Communications platform provider 8x8 made several announcements today designed to bring AI-based innovation to its customers and prospects, primarily organizations with under 10,000 employees.
Some of the enhancements – highlighted in the graphic – are in my CX sweet spot, so I will focus on those here.
8x8 Intelligent Customer Assistant
Conversational AI, the term for the technology underpinning chatbots or virtual agents, has been around since the 1960s when ELIZA was built at MIT. It is only in the last decade that the cost of the technology and computing power required to achieve natural language processing dropped to the point where it became feasible to begin using chatbots in customer support.
Since its use in contact centers began, empirical data shows that conversational AI can improve revenue, customer ratings, and agent productivity by over 20 percent,-as detailed by Robin Gareiss, CEO and Principal Analyst at Metrigy, in 8x8’s press release. However, most companies continue to think of conversational AI as something that is too expensive or too complicated for their organization to deploy. 8x8 plans to change that perception with the delivery of the 8x8 Intelligent Customer Assistant (ICA).
Starting with digital self-service in the first quarter, and adding voice in the second quarter, ICA will deliver state-of-the-art conversational AI capabilities: graphical scripting tools will allow a single chatbot to be built that can be applied to any channel, (i.e., SMS, WhatsApp, web chat, etc.) in 100+ languages. Later in 2023, 8x8 will add Agent Assist, an AI-powered tool that provides context-aware advice to agents in real-time, during live customer interactions, to better support customers.
8x8 is bringing a global-friendly ICA to market so quickly as the result of an OEM agreement with Cognigy, one of the leaders in the Gartner 2023 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Conversational AI Platforms published earlier this week. The relationship is a win-win for the two companies. It enables 8x8 to deliver one of the most sophisticated conversational AI platforms to its customers, while also allowing 8x8 to focus its own research and development on integrating ICA into the company’s platform, to provide full orchestration of customer and employee journeys. This R&D effort will minimize time and cost for customers to try ICA and/or replace current bots delivered through third-party solutions.
From Cognigy’s perspective, the arrangement with 8x8 gives them broad access to the midmarket, through 8x8’s well-established channel relationships. An additional advantage is that 8x8 has done the development work to integrate ICA tightly into its contact center portfolio – making it easier for customers to choose and deploy.
In March 2022, 8x introduced a browser-based, composable contact center Agent Workspace. Today Supervisor Workspace joins the portfolio using the same composable technology as Agent Workspace, Supervisor Workspace is a purpose-built cockpit that blends analytics, performance management, and team administration capabilities into a single interface.
Much of the development work done by 8x8 to date to integrate ICA into their contact center solution, or to make it available as a standalone solution, was to make ICA administration, reporting and analytics elements available through Supervisor Workspace. This allows users to have a single tool for the contact center and ICA.
Additional AI capabilities delivered in Supervisor Workspace include presenting supervisors with coaching and performance recommendations to improve speed to correction and drive superior performance based on ongoing scoring and analysis of interactions.
The last contact center-specific announcement made today is related to OpenAI Whisper. Later this year, 8x8 will leverage the API to improve transcription and translation accuracy for its quality management and sentiment analysis features. The new integration will bring a transcription accuracy rate higher than 85% for the most common languages and will support more than 50 languages across both UcaaS and CcaaS.
In a January 2023 No Jitter post I posed the question, "Is ChatGPT Coming for the Contact Center?" One way to read the title was to ponder whether the latest innovation in AI will replace contact center agents. Another - more positive - way for companies to interpret the question is, when will this latest breakthrough be available to enhance the customer support for my business? Today’s message from 8x8 is that even if your contact center doesn’t have thousands of agents, even if it has less than 100 agents, conversational AI is a real choice to improve self-service, available now, as a fully integrated part of the enterprise communications solution.