Straddling the line between the warm embrace of human knowledge and the cool automation of technology can be difficult. People may begin to feel as if they’re replaceable, or that their jobs could soon be in limbo. Customer experience software provider Chordiant is looking to deliver the best of both worlds with the latest release of Recommendation Advisor (RA) 6.1, a real-time conversation and interaction management solution.
RA works with a contact center agent during actual conversations with clients and dynamically offers up -- through re-applying models and business rules to every input -- "Next-Best-Action" recommendations that representatives can take, such as cross-sell or upsell opportunities. Frank Florence, Chordiant’s vice president and chief marketing officer, stresses that his company’s solution is merely providing valuable suggestions -- not scripting the agent’s conversation. "RA draws from an array of possibilities and makes the next best offer for the customer based on her profile, history, and sequence of recent interactions," he says. "Contact center agents can ignore recommendations served up by the engine." He adds that there is a function in the newest version of the solution for agents to redo some of the blueprint logic and challenge default renderings when necessary.
The latest version of RA also offers what Florence calls "a customer-sensing panel" -- a feature that allows an agent to select from a series of different emoticons displayed onscreen during a call. For example, if an agent senses that a customer is growing angry during the conversation, he can click on the emoticon depicting anger and the RA will immediately change its recommendation options based on the customer’s perceived mood.
This synergy between human decisions and technology is a sorely needed shot in the arm for the contact center industry, according to James Taylor, principal and cofounder of Smart (enough) Systems, a consulting firm focused on the enterprise decision management marketplace. "I like the way in which [the RA] allows the skills of a person in an interaction to be meshed with the analytics," he explains. "You see a lot of systems where either everything is automated or dependent upon the people. Chordiant has meshed those two well."
RA is built on the company’s Decision Management, which is a suite of predictive and adaptive decisioning applications enabling business users to develop "highly expressive Next-Best-Action strategies," according to information provided by Chordiant. RA’s key differentiators, according to Florence, are twofold:
- rules and strategy are set up by business users, not Information Technology professionals; and
- all the functions occur in real time during customer calls -- not information uploaded overnight onto an agent’s desktop.
Florence says that the newest version of RA reflects the fact that contact centers are dispersed and agents are located worldwide. "This way, it enables a team of people to build the decision logic, not just one person," he says. "This immediacy and quick response is a call center manager’s dream."
Expanding further on the balance between reliance on technology and human knowledge, Taylor says it is difficult for companies to successfully combine the two because of the diverse thought processes involved among the respective cheerleaders of technology, analytics, and human instinct. "There are very different communities involved here," he explains. "IT people are focused on building a system, storing information, and making it quick [for users]. Analytics proponents tend to believe data tells you everything, and that opinion is not relevant." He stresses that the challenge is to bring those worlds of thought together with the human factor. "There’s a lot of work still to do to correctly load share between systems and people," he says. "RA is a step in the right direction."