accurate inventory of vital information, including phone numbers, circuit IDs, account numbers and contract expiration dates.
At City Communications, we are a the experts at getting our clients started faster with a variety of hosted options, and that means our clients aren’t burdened with depreciating capital equipment. We have access to the latest technology, and we handle all the upgrades and maintenance. Contact us today, and let’s talk about how we can help you manage a contact center.
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