Talking AI Strategy with West Corporation
Addressing CX challenges with AI
A few years ago, a conversation about Artificial Intelligence would have been more likely at a sci-fi convention, than in a business setting or communications event. Now, it seems like AI and machine learning are everywhere you look – particularly in the age of customer experience.
As customers continue to demand more from the brands that they work with, AI offers unique opportunities to streamline and improve business operations. However, there’s more to a truly effective digital transformation than simply implementing the latest AI tools. Companies of all sizes from all backgrounds need the right strategy in place to lead their artificial intelligence roadmap.
West Corporation is a leading global provider of technology enablement solutions that work alongside existing platforms to deliver high value communication experiences. West helps businesses access new channels, unlock the potential of forward-thinking tools, and collaborate more efficiently. I spoke to Ray Payette, the VP of Information Technology for West Corporation.
He told me all about the rise of AI in customer experience, and how businesses can take advantage of the right disruptive technology.
Tell Us About Yourself
Ray Payette is the Information Technology VP of West, a brand committed to improving customer and user experiences. Payette “cut his teeth” in the industry by programming radar system solutions for the military and ended up in the private sector. From government technology, he eventually moved into a position with West, where he used his software knowledge to guide various software development and engineering projects.
“I’m managing two groups right now. The first one is responsible for unified communication services – the audio and video conferencing that we provide here at West. We have our solutions with access to a global network, and I’m responsible for the engineering in that space. I also manage the IVR and custom application development around that area.”
Now that AI is taking a central role in the development of most CX conversations; West’s IVR area is focusing more on things like AI and speech analytics, natural language processing and so on. Payette is helping to lead the way with these intelligent developments, by working with product management teams and exploring the benefits of West’s latest mergers and acquisitions.
What’s the Best Way to Initiate A Strategy of AI Adoption?
For companies to unlock the true benefits of AI in their contact centre and customer experience environments, they need a strategy. Ray told me that one of the first questions he asks during a conversation with a customer is what does their contact centre do, and who is their target audience.
“Older customers, without being ageist, are more likely to want to talk to a human being. For contact centres that primarily target older generations, it’s best to focus on delivering a more streamlined IVR experience.”
“On the other hand, if your contact centre audience is full of millennials and digital natives, you’d be better served by investing in AI that supports self-service”
Once a business figures out their business strategy and the target audience they want to reach, Payette recommends starting small with AI investments. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing; sometimes simple changes can make a big difference to the experiences that companies deliver. For instance, an intelligent IVR might not be a huge change, but it can route customers to the right agent, and reduce the amount of time customers spend being transferred to people in a business.
“Start small and determine what you want to accomplish. For example, we’ve had some great feedback for a solution that we’re developing that allows people to manage all the aspects of a meeting by just talking to their device. Investing in AI can be as easy as that.”
Is it Wise to Experiment with AI Yet?
Although artificial intelligence has a lot of buzz around it these days, the market is still relatively immature. According to Payette, successfully experimenting with AI comes down to making sure that you have the right focus with your strategy.
“You have to train AI machines to understand a lot of different kinds of language in the human world. Humans can switch between talking about different industries easily, but AIs don’t respond as quickly. We’re working on training machines that can both support customers, and work on training additional language models at the same time. Companies need to be building their data sets and tracking results while they’re experimenting.”
Ray also noted that eventually, companies need to be willing to stop experimenting and start trying things. However, if you do too much too fast, you could end up eliminating some of the critical human elements of customer service that your customers rely on. Finding the right balance is crucial for every industry.
What’s Next for AI in Customer Experience?
It’s an amazing time for artificial intelligence in the customer experience world. Through speech analytics, it’s possible to gather useful information about a customer’s emotions and perceptions of a brand. Conversational AI systems and chatbots can support agents in providing a more comprehensive level of service to end-users.
Even things like intelligent IVR systems can ensure that customers get sent directly to the agent that’s most equipped to answer their questions. This speeds up time to resolution and reduces the frustration of moving from one agent to another.
Ray told me that because he works on the “practical delivery” side of things, he’s excited to get new innovations and ideas into the hands of customers. “At this point, it’s safe to say that AI has moved beyond the research and academic stage. It’s practical technology today that we’re experiencing more frequently than ever.”
“Anyone can work with AI, but it takes the right training and strategy to deliver something incredible”
According to Payette, the company that knows how to train the linguistics around their AI, and deliver custom solutions for their end-users are the ones that will get ahead of the game.