What Your Contact Center is Missing – Artificial Intelligence

Cognitive Telephone Call Routing Engine

In the contact center business, today’s staid technology is going to put you at a competitive disadvantage. Contact centers of all sizes should be looking at methods of deploying a cognitive routing engine (CRE) based on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In the news, over the past years, there have been several examples of machine learning/AI. IBM developed a chess-playing computer called Deep Blue. In 1997 Deep Blue learned enough to beat a chess master.(Watch a short video here) In 2011, you may have seen IBM Watson beat the Jeopardy champions. (Here is a short clip) More recently, on October 18, 2017, AI beat the champions of the most complicated game man plays – Go. (Click here to read a short article) All these technologies/games are examples of artificial intelligence or the ability of computers to learn through experience.

Let’s consider what machine learning could do for your business’s contact center. Imagine a premium customer has called into your business. First, AI would determine who among your existing customers are considered premium. This would be handled by AI’s ability to calculate a customer’s lifetime value. A cognitive routing engine would then use this information in order to route inbound calls to a standard or priority queue. Now that the premium caller has been identified the CRE would either route the call to their preferred agent or should that agent be on a call, notify the agent that the customer calling is “premium” and when do you think you will be finished with the current call? The communication would happen via Chat from the CRE to the agent. Once this information was relayed to the agent, the agent could “Chat” back that they would like to take the call, but are currently assisting another caller and should be available in about 30 seconds. The CRE would then speak the “Chat” to the caller where the caller would normally hear “Thank you for calling, your business is very important to us”. The caller could choose to hold, to be routed to another agent or to have the preferred agent call back once available.

Imagine a contact center with skills-based routing that automatically adjusts routing as an agent grows in experience, providing more, but not too many calls. Imagine a CRE that schedules start times, breaks and vacation times all while meeting your service level. Imagine giving bonuses to your agents based on the calls taken during the day – not only based on call volume and talk time, but also based on call quality with a virtual supervisor monitoring each call for quality, customer experience or “up sales”.

Imagine a utility company that knows in advance that a customer is calling due to a power outage. The CRE would take into account previous repair history, the severity of the storm, and available crews. The CRE would not only log the trouble ticket but also keep the customer updated throughout the outage using Text Messaging.

These are but a few changes that are coming to the contact center business. Improving customer experience goes way beyond the oftentimes-postulated AI Chat Bot. Whether you write code for contact centers or utilize contact center software, you don’t need to imagine, you can deploy this technology today.

As technology changes so must I. I am now working with Soothsayer Analytics based in Livonia, Michigan. If you are interested in exploring AI to improve your customer’s experience please give me a call or send me an email. Please note new email address and phone number below.

Regards,
Craig Hodges
AI Strategist/Telecom Ambassador
586-330-9252
craig.hodges@soothsayeranalytics.com
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Let me Solve Your Fax Issues – Faxing over IP

Faxing over IP has been a challenge since our first IP installation in 1998. Although we have had relatively good success faxing over managed networks, at times it can be a challenge to get it to work reliably.  Networks today have less packet loss, less jitter, and less latency allowing Codec’s G711 to transmit reliable fax or occasionally using T.38.   Customers are now beginning to fax over IP on unmanaged networks, in other words the Internet.  In some instances unmanaged networks work, in other instances they don’t work at all.
As organizations are relying less on managed bandwidth and more on software defined networks (SDN) companies that require fax, such as the medical industry, are seeing challenges once again.
I am happy to report that a company has solved the faxing over IP issue with absolute results.  The fax is essentially emailed to proprietary appliances where the email is turned back into a fax signal in which any standard fax, multi-function device or eFax appliance can receive it. You’re no longer handcuffed to expensive out-of-date telephone lines and you can keep your fax device, eliminating a very costly part of your business.

 

If the cost of fax lines or the reliability of your fax lines is causing issues, give me a call. Together, we can fix it.

Do You Have Too Much Capacity? Find Out How to Save Money Monthly.

Recently, one of my customers signed a new dial tone contract with their carrier. The customer did a great job driving down telecom costs with this new contract but failed to take into account capacity. Their business has changed over the years and they were only utilizing half of what their contracted provided for. The small amount saved on the new contract pales in comparison to what would have been saved purchasing the proper capacity. Had capacity needs been analyzed the savings would have been around $12,000 annually.

When you are looking to drive down cost of your monthly phone bill is important to consider usage. There are tools to help you do this.  The link to one is below:

Erlang Capacity Calculator

If you are in the market for a new carrier or your contract will be expiring in the next 12 months please let me know. I am not only interested in saving you money, but also making sure you have the correct capacity for your business.

Accountability

Call accounting software collects and records call details, reporting on telecom usage, costs and activity. Call accounting software is more important than ever, accomplishing many necessary tasks.
The most important job of call accounting software is notifying you if your system gets hacked. The software will alert you to abnormal calling patterns helping to prevent abuse such as toll fraud. See my past article on toll fraud:
With the advent of SIP, call accounting software is a necessity. It can identify the peaks and valleys within call patterns, insuring you have the correct number of SIP trucks. This helps to reduce your overall costs, yet allows your calls to go through.
Another important use of call accounting software is allocating telecom costs among various departments within your organization. Tracking the number of calls each department places can allow for intra-company billing, ensuring each department pays for their usage.
Finally, call accounting software can also help measure employee productivity. The number and extension dialed, the time of the call, and call length can all be recorded. This information can be configured onto an innovative dashboard allowing you to quickly and easily view how productive your employees really are. Dashboards can be configured with a variety of graphs, call summaries or a feed of the details making it easy to decipher and to utilize the information.
As always, if you have any questions with regard to call accounting software or any other telecom issue please feel free to call or send me an email.

Communication Could Prevent a Crash

I am copied on every service order that my customers place. I briefly scan each one looking for patterns. If I see something reoccurring, with the same customer, I escalate the issue.  For one customer, the email was short: “They changed out the firewall and switch and the phones are not working now.”

In many cases, telephony solutions are engineered to achieve 99.999% reliability. And yet to maintain this level of reliability we need cooperation from the customer.  Just as human error shut down much of Amazon’s web services a few weeks ago, so to can this happen to your company. (http://fox6now.com/2017/03/02/human-error-amazon-broke-the-internet-with-a-typo/)

If you are making network changes it is important that they are documented. It is also important to discuss these changes with your telephony support team at BSB Communications, Inc.
If receiving calls is critical to your business, schedule time with our service department, before making changes to your network, just in case things don’t go as planned.

Don’t be the Victim of Toll Fraud

Toll fraud is real and happening often.  I have the advantage of working with several colleagues who have been in the telecommunications business since the early 1970’s.  They agree that our customers have never experienced this much toll fraud.

What is toll fraud? Traditionally, it is when an individual illegally gains access to a customer’s PBX and places telephone calls.  In the past, the “hacker” had to have specific knowledge about a business’s PBX in order to exploit its security weaknesses.  This knowledge had to be specific because all the phone systems were proprietary based.

Today the telephony world is working with an ever increasing number of standards. Most of the PBX’s today adhere to one standard or another. Now the hacker only needs to be able to exploit a single standard in order to have access to thousands of potential “hacks”. The carriers are also adhering to these standards. Consequently, your PBX is not the only opportunity for toll fraud to occur.

Adhering to the following security procedures will help protect yourself and limit your company’s liability:

1. Create strong passwords on any SIP device.

2. Ask your carrier how they plan on notifying you when a hack is suspected and how they plan to deal with the situation.

3. If possible, block international calls and document your request.  If not, contact your PBX supplier to discuss options on limiting your potential losses.

4. Purchase software that stores all of the telephone numbers your users call. Having this data will help you determine if the fraudulent call originated from your PBX or from your carrier’s network.

Toll Fraud is a real concern in today’s world and thousands of dollars of usage can be charged to you in less than a day!  Please see the article below on the damage that can be done.  As always, if you have any questions or would like to discuss further feel free to contact me.

ReMax office owner hit by phone fraud, $600,000 bill

 

 

 

Do You Have a Good Supplier or a Bad Supplier?

A recent survey I read stated that in some market segments up to 60% of customers are not satisfied with their VoIP system and service. The same survey stated that, in these market segments, before the advent of VoIP, PBX customers were 90% satisfied.
Why the high level of satisfaction in the past? Mainly, it was due to having a telephony solution designed end-to-end, by a single manufacturer, supported by a local team of trained engineers who understood telephony. Once a call left the building, the company’s dedicated telephony solution was connected to a dedicated worldwide voice network, utilizing strict telephony standards.
Today advanced VoIP platforms do so much more than platforms of yesterday and yet they are not architected like a PBX of the past.  So why are customers experiencing such low satisfaction? First, the barrier to entry into the telephony business is very low, allowing anyone with a business card, website and a desire to sell telephony solutions to compete for business.  Second, many organizations have internalized telephony support and moved away from their voice centric telephony suppliers, treating voice as just another application for the IT department to manage. In other instances, they have abdicated customer service to a hosted provider, with no local support. Concurrently, the hosted provider may utilize the “common” Internet for telephone calls.  I use the term “common”, because anyone with a connection to the Internet could potentially affect the level of satisfaction. Finally, today’s telephony solutions are architected to ride over the top of your entire shared data infrastructure of Wide Area Networks (WANS), servers, firewalls, LAN switches, cabling and in some instances the common Internet to deliver voice.  These telephony solutions are oftentimes connected to the outside world utilizing weak VoIP standards.  Any one of these components, or combination of the above components, including the levels of software within each component, can cause voice quality problems.
If communicating to your customers over the telephone is important, then how does a company today find the same level of past satisfaction?  Regardless of your company’s vision of how telephony solutions should be delivered, be that premise, hosted, or a hybrid of both feel free to give me a call so we can discuss how BSB is still delivering yesteryears level of satisfaction.
We run our business like your business depends on it.
Works Cited:
Timothy Colwell, “The State of IP Phone Satisfaction,” Telecom Reseller.