From voice-controlled assistants and self-driving cars, to industry-specific applications designed to manage and automate routine tasks, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no doubt creeping into all areas of our lives. It's no longer some sci-fi concept we see on screen, but it has become a reality that is bringing so many opportunities and possibilities. One of the best industries in which AI is showing not just promise but yielding real benefits is the contact center.
Far from a replacement of live human interaction in contact centers, AI is a powerful tool that offers the ability to enhance the overall customer experience by providing functionality that augment the intelligence of agents and enable organizations to improve interactions between their brand and their customers. The end result is increased efficiency in contact center operations and a greater level of customer satisfaction.
To help accelerate the contact center’s ongoing digital transformation, Mitel, a global leader in business communications, has partnered with Google to bring AI and machine learning capabilities into its contact center solutions.
VoipReview recently caught up with Josh Haslett, the Vice President of Strategic Innovations at Mitel, to talk about the role of AI in the contact center and how it is transforming the industry. Haslett also discusses Mitel’s latest integration with Google Cloud’s new Contact Center AI.
Q: It’s been a while since we last spoke. What has Mitel been up to?
A: We’ve been quite busy. Most notably, we announced the approved acquisition of Mitel by Searchlight Capital Partners in early July, a deal which will take Mitel from public to private. This move will give us more flexibility to focus on the new and exciting opportunities brought by today’s digital transformation and emergence of cloud technologies, and we are firmly focused on supporting our customers’ paths to the cloud whether it is all-cloud or a mix of on-site and cloud (all while continuing to support our traditional, on-site customers).
We’ve also had various partnership and customer announcements this year. First, we are working closely with Major League Baseball (MLB) as their replay partner, enabling all 30 stadium dugout phone systems and powering the MLB’s replay review technology. Furthering our relationship with the MLB, we also cemented key customer deals with teams within the MLB, including the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies. Additionally, we announced an integration with Google’s Cloud Contact Center AI at the company’s Google Cloud Next conference in late July, which moves us toward the future of the contact center by providing customers with the ultimate omnichannel experience.
Q: Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a reality in so many industries today; yet a number of myths about AI continue to exist today, keeping businesses from tapping its true value. What are some of the most common misconceptions about AI that you want to correct and clarify?
A: I think the biggest misconception is that AI isn’t accessible. AI requires complex algorithms and modeling using machine learning to recognize patterns, identify exceptions and eventually make decisions as we would expect humans to make. Building these models requires lots of data and training to create a valuable and accurate AI platform. Our goal in partnering with Google was to remove the complexity that building and implementing AI brings to the equation, making AI accessible to all our customers.
By pre-training and creating a contact center AI solution set that is seamlessly integrated into Mitel’s contact center solutions, customers in any vertical will be able to leverage an intelligent customer experience that is easy to implement while protecting customer data. This serves to improve both customer interactions and agent effectiveness.
Q: How is AI disrupting the role of contact centers and contact center staff?
A: Contact centers are the face of the business with customers. But contact center metrics are typically inward facing, measuring agent efficiency and queue performance. AI analytics help our staff and agents ascertain “why the customer is calling” so the business can improve customer experiences with their products and services. We want to move customer satisfaction metrics closer to the real-time interaction. This makes the contact center a business improvement engine, transforming them from a cost-center to an invaluable asset, as they are on the front line listening to the voice of the customer every day.
Q: In your opinion, how can organizations use AI to enable better customer engagement and experience?
A: We find customers want to self-serve as much as possible. We should then look at calls to a contact center as potential exceptions, where customers could not self-serve. We are using AI-powered virtual agent functionality to help customers more effectively self-serve by connecting with them via an intelligent chat or speech bot equipped with the company’s data and backend systems.
If and when the virtual agent needs to hand off the customer to a human agent, the transition must be seamless, transferring context to the human agent so the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves. Then, the AI remains in the conversation to assist the agent with research and coaching support to make them more effective and accurate. A great example of this is how Rodney Pattison, the CTO of Acendas Travel is working with Mitel to personalize customer interactions, enhance support and help their Vacation Advisors be more effective in providing consultative vacation planning.
Q: Mitel recently announced an integration with Google Cloud's Contact Center AI. Can you tell us more about it?
A: Mitel’s recent integration with Google Cloud Contact Center AI draws on our extensive background in the contact center, which includes more than two decades of experience in this space. We are thrilled to have partnered with Google Cloud to deliver the next generation of customer experience by transforming the contact center using their AI and machine learning technologies. The platform combines multiple AI products to improve the customer service experience and the productivity of contact centers. This innovative, intelligent customer experience technology works with all Mitel contact center solutions, making it easy for our customers to future-proof their contact center investment.
Q: How will your latest partnership benefit your customers and boost your existing contact center solutions?
A: With Google Cloud Contact Center AI, Mitel customers will now have three new AI-powered features available that are unique to a truly intelligent customer experience. These include a new virtual agent, agent assist capabilities and analytics.
- The virtual agent will facilitate customer self-service using a conversational chat bot powered by Google’s Dialogflow Enteprise Edition, a natural language understanding (NLU) platform that supports both voice recognition and text input.
- Agent assist will allow call center agents to easily transfer customer enquiries from virtual agents to live agents. This feature also gives the live agent full context from the virtual conversation and enables continuous AI-powered virtual agent support, giving the live agent the resources they need to provide a positive customer experience.
- The third new feature, analytics, enables an additional layer of intelligence that is powered by the Google Knowledge Base Connector feature of Google Cloud Contact Center AI and will deliver valuable insight to help companies enhance their contact center offerings and overall customer experience.
Q: What emerging trends or technologies will further support the rise and popularity of AI in business and how is Mitel addressing these?
A: Mitel’s first introduction of the intelligent customer experience is focused on contact center because it presents a tremendous opportunity to improve customer interactions with businesses. We believe that the intelligent customer experience is a design methodology where AI can provide human assist capabilities across our portfolio. We are using AI to enrich and augment human conversations – from improving the ease and functionality of collaborating in meetings to making chat and speech interactions more capable and intelligent when predicting what action to take or information to retrieve.
Powering more than two billion business connections, Mitel is a global market leader in enterprise communications, Mitel offers a range of products and services that enable organizations to collaborate, communicate, and engage customers easily. The company serves 60 million end users in over 100 countries and owns over 1600 patents.