Avaya & Afiniti: Bringing AI to Contact Center Near You

Avaya and one of its A.I.Connect development partners, Afiniti, today announced a strategic partnership designed to improve contact center performance using artificial intelligence (AI).

The partnership involves the use of Afiniti's behavioral pairing AI algorithm, which optimizes contact center outcomes by pairing customers with the contact center agents most likely to result in a desired outcome, as I wrote in a No Jitter article published last December. In that post I provided a high-level description of how Afiniti's AI-based customer-agent pairing works, showing where its machine learning algorithms fit in the pairing process.

Afiniti's "customer-agent" pairing algorithm uses machine learning to optimize contact center outcomes.

What's new with today's announcement is the depth of the integration between the Afiniti technology and Avaya's contact center software, along with an easier mechanism for Avaya contact center customers to purchase Afiniti's advanced routing capabilities.

As part of this partnership agreement, Avaya will create an "AI edition" of Avaya Aura Contact Center Elite. This software update, slated for availability in Q3 2018, will provide native integration to Avaya's call-routing mechanism within CC Elite so that Afiniti can more easily integrate the results of its agent-pairing algorithm. Afiniti's software will be able to modify queues, change the order of calls in the queue, and change which agents should receive calls.

While Afiniti integrates with CC Elite today in an over-the-top manner, this new integration will make the deployment process simpler and faster. In addition, it will work with natively downstream contact center applications. Avaya will create a similar integration for its other contact center solutions, Proactive Outreach Manager and Avaya Oceana, although it hasn't announced timing.

One of the challenges facing customers that want to deploy Afiniti with their Avaya contact center is the red tape that surrounds procurement. Afiniti typically targets its AI solution at large companies operating high-volume contact centers. Large organizations, however, tend to have slow new vendor procurement processes. The strategic partnership allows Afiniti a go-to-market model that greatly simplifies and accelerates the procurement process for contact centers while shortening the time necessary for them to realize improved performance.

It's important to note that Afiniti's business model is one of shared benefit, meaning that contact center customers incur no upfront costs for Afiniti hardware, software, or professional services. These kick in only after Afiniti's system is up and working, and the magnitude of the improvement documented. At that point, Afiniti then gets paid based on a pre-agreed percentage of the improvement realized. Contact centers can target Afiniti's solution toward improving revenue (sales and retention), cost (collections, claims, handle time, first call resolution rates), satisfaction (for both agent and customer), or adherence rates (for use in healthcare applications).

Typical Afiniti deployment time is two weeks up to three months. The largest portion of this time is for training Afiniti's machine learning parameters using live calls and real agent performance. The new integration will significantly reduce the deployment time, enabling training of the system to begin more quickly. The Afiniti software can run on premises, which is the typical deployment model, or now on Avaya cloud platforms.

The technology from this strategic partnership with Afiniti, as well as from other A.I.Connect partners, augments the AI technology Avaya uses in its Ava chatbot, which supports natural language processing and the IntelligentWire capabilities obtained in the Spoken acquisition. IntelligentWire itself provides several key AI capabilities that can provide tremendous value to contact centers, including:

  • Offer "next best action" to help the agent decide what to do or offer next
  • Analyze customer conversations to spot trends and analyze customer patterns in real time
  • Assure that agents say certain things and properly follow a script to stop compliance issues before they become systematic in an agent's behavior
  • Summarize customer/agent interactions, streamlining the "after call" work an agent must do once a call is completed

The new integration capabilities in CC Elite allow Avaya to incorporate best-of-breed third-party AI solutions, such as from Afiniti, along with its own internally developed or acquired AI capabilities, making these AI solutions available faster to more customers. If the Afiniti/Avaya partnership really takes off, one of the biggest challenges Avaya and Afiniti face will be having enough people trained to implement the solution followed by having enough data-savvy people who can cleanse and massage data into a quality and format that Afiniti can use to obtain good results. To that end Avaya and Afiniti have crossed-trained services experts so they are knowledgeable about how both solutions work.

Avaya is attempting to position itself as a thought leader when it comes to applying AI in the contact center. Now we'll have to watch how contact centers roll out applied AI as part of their customer experience strategies -- and to see if those strategies pan out. Avaya is certainly making efforts to be at the forefront of this evolution.