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Call Center Week 2016 Preview: Customer Engagement - Voice Automation Technology


Presented By: CrmXchange

In just a few more weeks, contact center and customer experience professionals from all over the nation will head west for their annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for Call Center Week, taking place June 27–July 1 at the Mirage. While “screenplay” and “studio” are phrases usually associated with another western destination—Hollywood--- CRMXchange got a coming attraction from two suppliers of innovative applications who give these household words an entirely different meaning: Kipany and Inference Solutions.

screenplay Kipany is a privately held organization that started 36 years ago as video production company.  It began to pivot into its current role as a customer engagement solution provider when they   realized they could help external companies do a better job of customer acquisition, service and support as well as message targeting than other companies in the space, which at the time were mostly ad agencies. “We started out on a pay-for-performance basis,” said Joe Pennacchio, Chief Technology Officer for Kipany. “Our first client was Verizon.”

Pennacchio, developed Kipany’s data-driven, cloud- based signature solution ScreenPlay about six years ago, targeting both independent contact centers and those within an organization. “Our objective has always been to help businesses turn customer service into a revenue-producing activity,” said Pennacchio. 

Kipany believes in taking one-to-one approach in finding ways to deliver the right message. “Customers want value,” said Pennachio. “A company needs to know more about who the customer is before making a relevant and attractive offer.  Analysis from the back end is important in helping companies to create dynamic content on the voice channel as well as use the knowledge that’s been developed on the customer to generate the right content on self-service, website, SMS, social media and chat.”

Whether the objective is to provide superior service or pave the way to a sale, Kipany believes the emphasis should be to help customers solve a problem.  “Today’s call is different: customers now follow a more diverse path. Our philosophy is don’t just try and sell, but provide a solution.”

inference.june2016 Customer engagement is a priority for cloud-based voice automation technology specialist Inference Solutions as well, but they approach it from a somewhat different perspective. The Australian/US company is focused on offering businesses the opportunity to implement rapid deployment IVR and speech recognition solutions, without the need to invest in infrastructure or have software development capability.

 “There is a need to change the way IVRs are viewed in the marketplace,” said Callan Schebella, CEO of Inference Solutions. “Too often, the perception is that they are inherently bad and that people hate to use them. In short, they get a bad rap. When a business is able to easily build and maintain their own telephony-based solution without the need to code, it’s positioned to manage all customer IVR calls from a single point.  Having this capability also facilitates the development of IVR call flows using a simple, browser-based interface”

The company’s Inference Studio solution is a call control platform that can be used by any type of business from a large enterprise to a small firm. Beyond IVR, it also enables functionalities such as speech recognition, voice biometric identification, text-to-speech (TTS) and contact center integration.

“Transactional voice automation can reduce the cost of handling calls,” noted Schebella. “Most premise-based IVR systems have been in place for 10 years or longer. By migrating to a browser-based cloud system, organizations can get by with fewer agents while still maintaining a high quality of service. Customers can make PCI-compliant payments, receive reminders from pharmacies when prescriptions need to be renewed or notifications from libraries when materials are due. Voice automation allows calls that previously wouldn’t have happened.”

A call control platform also allows for what would seem like an obvious economy. Until recently, Toys ‘R Us had their own separate premise-based IVR for each of their 800 stores, each having to maintain the individual systems separately. “Now it’s cheaper, faster and easier to manage,” said Schebella. “With the IVRs in the cloud and all being managed by web browsers, they can be properly scaled to handle call volume, particularly during peak periods such as the holiday shopping season.”

Schebella also is an advocate of intelligent network pre-routing. Businesses can proactively   identify individual callers by using ANI, DTMF or speech recognition to find out who’s calling before deciding where to send the call.  By performing pre-routing before the call is sent to the call center, organizations can look at multiple criteria to qualify the caller: are they a VIP, are they behind on their payments or do they have an open support ticket? “CRM is the key,” said Schebella. “In one financial institution, when callers in a specific age group are inquiring about a 401K, they can be connected to the agent with the proper expertise. If the person has called before, they will be put through to the same agent they’ve previously spoken with when possible.”

Kipany’sPennacchio is also quite concerned with interacting with the CRM and collecting as much customer data as possible, particularly in regards to shaping the right message. “In many older IT systems, the consistency of message development is siloed. There’s no fluidity from one system to the next. The CRM is supposed to track customer interactions,” he said. “We offer the capability to capture interaction information from whatever channel the customer communicates on and offer real-time data metrics that can be integrated with customer information from existing systems.”

He spoke candidly about the frequent disconnect between organizations that claim that their priority is to improve customer satisfaction, but often fail to meet this goal. “While nearly all companies say they place a high value on customer satisfaction, too many are not willing to make a bottom line commitment to it,” said Pennacchio “Good customer service isn’t cheap.  Metrics such as AHT (average handle time) and call volume reduction are not necessarily the best ways of measuring results. Businesses need to mainly focus on how to retain customers.”

Pennacchio believes many companies make price-- as opposed to agent quality-- the main consideration in choosing their front-line personnel without thinking about the cost associated with high turnover. He sees one of the solutions as providing better onboarding and training to ensure that agents reach higher performance levels faster. “A more experienced agent can go off script and effectively make small talk, helping them get to the place they need to be. It’s also important to reduce complexity, enabling ease of use through the right technology. Call handling times can be reduced when agent performance requires less effort.”