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AI for Speech, Other Uses Primary Message from NICE Interactions

Delivering and leveraging artificial intelligence throughout the contact center, including several AI-enabled speech capabilities was the theme of the NICE Interactions 2019 Conference, which drew an estimated 3,000 attendees.

In concert with the first day of the conference, NICE announced the spring release of the NICE inContact CXOne contact center suite, which provides end-to-end artificial intelligence capabilities.

Among the features, the new integrated chatbot enables organizations to configure and deploy bots to perform common tasks, while offering options to transparently elevate to an agent-assisted chat as needed. Customers can add AI services such as Natural Language Understanding Classification and Sentiment Analysis, Natural Language Processing Entity Identification, Language Recognition, Sentence Similarity and others.

The speech analytic capabilities are intelligent enough to parse sarcasm or something said in jest from something said with the meaning as would be determined by a simple transcription, says Chris Bauserman, NICE inContact vice president of product ad segment marketing.

“We can provide accurate sentiment analysis,” Bauserman says. “We can tell if the words were said in a positive or negative tone.”

The determination can be made quickly enough to alert an agent so that he or she can attempt to improve the communication (such as routing to a supervisor or specialist before risking the customer relationship) during the call, rather than waiting until post-call coaching to handle a frustrated customer in a different way.

The AI capabilities also enable NICE customers to quickly recognize trends, like customers highly frustrated with a particular product or service, so that a company can take corrective action more quickly.

The AI and ability to aggregate speech-related data helps companies provide better coaching to agents (such as how to quickly recognize and diffuse a customer’s stress), Bauserman adds.  “Maybe there are certain categories of calls (i.e., with certain types of products) or calls going to a certain team of agents that have more frustrated customers. That would mean more coaching is needed for that type of call or for those agents.”

Among its uses, the technology can provide agents with feedback, says Barry Cooper, NICE Enterprise Group president, pointing out that contact center employees typically aren't very engaged. Sure, they go to regularly scheduled meetings, but they get very little feedback on their performance unless they are doing either very poorly or very well because human supervisors have only so much time.

Data collected by the system can give contact center employees information on their performance without the need to hear it from a supervisor, Cooper adds. Employees will typically use the feedback to try to improve their own performance. As they do, they become more engaged and the company benefits. Of course, there will still be those employees who don't improve or follow protocols, and today's systems provide better concrete tracking of activity.

"You can't hold people accountable if you don't know the data," Cooper says. Yaron Hertz, president of NICE Americas, during his keynote address, said that NICE works with contact centers with as many as 60,000 agents and with as few as 200.

Those agents, buoyed by the latest tools, including artificial intelligence, are in a position to help drive a seismic shift in customer experience, says Barak Eilam, NICE's CEO. "The time to join the customer experience revolution is now."

The revolution is occurring thanks to the automation of more than 300 million tasks, including speech analysis and related tasks, that used to be handled entirely by agents. Yet currently there is a great experience divide in the customer experience, according to Eilam. "It's time to crush it or to be crushed," he says.

Eilam recommended that contact centers ensure that their customer interactions are hyper-personal and robust, filling all of the customer needs in a way that ensures customer retention and loyalty.

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