The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics in the contact centre has changed the way that today’s companies work. As we enter a world where robots can manage customer queries, issue reports, and even complete transactions on the behalf of a business, some people are beginning to worry that robots could make the human contact centre agent redundant.
Fortunately, innovators like NICE believe that there’s another path available for organisations that want to unlock the benefits of artificial intelligence. “NEVA” is NICE’s innovative virtual assistant solution designed to support the everyday employee by providing them with useful information and solving complex customer queries on the go. We caught up with Gareth Hole, the Alliances Director at NICE to find out more.
Tell Us About Yourself and NEVA
Gareth told me that he’s been working at NICE for almost six years now, focused completely on the AI and robotics sector of the business. “I’ve been helping large UK customers to get the most out of their investment in NICE and find new ways to generate business too. I also recently began working with our strategic partners to help them do the same kind of thing.”
The NEVA solution from NICE stands for NICE Employee Virtual Attendant. Gareth told me that many people have different views on what AI, robotics, and other concepts mean to the business space. “We believe that this technology should help people when they’re doing their work. We’re not looking for a way to replace end-to-end processes with robotic automation. Instead, we’re addressing the challenges that workers face in the office, contact centre, and backend every day.”
With their virtual attendant, NICE wants to help employees work more productively and efficiently by helping them to make decisions, collect the information they need, and more.
“NEVA guides employees and helps them to find the right things to do in real-time.”
“However, it also gains insight from what goes on in the business environment and uses that insight to help even further. It’s the augmentation of people with robotics, rather than the replacement of the human workforce.”
Gareth told me that NEVA was designed both to help people become better at their work and make the contact centre more efficient at the same time.
“What our customers really want is the ability to help people in the contact centre, while also being able to react to the customer conversation and what people are doing.”
“NEVA delivers guidance as employees work and makes sure that everything is done in a compliant way. The service makes things easier for the advisor, so they get a much better experience all around.”
In Gareth’s opinion, NEVA doesn’t just belong in the contact centre either; it can also support employees in the back office that want to automate certain pieces of work and make processes more efficient. “NEVA can add value to processes in many different spaces, allowing employees to focus on the things they’re good at, and remove anything that might be wasting their time.”
According to NICE, NEVA is “next level” robotic automation. It’s neither an automation service or an attendant entirely, but a real-time supportive solution intended to help people as they work. “It reacts to events, guides people, and allows employees to interact more productively.”
How Sustainable Do You Think Virtual Attendant Technology Is?
Although there has been a lot of discussion around robotic process automation, AI, and other concepts in the digital landscape, some people still believe that virtual attendants are little more than a trend. NICE thinks something different. Gareth told me:
“I think this technology is here to stay, as long as it’s done in the right way. It’s very different from the process of traditional optimisation because there’s a person involved.”
“You can’t always predict what customers are going to do, and you need a virtual attendant that can pop in, learn from context, and offer support in different circumstances.”
Gareth also noted that the only way people will use virtual attendants is if they’re useful. “There needs to be a feedback loop. You have to have a good reason for implementing the technology, you need time to learn from it, and you need to respond to the requests and feedback of the people that are using it. This technology has to be something that evolves naturally over time.”
Where Do You Think the Industry is Heading?
To finish our conversation, I asked Gareth where he thinks the virtual attendant and robotics industry is heading in the next two to three years. He told me that it’s always difficult to predict these kind of things, but if we look at the surveys and research that has been carried out lately, one of the biggest challenges that companies face is the ability to scale and drive adoption.
“I think people need to feel comfortable with the technology, and we’re solving a lot of those problems with feedback, so you can see how the system is being used, and what you need to change. I think with that feedback we’re going to see a lot more widespread use of this technology in the future.”
Gareth told me that he personally would like to see every kind of employee have access to some type of virtual attendant in the future – whether it’s someone in the back-end or in the contact centre. “I think these solutions can become more intelligent and sophisticated over time and deliver real-time support that’s really useful to employees.”
“I believe that the trend will move towards augmentation, rather than just replacing people with robotics. These solutions can help people while they’re working, and that’s the direction we need to head in.”