Nuance - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo: Part 1 of What’s left to tackle in voice technology
Me: “Alexa - what’s the temperature going to be today?”
Alexa: “Right now the temperature is 56 degrees today in with cloudy skies. Today you can expect clouds and showers with a high of 60 degrees and a low of 44 degrees. ”
Me: “What about tomorrow?”
Alexa: [blank stare]
Me: “Ugh - Alexa - what will the temperature be tomorrow?”
Voice as a computer interface has come a long way, but it’s still clunky and nothing like talking to another person. Our amazement with how far the technology has come since voice recognition in IVRs came on the scene in the 1980s can make us forget the remaining problems we have to tackle to get to human-level interactions. In this blog series, I’m going to take each remaining hurdle and talk about where we are today, where we’re going and how Nuance is leading the way.
Part 1: Automatically generating dialog for conversations is a complex problem to solve.
“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” Believe it or not, this is a grammatically correct sentence and illustrates why automating natural language processing and conversation is hard. If you’re wondering what the Buffalo sentence means you can click the link and read about it (helpful tip - take an Advil). The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version is that the word “buffalo” can be a proper noun, noun, or a verb, so the sentence translates to something about how buffalo from Buffalo bully (aka buffalo) buffalo, etc…
This is obviously an extreme example, but it just goes to show that there is plenty of meaning and “nuance” hidden in the words people choose that computers haven’t been “taught” to understand yet.
Here’s an example that may resonate more with English speakers:
SHE never told him that she loved him. (but someone else did)
She NEVER told him that she loved him. (zero times in their entire relationship)
She never TOLD him that she loved him. (she showed it but never said it out loud)
She never told HIM that she loved him. (but told everybody else)
She never told him that SHE loved him. (but that someone else did)
She never told him that she LOVED him. (only that he liked him and thought was funny)
She never told him that she loved HIM. (she said she loved someone else)
As a live, English-speaking human, you would catch the subtle changes in meaning just by placing inflection on different words. However, artificial intelligence would have to be taught that kind of nuance.
Another great illustration of the complexity of language can be seen in a video of physicist Richard Feynman, apparently being condescending to his interviewer: Richard Feynman Magnets - YouTube. The interviewer is simply asking Dr. Feynman to explain magnetism to him, and Dr. Feynman refuses and dismisses the question, saying that the interviewer won’t understand. The net of the video is that Dr. Feynman can’t explain magnetism in a meaningful way without a shared frame of reference – and he and the interviewer don’t share one. The interviewer doesn’t have the degrees that Dr. Feynman has, so he equates it to explaining to an alien why his wife is in the hospital with a broken leg. Well, she slipped and fell. Why did she slip and fall? Well, she was walking on ice. Why is ice slippery? …etc., on down into deeper and deeper levels of complexity – for seven minutes – and never answers the magnetism question. (One viewer posted, “This is why no one talks to you at parties.”)
This complexity is at the core of the problem we need to solve for computers to “learn” how to converse with humans. Nuance is making great advances in automating conversation. Currently the state of the art in this area is still Simple Question Answering (essentially Enterprise Search front-ended with Natural Language Understanding). See Paul Tepper’s Post on advances in automating conversation. Nuance is working internally and with research partners on encoding the general knowledge that computers need in order to decipher the buffalo sentence and to have a frame of reference to converse with humans.
So, just in case you didn’t have a frame of reference when reading this blog post, go back and read the Wikipedia entry on the buffalo sentence and watch the Dr. Feynman video. Then you’ll understand the monstrous task we have in bringing voice technology up to human-level interactions.
Next time: Part 2: Sentiment and Emotion in Voice – “Your customer seems angry – umm – now what?”
Publish Date: November 21, 2017 5:00 AM
It seems intuitive that an IVR that features a user-friendly, speech-enabled menu would deliver improved performance and customer experience over antiquated touch-tone systems. Well now we have the research to prove it.
In the past year Nuance hired a third-party research ﬁrm to evaluate the IVR customer experience offered by 50 leading companies in the Fortune 250 to see how well their IVRs perform. The results are surprising and unsurprising. Spoiler alert: the unsurprising part is how well speech-enabled IVRs worked compared to touch-tone.
The research criteria
Using a rating scale of 1–5, third-party researchers evaluated each of the 50 companies across six key criteria to assess the state of their IVR and their ability to help customers resolve issues quickly and painlessly. The six criteria were:
- Ease of use – how easy was the experience?
- Speed – how quickly was the call resolved?
- Speech recognition – if speech enabled, how well did the IVR understand the caller?
- Conversational dialogue – does the IVR engage in personal, back-and-forth dialogue?
- Caller intent – how well did the IVR determine why someone is calling?
- Audio quality – were the menus clear and easy to hear?
Researchers compiled all the results across these six criteria and generated an average score for each IVR.
Across all 50 IVRs evaluated the average score was 2.3, indicating that there is much room for improvement in how IVRs support callers.
The unsurprising results
No surprise to us is that the IVRs in the top ﬁve performing industries below scored a whopping 35% higher than the bottom ﬁve. Is your company in one of these industries?
What makes the leaders stand out? No surprise that the reason for their improved IVR performance was that they invested in speech-enabling their IVRs at a much higher rate. 67% of the top performing companies adopted speech-enabled IVRs.
Speech-enabled IVRs — whether standalone or combined with Dual-tone Multi-frequency signaling (DTMF) — provide higher quality experiences than DTMF systems alone. As shown in the graphic below, companies with speech IVRs had significantly higher average scores:
The surprising results
The data above was no surprise at all. But what was surprising? Two things stand out:
First, 53% of the companies still employ an old-fashioned touch-tone IVR. Yes, DTMF and “Press 1 for Service” still lives on in the majority of companies we called. That’s great news for anyone who loves the 80’s but not so great for everyone looking to move into the future.
Second, industries that are heavily reliant on their IVR and contact center fell into the lower performing category. Companies that sell Insurance (Financial Services), Healthcare, and Health Insurance all scored significantly below the average. Given how important the phone is for engaging customers in these industries, it is curious to see them perform below average.
Is your company in the bottom tier? Still rely on DTMF? Then please read on!
Say “Yes” to speech
With the rise of voice-activated smart assistants in our phones, cars, and homes, the power of voice is on the rise with no sign of slowing down. So why have your customers greeted with technology from 1988? Your IVR is one of your most important channels, and it makes sense to start the move to speech today. Today’s modern, conversational IVRs use powerful speech recognition and natural language so callers can engage the IVR and simply say whatever they’d like – in their own words – and be directed to the right resource. Imagine your customers’ delight when they can stop pushing buttons and start using their own words.
Check out the full research infographic to review the results in more depth, and then contact Nuance to see how we can help you be a top performer.
Publish Date: November 14, 2017 5:00 AM
It was a month like we’d never seen before. As we watched Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria impact the US and Carribbean, and a massive earthquake hit Mexico City, a series of questions may have run through our heads. How can we help those people? How do they rebuild? How can we better prepare? As a society, we’ve talked a lot in recent years about upgrading our infrastructure, and that goes beyond roads, bridges and power grids. It’s likely owing to my profession, but I believe the modernization of communications that can be leveraged during disasters like these can literally be life savers for those communities threatened by situations like these.
The timing seems right – what used to be unsophisticated outbound technologies like “robo calls” are now going through a renaissance as more advanced vendors orchestrate multiple proactive engagement channels like text messaging, push notifications, email and automated voice, coordinating with IVR and digital through an omni-channel fabric and improving ease-of-use through cloud platforms. Using outbound notifications before, during and after an emergency like tornado or flooding should be seen as the first line of defense for local governments. Often, the first thing that happens as regions gird themselves for a disaster is a massive increase in inbound calls to customer service lines. Citizens are demanding timely answers about what they should do, and call centers can quickly become overwhelmed as wait times grow.
By combining voice, text and other channels in an integrated fashion, residents get the information they need through the channels they prefer, extending the reach of critical messages like incident preparedness, evacuation routes and shelter locations.
We all know this type of communication is important – and may become increasingly vital – so, what should we look for in an outbound communications platform?
- Security and compliance: Security must be the number one priority. Be sure your vendor is protecting sensitive data and staying in regulatory compliance with PCI Level 1, ISO 27001 certification and HIPAA-compliant data centers.
- Self-service messaging: You’ll need an intuitive user interface so you can easily record a message, use text-to-speech or choose from pre-recorded messages.
- Omni-channel contact strategy: It’s critical that your solution works across channels and supports voice, email, text and smartphone push notification. The ability to transfer to a representative or call center directly from a voice message is a bonus.
We don’t know when or where “the next one” is coming, but we do have concrete steps we can take to limit loss of life and property. Now is the time to take that first step.
Publish Date: November 7, 2017 5:00 AM
Halloween is a time of frights and scares. Zombies, goblins, witches, and monsters are let loose on the public to scare and haunt them. And a good scare is tons of fun this time of year and makes us scream in delight. Good scares get our adrenaline going. But on the flipside, bad experiences that cause us to scream with anger get our blood boiling. That’s never good, but unfortunately it happens every day when consumers receive frustrating and ‘scarily bad’ customer service experiences.
Read on, if you dare, for three of the scariest customer service experiences we believe are guaranteed to make any customer scream.
“Push 1 for mortgage enquiries…”
There it is. Popping out of your phone like a monster bursting from behind a wall. The outdated IVR menu. (Cue the Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween” scream!) In a world of cool, new voice-enabled applications and assistants, the old fashioned IVR terrifies your customers.
Nobody wants to wade through endless mazes of touch-tone based options and push buttons like it’s 1978. Customers will scream in frustration. Surprisingly there are still many enterprises still using this old-fashioned technology today. Our research into 50 of the Fortune 250 IVRs shows that a scarily high 53% of the companies still employ an old fashioned touch-tone IVR. Hard to believe and yet so easy to fix.
Today’s modern conversational IVRs delight callers with powerful speech recognition and natural language so callers can simply say whatever they’d like – in their own words – to get directed to the right resource. Satisfaction goes up, and frustrating screams go down.
What was your second-grade teacher’s dog’s name?
Nothing sets me off quite like the random challenge questions to prove I am who I say I am. Most of the time they are asking me something I answered five years ago and promptly forgotten, or worse, something that is not hard to find out like Mother’s maiden name. Of course, now that I am on the phone with an agent, I am the one who looks stupid. “I don’t know… Spot?”
Fortunately for everyone PINs, passwords and challenge questions are the way of the past. Call centers, IVRs and virtual assistants all over the world are adding secure biometrics to ensure the person is who they claim to be. With secure voice biometrics customers can simply state a pass phrase they don’t have to remember, or even be recognized just from a normal conversation. In addition new biometric modalities enable people to use their face, fingerprint, iris and even unique behaviors to prove their identity. All the time not having to memorize anything! “I just remembered. Rover!”
“What’s happening with my flight/package/credit card?”
Too many times a customer must proactively call a company to enquire about an issue they are having. And nothing causes greater frustration and a maddening scream like a customer service agent acknowledging, “Oh yes. I see your flight is delayed.” Huh? So they knew about it? Well, then why didn’t they let the customer know in advance and prevent the phone call?
It doesn’t need to be this way. We live in a world of powerful push notifications through multiple channels where sending a text or email costs a fraction of a penny. Why don’t more companies get onboard with proactive outbound communications? Many do but only for limited scenarios like overdue bills or appointment reminders. They fail to connect the whole customer experience due to siloed service channels.
A proactive outbound platform connected to the inbound IVR platform ensures customers are notified in advance of issues like flight delays or suspicious charges on their credit card. A well-timed text or email ensures the right outcome and also increases customer satisfaction by preventing them from calling your contact center, which reduces operational expenses. Today’s consumers want to be notified proactively; they opt in for communications that help reduce their effort. New technology allows organizations to both notify consumers and engage in a two-way conversational text dialogue using smart, natural language understanding.
Beams, not screams
Being scared and having a good scream is fun – in the right situation. Calling service channels should not elicit a response best reserved for a Friday night horror flick. With the right investments and planning, organizations can offer their customers a service experience that leaves them beaming - not screaming.
Publish Date: October 31, 2017 5:00 AM
As you wish. That’s the catch phrase that resounds with Princess Bride fans as the movie’s 30th anniversary has recently passed and TCM plans a special showing in theatres on October 15. One of the reasons this silly romantic comedy has become such a cult classic is that it is littered with phrases like “Inconceivable!” and “Wuv, tru wuv,” that find a resting place in the back of our minds.
One of my favorites is “As you wish” – that statement of devotion and tru wuv that Westley proclaimed to Princess Buttercup. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to get customer service that said, “As you wish”? There are a small handful of establishments that follow that mantra when it comes to how they treat their customers, but this philosophy is pretty hard to find with voice or online customer service. Customers are underwhelmed by the digital experiences most brands deliver. Only 7% of brands are exceeding customer expectations, and part of the reason is that their queries are not being answered or solved. To many customers, an “As you wish” customer service is “inconceivable!”
Here are four ways to make your brand’s customer service say, “As you wish.”
- Conversational IVR gives human-like interactions that allow customers to self-serve and successfully resolve issues within the IVR. Natural Language Understanding enables the IVR to understand customers’ speech and intent, and delivers an intuitive service experience that anticipates the caller’s needs.
- Virtual assistance provides immediate, personalized self-serve assistance across various channels. It enables an intelligent, human-like dialogue between consumers and your brand, either by typing or speaking, yet frees up live agents to assist customers with more complex questions. A virtual assistant becomes smarter over time by learning from past and current interactions happening in your digital channels to constantly optimize the behavior and improve the accuracy of responses.
- Live chat provides prompt, live, human interaction with customers online. Live chat technology with skills-based routing will direct them to the right agent group where they can get their issues resolved with expert knowledge and efficiency – as you wish!
- All 3 working together can succeed in meeting customer expectations of immediacy, self-service, and the human touch. Connecting an IVR experience to a VA experience or to live chat, or connecting a VA engagement to a live chat experience, will add to your brand’s message of “As you wish” by making sure customers are getting the information they need in the way they want. Routing the customer in a seamless way in which your brand’s look, feel, and voice is consistent throughout, and in which the customer does not have to repeat himself, shows him that your brand is devoted to providing excellent service.
Is an “As you wish” customer service “inconceivable” to your customers? If you want to discover more about transforming your brand’s customer experience to meet consumer expectations, contact us today!
Publish Date: October 13, 2017 5:00 AM
Some companies are a natural when it comes to communicating with their customers. They’re attractive, pleasant, interesting… but are they memorable? They may be the life of the party, but are they gaining customers that trust and value them? Are they making more than just acquaintances - but, rather, loyal customers?
A meaningful customer experience can be achieved by acquiring people skills that individuals must use in real life to create lasting relationships. Below is a simple list of engagement rules that can be applied not only to our personal relationships, but to enterprises that want to build a solid customer foundation. They can utilize these rules not only in their live chat programs, but also in virtual assistance and outbound communications.
- Use their love language. Relationships are much more successful when each other’s love language is spoken. Each party receives communication in a way they understand and appreciate. Customer relationships should operate on the same principle. Understand how your customers prefer to engage with you, whether via self-service guides, virtual assistance, live chat, mobile, or a combination. Furthermore, within that engagement, study the nuances that are specific to the channel - for example, customers engaging through mobile chat will be using short, simple sentences to communicate because of the small typing space, and would appreciate the same in response due to less screen space for reading on the go.
- Always remember a face. Don’t you feel important when someone remembers your name and something specific about you? When the customer comes back for a subsequent purchase, let them know that you remember them by offering deals that are relevant to the customer’s history. Showing them generic ads they have not shown interest in can turn them away. A good memory (made possible with customer data) makes your personalization efforts more meaningful, even in outbound communications.
- Talk about the weather. OK, maybe not. But real-time, location-based customer data should give you a good picture of where that customer is, and you can market to them accordingly. If the customer is in Boston in the middle of a snow storm, perhaps an apparel company would offer a special on scarves, or a telemedia company would proactively offer a free streaming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for a snowed-in family hunkered by the fireplace.
- Be a good listener. People know you value their words when you ask them polite, probing questions, listen to their answers, and respond appropriately. In customer relationships, agents should actively listen to what’s at the core of their customer’s issue or search. And whether interacting through live chat, virtual assistance or self-serve guides, customers should be able to voice their opinion through surveys, customer forums, or social media. Pay attention and take the opportunity to improve.
- Be consistent. Nothing is more irritating in a real-life conversation than when a person contradicts what they said in a previous conversation – unless that conversation is between a customer and your company! Customers don’t care if one conversation was on their lap top and another is on their smartphone; they consider both to be part of the same interaction. Your customers’ omni-channel world-view expects nothing less than to receive the same engagement across all the channels they use for a particular purchase. Eliminate those silos that don’t communicate with each other!
What kind of people skills does your company have? How effective is your customer engagement strategy at making your customers feel valued? Applying these engagement rules can help in creating meaningful interactions, thereby building loyal customers.
Publish Date: October 12, 2017 5:00 AM
Remember when you were a kid in school and the teacher would put a gold star by your name on the good work chart? There’s something about seeing that shiny little sticker that fills you with pride in the work you did and determination to be even better. It also shows your peers that you’ve got brains! It’s too bad as adults that we can’t receive gold stars every time we succeed at something. Or can we…
As a provider of customer engagement solutions and services, Nuance and our customers around the world receive “gold stars” when leading research/analyst firms recognize the innovative, customer-focused work we do.
Case in point: A leading delivery service – and a Nuance customer – was just named winner of the 2017 Opus Research Intelligent Assistant Award. The delivery brand uses our AI-powered Virtual Assistant Nina to provide a high level of personalization across more than 79 countries in 15 languages. Nina lets customers get answers to their questions quickly and easily through the digital channel. The award-winning enterprise and Nuance were honored for delivering an engaging customer experience using natural language understanding, machine learning, and artificial intelligence through the virtual assistant on the brand’s website.
Using intelligent automation and conversational interaction, the Nuance Nina-powered virtual assistant can field frequent shipping questions from customers. In just a year and a half of deployment, in North America alone, the virtual assistant is yielding impressive results, including:
- 6.7 million interactions total with customers,
- 300k+ conversations on average per month with customers; and
- 80-81% first contact resolution rate and 50+% deflection rate.
Why is it so rewarding for Nuance to have a customer receive such an honor? The Opus Research Intelligent Assistant Awards recognize leading brands who are utilizing virtual assistants to redefine digital commerce and customer care. That’s right. We’re redefining digital customer care!
At the same awards ceremony, another Nuance customer was recognized with an Intelligent Assistants Award: Australian Government agency IP Australia was honored for their integrated digital strategy, using their virtual assistant “Alex,” deployed in partnership with Datacom.
Launched in May 2016, ‘Alex’ leverages Nuance Nina to engage customers directly on IP Australia’s website and Facebook page, providing answers to questions and continuously learning from customer queries. As the Australian Government’s first integrated Intelligent Assistant and web-chat digital experience, Alex has had a significant impact on IP Australia’s digital engagement strategy. In 2013, only 12% of the agency’s 800,000 customer interactions a year utilized digital channels and this has grown to its current level of 99.6% digital adoption. To date, Alex has supported over 50,000 customer interactions and assisted in maintaining IP Australia’s customer service satisfaction ratings at over 84%.
Further optimizations to Alex include the introduction of Nuance Nina Coach in July 2017, a first for Asia Pacific. Nina Coach moves Alex into the next generation of Human-Assisted Virtual Assistants powered by Artificial Intelligence, enabling Alex to seamlessly bring in a live agent to assist with tricky questions. This action is recorded, analyzed, and folded back into Nina’s semantic brain, making the NLU technology smarter and more accurate over time, so the virtual assistant knows the answer on its own moving forward.
But wait! There’s more!
Nuance won an award, ourselves! At the AI Summit, San Francisco, we received the 2017 Alconics Award for Best Intelligent Assistant Innovation. The AIconics are the world’s only independently judged awards for practical applications of AI in business. The awards recognize the achievements and advances of the firms pushing the development of these burgeoning technologies forward, offering a level playing field on which Silicon Valley giants and cutting edge start-ups alike can showcase their work during the last year.
So… with three awards that recognize our work in redefining digital customer care, what can this tech company do? Well, we give ourselves three gold stars!
Publish Date: October 5, 2017 5:00 AM
When the question for your enterprise business is no longer “To bot, or not to bot” but instead is “Which bot?”, where do you start to find the answer?
First, you must understand what large enterprises require in a chatbot. Consider these 7 guidelines for choosing a chatbot for your enterprise brand.
- Enterprise chatbots (or virtual assistants) should have secure multifactor authentication through biometrics to ensure your customers are who they say they are without ever leaving the virtual agent conversation. Enterprise chatbots must also meet the stringent data privacy and security standards of large enterprises.
- The chatbot must be implemented across the whole of a robust digital engagement platform - web, mobile web, mobile app, SMS, Facebook Messenger, IVR, social, and IOT. Chatbots can be instrumental in deflecting calls from IVR to digital channels, or in fielding common questions on digital channels, leaving the more complex customer tasks to a live chat agent. The VA should also have visibility to the full user journey, giving them context of the customer’s inquiry, enabling them to resolve the issue more quickly.
- Enterprise chatbots must be connected to live assistance. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than for a virtual assistant to provide irrelevant responses to their inquiries. You must provide customers with real human contact via live chat when issues are more intricate than a frequently asked question. Plus, the live chat agent can be available to help the chatbot behind the scenes. At Nuance, this is called Nina Coach.
- The chatbot must be continuously learning, not only from its own interactions, but more importantly, from live chat conversations. Chat transcripts contain person-to-person conversations that provide valuable insights from which the VA can learn and grow.
- Enterprise chatbots should come with full access to professional services from experts who understand the inner-workings of virtual assistance in an omni-channel environment. A virtual assistant should never be a set-it-and-forget-it product when it comes to the many variables of your enterprise customer engagement.
- An enterprise chatbot must be powered by Natural Language Understanding, enabling conversations between humans and computers. On an enterprise scale, NLU needs to have capacity for global languages, grammar accuracy checking, content variations, and should be scalable to accommodate the vastness of global communications.
- Enterprise chatbots should integrate analytics to view the big picture and seize optimization opportunities. Rich data, reporting and analytics provide powerful insights that are crucial to performance improvements.
With customer loyalty and revenue at stake, selecting the right chatbot for your organization can make or break your customer service success. Using the above guidelines can get you off on the right foot towards your selection. If you want to learn more and dive deeper into this process, join us for the upcoming webinar, Key Considerations for Selecting the Right Chatbot for Enterprise Customer Service on October 3, at 11am ET/8am PT. Register here!
Publish Date: September 28, 2017 5:00 AM
Recently, Head of Nuance Communications Cognitive Innovation Group (CIG) Paul Tepper was interviewed by AI Business, a content portal for the latest news deciphering the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in business. Paul sheds light on how AI is transforming the way businesses interact with and understand customers while providing insight into the opportunities and challenges the industry faces moving forward.
Here are the highlights of this very informative interview:
“AI is the greatest tool for unlocking the vast and unprecedented pools of unstructured data. … It has the potential to remove the friction we see today across a wide array of customer experiences.”
“AI can bridge the gap between increasing consumer demands and a strained customer service model.” … waiting on hold for an agent will soon become a ‘thing of the past.’
“Predictive AI will enable us to know what a customer is calling about before they even say anything. … Conversational AI will maintain context across multiple interactions and channels.”
Paul sums up the power of conversational AI. “Speech enables people to talk to devices hands-free, without needing a screen. This is especially helpful when your hands are busy, but in general, it enables people to talk to devices the way they talk to each other in the most natural, human way. Today, Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) systems are as accurate as humans or beyond human accuracy.”
Paul shared some thoughts on an important area of discussion – the need to safeguard, regulate, and control AI. Paul believes that much of the public fear today is overblown: “Again, we are still far away from ‘general AI’ achieving human-level intelligence as AI today and for the foreseeable future will be great at focused tasks.”
He stresses that we must take measures to keep secure the large volumes of data on which AI is trained.
Paul also reveals the power of the Nuance Omni-Channel Platform and highlights Nuance Dragon Drive and Nina as AI examples.
The article was written in anticipation of the AI Summit San Francisco, September 27-28. Yann Motte, Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Cognitive Innovation Group, will be presenting at the AI Summit on the topic of “Making AI for Consumer Engagement Real.”
Stay tuned to What’s Next to get Yann’s insights and takeaways from the conference!
Publish Date: September 18, 2017 5:00 AM
The Emmys are upon us again! The past few weeks have been a boon for those in the prediction business. Every entertainment show and website takes a stab at who will take home OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES (!). It’s not like the old days when a bet on Bryan Cranston or “Breaking Bad” was as close to a lock as there could be.
Some will accurately predict winners and then confidently shout “I told you so…” on air the next night. For those that get it wrong, there are no consequences as it’s likely nobody will remember their predictions.
But what if getting a prediction right could mean real financial gain? It’s possible.
Using the power of prediction isn’t just reserved for TV pundits. In fact, prediction, built with artificial intelligence, will be used more and more in customer service in the years ahead. Imagine being able to predict with 80% accuracy why someone calls your company for help? Or what if you could determine with 90% confidence why a customer moves from your website to your social media page and then calls in to your IVR?
Delighting your customers
Emerging AI technology combined with existing customer service best practices make this possible today. Highly accurate prediction opens a world of benefits for customer service:
- Reduce call waiting time or menu confusion – If your IVR greets a caller by predicting why they are calling – “Are you calling to re-order your prescription?” – that short-circuits the typical IVR menu mazes that frustrate many callers. Instead your customers speed through calls in less time and leave delighted.
- Speed up issue resolution – The ability to see where a customer searches on your website and then to identify their phone number in your IVR allows you to predict with extremely high accuracy that they are likely calling about the information they just read. Put this to use and you can resolve the issue faster on that call, either with automation in the IVR or by ensuring the live agent knows where the customer visited.
- Create a personal touch – Achieving pure operational metrics like automation rates and average call handle time are wonderful, but in the end satisfied customers keep the business running. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have customers receive such a personal touch that they finish their engagement smiling? Prediction that knows who they are and correctly guesses why they are calling will help them know you appreciate them and their time.
And these are only the benefits oriented around the customer. Let’s not forget how organizations will see improvement from fewer calls to live agents, improved customer satisfaction scores, and the ability to build a continuous learning machine that will get smarter – and better – over time.
And the good thing about prediction is it’s a low risk addition to the customer service experience. Getting a prediction wrong doesn’t hurt the customer’s journey; instead, each response – right or wrong – further refines the system for more successful future engagements. How about that? Trying a prediction and getting it wrong with no consequence? You’ll be an Emmy prognosticator in no time!
How… and where to start?
You don’t need fancy machinery or Melisandre the Red Priestess from annual Emmy favorite Game of Thrones to start using prediction. (I know GOT isn’t nominated this year but I needed an analogy so please go with me).
Basic prediction can be started in the IVR with a few pieces of customer information, including their phone number. If you can connect your IVR to your CRM system, then there is much you can do today to use simple prediction techniques to streamline the experience.
More advanced use of AI combined with data from multiple channels allows for increased accuracy rates and the ability to predict what your customers may do next or why they are engaging your organization.
It all starts with a conversation with your IT or customer service vendors to ask how to add prediction to your customer service plans. Getting prediction up and running will pay off in customer service improvements and improved automation rates. It’s as close to a 100% accurate prediction as HBO winning an Emmy each year!
Publish Date: September 15, 2017 5:00 AM
Imagine a world in which you enter your car, and it knows exactly what you want simply by hearing your voice. No, it’s not some sci-fi movie – it’s here and now.
Picture this. It’s 7:06 a.m. on Monday morning. Michele has just finished packing her kids’ lunches and backpacks. She’s gathered what she needs for work that day and is headed out the door to drop the kids at school on her way to the office. She enters the car and says, “Hi Dragon” .… and the car greets her back. Then, voila – the car proceeds to adjust the seat position to her preference, reads out the news highlights from the past 12 hours, and tunes the radio to her favorite station (with the right volume setting, of course). During the drive, Michele’s newly turned teenager, Jen, wants to play her favorite music and asks the car, ”Hi Dragon, play my Beast playlist.” The system stops the radio to play the requested music, and the ride continues (assuming everyone else in the car likes the music being played).
Believe it or not, this isn’t a scene out of a sci-fi movie. The scenario I’ve described highlights some of the technologies that we have been working with auto manufacturers to deliver seamless, personalized experiences that maximize productivity while driving.
So how does it work?
The scenario that was introduced earlier employs a multitude of technologies:
- Continual listening system that awaits the driver keyword/phrase (Wake-Up Word) and activates the rest of the system for further processing.
- Voice Biometrics: Once a Wake-Up Word is heard, the system compares the voice print against a pre-registered set of voices, verifying the speaker and adjusting to their preferences.
- Personalized settings, like seat position, favorite radio stations, and temperature settings, can be stored either in the car infotainment unit or in the cloud and are activated once the system identifies the driver.
- Cloud Integration: Dragon Drive enables a curated, customized set of top news from content partners for sports, world news, politics and more.
- After the personalized content is read, the system tunes the onboard radio to the driver’s favorite radio station to get her going on her commute.
- Barge-In: The system can hear the Wake-Up Word spoken by the passenger, even while the music is playing. The system recognizes the passenger and uses previously configured information to start the playlist (on the corresponding music streaming provider).
Tell me more about Voice Biometrics
Nuance Voice Biometrics employs complex algorithms to create a unique signature based on driver’s voice.
Voice Biometrics combines physical traits of an individual’s vocal tract such as length, shape and size along with behavioral characteristics like accent, speed of speech and word pronunciation to create a unique voiceprint. And such voiceprint is unique to the specific driver.
The technology can be run locally inside the car or in the cloud. And the technology can be enabled with existing microphones (which are ubiquitous these days) inside the car.
So where else can I use Voice Biometrics?
The possibilities are endless. Auto manufacturers can employ Voice Biometrics in any scenario where they want to identify and authenticate a driver. Potential use cases include:
- Access to sensitive data (PII information like home address, previously visited places or contacts) inside the car can be restricted and only accessible to the driver when they authenticate themselves. This could be useful in new programs like ride-sharing services.
- With cars that are expected to be connected, there’s potential for a digital wallet inside the car that can be used to pay tolls and other such driving services. Voice Biometrics can provide an additional layer for identifying the driver before any such payment is initiated.
- Personalization inside the car, be it seat position or favorite radio station, can be delivered by identification of the driver using Voice Biometrics.
- In addition to these present-day use cases, we at Nuance are hard at work applying these technologies to future innovations.
Publish Date: September 8, 2017 5:00 AM
Earlier this year, the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings were published, and as a person that is tasked with looking at the market with an industry-specific eye, I always find these annual rankings fascinating. To generate these ratings, the Temkin Group asks 10,000 US consumers to rate their recent interactions with 331 companies across 20 industries. Temkin then evaluates their experiences across three dimensions: success, effort and emotion.
When I first came across the ratings several years ago, I have to admit that those three elements shifted my thinking a bit. Most days I had been working with metrics like engagement rate, first contact resolution and conversion rate, and those components reminded me that what matters in the end is how individual consumers view their interaction with your company.
It’s reassuring to see so many Nuance customers doing well in the ratings and consistently leading their industries in customer experience – sometimes by a wide margin. What interests me most though, are the variations by vertical. Supermarkets (78% rating) and fast food chains (76%) lead the way in the rankings, with retailers (74%), delivery services (73%) and banks (72%) just behind – these are all industries that we essentially choose to do business with, or at least we have a significant amount of choice. We’ve decided to visit a particular grocery store, or maybe have them deliver to us. Perhaps we became fed up (emotion) with a bank that didn’t make it easy for us to transfer money on our mobile app or easily get answers through a virtual assistant or live chat on their website. The choice is ours and we’re tending to choose those companies that make it easy for us to interact with them (effort) and accomplish what we wanted to do (success).
At the other end of the ratings, we see TV and internet service (54%) at the very bottom, with health plans (57%) just ahead of them. As opposed to those at the top, these are industries where the consumer often has little or no choice in who they patronize. With a health plan, you’re often limited to an option or two through your employer, or as an individual, you may have several choices if you live in an urban area, but only one in less-populated areas. So, are companies in these industries not investing in the people and technology necessary to elevate the customer experience? There may be some truth to that for some companies, but Kaiser Permanente and AOL lead their respective verticals in customer experience by a fair amount – it’s clear that their leadership is devoting resources to this area – in fact, Kaiser outperforms its competitors by more than any company in the survey.
What’s the takeaway for me? Kaiser and AOL didn’t settle. Neither should you.
Be a leader in your category – there are gains to be made in customer conversion, care and retention by looking past your own industry norms for such things as customer self-service and automation. So, borrow ideas and innovation from other industries. Make your IVR easy to navigate and accomplish tasks in with speech recognition that enables customers to interact with the system naturally as many retailers have (success). Remember that 47% of customers will stop doing business with a company if they have a bad IVR experience. Implement a virtual assistant and/or live chat on your website like many banks – remember that 90% of customers expect a consistent experience across channels. Engage with vendors that have had success across industries so that you can leverage their expertise to outdistance your own industry competitors.
The bottom line? Customer experiences in other industries are shaping their expectations of yours.
Publish Date: September 5, 2017 5:00 AM
The Nuance Digital Engagement Platform supports Apple’s newly announced Business Chat Developer Preview feature in the iOS 11 beta Messages app. When Business Chat becomes publicly available in 2018, your business can use our platform to connect with customers on Apple devices to have personalized conversations, schedule appointments, and even complete purchases with Apple Pay. Businesses can start developing and testing Business Chat use-cases now with Nuance and our supporting services.
Nuance Customer Service Messaging
Over 6,500 enterprises worldwide, including many of today’s leading brands, have selected Nuance to enhance and automate customer service – with an estimated 14 billion customer engagements flowing through Nuance solutions each year.
Nearly two years ago Nuance introduced Customer Service Messaging, supporting chat within popular messaging apps, SMS and more, as well as messaging within enterprise apps. By supporting automated and human-assisted engagements within our platform, Nuance gives enterprises everything they need to “turn on” Customer Service Messaging for a modern customer engagement that is convenient, timely, and what consumers want. Here’s how:
Messaging is ubiquitous and always “on.” Enterprises will get millions of chats a day, every day, and it simply isn’t affordable to hire thousands of contact center agents to handle the volume – nor to expect that the contact center can be staffed 24 hours a day, every day.
Combining real-time and asynchronous messaging ensures that customers get answers even when agents are not available. Messages can automatically be sent to the customer to share an estimated time for a response to let the customer know that progress is being made on their request.
The solution is to use the Nina Virtual Assistant to be the “always on” virtual agent. Nina delivers first contact resolution of 80% and more – indicating that the consumer gets all the information they wanted from the Nina virtual agent. This means that 20% or less of incoming messages will need to be routed to a contact center agent.
Human assistance is made possible by the Nuance Digital Engagement Platform, which leverages NLU routing to automatically detect the customer request and route to the agent or agent pool who is best able to service the customer for that specific request.
This shortens the time that it takes to engage with the customer and speeds up the process of getting the customer the answer they need.
Read more about Nuance Customer Service Messaging for Apple Business Chat.
Publish Date: August 30, 2017 5:00 AM
The Smart Home is officially becoming ‘smart.’ We’re entering an era where in-home hubs, systems and services can do more than just take a simple command – they can now engage in a thoughtful dialogue to accommodate our needs. So, what’s changed in just these last few years?
While less of a change and more an evolution, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being applied in new ways that advance both an assistant or a system’s ability to understand and meet your needs in a way that is incredibly personalized by knowing who you are – and learning your preferences over time. So, whether its knowing what playlist to queue up for Friday night pizza night, or that you’re typically home around 7 p.m. to turn the lights on, it’s all being coordinated by just the sound of your voice.
We spend an average of 37.1 hours at home each week – which is why the AI-enabled smart home is the next frontier for not only the mega-techs, but also communications service providers. Service providers own the living room and any other space where you watch TV or consume content. Voice is already quite pervasive across the TV and content market, with popular voice-enabled cable services and remotes that make finding and accessing shows and music easier than ever. That experience coupled with greater personalization and interoperability will transform the smart home experience. The key is creating a system that in fact knows you and your preferences in an environment that is often shared with other people – who also will want a personalized experience just like you.
This is where AI combined with voice biometrics is becoming a game changer for the smart home experience.
Everyone has a unique voiceprint that can be used as an incredibly intuitive and simple way for today’s intelligent systems to know exactly who’s speaking to them. From the moment your voiceprint is recognized, a personalized experience begins. In fact, over 150 million consumers already experience the simplicity of voice biometrics for authentication with banking systems and other applications, where your voice is literally your password. In the smart home, this simplicity of engagement means from the moment you say “hello,” your assistant is ready to, well, assist.
According to Opus Research, there will be more than a half billion voiceprints authenticating consumers across multiple applications and scenarios by 2020. Voice biometrics provides a powerful interface for users to a whole range of services and industries and requires minimal hardware investment. The study “Securing a Smart Home Network using Voice Biometric” by Oinam Joymala and Neha Khare proposes voice as the best choice for authentication above all other biometric options for its hands-free and frictionless experience.
Traditional use cases for voice biometrics include waking up an assistant for content and music on a smart home hub, or for quick access to a mobile app connected to an appliance. But your voiceprint can also be the key to your home. Imagine that you are walking to your front door, your hands full with grocery bags and struggling to get the keys out of your pocket. With a smart security system, you could just say, “my voice is my password” – and your home will authenticate you and unlock the door. From there, lights turn on, temperature adjusts to your preferred level of comfort, and the local news comes on to bring you up to speed on your day.
Authentication is also important for purchasing goods and services, where voice biometrics can ensure that you’re the only one placing a retail order, and quickly verify credit card information. This is where service providers have a great opportunity to make it easier than ever to manage and order subscription content and movies – where a simple voice command verified by a voiceprint can confirm that yes, you do want to pay $20 for that new action hero movie just released OnDemand.
Just get a text message that your kids are coming home – with the rest of the soccer team? “Home, order four large Barbecue pizzas from my favourite pizza joint.” Then just complete the order with “my voice is my password” when it’s time to pay.
Voice biometrics integrated as part of a holistic conversational IoT experience will make it incredibly simple to access home security and control services, secure connected devices and data access, and personalize music, retail, content and more. This level of personalization creates the next frontier of the Intelligent home, where people can simply interact every “thing.” Now that’s smart.
Publish Date: August 17, 2017 5:00 AM
Lending – whether to businesses, prospective homeowners, personal loan borrowers or others – is a vital profit center for banks and other financial-service companies. So, these organizations have a strong incentive to make the process of creating a loan as swift and efficient as possible.
Why, then, does the experience of moving a loan from origination to close remain so time-consuming, error-prone and frustrating, for both the lender’s employees and the borrower?
Mortgage origination is a good case in point. This process typically involves many participants (including loan officers, underwriters, closers, attorneys, notaries, real-estate agents and borrowers); dozens of documents in different formats (such as applications, credit reports, internal requests, third-party reports, underwriting and notary exceptions); and multiple dependencies – such as signatures, approvals and filings – any one of which can grind progress to a halt.
Given all that complexity, perhaps it’s not surprising that it takes up to 49 days to process a mortgage loan! (To see how this can be improved, download our Mortgage Processing white paper.)
Yet in another sense, it’s not surprising, when you consider that even in 2017, a sizable portion of the steps that make up the mortgage-origination process are being performed manually, or with paper-based systems. Lenders’ employees devote untold hours to transcribing information from borrowers; searching for essential documents that someone else holds; and retyping, reformatting, photocopying, or manually processing data that is essential to the loan.
As a result, errors and delays inescapably creep in, which lengthens the cycle and frustrates the borrower; and the reliance on manual execution increases the likelihood that either PII (personally identifiable information) will be exposed, or regulations will not be complied with, thus creating risk for the lender. (To learn more about these challenges – and possible solutions – watch the new video now.)
A single source for continuity in lending
Today, forward-thinking lenders are using document capture and workflow solutions to eliminate many of the lapses, disconnects, and inefficiencies that accompany manual or paper-based execution of loan processes. These products provide a single technology solution to the challenges of:
- Capturing essential documents and data, from a wide spectrum of sources
- Processing the documents and data, to make them more usable throughout the loan process
- Securing the documents and data against unauthorized access or use
- Distributing the documents and data to the next step of the workflow, or to other systems used in mortgage lending
In the capture phase, these solutions gather documents – paper-based or electronic, from a diverse array of hardware and software – into a single repository, and convert them into a suitable electronic format.
In the processing phase, business intelligence – such as indexing, barcodes, or automatically pre-fetching useful data – is applied to documents or data that require it later in the cycle.
For security, these solutions provide password- or smartcard-based authentication, verification of user credentials, and encryption of data when it’s communicated.
In the distribution phase, documents and data are automatically routed to the next destination in a mortgage-processing workflow (prebuilt or custom including file, fax and email), or to documentmanagement systems (DMS) that support mortgage lending, such as imaging, storage, archiving, retention, and output management.
Shorter time-to-close, greater satisfaction
The net effect of applying document capture and workflow solutions to mortgage origination is that lenders, and their borrowers, enjoy benefits that were not previously available. These include:
- Minimized manual data entry
- A consistent real-time view of loan status, for lender employees
- Increased efficiency of all participants in the loan process – employees, trusted third parties, and borrowers
- Reduced operating costs
- Enhanced customer service (including transparency of the loan process)
- Tighter security for all loan-related documents
- Audit traceability
By replacing the manual and paper-based parts of the loan process with automated document capture and workflow solutions, lenders are shortening the time from loan origination to approval, improving the customer experience, and gaining a new competitive advantage. As a result, any day in the life of these employees – and their organizations – is dramatically improved.
For more insights, check out our new eBook, “The New World of Lending.”
Publish Date: August 17, 2017 5:00 AM