The 3 Contact Center Applications That Pay for Themselves

Almost every year, contact center leaders are asked to reduce operating costs and improve productivity while enhancing the customer experience. Executives care about the customer journey, but they are incented and compensated to keep costs down and profits high. (They should prioritize delivering an outstanding customer journey at least as much as they do cost reduction, but that is a topic for a different column.) The best contact center investments are those that contribute to cost reduction, productivity improvements, and a great customer experience. If a solution or investment also contributes to agent engagement and retention, it's even better.

There are three emerging contact center technologies that can deliver all of these benefits. The funny thing about all three is that while they are being talked about as if they are new, they have been around in some form or another for more than 20 years. In any case, these three applications can make major contributions to enterprises, customers, and agents, and should be considered by all contact centers as they begin to plan their 2018 budgets.

Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs)

DMG defines IVAs as specialized technology that uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced speech technologies, and free dialogue understanding to simulate live cognitive assistance for voice, text, or digital interactions via a digital persona. IVAs are self-learning; their intelligence is continually evolving based on data inputs from each new interaction. The acquired knowledge is assimilated and leveraged in future interactions. (IVAs are known by many names, including interactive virtual agents, virtual agents, virtual reps, v-reps, bots, chatbots, chatterbots, and more.) IVAs present companies with a great opportunity to enhance their voice and web self-service environments by making them easier to use, enhancing the options, and increasing customer adoption. Vendors to consider should include [24]7, Artificial Solutions, Creative Virtual, Interactions, Next IT, and SmartAction.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

DMG defines robotic process automation as the use of software to process transactions, manipulate data, trigger responses, initiate actions, and communicate with other digital systems to automate the completion of high-volume, repetitive, and non-cognitive tasks. RPA applications automate activities based on user-defined rules and are usually developed in drag-and-drop graphical designers. RPA administration environments are generally not complex, enabling them to be used by business subject matter experts who are familiar with processes, rather than IT staff. RPA solutions, which are often called robots, can be used on an attended and unattended basis. These solutions, which are essentially workflow automations, improve staff productivity and quality, enhance the customer experience, and improve employee engagement by eliminating the need for employees to be involved in low-value activities. Vendors to consider should include Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, Cicero, NICE, OpenConnect, Pegasystems, UiPath, and Verint Systems.

Voice Biometrics

DMG defines voice biometrics as technology that applies algorithmic formulas to the features and physical characteristics of individuals' voices to create unique, non-replicable voiceprints for the purpose of identification and authentication when compared to live audio streams. The primary use for voice biometrics in the contact center is to automate the process of verifying callers so that once they set up their voiceprints, they do not need to answer a number of security questions, which, ironically, often contain the same information that they are trying to protect. Instead, the voice biometrics engine compares voice features of the live audio stream to enrolled voiceprints. The live audio is scored against user-defined thresholds to determine if the live audio is a match, mismatch, or requires further verification by alternate means. As each person's voice has unique characteristics that are essentially impossible to replicate, voice biometrics is considered the most accurate and least intrusive way of authenticating callers. Voice biometrics solutions greatly enhance the customer experience and reduce the risk of fraud, while decreasing agent average talk time and improving their satisfaction. Vendors to consider should include Auraya Systems, NICE, Nuance Communications, Sestek, TradeHarbor, ValidSoft UK and Verint Systems.

IVA, RPA, and voice biometrics solutions all have great potential for enterprises because all three enhance the customer experience, reduce operating costs, and improve employee experience. When properly implemented, RPA solutions should pay for themselves in less than six months, and IVA and voice biometrics in less than 12 months. Contact center managers should give serious consideration to investing in these applications, but they also need to appreciate that since these solutions are new, they will need to depend on the vendors to play a major role in the implementations until they develop the skills to manage them on their own.

Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, is an expert on contact centers, analytics, and back-office technology. She has 30 years of experience helping organizations build contact centers and back-office operating environments and assisting vendors to deliver competitive solutions. She can be reached at

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