Vonage Amplifies Conversational AI with Over.ai Acquihire
Enhanced communications centre technologies synergise strengths of human and AI operators
While the race to embed AI functionality in communications platforms continues to gather pace, acquihires are becoming increasingly more common – as sought-after expertise combined with already viable products make for an attractive investment, enabling communications providers to get to market fast with enhancements their customers need.
As Omar Javaid, President of Vonage’s API Platform, explained about their recent acquihire of Over.ai’s voice and conversational AI technology platform, it was a natural progression of their collaboration in any case:
“We’ve been working with the team for over a year. So they had a chance to work with us, we had a chance to work with them. There’s always a cultural element, which makes or breaks these things.” This facilitated smooth integration of the Over.ai technical team with the Vonage Tel Aviv based R+D team, so they could rapidly “mesh together and do amazing work”.
We spoke to Javaid to explore this amazingness from the client perspective, and he elaborated that the impact of AI layer would first be significant in their Vonage Business Cloud (VBC) unified communications solution and the NewVoiceMedia contact centre solutions, offering two immediate benefits there.
Process automation by AI
The first is automatic processing of routine enquiries. “We analysed the data, and about 80% of the calls that come in, they’re looking for the same kind of information – what are your operating hours, etc”. Many of these enquiries can be identified through processing with Over.ai’s Natural Language Understanding (NLU) algorithms, and addressed by the AI directly – resolving the customer’s issue fast, and reducing wait times to zero.
Javaid was keen to stress that it’s not about removing jobs from human operators, but removing the drudgery of responding to ‘frequently asked questions’, and ensuring that the enquiries which demand it are escalated promptly to humans who can address them.
And those humans have additional powers at their fingertips thanks to the AI:
Incoming voice recognition – supporting the agent in the moment
“These companies might have 30 different products, and multiple specialised databases”, he explained, and customers prefer not to be placed on hold while their agent looks things up to help them with their detailed and specific enquiry. Instead, thanks to recognising the incoming natural language cues:
“the AI can proactively serve that information…and play a significant role in resolving the customer’s issues in a more timely fashion”
Machine learning ensures that the range of routine queries the algorithm can address will continue to grow, working alongside the contact centre staff as a kind of super-colleague: one who does the tedious repetitive work with unprecedented speed and accuracy, and which also has the ability to tease out and address the routinised aspects prior to escalating those edge queries which will always require the human touch to resolve.
As Javaid concluded, “I think we can make the lives of the contact centre agents, contact centres themselves much more efficient, streamlined. And then, of course, the end user experiences are improved as well.”