With customer experience top of mind for so many businesses – any business the expects to succeed, in fact – technology providers are creating new ways to deliver on the customer expectations to deliver the best possible experiences. AI is becoming a big part of that equation, according to Thrio CMO Lance Fried, who gave me some insight into how his company is approaching AI as a CX tool. It’s one of the topics that will be heavily discussed at ITEXPO 2020 in Ft. Lauderdale. Here’s what Lance had to say.
Give us a brief update on the latest news from your company.
2020 will be very exciting for Thrio. We continue to bring new features to market with our CCaaS solution. One area we’re excited about is real-time agent feedback. With so much focus on CX, Thrio is keenly interested in making sure agents are supported, empowered, and given everything possible to achieve customer satisfaction in record time. Of course, practical, seamless automation, and AI are at the center of those initiatives. Stay tuned on that front.
On the footprint side, we continue to cultivate channel relationships and distributor arrangements. This is Thrio’s sweet spot. Our team has decades of experience in implementing and managing successful partnerships with service providers around the world.
What are the biggest trends driving your market(s) today?
Two key trends will drive the contact center space in 2020. First, interest in artificial intelligence continues to grow every quarter. The promise of increased efficiency and improved CX has garnered tremendous interest. However, the market is still finding its feet in terms of how to deploy AI in ways that actually deliver value beyond a superficial level. Second, enterprises are looking for flexibility at all levels in contact center platforms, from agent role definitions to the ability to mix and match platforms themselves – voice from one platform, digital offerings from another, for example.
Thrio was designed, architected, and built from day one to capitalize on these market directions. The heart of the Thrio platform is a seamless, practical AI decisioning engine that orchestrates Thrio microservices to simplify and optimize complex workflows and empowers agents to improve CX. We know that implementing AI can be intimidating and time consuming, and we’ve made it incredibly simple and powerful at the same time.On the platform level, Thrio can be deployed as a complete solution or as an overlay on existing environments. At the agent level, Thrio offers fine-grained control over roles, skills, and permissions, allowing enterprises to empower agents as they see fit. Together, these capabilities let Thrio deliver on the true promise of a cloud platform: our flexibility and extensibility mean that no two enterprises will use Thrio the same way, and we make these different business cases simple and easy to implement.
What is the biggest communications challenge businesses have? What is keeping them from communicating as effectively as they should?
One of the biggest communication challenges businesses face today has to do with legacy infrastructure, cloud migration and the performance of existing cloud deployments.
For those still not leveraging the cloud, you are forced to often buy more than what you need. Such is the problem with buying lots of hardware when you can’t predict your growth accurately. For this reason, the purchase of proprietary behind-the-firewall gear is always done with much angst. Now imagine, not having to worry about how much hardware to buy or how many people to hire to keep it running. Imagine further being able to either expand or collapse your infrastructure based on dynamic need. All this without onerous capital equipment expense. This is but one benefit of migrating from premises-based solutions to the cloud.
How is your company helping address those challenges?
Thrio understands Enterprises moving from prem to cloud are rarely ready to make the jump all at once. This may be due to concerns about reliability, the need to extract value from existing capital expenditures, and the critical importance of a clear migration path. We can help address all these issues as enterprises begin or complete migration from prem to cloud flexibly, as Thrio can be deployed as a complete system or an overlay on top of existing platforms.
For enterprises with contact centers already in the cloud, reliability and scalability are key issues. Large cloud contact center platforms have historically experienced fluctuating and unpredictable uptime, and enterprises cannot afford that uncertainty. Thrio’s reliable, redundant, federated cloud-on-cloud system is a solution to those issues. We can monitor load, spin up additional resources on the fly, and push updates to individual microservices without interrupting the system at large. Additionally, enterprises may have encountered issues scaling with existing cloud contact center solution providers. Thrio’s architecture allows for significant seat counts without issue. Finally, federation means that Thrio can be deployed into the cloud provider of your choice, allowing enterprises with specific requirements for data protection certifications and other needs to be accommodated with ease.
How can businesses use AI to improve their operational models?
You may believe that the best place to embrace AI and start your customer care transformation would be with chatbots to handle routine customer service inquiries. This is due to the sheer magnitude of frequent or repetitive inquires where a bot may provide the same service as a live agent. In the end, this can result in a faster and easier consumer experience and a way for companies to gain efficiencies and focus agents on more complex inquiries that need human interaction. But let’s not write off agents. With today’s demanding customers, more than ever agents need to be armed and properly prepared for when a self-service inquiry escalates to live-service. And this handoff needs to be simple, seamless, and context rich.
Today, the most strategic place where AI can be of value is supporting your agents. There are many ways this can occur. First, AI can be used to understand who the consumer is and what the agent needs to fundamentally best serve them. This is accomplished with AI being the brains to serve up real-time personalized agent scripting & data displays, consumer personality insights and tone/sentiment analysis. And make no mistake, results in these domains are measurable and quantifiable. The best way to measure how AI moves the needle on the customer experience is to tie it to how it improves your agents first contact resolution performance.
How have customer demands and expectations changed?
Today, customer service is a critical means to differentiate you from your competitors. Yet delivering memorable customer service continues to get harder and harder to do. That’s because customers have more power than ever. They demand to be able to communicate with you on their terms and their channel preference. They crowdsource for opinions, and they self-publish to their social networks the good, the bad and the ugly customer service experiences they have with your company. Today you need to better align with your customers to vastly improve the customer experience and to set your company apart or they may no longer be your customers.
It has long been my belief that service is the new sales. Today’s customers are more demanding than ever. So, you need to better align with your customers to improve the customer experience and to set your company apart. Reset your customer service mindset to one of being the “front and center” contact point of your company with the consumer. Ultimately, this shift will help you build brand and product loyalty with today’s modern customer.
Please make one interesting, surprising, or unexpected prediction for the enterprise communications and tech space for 2020.
It has always been my belief that customer expectations for CX are set by the best brands. This year I believe customers will be more likely to walk away from companies they do business with more quickly than in the past. My reasoning is consumers don’t compare companies only to their direct competitors, but now compare them to the best service they have received from anyone they do business with. Over the past few years the gap between what the customers expect and what they actually get has widened. As customers get more savvy, they are also getting more frustrated. When they have a bad CX experience, they will be quicker than ever to walk away and seek companies with ones that meet and exceed their expectations.
Why is your ITEXPO session a must-attend?
Today’s consumer is all about mobile and digital engagement. Today’s enterprise is moving towards how to best communicate and gain modern consumers brand loyalty in a digital world. Come hear forward looking thoughts on enterprise Digital Transformation approaches you can move forward with in 2020 for both marketing and customer care.
Why are you coming to ITEXPO?
ITEXPO is an incredible event that brings together the industry’s best and brightest thought leaders. The learning, sharing, and networking opportunities are unparalleled.
Edited by Erik Linask