Talking to Machines: How AI Is Shaping the Future of CX
Vanessa Gates 00:12
Hey everyone. Welcome back to Masters of Support. I am your host Vanessa Gates and today I have with me President of InflowCX Adam Rennert. Adam, thanks so much for being here with me today.
Adam Rennert 00:23
Thanks for having me! I’m excited.
Vanessa Gates 00:25
Yeah, I’m excited as well to you know, we have this great partnership. So, so great to have you here today. Before we get started, I like to start this podcast with just a little icebreaker so that our listeners can get to know our guests a little bit better. I like to base the icebreaker on our Playvox core values, and specifically the one about enjoy the little things. So Adam, outside of being the President at Inflow, what are some of the things you like to enjoy?
Adam Rennert 00:56
Outside of being a workaholic? I mean, obviously, for me, you know, I have a great family, my wife, my kids, and just being able to get some time with them. Either it’s on the water or going kayaking and paddleboarding or jumping on the boat. Sitting at the beach, going for a hike. I mean, anytime I can get where the families together with all of our busy schedules with three teenagers, that’s what I enjoy doing. With my with my spare time.
Vanessa Gates 01:26
I understand the hustle and bustle of being a parent. I know you just moved to California my understanding right at the beginning of the pandemic, or am I incorrect? You moved from cold weather to warmer weather?
Adam Rennert 01:37
Yes, exactly. It was just a coincidence decided to do that right before the pandemic hit. But then the move happened during the pandemic. That was crazy a ride. But we’re happy where we are, you know, being in the in the warm weather, obviously. But you know, just getting out into the to nature a little bit. It’s nice.
Vanessa Gates 01:53
Thank you so much for Adam, so much for going ahead and share that with us. Today. We have you been a guest on our podcast to talk about automation in the CX world. You want to go ahead and tell us a little bit about what is the automation? Talk about maybe the key areas of automation?
Adam Rennert 02:11
Yeah, sure, sure. And automation and AI is kind of like the big word buzzwords today, if you go back even a few years, when cloud, just the word cloud people like I want to move to the cloud, you’re like, what does that mean? That’s a giant bucket. And before that it was I want to move to void. And it’s like, what does that mean? It’s similar is happening with AI and automation in the contact center, I mean, there’s, there’s many different areas that we can implement automation and leverage AI within your contact center. And I like to, you know, categorize it with kind of the front door and the back door. You have front door automation that leverages AI where the customers are interacting and coming into your call center. So they’re calling or they’re chatting or their SMS. And automation can answer questions, give them information, give the customer the experience that they need, as they’re coming in. And then you have like the back door, right? The backdoor automation are things that help the agent be more effective in their job, and help the business be more effective at addressing agents and their customers. So in the backdoor, you have agent assist technologies that leverage AI and automation, think of them as as scripting on steroids. It’s kind of what agent agent assist technology. And then you have advanced analytics that can basically give you insights into customers and into what your agents are doing real time or near real time at a holistic level that you can action on, and it’s all leveraging automation and AI. So there’s there’s these different areas of automation. And it really depends on where the customer is and what problems are trying to solve what they should solve first what they need to solve second, to where they can leverage those technologies.
Vanessa Gates 03:50
You said agent script on steroids. That is a first one I have ever heard. And I love it. I love the analogy. I mean, we’re being big we’re getting making things even better efficient. So you mentioned you know, things being solved. So what are companies gaining in regards to implementing these new automations? And what problems are being solved?
Adam Rennert 04:15
Yeah, so it there’s a few problems that are being solved. And it really depends on which of those four buckets I talked about voice entry, digital entry, then you have agent assist, and you have automation. One of the main problems being solved, there’s just personnel, right? In today’s world. It’s hard if you look at the job market, it’s hard to get people to do certain jobs and certain tasks. In the past the technologies that didn’t have this automation built in there, people had to throw people at it right companies had no people to get the insights to get the information to build the scripting to do all these type of things. Now that people aren’t readily available, they’re turning over more and more and so the technology can solve Have those problems? Right? So it’s the first and foremost, it’s it’s people. The second is just cost efficiency, right? So if so people are in two areas, one of them is can’t get them. So leverage automation. The other one is, can you leverage this automation to give you a lower cost per transaction for some transactions? It’s not replacing people holistically, what it’s saying is there’s some interactions that come in the door on the front door, that don’t really need a person. But historically, people have answered that, “What’s the status of my shipment?” “Where’s my order?” all those type of things, whereas consumers today have accepted the fact that, that a machine could provide that information that they don’t need to talk to a live person. And really, it’s the it’s a series of the world and the Alexa’s of the world that have driven consumers to accept the fact that they could talk to a machine, get answer, get information, that’s perfectly okay. So those types of things would solve the consumer side where the consumer is like, “I don’t necessarily need to talk to a person, I’m okay with that.” Five years ago, 10 years ago, people hated talking to the machines. First of all, the machines were not as good as the machines today, you know, feel and look like people. And and you combine that with consumers, acceptance of talking to machines, it’s really driven that that improvement in customer experience, as well as driving down costs within your call center.
Vanessa Gates 06:27
And I think as we, you know, you mentioned the ROI. And you’re mentioning cost. And I think, you know, this is going to pivot us into the next question. But I feel like that right now. And that being at this end of the year budget season, we’re in this uncertainty, uncertain economic times, you know, what should companies consider when they’re thinking to leverage their automation? You know, what are some some things maybe they should put number one on their list and maybe share some other items with us?
Adam Rennert 06:57
Yeah, I mean, this is that’s a tough one. Because every customer when we go into customers, and talk to them, every customer is at a different place in their journey. Right? And their journey in terms of technology, the ability to consume technology, the ability to consume change, what have they already tried to implement? What’s their staffing? So we typically go in and kind of analyze their pain points, like, what are you trying to solve for it? Sometimes customers think they’re solving for one thing, but really, the root cause is something completely different, that can be solved somewhat differently. So so that’s the long answer, saying, you can’t just say to a customer, this is what you need to do when you’re thinking automation. But here’s the one thing is, it is a journey. It’s not a one time event. So you can’t… customers shouldn’t be thinking, “Oh, man, I’m just going to put an automation and leverage AI in my call center. Where’s the easy button? Let me go ahead and implement that.” It doesn’t work that way, you have to be very prescriptive and say, Where what are the problems we’re trying to solve? What are the ones that we can consume now, which are the ones that may because of how we’re structured and where we are in our contracts wherever we need to consume later, and the which of the ones that give the highest value, the lowest lift, you start to get benefits. And you incrementally add to those benefits through automation, versus this magic button that some people might think like, customers come to us and say, “I need automation in my my call center, you know, what should I you know, what vendor should I go with? What should I do?” And we’re like, “Hold on, you need to figure out, you know, there’s not this magic button of automation.” So it’s a journey, it’s not a single event, identify where you are, in your journey, lay that out and increment, increment those benefits layer automation to different areas, depending on where you are, in your journey
Vanessa Gates 08:34
I like that. It’s a journey and not a one time event. So who can benefit from the self service, this automation? You know, there’s so many industries out there, there’s so many moving parts in this journey, as you just mentioned. So yeah, let us know, what do you think?
Adam Rennert 08:53
And so from a from a vertical or a type of company perspective, again, I’ll start with the front door, right? I’ll start with the front door, which is again, front door to me, is a voice automation to bypass and never get to an agent or to do some work before it gets to an agent to make the agent more efficient or digital, right? So somebody comes in with a chat never has to get to a human, that’s what I get in the front door. When you look at that, customers that have repeatable, like when they look at the type of transactions that are coming into their, into their business, and they and they can bucket transactions into pretty large buckets. Those are the ones that are really ripe for automation, because they’re saying, I have this ask 40% of the time or 20% of the time. You can craft the automation around that use case, tweak and tune that automation around that use case so that you can then all of a sudden, as your you start incrementing you have 5% of those calls now get contained. 10% get contained. Now you’re up to the 20%. That interaction And customers are going to be it’s a basic interaction. Customers don’t care about talking to an agent. And those are the type of things for any customer that has repeatable. Customers that have highly complex interactions with customers, automation is less so for them, right? Because it’s very custom. It’s very, um, hands on interactions, you can still leverage automation to maybe do the authentication. Some of the questions that agents have to ask just to validate a user, you can leverage automation that can drive your transaction cost down by 60, or 70%. So it still gets to an agent, but it triages certain things and ask certain questions ahead of time that makes the agent be able to flow right into their sale, pitch, or right into their problem of trying to solve versus validating, who are you What’s your name, let me let me check on all that the system can do all that for you. So so that’s kind of the front door, this this. And the second piece of the front door is on the digital I mean, really, digital bots have become another term. It’s like, oh, I need a bot bots are different types of bots. There’s directive, then there’s intelligent bots. So people who are mature in their digital interactions where they have a high level of digital interaction, they’ve already made that transition from primarily a voice shop, I’ve already made the shift to where I’ve shifted a lot of people to digital, that’s a perfect time for people to start layering in digital bots. Blaming digital bots, day one, when you’re when you’re not your organization not used to digital, that’s a bit of a challenge for a lot of companies, they think, Well, I’m going to go to digital music, go digital bots, it doesn’t work. That way, you really need to kind of get your feet wet, using digital, then you can layer in bots. So again, that second type of customers already made my transition heavy digital, I can now layer in those bots. So there’s just a couple areas. I mean, obviously on the back door, there’s lots of areas there which I think are the agent assist, “the steroids,” the I don’t think I’ve ever used that term before actually until this this meeting, it must be something about today.
Vanessa Gates 12:06
This you name this episode, “Agent Scripts on Steroids.”
Adam Rennert 12:10
But agent scripting on steroids, that is that a little bit more mature, right? That is, that’s that’s a lot of change management within your agent community. So you really need to be thoughtful, it’s usually not the first kind of automation that you’re gonna want to deploy within your organization you can get, you can get bigger lift from a few of the areas, but layering in agent assist into an organization would have to be the maturity of your organization. And really identifying Are you ready to consume that. A lot of our customers are interested in it. And then when we dive deep into the organization, they’re just not ready to consume that yet. And so we have to lay some groundwork in the operation to get them ready to for that change management. You want to impact the agents, the least at any of these automations. And the front doors, impact them the least in terms of change management, and advanced analytics and insights affect them the least agent assist affects them the most. So you have to be really, really have a really good team and focus on on deploying that.
Vanessa Gates 13:09
I mean, it makes sense to me, I mean, you, I like to personally call AI, almost the assistant to the agent, you provide the agent with the tools for success, they’re going to be happy, they’re going to provide great customer service, the consumer is going to be happy. And you’re just it’s going to be that revolving door of this kumbaya of relationship between the two. So I think it makes a lot of sense. And, just really briefly, do you see like internal teams, like maybe the marketing team find any benefits of using and I say marketing, because of course I’m on marketing, but you know, there are other organizations within the company that can benefit from the self service and automation. I don’t know if you want to touch about that just really quickly?
Adam Rennert 13:56
Yeah, I mean, marketing is a huge piece. That’s really where the time comes. That’s really that advanced analytics, it used to be the backup, it would be okay marketing’s running these programs are marketing is trying to say, How am I doing in the business? What’s my brand awareness? How are people, you know, consuming my product? Am I successful? And a lot of that data would come in through the call center because like, what are customers saying, what are they doing, and there was a lot of manual work to get information, and it took time. So maybe marketing would get that data 60 days later, you can’t really affect a marketing program 60 days later, right? You need more real time. The other thing is these these advanced analytics tools and quality tools would only give you is you’d only do like two or four or 5% of the interactions when you actually analyze. So not only would it take time for you to get the information, it’s a small subset with AI and a lot of the automation in the more advanced analytics and quality tools now is it’s 100% it’s near real time. You can automatically provide marketing the information, they can triangulate with any other marketing data that they’re hearing in the market that’s outside the call center. And they can have a good view near real time. Right? Instead of 30-60 days later, they’re like, hey, maybe next year, I’ll try the program better, you know, versus if you get it a day or two after the program, they can make tweaks to the program, and tweaks to their marketing message. So it’s really, really helpful for, for marketing,
Vanessa Gates 15:26
That two to 5%. You mentioned, I know, on Playvox side, you know, sometimes we say that 2% – 3% margin is very low. So of course, when you bring in that AI in, and you’re getting a larger reach, of course, that’s going to set you up for success. So we talked about, you know, what the, the companies can benefit, you know, how can they leverage their automation, but, you know, how can they build a successful, you know, CX system with leveraging it, you know, what tools do they need to consider when they’re leveraging it.
Adam Rennert 16:01
So, think about the tools, I mean, so when I, when people come and say I want to evolve, we get we get hired to deal with, “I want to evolve my customer experience, I want to evolve how we’re doing business that our call center and how we’re engaging our clients and do this.” The first thing is, it has to be a commitment, right, the customer has to commit to this process, because again, I talked about earlier, it’s not a one, none of this is the one time event whether it’s automation or, or any other technologies or not automation, but enhancements to your contact center, or people strategy that you’re you’re going to implement, it has to be a commitment, because there is none of this, you press the easy button and everything works tomorrow, and then you go back to doing your business, it’s a change, you have to you have to make sure that that you know you have good change management, there’s a commitment from the leadership to, for this to be a process, you’ll get incremental benefits along that process to get you to your ultimate goal. But there is no easy button. That’s really how I lead it. But my tools perspective. I mean, it’s really about and I kind of talked about it, right that the technology that you’re going to implement in there are tools that enhance your customer experience. And, again, we’re seeing agent assist technologies that you can plug in to different environments, you see advanced analytics and quality that you can plug in environments, we’re seeing that there’s a best of breed concept right now, right to say, I have this system, and what are the best tools, I can plug into that ecosystem, right to make it to make this whole thing work. And the a lot of the providers that the core C CAS providers have these open API’s that can have certifications with a lot of the core specialty providers that you can plug in, and you can mix and match. If something doesn’t work, you want a different vendor here, you can do that and work with the provider. So again, it’s it’s there’s a lot of tools out there that can enhance the customer experience and drive self service, too much to probably talk about on today’s call in terms of the number of tools that are out there, there’s even knowledge base, like I even have this third category that I call the side door, kind of the front door back door. And then the side door. The side door are things like advanced knowledge base, one of the number one inhibitors to successful maximizing successfully automation into your in your call center on the front door is poor knowledge management. So you have all this information that’s wrong, it’s outdated, can’t find it, it’s not readily available. So when you’re trying to, you know, put self service and automation in the front end, you need to have a good knowledge management system that works well with within contact center environment, you’re not just a standalone KB that’s out there. And it’s not really designed for call center, so that when the customer comes in that front door, it could pull that information and you can solve more cases automatically versus having to go to an agent. Similarly on the agent assist side, the agent assist side is tapping into customer sentiment, what are they saying? What’s the most likely outcome that you should because of what the customer said, agent, you should probably say something like this. But it also says you should offer them up this knowledge article, you should offer up this piece of collateral. And if people’s collateral knowledge management system is not up to speed, or outdated or have poor API integrations, you cannot maximize that effect. So those are tools that I think are up and coming. They’re becoming better and better. And it’s helping drive more kind of ROI on your on your automation.
Vanessa Gates 19:40
And we can have a whole separate podcast on just updating your knowledge base. I mean, there’s so many benefits with just doing that. I mean, you can increase your agent productivity, you get faster call resolutions, you can reduce your training time etc, etc, etc. So yes update your Knowledge Base very regularly have that Change Management here in Playvox, another core value we have is changes good. Let’s look at changes. It’s a positive aspect of it and not negative. So, you, you talked about it a bit in the beginning, you know, ROI, it’s budget season, etc. You know, we’re always trying to save costs, like, what is the ROI, high level of automation, you know, are implementing an automation, is it financially viable? What are some solutions that you have seen?
Adam Rennert 20:36
Yeah, I mean, absolutely. And just one thing on the change management, I think, is really important. I learned in my career long ago, someone told me this, it said, two changes easy, actually, the hard part. And the scary part is that transition plan, because you’re here, and you want to get here, and you know that when you get here, on paper, it looks really, really good. But you’re so scared of that transition period, where you’re learning and you’re trying to get there, and there’s some heavy lifting. But when you get here, it ends up being like, oh, my god, that was so worth it. So I always tell people, change is not hard transition is hard. Right?Transition is scary. And he’s got to get through that little period of time of transition, and you’ll be happy with change. Now, going to going to ROI, right? So some ROI is where we what we do with our clients is, hey, you’re looking at automation, you’re looking at this, look at that, let’s run what that ROI looks like not total cost of ownership, because cost is one thing. But what’s the really the return on investment for maybe an increase in sales, increasing customer retention, reduce costs, from agent handle time, reduce costs from just deflecting calls completely? So there’s lots of different metrics depending on what, on what challenge when we talked about earlier, we identify the problem. And then we say, Can something chart solve that problem in a good financial way? Right? Sure, just throwing money at things could solve problems. But then you have other problems, right, you got to spend too much money. So we run an ROI that says, based upon this call the front door, right? So voice coming in, how many minutes? Did it take you 10 minutes that for this handle time? With automation is going to handle four minutes, maybe it’ll handle seven minutes. We run through the scenarios and we look at the actual time, then you can you run the math on, if it costs you X cents per minute to run, you’ve saved this many minutes, it could also be that we’re going to offer up automatically within the discount, or, or an awards point that will drive repeat business, that’ll drive customer loyalty, we have those factors into the ROI model. So there’s, there’s a slew of of ROI efficiency elements that we would look at depending on the customer situation. And sometimes it doesn’t prove out. Sometimes you put it in there, that’s the key is, it doesn’t always prove out. But sometimes, there still might be other benefits, other financial benefits to put that in place to put some automation in place. And that really comes up to the customer. So in short, many, many different variables go into an ROI. Some of our analysis customers are based on the customer’s desire to improve on two variables. Some of them want to improve on 10 variables. And we’ll look at those into the model and see if it works out and what they would need to do in order to get make it workout on the ROI.
Vanessa Gates 23:19
Adam, as far as where our listeners can learn a little bit about inflow, do you want to go ahead and just share your website with us and maybe a little bit information as far as Inflow in the partnership with Playvox really quick?
Adam Rennert 23:33
Sure, sure. I mean, good news is I think I’ve been signed up here InflowCX.com. And we’re the combination of three kind of leading CX companies that came together and we rebranded this year. And so that’s where you can find more information. And obviously, look, play Vox to us is a key strategic partner, they solve a lot of problems for customers and automation as well as outside, right, some of their products that is just more state of the art, user friendly tools that are much better than some of the old tools that have been in the market. And we’re having success in both those areas. And their cultures match up, you know, trying to do what’s right for the customer. So we’re excited about the partnership. And I appreciate you having me on the on the on the show today.
Vanessa Gates 24:15
Yes, thank you, Adam, so much for being on the show today. For our listeners that are listening to us, we’ll make sure that we go ahead and insert a direct link to get you to the InflowCX website to learn more about them. Adam, again, thank you so much for being here with me today to talk about wonderful automation. I hope that we can cross paths again in our industry, I’m sure we will. Again, thank you. Thank you to our listeners for being here. I am Vanessa gates, and everybody, be a good human and I’ll see you on our next episode. Thank you