A couple of weeks ago Avaya Australia announced that it had been selected for a five-year contract by the Australian Department of Defence (ADoD) as the contact centre technology provider. What follows is the second part of our discussion with Peter Chidiac, Avaya’s Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand. Peter provided some candid input on automation, analytics, AI and machine learning and how the combination of these tools will continue to shape Customer Experience and the future of the contact centre.
Fifth Quadrant: Let’s talk about the automation and analytics you offer?
Peter Chidiac: We look at all the system information. So for example we look at where a transaction is happening and how we can analyse that data to provide more efficiencies or to expand the system as required.
The analytics is really around two things. One is optimising your system so that your agents are getting the best performance out of it and the other is about providing a better user experience.
Fifth Quadrant: You mentioned AI. What kind of chatbots are you using?
Peter Chidiac: We have our own chatbot. The term AI gets bandied around a lot. You could even say an IVR is a form of AI.
Fifth Quadrant: Sure, a very limited one.
Peter Chidiac: What I am talking about in AI is the ability for the machine to learn based on behaviours and responses, and then be better. So if someone is transacting with a chatbot and asking for interest rate information and it gets it wrong, it should be able to circle back within the system and know that it got it wrong. Or if it experiences lots of people asking for the same types of information, it can preempt them and present that first.
Fifth Quadrant: Do you think chatbots should pretend to be human?
Peter Chidiac: It depends on the organisation, we can do it both ways. Most organisations don’t want to do that because it doesn’t really make any sense. People get that it is not a person. You can either give it a personality and avatar or have it just interact with customers. Nine times out of ten we find they know it is a chatbot.
Fifth Quadrant: But as they get better, the times they will have to transfer to a human will decrease.
Peter Chidiac: i think so, but the interactions are becoming more complex as well. I don’t think that is going to happen in the next six months, for example.
Fifth Quadrant: Where do you see the contact centre in 2020?
Peter Chidiac: I think it’ll have a little more AI and chatbots will get a little better, but it will take two to five years before more interactions are happening in virtual worlds.
People do still want that human connection, especially if it is something important to them: they may want some reassurance. I think it is important that in next year or two we don’t think chatbots are going to take over the world.
Fifth Quadrant: OK, so let’s take it further, say 2030 or 2040. You heard that one bot that Google has that sounds like a human, right? Do you think we’ll see that kind of thing everywhere in 10 to 20 years?
Peter Chidiac: I do think that it will improve quite dramatically. I was involved in the early days of voice recognition in the 1990s. Everyone thought everything would be voice activated by the year 2000. And here we are, 18 years later and we’re still not there.
I certainly think in ten years bots will be far more advanced, not only in contact centres but in lots of environments. AI will impact society as a whole, not just within the environments we see it in today.
Fifth Quadrant: There is also a tendency for the media to over-blow these things. It is not like we are going to wake up one day and chatbots have taken all the contact centre jobs.
Peter Chidiac: We're seeing the opposite. We’re seeing contact centres often expand at the moment. More and more people are interacting as well.
Fifth Quadrant: That leads to another question. How long does it take an agent to get trained up on the technology you are offering?
Peter Chidiac: It is designed to be very easy to use. Most companies have a four to six-week training programme and that’s not just because of the technology, it’s because of the product and solution as well. The technology itself is made to be very simple and easy because the agents are under pressure to perform and provide better customer service, the last thing they need is a complicated system.
Fifth Quadrant: In my own experience, I have really noticed that contact centre CX has really improved over the last ten years.
Peter Chidiac: And companies that don’t meet that expectation and improve that as consumers we can tweet and blog and do all sorts of things. One bad experience can really hurt an organisation. In order to survive in the future, CX and EX is the foundation of what companies need to be doing.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity