Seat Time vs. Skill Readiness

By | Adaptive Learning, bots, simulations | No Comments

How to Get the CEO to Notice

Did you know that only 8% of CEOs see a direct correlation to the money they spend on training and business impact? This is one of the reasons why training is the first thing to get cut from a budget when tightening the purse strings.

Why is this?

I’ve been in the corporate training space for almost 30 years now (yikes!). I was lucky enough to follow the evolution of how technology has impacted the delivery and access to corporate training but I have also seen it become a detriment as well.

When electronic delivery or eLearning was first introduced companies proclaimed “Now you can cost-effectively train employees on hundreds of topics.” This never happened, even though the vendors successfully sold libraries of 100’s of courses to their clients, only a handful were really useful to the organization at any given time.

Once the evolution of LMS’s (learning management systems) came about it was the holy grail of managing and delivering training. At first, this was great. As companies grew comfortable with LMSs they began to turn them into something beyond their original intent.

evolution LMS

Evolution LMS

As this image shows, LMS and digital delivery of training have evolved from one to many to agile. But the fact of the matter is, managers and executives have no solid information to tell them if the employee can actually perform the task the training was intended to teach them.

Technology — that is not necessarily new- AR/VR and simulations have a better approach at measuring skill readiness. In the past, these learning platforms were too cost-prohibitive. The digital demand has driven the costs of these solutions down allowing for increased access. I still see a lot of organizations trying to fit these delivery mechanisms into the same SCORM world but it just doesn’t work.

We need to explore how an organization will benefit from exploring learning solutions that truly measure skill readiness vs. just seat time or completion stats. With the availability of AI/ RPA and big data and predictive analytics, we can build and deliver training that helps employees learn new skills faster and more competently. This translates into a direct tie to business impact.

If you’re at all curious to see an example of AI/predictive analytics and simulation learning visit our video page.Videos

 

How Omnichannel Drives Businsess

By | call center, contact Center | No Comments

Do you know the difference between Omnichannel vs. multichannel? The latter refers to how customers complete a transaction. Omnichannel refers to providing customers with a variety of how they begin and end their customer journey.

Companies seem to be scrambling today to implement some form of omnichannel strategy but just how important is it to your business?omnichannel growth

Based upon the Aberdeen Group, it’s very important to year over year growth.

But how is your company managing resources and your investment to support these channels? First understanding your target customers will drive which channels you support. If you sell a line of hearing aids, more than likely you’re not going to use a lot of Social Media to drive customer experience.

But what about brands who may have a prospect click on an image on Instagram, then connect via chat. The chat rep could then recommend a coupon or other products and increase their chances of closing a deal – in minutes vs. days.

In order to provide this level of experience the organization may need to completely restructure how it supports these operations. I’ve spoken to many consultants who help companies make these transitions and one of the biggest – as usual – is the change management process to make these modifications.

One fear they have is losing a customer because they don’t feel completely confident about their ability to manage these channels and risk losing a customer.

The majority of contact centers are starting with some form of self-service as their first point of contact. Even if these channels provide great customer experience, some people still need to reach a live person. When this happens, it’s usually not a basic interaction. This is why it’s so important that your channels have some path to carry interactions with a live person to reduce the need to “re-explain” the situation. No one likes to do this. You will need to enable these agents with skills to handle the more challenging situations vs. the basic interactions. This is one reason our simulator ACES™ is sparking interest. Companies need a scalable way to help teach more complex skills in a small window of time. Using simulation-based training is a great way to immerse employees into realistic training situations.

So please don’t forget all of the legs of the stool when deploying your omnichannel strategy:

  1. Deciding which channels drive results
  2. Putting a strong change management process in place to support this strategy
  3. Ensure the culture and skills you train to support your strategy

 

Is Your “Nesting” for the Birds?

By | call center, contact Center, Employee Rewards | No Comments

If you have spent any time in a contact center you’ve probably heard of the term “nesting”. It’s that phase for newly hired contact agents after they have had some initial classroom training but aren’t quite ready to go on their own.

On average, the ramp-up time for new agents is for two weeks. This doesn’t really give these agents enough time to digest all of the information they will need to be successful – at most, they will be able to greet the caller properly, and ask how they can help the customer.

To add to their pain, many companies are putting in place self-help tools for customers to use which means by the time they reach an agent, it’s a more challenging situation to handle.

Luckily there are some alternatives to this stage of onboarding. A term I heard recently was “phased nesting”. Meaning don’t force all agents hired at the same time to move through the onboarding process in lockstep. If you notice an agent is moving along faster than some of the others in the group – allow them to progress. This will maintain their engagement and self-confidence while the others moving slower are given more time to adapt to their new tasks.

One alternative we recommend is using our ACES simulator. ACES (accelerated engagement contact system) allows you to deploy realistic immersive simulations that use a phased-in approach to help agents get hands-on experience, with automated feedback from our built-in digital coach. This reduces the risk of taking a live call with an inexperienced agent and gives your managers the ability to see who is truly “floor ready” before placing them into the production environment.

To see ACES in action you can view some video samples by watching our Videos

Why Your AI Investment Should Be In Employee Training First

By | bots, contact Center, simulations | No Comments

Did you know that poor customer service is costing corporations $80 Billion a year? Even though our economy is still healthy, I don’t think any company can afford to lose customers.

Every day I read about some new products with “AI” or supposed AI embedded into it. Many of these are bots or customer-facing applications to automate or collect data during a customer journey. But even as you deploy these solutions, if the customer still needs some form of human interaction, your contact center staff will need to have stronger skills to handle the more complex problems.

There is a growing trend and awareness in the corporate training world that has finally recognized that the traditional forms of training either via classroom, online or blended, simply doesn’t fully guarantee your training is effective. It simply allows you to check the box training was giving and maybe an evaluation to tell you if the employee found it enjoyable. So What! I don’t know if they can actually perform their job correctly do you?

Here’s where AI comes into play for training. There are new training applications (Like our ACES) that leverage AI and NLP applications to automate one-on-one coaching and guidance to walk an employee through hands-on tasks. Imagine putting a contact center agent into a variety or real-life scenarios multiple times until they have mastered these situations. The embedded AI tracking their behavior pro-actively addresses any mistakes they may make before they engage with live customers.

Plus using a bot like coach removes the need to use your seasoned staff to coach and assist your new hires. Keeping productive and skilled staff on the phone is a much better use of these resources.

Studies show that using this type of technology can even reduce the amount of time it takes to get that new hire up to speed. If you haven’t heard of the term Adaptive Learning you will. This form of learning allows a learner to learn at their own pace with ongoing feedback to calibrate their skills at just the right time.

If you spent a portion of your AI budget in applications like these, it should actually give you a higher ROI on any money you are spending on monitoring customer experiences. If you can proactively reduce call handling times, assure CSAT scores will be high before your agents are placed into production, I think it’s money well spent.

If you want to see an example of this, just click this link to view some sample videos of our ACES simulation.

How To Make Your Own Intelligent Agent

By | bots, contact Center, simulations | No Comments

Do you talk to Siri or Alexa like they are a personal friend of yours? Intelligent agents and voice technology has exploded over the last three years. Our appliances, cars and HVAC systems talk to us. Now you can build your own intelligent agent without the need to have programming skills.

Amazon Alexa’s Skills has some great templates. Their Blueprint Skills page provides easy to use templates that cover topics from telling jokes, quiz games, and corporate applications.

Google has DialogFlow which provides templates and tools to incorporate, the built-in functions of your device, like time, location, directions etc. DialogFlow had a longer learning curve for me but I can certainly see the benefits of using this to create your own bots. It will even begin to “learn” how to accept inputs that may not be word for word what it needs to listen for but will begin to accept variations of what you are asking the bot for.

They also offer Actions as an extension of their Google Assistant with some pretty easy to use templates.

There are several new companies forming to provide you with a nice user-friendly tool to build your own bot.

Here are some tips to think about when you are building your bot.

  1. Do you want your bot to have a specific persona
    bot agent

    Facebook bot agent

  2. Who are your target users, do they have a device that works with this platform or can they install an app to interact with the platform you are building your bot for
  3. You need to think about what response you want the bot to provide if the user is giving it an input it doesn’t understand.
  4. Does your bot need to be private or secure
  5. Do you want to collect what someone is saying to the bot

Both Amazon and Google have free options which are a great way to play around with them at no risk. Have fun and test it out, you’d be surprised how easy it can be to build your own intelligent agent.

How We Conducted An AI BOT Smackdown!

By | bots | No Comments

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being a co-organizer for Chicago AI Days, one of the largest AI events held in the Midwest. During the planning of all of the presenters, panels, and moderators I thought there was one very important panel of experts missing from this event —- the virtual assistant panel!

As the day rolled on, we planned a sneak appearance of Siri, Alex and Google Assist. After I convinced some members of the audience to assist me with the final presentation of the day, I presented to the audience our panel of experts.

One goal of this exercise was to demonstrate that as far as we have come with voice-based technology and AI we have a ways to go.

We began by asking each of the bots some softball questions like “where do babies come from” and “where can I bury a dead body”. Then my assistant had some harder questions to ask like “when was the first bot created”, none of the panelists got the correct answer.

Then we turned the questions over to the audience. When we asked the bots “why are fire engines red” Google Assist was the only one with the correct answer. One final question of the evening to really try to stump the bots was “What is the definition of AI?” Siri did not get the right answer both Alexa and Google Assist did.

Now time for the audience to vote. Votes for Siri — 2% Votes for Google Voice 45% Alexa was the winner with approximately 53% of the votes! As much as I like Alexa I surprise she won.

This exercise also demonstrated why products like our ACES are still extremely necessary in order to leverage the power of speech assisted applications. ACES leverages what Microsoft’s speech recognition does well and calibrates it to produce better results than the out of the box functionality. We all benefit from the hard work that has already gone into these smart assistive technologies but they are not ready to take over the planet or — AI conferences any time soon.

Simulation vs. RolePlay

By | bots, call center, contact Center, simulations | No Comments

The Differences of RolePlaying – vs. Scalable Simulations

Click here to see simulation demos

When I speak to people about our simulator ACES™ some people will interchange the term roleplaying and simulations but there is a difference. As I tend to be a little biased on using simulations vs roleplaying.  I thought it would be a helpful exercise to create a chart to list out the similarities and differences between the two activities. This chart below compares the two. There is room for both types of learning methodologies but studies do show that allowing students to spend time in a simulator vs roleplaying, they do perform better. Here is a link to a study conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology conducting a side by side comparison of traditional roleplay in a call center vs simulation.

How to Stop Contact Center Mistakes

By | bots, call center, contact Center, empathy, simulations | No Comments

If you had a crystal ball to see into the future, who do you think would be your top-performing contact center agents? Now take that and scale it to all of your call centers both internal and external.

Contact Center Predictions

Predict Contact Center Performance

How would this impact your business?

Here is a list of just a few examples:

  • We would know where the gaps are in hiring and the costs needed to fund recruitment and onboarding
  • Your quality control managers could pro-actively manage your KPIs
  • Our scheduling would be much easier
  • Managers could predict what the AHT would be before any calls were made
  • Workforce managers  would know how many support people to place into each channel with a good estimate of FCR
  • Turn-over and costs associated with this could be managed better

Taking a look at just this small list you can tell that having the ability to predict who your top contact center employees perform is pretty powerful.

Now I will let you in on a secret –  ACES (accelerated contact engagement system) gives you this ability.

How?

ACES gives you a scalable way to catch the contact center agent errors before they happen! Using it’s a powerful simulator, ACES allows you to build realistic immersive simulations that feel like your taking on a real call or chat session.

To see some examples of ACES in action, just click this Videos

 

How to Use AI to Teach Humans vs. Machines

By | contact Center, simulations | No Comments

Many of you are familiar with the term Machine Learning (ML) which is a subset of AI designed to train a machine how to do a very specific task. Can’t we do the same process with Humans?

The answer is yes, of course we can! I want to highlight some examples that go beyond providing employees or customers with simple information using an intelligent agent.

  1. Shameless self-promotion for ACES (Automated Contact Engagement System) designed to automate the process of teach contact center agents how to conduct the primary transactions they will encounter on the job. ACES is an immersive simulator with builtin AI to provide automatic feedback when an agent give the wrong verbal response or enter the wrong information on screen. All actions are tracked and mapped against the same metrics and agent would be measured on during a live call. Agents get up to speed much faster and are truly “floor ready” when placed into production.
  2. Third Space Learning is using an AI powered system to measure how effective the teacher performance is and tie this directly to student success.
  3. MATHIA from Carnegie Learning is an example of an intelligent tutor. It uses a technique called “Knowledge Tracing” to track a student’s progress and tailor feedback to help them solf the math problems.
  4. EdCast is used to “upskill” employees by making automatically curated content based upon previous content the user has completed in the past and what job skills are mostly likely needed for their job.

Does Your Contact Center Have a Wall In It?

By | call center, contact Center | No Comments

Recently I was speaking to a CX consultant and ask her “why is there a disconnect between what call center agents do and the customer experience initiatives?” She stated that she runs into this quite frequently in her practice.

When I reach out to CX professionals to introduce them to our call center simulator, once they hear it is used for contact center agents to improve performance they immediately refer me off to someone else. 

In an old blog post from Customer Think points out that good customer service is a branding and customer loyalty issue. That was 5 years ago! But I still run into organizations that seem to separate these functions within their organization

In a blog post by Ameyo.com a multi-channel call center, they define the difference between the customer experience vs. customer service and define customer service as re-active. Is it really?

Even if that’s the case, customers only call in when something is wrong or they need help,  the contact center could either be the place for your single point of failure — losing customers or done well, can build loyalty and delight.

I’d be curious to hear from my readers if you feel you have a wall between the CX function and the contact center — or how you’ve broken this barrier.