Why didi I name the Company Verbal Transactions?

By | AI, call center, collaboration, empathy, simulations

Why did I name my company Verbal Transactions? Think about it. Any time we speak to someone there is a transaction taking place. Asking your child to take the trash out has a value to it. You want to teach them responsibility and you need to get the garbage out of the house.

When speaking to a customer, you’re providing value to the relationship and the customer is expecting something in return – a transaction.

Recently Peter Cardon, the Bennis Chair in Teaching Excellence at the USC Marshall School of Business published an article in Fast Company to explain that with the increased use of AI, employers are placing more value on soft skills than ever before.

He states “72% of frequent AI users reported that oral communication will become more important, while 50% said that written communication will decrease in value as AI becomes better able to write in a convincingly human way.”

With the threats that AI brings into our lives and workplaces, the values of integrity, compassion, empathy etc. will rise higher in value to help protect us against deep fakes and hallucinations.

We’re seeing more and more employers wanting to provide soft-skill training to employees. One reason may be that the younger employee’s ability to harness their soft skills were stunted during COVID-19.

Just recently I was speaking to a manager in a call center who was stunned at how casual and non-professional some of their younger employee’s chat conversations were with customers.

By using a conversation simulator like our ACES software, we can provide a realistic and scalable way for employers to practice relevant co-worker or customer conversations and put into context why they should steer the conversation in one direction or the other.


The Power of Practice: Why Sales Reps Need to Practice Conversations Fifty Times

By | Adaptive Learning, call center, sales training

coaching employeesIn the dynamic world of sales, the ability to engage in effective conversations is paramount. Whether you’re pitching a product, negotiating a deal, or building relationships with clients, your communication skills can make or break your success. One key principle that many successful salespeople swear by is the idea of practicing conversations at least fifty times to become proficient. But why is this so important?

1. **Confidence Building**: Practice instills confidence. When you’ve rehearsed a conversation multiple times, you’ll feel more self-assured when facing real clients or prospects. Confidence is contagious and can significantly impact the way potential clients perceive you and your product.

2. **Refinement of Pitch**: Repetition allows you to fine-tune your pitch. Each practice round enables you to identify what works and what doesn’t. You can adjust your tone, language, and key points to create a compelling and persuasive message.

3. **Adaptability**: Through practice, you become more adaptable. You’ll learn to adjust your approach depending on the person you’re speaking to. This flexibility is crucial when dealing with a diverse range of clients, each with their own unique needs and preferences.

4. **Overcoming Objections**: Sales conversations often involve objections and pushback. By practicing these scenarios repeatedly, you can develop effective strategies to handle objections with finesse, turning potential obstacles into opportunities.

5. **Memorization**: Repeated practice helps you internalize key information and details about your product or service. This means you can speak confidently and authoritatively without relying on scripts or notes.

6. **Improved Listening Skills**: Effective communication is a two-way street. Practicing conversations allows you to develop your listening skills, helping you better understand client needs and tailor your responses accordingly.

7. **Consistency**: Consistency in your messaging is vital for brand integrity. Practicing conversations ensures that your team conveys a consistent and coherent message, reinforcing your brand’s identity.

In conclusion, the adage “practice makes perfect” holds true for sales reps. Repetition is a powerful tool that can transform a good salesperson into a great one. By practicing conversations at least fifty times, sales reps can build confidence, refine their pitch, become more adaptable, and consistently deliver outstanding results. In the competitive world of sales, mastering this art can be the key to achieving and surpassing your targets.

Simulations Speed time to Proficiency

By | Adaptive Learning, AI, bots, call center, contact Center, simulations

It’s a well-known fact that many call centers are challenged with getting agents up to speed as quickly as possible with a high degree of proficiency. The chart below shows the average time it takes for agents to become proficient. But we want to encourage you to start using simulations – like our ACES simulator


When we work with our customer’s call centers the #1 reason they use us is to get their agents up to speed faster.

Click here to see some examples

Synthetic speech (deep fakes) Are Coming and Getting Better

By | AI, simulations

Recently I was doing some research on voice technology and came across this company Murf which has a pretty impressive library of text-to-speech voices that sound pretty real. synthetic voice

Here are some samples I created

Another platform I have used that includes real human faces is Synthesia. I have used their voices for different simulation projects.

During a recent presentation for the Chicago eLearning Showcase, another platform many people use is Well Said Labs. I’ve tried all of these and many of these voices work pretty well but there is something to be said for a real voice. As someone who sings professionally as my side hustle, I would hate to think that someday singers may be replaced by AI voices — but it won’t surprise me if this is already being done in the gaming or Meta world.

What do Bots and Bloom’s 2-Sigma Problem Have in Common?

By | Uncategorized

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy o Learning but may not be as familiar with his 2-Sigma Study.

He discovered that students who learn by using one-on-one tutoring using the Mastery Learning technique performed at two standard deviations better than students who learn from traditional classroom instruction. What this means is that 98% of the tutored students outperformed the students in the control group.

So what do bots have to do with this? Imagine, if you could build an automated tutoring system that guided a learner through each task and automatically gave them feedback, similar to what a live tutor would provide?

We currently provide such a solution. Our ACES simulator, allows you to build highly customized hands-on simulations for customer-facing employees that guide them through three levels of immersion to ensure they are “mastering” each level. The built-in bot helps them along the way by providing real-time feedback to ensure the student learns how to manage each scenario. You get to decide what behaviors need to be captured to inform you in a scalable way how well your employees are adapting their behaviors to the critical skills they need to perform their job successfully.

Studies show that employees will trust a bot more than their manager and feel more relaxed when interacting with a digital assistant vs. a supervisor.

To see this in action, visit our simulation page for video examples of ACES working.

Correlation of Smart Phone Use and the Dumbing Down of Our Workforce

By | Adaptive Learning, AI

There are some pretty strong arguments that the use of Smart Phones has reduced our attention spans.  In fact, I bet some of you won’t be able to read this entire article without checking your phone or toggling over to check your email.

Publications like “Are Smartphones Making Us Dumber” and “Is Your Smartphone Making You Fat and Lazy” provide evidence that smartphones are creating a negative impact on our cognitive abilities.

For example, how many people under the age of 30 could use a map to navigate their way to some unknown destination? Don’t get me wrong, I have a very close affection for my GPS “lady” in helping navigate my way through some tricky destinations. But, she has led me astray on occasion to a route that seems to pass by a lot of Dunkin Donut Shops.

This leads me to think about the amount of time allowed for a single training program has gone from an average of 1 hour down to 15 minutes. Is this because we know the end-user attention span is short or is this the only amount of time the organization will allow the learner to be pulled away from their job?

Knowing that a training unit seems to be 15 minutes or less, it’s surprising to find that from 2017 to 2020, large corporations have dedicated more than twice as much time into total hours of training

(Chart from this article)

So, if companies are allowing for more training time per employee but less time for each training activity what was the catalyst that caused this dramatic leap?

My hypothesis is that more content is being digitized and accessible via online courseware/video content and knowledge management but are the employees becoming more skilled just because their employer is providing more content and easier access?

According to a study conducted by Professor Mark Williams University of Sydney Australia, shows that something that is read on a screen will be retained 10-30 percent less than something read on paper.

He also states “Our brains can’t multi-task, we have to switch our attention from one thing to another “

How many apps on your phone send an audible or buzzing signal to you throughout the day? These disruptions take our focus away each time we hear them.

I think we are fooling ourselves that by providing more resources to our employees they will automatically consume them to increase their capacity to do their job. I think organizations are taking the “just Google it” approach to providing resources and information to employees. Why not —  I can’t tell you how many things I’ve Googled to bring knowledge to me in the moment I need it.

Does that mean I’ve had become an expert on this –no but it got the job done. I think this has become the attitude of many organizations, by providing enough access to on-demand knowledge, we are doing our jobs.

I hope some of you reading this (if you got this far) can prove me wrong. Time, money and chaos are always going to be a driving force in building an educated workforce. Wouldn’t it be great if your company could bring an industry expert to the table when trying to acquire a new client or present the best trouble-shooting team when malicious hackers break into your network. Companies can have this type of human capital without paying higher prices to recruit top talent from the start.

In closing, it would be great to see examples of companies that spend time on training beyond the 15-minute chunks or treat training as a one-time event. It takes time, practice and feedback to gain long-term knowledge and expertise. I’m a huge fan of technology and the benefits it can provide but let’s find ways to leverage technology in a way that enable employees to build long-term knowledge and build internal experts to become more competitive and more “Smart” without relying on our mobile devices.

How Space Travel will Benefit All of Us

By | collaboration

Today Sir Richard Branson took his first trip into outer space. I don’t know about you but I think this is AMAZING!  Even though it was a short trip just outside the atmosphere, I’m still in awe of how the original astronauts went to the moon on what we consider “low-tech” technology.

Some people question the amount of money that all of these Billionaires are spending to get their ship into space.  I’ve even thought “why aren’t they spending all of this money to cure cancer and other diseases”?

I found this great infographic that shows many of the products discovered as a result of space travel. Six of them are being used in life-saving applications

Well, it turns out that space exploration has produced many spin-off products that many of us use today.

It would be interesting to see if any of you know of any other spin-offs as a result of space travel not shown in this image.

Not All IA is Evil

By | AI, bots, call center, simulations

It seems that AI (artificial intelligence) is getting more bad press than good these days. But my spin is that the good still outways the bad when it comes to the benefits of using AI-based applications and products.

For example, we are using AI to help accelerate the rate at which you can learn a new skill. I’ve seen this approach to using AI in education only at the K-12 level vs. the enterprise level as we are using it.  Most other training companies using AI to curate content to help cross-train employees on skills they need for their job. I would say this is one of the easier ways to apply AI technology.bots

Here is a list of some other “good” ways AI is being used to learn a new skill

  1. Using AI to learn how to speak in ASL (American Sign Language)
  2. Carnegie Learning is using to help teach math in a new way for K-12 students
  3. ACES (our own platform) for ensuring call center employees can demonstrate the appropriate level of English proficiency

One tail of caution though, we really want to ensure that we try to reduce the amount of bias that inherently may be embedded with these systems. I was recently asked by one of our clients if we could prove our AI did not contain any bias. I applaud them for asking this question as — again, this would suggest some sort of “evil” intent is being used.

We were fortunate to find a third-party study that showed our AI back-end (Microsoft’s NLP engine) scored the lowest word error rate. So as Spider Man’s uncle says “With great power comes great responsibility”