What’s next.

Continued progress in reinventing how people connect with technology and each other.

From the library of What’s next: archives from Enterprise

Learn how Nuance is reducing call center costs by improving the self-service experience and increasing customer satisfaction

4 key lessons for innovation success

Coming up with innovative ideas is tough. Keeping innovative ideas on track during development can be even more difficult. That’s why our TAG team follows key rules to accelerate the transition from prototype for product.

Unfortunately, conversational AI innovation isn’t a light-bulb moment. If it was, our jobs would be much easier.

Instead, designing innovative AI technologies requires a massive amount of problem-solving, organization and collaboration between teams. It’s never a straightforward process, and it’s often time-consuming, but it can lead to great results.

Just look to Nuance Pathfinder for an example. Nuance’s Corporate Research team know first-hand how much manual labor is involved in the design for conversational AI. That’s why they wanted to replace time-consuming processes, such as manual tagging of data and writing dialog scripts, with unsupervised learning technology that could do it for them.

From this challenge, Nuance Pathfinder was born. Nuance customers can now use the machine learning technology to build highly effective dialog models that can be used to support two-way conversations between consumers and virtual assistants.

But it wasn’t a simple task. To reach the finished product, the Corporate Research team worked closely with Nuance’s Technology Advancement Group (TAG), following some key rules to keep their innovation on track.


Rule one: Stay focused on the business problem

There’s no use in solving problems that don’t exist, but it’s not always that simple. When you’re deep into a project, it’s easy to lose sight of the challenges that started it.

One way to overcome this is to prototype your product fast and get it out to users. If you’re working on unnecessary issues, they’ll quickly let you know, and they may even offer ideas to bring into the project.

Taking an agile approach to Pathfinder’s development, using tools like Kubernetes and Docker, the TAG team was able to quickly adapt the prototype based on user feedback.


Rule two: Don’t rush the project

While accelerating your product into the prototype stage can bring major benefits, it doesn’t come without a few challenges.

You might find yourself with a surprising amount of quality assurance and testing to tackle at the end of the product development cycle. That’s why it’s worth finding the right balance between speed and accuracy to make sure you’re not rushing to market too quickly.


Rule three: Prioritize project management

Product innovation is all about collaboration—from the initial idea-nurturing phase to final testing and rolling the product out to market. That’s why it’s essential to keep effective communication between your teams at all times throughout the project.

With a project manager that truly embeds themselves among the team, it’s easier to overcome challenges, test new ideas, and ensure great team cohesion.


Rule four: Bring your concept to life

Don’t just tell people what your product can do—show them.

Instead of a tedious PowerPoint presentation, people will be much more engaged with your product if you can show them how it works.

It’s the reason Nuance Pathfinder got such a great start. Users got in-depth visualizations about what the platform could do, covering everything from data tagging to live conversation assistance. When users saw the platform in action, it gave them a much clearer idea of how they could use it in their organization.


Keep your innovation on track

The journey from prototype to product isn’t always simple. There are a lot of opportunities to lose focus on the original goal, and that can end up derailing the project completely.

That’s why Nuance’s Technology Advancement Group operates with clear rules to keep the project on track. And after the success of Pathfinder, the team is now working to improve the innovation process itself—looking for new ways to develop a product, from the initial idea all the way to market.

Interested in a demo of Pathfinder? Click here to engage us – select “Analytics” in the drop-down menu and in the comments section type “I’d like a Project Pathfinder demo” and a member of our team will get in touch with you shortly. 

Learn about Pathfinder

Read the news of Nuance’s first-of-its-kind AI innovation that automatically builds domain-specific conversation maps from existing contact center chat logs

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It’s back! Nuance IQ Fall Edition now live

This fall on Nuance IQ, we’re examining the changing landscape of biometric security in customer engagement. We look at the very latest fraud protection technologies, and we reveal how advanced biometrics systems are helping organizations fight fraud while also improving the customer experience. Really cool information – check it out!

What’s your favorite thing about fall? The amazing colors of the autumnal leaves? The spiced pumpkin lattes? Or maybe the return of Nuance IQ? That’s right—the hub for AI innovation news and insights is back for another edition.

In the summer, we focused on AI-driven contact center transformation, but for our fall edition we’re diving into the world of security.


Fall 2019: The Security Edition

This quarter, we’re examining the changing landscape of security in customer engagement. We look at the very latest fraud protection technologies, and we reveal how advanced biometrics systems are helping organizations fight fraud while also improving the customer experience.

Check out the latest edition of Nuance IQ to find out:

  • Why biometrics is a win-win for fraud prevention and CX—watch our exclusive webinar
  • How the fraud landscape is changing and why a cross-channel approach to security is so vital
  • How Deutsche Telekom became the first German company to adopt voice biometrics in its contact centers.


Coming soon: Nuance Innovation Quarterly, Issue Three

Also returning for Fall 2019 is Nuance Innovation Quarterly, the sister publication to Nuance IQ, which will be packed with even more security-focused content.

In Issue Three, you’ll find articles from the pioneers whose innovations are helping take the fight to the fraudsters, including the inside story of how one man’s idea became a real-world product that’s given the world a new biometrics modality. You’ll also get expert takes on the hottest security topics, alongside tales from organizations like RBS and Deutsche Telekom that are leading the way in next-gen security.


Explore the all-new site

Head over to Nuance IQ today to get the expert insights and real-world stories from the frontlines of AI-powered security—and while you’re there, be sure to register for our latest webinar.


Check it out!

Hop on over to the Nuance IQ hub to learn what’s going on with biometric security innovations at Nuance!

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Join our API revolution

Customers expect more from brands than ever before. There’s a race to provide innovative experiences that not only meet today’s customer expectations but exceed them in exciting new ways. The obvious solution? Adopt leading technologies to create modern experiences. But not every organization has the time, money and expertise required to create market-leading tech—but luckily, they don’t need to.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) enable organizations to personalize technology to their business needs, without having to build the software from scratch. And now, with Nuance Intelligent Engagement APIs for Conversational AI Services, we’re offering a more accessible approach for brands to unlock innovation for their brand.

Whether it’s modernizing a contact center to add new speech-powered capabilities, or adding NLU into your existing virtual assistant, our APIs are the gateway to new opportunities.


Unlock your customer engagement potential

With the ability to connect disparate microservices into a coherent solution, the potential for APIs is near limitless.

That’s why, at Nuance, we’re making our conversational AI engines available through APIs, giving more businesses simpler access to powerful technologies they can integrate with our solutions—or anyone else’s—to create exactly what they need.

Whether it’s applying Text-to-Speech (TTS) to offer more conversational customer interactions or using Speech-to-Text (STT) to make those interactions more efficient and recue customer effort, our APIs can transform your approach to customer experience.


Six big API benefits

We’ve designed our APIs with one thing in mind: to make it easier for our customers to innovate. Here’s how:

  • Speed: Quickly and easily deploy and configure powerful conversational AI capabilities.
  • Elasticity:Scale your capabilities dynamically as your needs expand and contract.
  • Choice: Select only the microservices you need, and integrate them with the right Nuance services or non-Nuance services.
  • Flexibility: Choose your preferred deployment—Nuance-hosted, on-premises, or in a third-party cloud such as Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud.
  • Savings: Optimize costs to fit your budget requirements, with pay-per-use and subscription models.
  • Expertise: Bring in assistance from our experienced conversational designers and professional services teams at any stage.

And customers are already seeing the benefits for rapid innovation. Through our APIs, they’re using our technologies to power everything from voice-enabled entertainment services to in-branch kiosks that engage customers in natural conversations.


Coming soon…

And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, we’ve got some huge news on the way about how we’re going to make conversational AI innovation easier than before—so watch this space.

In the meantime, to discover what you could do with Nuance Intelligent Engagement APIs for Conversational AI Services, just click this way.


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Find out more about Nuance APIs here.

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Biometric security: A triple crown for FIs

The Biometric Win-Win: Reduce Fraud and OpEx While Improving CX, commissioned by Nuance and produced by Aite Group, documents how biometrics are increasingly being used by financial institutions (FIs) as part of an enterprise strategy for authenticating customers across all delivery channels. In addition to improved authentication, biometrics can yield a host of other benefits for your FI.

Biometric solutions can provide significant benefits to FIs (financial institutions), including operational efficiency gains and related budget reductions, CX improvements, and fraud loss reductions. Many FIs routinely use knowledge-based authentication (KBA) questions to help authenticate their returning customers, but many legitimate customers cannot answer the questions correctly, while fraudsters can usually answer them correctly due to all the breached data available to them. If the fraudster cannot pass authentication the first time, he or she will just keep trying—unlike a legitimate customer.

The Biometric Win-Win: Reduce Fraud and OpEx While Improving CX by Aite Group discusses how using a versatile biometric solution enables eliminating or vastly reducing the use of time-consuming KBA questions. Particularly in the contact center, this can trim seconds or minutes from the average handling time, resulting in savings of millions of dollars annually in very large organizations. This cost savings alone can typically result in a solution paying for itself quickly, compared to many fraud solutions.

Biometrics can also help better authenticate the legitimate customer and identify impostors, thereby reducing the number of account takeover successes. In turn, this will reduce the fraud losses associated with account takeover crimes.

Whatever is implemented, customers want their interaction to move quickly, easily and at their convenience – and biometrics satisfy that desire. Fortunately, serving customers quickly not only leads to a better CX but also improves operational efficiency, significantly cutting costs for the FI.

To improve fraud prevention efforts, most FIs now prefer a vendor that can provide them with a robust solution that meets multiple needs across all delivery channels. For example, a provider that can enable the use of voice, facial and behavioral biometrics enables greater flexibility and more options across delivery channels than a provider that offers only one type of biometrics. A robust solution can support more than one biometric feature that the FI can use, as needed, for authenticating customers. It can also incorporate additional capabilities that can be used as needs arise.

Aite Group’s The Biometric Win-Win: Reduce Fraud and OpEx While Improving CX provides a great overview of the topics above, along with useful business case components that can be leveraged by readers. Seventy-one per cent of financial fraud professionals agree their FI needs to make significant technology investments to catch up with the pace of fraud.  You’re not alone, so take the next steps toward the use of biometrics and start reaping the rewards sooner than later.

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Download the report to learn how biometrics are being used by FIs to reap multiple benefits

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IBC Amsterdam didn’t disappoint in 2019

For 52 years IBC has brought together the world’s leaders in media, technology and entertainment, focusing on broadcasters, content, and equipment manufacturers. Nuance has been participating for nine years, anxiously anticipating the buzz of this dynamic conference every September. The show this year didn’t disappoint, allowing Nuance to showcase Dragon TV and all the innovations being made on this innovative voice solution.
Dragon TV and voice technology in digital engagement for media industry

Nuance has participated in many IBC offerings; whitepapers, articles, webinars and most notably the IBC Amsterdam event. This is a bustling show where the latest technology advancements in the intelligent engagement space are showcased. While most conferences or trade shows last two to three days, IBC lasts five days and spans over a weekend to ensure plenty of time for meetings to take place, especially given so many travel long distances to attend.

Attendance for 2019 was roughly 55,000, ranging from technology titans of industry to small content providers looking for networking opportunities. There were impactful keynotes and smaller breakout sessions appealing to niche market segments.


Trends and top take-aways?

There were many “tracks” to address the many niche attendees and topics of interest. Some of the trends and top items of note coming off this important event were virtual reality content, the importance of customer data and security and how 5G is making an impact.

5G is an area of great interest to me as someone who markets in the telco vertical, but it will be available to everyone in no time, changing the landscape in short order. In fact, during the show, one German technology group conducted the world’s first complete 5G broadcast transmission. This solution will enable broadcasters to contribute their assets for efficient distribution of high-quality video to the future 5G ecosystem, reaching smartphones and other devices.

If you are unfamiliar with Dragon TV, this solution delivers seamless user experiences for the home, improving content discovery and enabling users to complete tasks faster than ever before—using voice. Leveraging Natural Language Understanding, Dragon TV manages conversations by using both context and memory. In fact, Dragon TV won an Emmy in 2017 for engineering and technology.


What’s next in Dragon TV and voice?

Nuance partnered with IBC, Liberty Global and the BBC UK to deliver a webinar, “Creating brand loyalty and new TV revenues with next-generation voice control.” This webinar illustrates what’s required to take voice engagement to the next level, to maximize audience experience and ensure customer retention and revenue growth.

Explore beyond navigation and content discovery and you’ll see how voice is transforming consumer security, satisfaction and retention – and driving new revenues including TV-based ecommerce.

In addition to the webinar, there was a great article with Tony Lorentzen focusing on the power of next generation voice with Dragon TV. There are so many great ways to share the exciting things happening in this dynamic space, and I’m grateful IBC is helping us share it with the masses.

Find out how you can make an impact with voice engagement

Nuance partners with IBC to bring great insights into telco voice engagement in the TV space

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Dragon TV and voice technology in digital engagement for media industry

The dark fate of Terminator or how to approach advantages in AI technology

What does the future of AI hold – a new version of the dark ages as shown in the new Terminator: The Dark Fate movie? Hovering chairs as in Wall-E? Or improvements for our everyday life?

Yes, I admit it. I like the Terminator movies and I like Arnold Schwarzenegger with his monotone voice. I get all excited when he says, “I’ll be back!”, but in general I just like videos that show a glimpse into the future, even if it’s just an imagined one.

I have always been passionate about technology and always wonder what’s next. When the iPhone came out, I was one of the first to get one. When the HTC Vive virtual reality headset came out, I was one of the first to have it installed in my living room (my husband wanted to set up a Star Trek-like Holodeck). Smart speakers, game consoles, drones, I tried a lot of them. I’m one of those people that get excited about the evolution of technology, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one. I like checking out new things, reading about the latest and greatest and following the industry to see what the future might hold. As a technology enthusiast, one of the talk tracks that I like to follow as well are the conversations about the risks of technology, especially AI.

Will Skynet, the AI in Terminator that started the war to end humankind, be reality at one point? Personally, I don’t think so. Already today, there are a lot of thoughts being discussed about moral principles for AI, how to guarantee a governance and making sure AI doesn’t learn any random stuff. Because AI doesn’t have a conscious that would stop it from learning something that is not ethical, human supervision is still critical. Think about the AI technologies, like conversational IVRs and virtual assistants, that represent a brand. Could you imagine if your customer engagement technology suddenly sold your competitor’s product because it felt ignored by you or someone told it that (true or not) the other product is much better? Thankfully, General AI and/ or self-aware technology is not available today, and even though there is a lot of work being done in that area, I don’t think it will be available for a long time to come.

Just think about how many decades it took to get to where we are now. Today, we can command our living room devices to increase the volume or play a different song. We can ask our car to call the in-laws because we haven’t done that in months. Our doctor can send us an automated appointment reminder. Our bank uses the unique pattern of our voice to identify us. And I can have a meaningful conversation with an agent because they know who I am and what I’ve bought before.

Think about the opportunities that we have if we focus on enhancing the capabilities that are available today. Self-driving cars would enable us to get to work stress-free. No more traffic jams and chaos on the streets. I don’t have to search for my remote anymore, because I can just talk to my TV, smart speaker or any other device in my house. When I sign up for a new service, that business will reach out to me and help me with getting started because hundreds of other customers before me were in a similar situation.

And even further, probably when we are not around anymore, will we be sitting in hovering chairs like in the movie Wall-E, or will we be spending our time in virtual reality worlds, like in Ready Player One?

What’s next for us? What do you dare to dream about?

Want to learn more about our plans for Artificial Intelligence

Learn more about Nuance and how we change the way consumers connect with businesses every day.

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TRMA Telecommunications Risk Management Association – A team huddle for telcos

The telco space is one of constant change. “Always on” consumer demand is driving exponential growth, and, although we can agree growth is good, it also creates its own set of unique problems. While fraud has always existed, the stakes are very high in this space. Carriers have and continue to invest trillions to ensure their networks are solid, their service is memorable and options diverse, but in the background, there are fraudsters scheming and consumers walking away from their financial responsibilities, leaving carriers to hold the bag.

Today’s telcos are facing unprecedented fraudulent attacks. Fraudsters are outpacing solutions and evolving their schemes daily. In this digital climate, carriers want to offer the most robust options for engagement, payment and potential sales, supporting a true omni-channel experience. Whether subscribers engage on mobile, phone, web or (more than likely) a series of each during one interaction, these various options can mean vulnerabilities for both the consumer and the carrier alike.

Statista reported in August 2019 that the average handset in North America cost $521, and—let’s be real here—if you enjoy the top-of-the-line iPhone or Samsung, you will likely pay north of $800. Keep in mind this does not include the monthly mobile bill; when you total it all up, people spend a lot of money here, rarely put their phone down and expect top tier service.

TRMA was established as a place for carriers to meet and discuss trends and best practices, banding together to help combat the challenges they face. With an estimated 2% of revenue lost to bad debt and upwards of 10% lost to fraud, you can see why this organization is important to carriers.

Having had the opportunity to attend the fall session of TRMA in Nashville this week, I got to hear firsthand both the challenges and solutions around fraud and collections, and I’m leaving with renewed optimism, information and a few new friends.


Collections insights

While collections are not an area that my work touches often, it was astounding to understand how vast and pervasive this area can be. Our sessions began by looking at Champion/Challenger modeling, a technique that allows you to model several strategies or campaigns against each other to see which make the greatest impact. Carriers are using this to look at their various approaches in debt collection, but also how to retain those customers given the cost is so high for customer acquisition.

In addition to the importance of business and strategy modeling was the idea that marketing and risk teams need to be more closely aligned. As you can imagine, these two groups are oftentimes in a push/pull situation. Marketing is trying to get customers to buy the latest package and risk says the consumer cannot qualify for the package…this can create an adversarial climate. Working together, creating packages and models for everyone to win is the goal. The example might be like selling a car. Not everyone will qualify for the latest, fully loaded BMW, but it behooves the entire team to find the right Ford Escape to make the customer happy and financially capable.

If the customer ultimately does get into financial trouble, the goal is to work with them in a positive way, to create a positive customer experience, even amidst a challenging situation.


Fraud trends

Fraud is a very real problem for both consumers and carriers alike. During this TRMA session, it became clear that fraud evolves over time and we can see what might have been prevalent last year, has since died down this year. Much of the behaviors we see can be tied directly to the economy. During a slower economic time like a recession where more financial stressors are seen, the fraud strategies can change.

Most prominent fraud trends:

  • First-party fraud – someone uses their own identity to carry out fraud. An example of this might be credit mulling or using your own credit to acquire goods with no intention of paying it back. Think about items that can be turned around quickly for money like handsets.
  • Synthetic fraud (fake credit) – the major crime of the moment. This includes credit washing and social security theft. Credit washing is when the user claims the item on their credit report is fake, essentially removing a bad debt or washing their credit. There is a surge in the auto industry, but telco is also feeling the sting.
  • Third-party fraud – while identity theft is currently down, it’s not out. It happens during economic down turns or with family fraud (stealing information from relatives’ surges).
  • Account takeover or ATO – can be a hybrid of all three previously mentioned types of fraud, but in short it is when fraudsters illegally get access to a victim’s bank or online e-commerce account using bots.

One thing that everyone in the room could agree on is that having multi-factor authentication is ideal. Unfortunately, the current fraud climate requires security and finding solutions that create as little friction as possible for the customer is always a winner. Voice and behavioral biometrics allow carriers to do just that, bolsters customer security whilst providing a streamlined experience for the subscriber. If you’d like to read more about Nuance biometrics in the telecom space, please read this whitepaper, Biometrics in Telecom: Improving Customer Authentication and Fraud Prevention, done in collaboration with Fierce Wireless.

Having the opportunity to spend time with global telcos and solutions providers was a great experience full of learning, networking and information sharing. Looking forward to the next TRMA event in spring 2020.

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Find out what Nuance biometrics is doing in the telecom space

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Why Nuance introduced a cloud-native biometrics platform

While fraud is a $4 trillion global problem, there is a path to solving this seemingly unrelenting plague. Nuance Gatekeeper, through its cloud-native architecture, provides a path for organizations of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy to secure their customers and their assets. With the objective of democratizing biometric-based authentication and fraud prevention, Nuance Gatekeeper enables organizations to transition away from weak security measures such as passwords and security questions to using biometrics across every interaction, including the web, mobile apps, contact center, and brick and mortar locations. Let's work together to put fraudsters out of business!

Fraud is unrelenting. According to the ACFE’s 2018 Report to the Nations, it’s now a $4 trillion global problem.

With data breaches on the rise, and usernames and passwords compromised, it is simple for fraudsters to get access to most any individual’s personal information, rendering traditional knowledge-based security methods obsolete. A recent Nuance survey found 1 in 4 people have fallen victim to fraud in the last twelve months, each person losing an average of $2,000 due to inefficient passwords.

Some of the world’s largest organizations have effectively used biometrics to significantly reduce the incidence of fraud for their customers. Consider HSBC’s experience. In 2016, the bank launched VoiceID in the UK, allowing customers to access their bank accounts using their voice as password. HSBC reported over £330 million in prevented fraud directly attributed to this switch to biometrics. Large financial institutions, telecom operators and government agencies around the world have reported similar dramatic reductions in fraud.

However, annual fraud losses keep increasing, indicating that fraud is primarily being displaced to other organizations that are still using legacy methods for authentication and fraud prevention.Enter Nuance Gatekeeper. Our objective was to democratize enterprise grade biometrics, so that organizations of all sizes and in all industries can easily and quickly take advantage of the same biometric technologies as the world’s largest corporations and government agencies.

Industry experts point to the technology as an important piece of solving the fraud problem. “Biometrics provide the power to secure individuals based on who they are rather than what they know. If hacked, data in the form of biometric templates is far less valuable than stored passwords because they are almost impossible to replicate,” said Dan Miller, Lead Analyst, Opus Research. “Organizations of all sizes are fighting to stay ahead of fraudsters and the increasing threat posed by synthetic impersonation. Companies find cloud-native security models to be more attractive because they are accessible, scalable and offer access to real-time updates to the newest fraud-fighting algorithms.”

Nuance, named “undisputed market leader” by Opus Research for its industry-leading biometrics technology, is bringing the power of biometrics to organizations around the globe to improve their security posture while validating their customers’ identities in a secure and frictionless way, across any channel they engage. Nuance Gatekeeper employs a modern cloud native architecture that allows it to be more secure and reliable, offering enterprises a dynamically scalable and continuously improving solution. This means you only pay for what you use, IT overhead costs will be dramatically reduced compared to an on-premises model, and you will always be up to date with the latest AI-powered technologies we produce.

Once the domain of large banks, telcos and government, the power of biometrics is made available to organizations of all sizes through Nuance Gatekeeper. Together, we can put fraudsters out of business!

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Check out the latest innovations in fraud prevention with Nuance Gatekeeper!

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Is there new life for the IVR in the cloud? You bet.

Some people are wary of moving their IVR to the cloud. But with so much to gain, it could be time for a fresh look.

Alexa—play my ‘Please don’t put me on hold again’ playlist

When they’re finally gone, will you miss those rickety, old-school IVRs? No, me neither.

Most traditional IVRs deliver a pretty underwhelming customer experience—and that needs to change. Gartner is predicting that, by 2023, customers will prefer to use speech interfaces to initiate 70% of self-service interactions. So your IVR better catch up with modern customer expectations fast.

Customers want easy self-service. And they want to interact using their voice, just like they do at home with all kinds of smart devices. That means injecting the IVR with some serious conversational AI tech that can deliver the natural, intelligent engagements customers want—interactions that feel like talking to a human.

And the quickest and most cost-effective way to turbocharge your IVR with the latest voice technology? It’s in the cloud.

Put simply, the cloud makes it much faster, easier, and more affordable to breathe new life into your IVR. Which explains why cloud IVR investments are set to grow 50% faster than their on-premises cousins through to 2023.


Stop managing systems, start innovating experiences

With on-demand access to limitless capacity in the cloud, there’s no need to worry about your IVR being overwhelmed during peak periods. And real-time monitoring by your cloud IVR vendor takes away the stress of ensuring your system is always available and secure.

But don’t think that no more management means no more oversight. The best vendors (like a certain company called Nuance—maybe you’ve heard of them?) will provide detailed reporting and analytics to help you assess performance and optimize customer engagements on every channel, not just the IVR. Breaking down the silos to connect the IVR to other channels gets a whole lot simpler in the cloud.


Get instant access to groundbreaking innovations

In the cloud, you can take advantage of every software update and every conversational AI innovation as soon as it’s released. No more tedious upgrade cycles or massive capital outlays—just a subscription to a service that continuously enhances and adds to its capabilities.


Deliver outrageously good customer service

Cloud-based services also make it much simpler to create an IVR that speaks with your brand voice, not a mismatched collection of audio files. Combined with advanced natural language understanding (NLU) technologies, it means your customers can have a conversation with your IVR that feels human. They can speak in their own words and get intelligent responses for faster issue resolution.

Add in some cloud-based voice biometrics, and authentication becomes effortless for customers, eliminating the need for passwords and PINs and creating a smooth IVR experience.


So, here’s my pitch. (You knew this was coming.)

Nuance Cloud IVR gives you all these benefits and more. It lets you offer your customers a truly conversational IVR experience where they’ll be able to speak naturally, have intelligent conversations, and be treated as individuals. Pay only for what you use each month, and we’ll take care of the rest.

We do all the development, deployment, hosting, management, and maintenance, while you enjoy the lower operational costs, greater flexibility, and faster time to market. Pay only for what you use each month, and refocus your energies on what matters most to your business.

Sound good? Check it out right here.

Watch the difference

Learn how Nuance Cloud IVR offers natural, human like interactions while helping your organization unlock the benefits of a hosted platform.

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Authentication and fraud prevention requirements in the omni-channel world

Authentication and fraud prevention used to be a problem exclusively for the contact center when fraudsters would call with stolen or synthetic credentials. That’s changed with consumers’ insatiable appetites for low effort, self-service digital channels coupled with fast, frictionless experiences. Nuance commissioned Forrester to understand which channels fraudsters are targeting, how organizations are responding, and how brands can improve.

When financial institutions, telcos, governments and other organizations talk about authenticating customers and preventing fraud, the conversation has historically centered on the contact center. This was especially true in the age of call centers when the primary way that consumers engaged was by picking up the phone and talking with live customer service agents.

While voice is still an important way that brands engage with customers (especially for escalations), it now complements lower effort, self-service digital offerings that consumers increasingly prefer. The proliferation of chat, mobile apps, web and other digital interaction channels requires brands to broaden their authentication and fraud prevention strategies to cover the omni-channel and its varied components.

The sea change in channels and consumer expectations is happening at breakneck speed.  To help contact center, risk, and security clients keep pace, Nuance commissioned Forrester to deconstruct the evolving omni-channel authentication and fraud prevention landscape.

Forrester surveyed more than 500 North American executives and found that:

  • Customer authentication in mobile and web channels is exploding. Not surprisingly, fraudsters are watching this behavior because fraud in digital channels now outpaces telephone fraud.
  • In response, organizations are shifting their fraud prevention strategies from voice to digital channels, as well as implementing cross-channel authentication
  • The biggest challenge to success is that many firms rely on PINs, passwords, and knowledge-based authentication questions – data that’s cheap and readily available on the dark web
  • In response, biometrics is a strategy many are looking to, including voice, behavioral, facial and fingerprint
  • This is because firms using biometrics in more than one channel report that they’re better able to keep up with fraudsters

The takeaway is that security and CX can co-exist. Learn more in the Forrester study and its companion on-demand webinar with Andras Cser, VP and principal analyst – both available here (registration required).

Understanding the landscape

Equip yourself with this Forrester Consulting Opportunity Snapshot and its companion webinar, infographic, and 36 second video.

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How was your latest trip?

Stuck between enjoying a fun vacation and rescheduling a flight - what is a customer to do when their airline makes them do all the work? Messaging and proactive service go a long way.

Traveling usually is fun. You get to experience new things and forget about everyday worries for just a little bit. But what if the travel itself becomes the worry? Things happen – delays, technical issues, nature – all leading to interruption in your travel plans and there’s not much you can do about it.

Working for a company that constantly thinks about how to make customer engagement more effortless opened my eyes to today’s status of many engagement programs. It always gets my brain going when I’m in a situation in which I had hoped for an easier way to solve my problem. To give you a few examples…


Work hard, travel even harder

I travel a lot for work. Not enough to get any status at an airline, but enough to consider myself a calm traveler. I don’t get all stressed during the security line anymore. What does cause stress, though, are delays. Not the 30-minute ones, but the ones that keep getting later and later till it’s been 3,4, or more hours. Especially when it’s happening on a flight back home late in the day.

During one of those flights, I got stuck at an airport for hours. I sat there, waiting for any information, and, besides the usual “Your flight is delayed. The new departure time is…” messages, I didn’t receive any information (and there was no customer service rep at the gate either). So, I called the airline to check if I would get out at all or if I should find a hotel room for the night.

While I was waiting on hold, I walked a few rounds, with my backpack and carry-on. The airport was full, so I had a hard time hearing anything due to the noise around me (am I still listening to the hold message or is this already the agent?). It was not an easy conversation (A lot of “sorry, can you repeat that”. I felt sorry for the agent.). He told me that the crew for my flight was stuck on another plane, but it was set to arrive shortly after 9pm, so we were able to leave the same day (and arrive at 2am local time).


What is an air force base good for?

A few years ago, when I was still living in Germany, I flew to the US to visit my now husband and his parents over Christmas. We had the first snow in Germany, and it was beautiful. Too bad that planes don’t like snow as much, so we took off with a delay of about an hour (defrosting took a while). After a few hours in the air the captain told us that we were flying against the wind which meant we would arrive even later than expected. I had a nearly five-hour overlay, so it should have been fine.

It wasn’t. Shortly before we arrived at the airport, the captain let us know that the airport was closed due to a snowstorm and to top it off, he couldn’t stay in the air much longer because he was running out of fuel. We landed in the middle of nowhere on an air force base (Poughkeepsie, in case you were wondering). There was no way I could have made my connection now, but I also had no way of connecting with my husband or the airline. The only things I had were my German cellphone (and calls in the US are incredibly expensive) and an amazing seat neighbor who lent me her phone for a quick call to let my husband know that I’m running late.

Everything else, I had to figure out later at the airport. As you can imagine everybody on that plane had to rebook their flights, so the line was long, and I ended up running across the airport to make my new connecting flight.


When communication is inconsistent

Not too long ago, I met with a few of my friends for a long weekend. We were all very excited, since we hadn’t seen each other in months (we live all over the US and Canada). But once we arrived at our destination, we quickly realized that we didn’t pick the best weekend for a get-together. A storm was on the horizon. During the second day, one of my friends received a notification from her airline saying that she could switch her flight due to “weather”.

The problem was, all four of us were flying out the same day, but no one else received a similar notification (I knew I had signed up for notifications, since I was getting them for the gate changes on my incoming flight). What followed were two days of uncertainty, trying to keep up with the local news and getting information from our airlines. We couldn’t do anything about the weather anyway, so we would have loved to enjoy our time together. But instead we kept checking our phones and spent a lot of time on hold.


In a perfect world, but not necessarily…

Instead of being stuck on the phone or paying horrendous fees for international calls it would have been great to update my travel plans in different ways; for example:

  • Respond to the notifications received via SMS without the need to change channels. SMS is perfectly fine to ask for the status of a delayed flight or to check for alternative flights, so why not use it?
  • Check for the reason of a delayed flight and change the itinerary within the app using an in-app chat or messaging feature.
  • Receive a call back if the chat agent can’t handle the request instead of me having to call in. Sure, not everything can be handled via chat, but it’s a great start to gather information and get the conversation going. If there is a case in which an agent needs to speak with the customer, the agent could initiate a call back.

Why am I such a fan of messaging? Because it allows me to send a message in any situation: using the airplane’s Wi-Fi, in noisy airports, or while my friends and I enjoy some “us-time”. I could have sent a message, do whatever, and I would have received an answer from an agent sooner rather than later. The agent and I could have texted back and forth, with pauses in between, but without ever losing the context of our conversation.

Is messaging the solution to everything? Probably not, but it helps make a lot of situations easier and effortless.

Engage with the traveler – their way

Learn more about messaging and how it can help you create a more flexible customer engagement.

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How Apple Business Chat can help enterprises with their call deflection goals

Not every customer is aware if your business offers messaging, so how do you let your customers know about this capability? That’s the idea behind Apple Business Chat Suggest. Josefine Fouarge explains this soon to be released feature from Apple.
Apple Business Chat Suggest

With iOS 13, Apple introduced a new and interesting capability for Apple Business Chat beta – Chat Suggest. This capability enables enterprises to connect Apple Business Chat messaging to their existing phone numbers, enabling them to seamlessly deflect calls.

How does that work?

If an iOS user searches for a store or the contact information of a business, then taps the phone number, the device will then open up a call sheet, suggesting a messaging or call option. If the user then selects the messaging option, they are redirected to iMessage, starting a seamless back-and-forth with a virtual assistant or live agent, supported by the media-rich experience for which Apple Business Chat beta is known. For example, access to Apple Wallet for easy payments, inclusion of videos and images, carousels to select an option from a menu, access to the calendar and much more – all intended to simplify the customer engagement and make the experience with the brand more enjoyable and meaningful.

And the best part? There’s no implementation work needed (if you have Apple Business Chat already in use). The enterprise only needs to register a phone number for the Chat Suggest service. Going forward, every time an iOS user taps that phone number from anywhere on their iPhone or iPad, the device automatically opens up a call sheet with the option to message or call in.

Why is Apple Business Chat beta relevant?

That’s probably the most asked question we hear from enterprises. Messaging is becoming more and more important because consumers don’t want to wait on hold forever anymore. Yes, the phone is still essential for many consumers, but increasingly more just want to get their questions answered – fast and without listening to questionable music choices.

Over 55% of consumers prefer to use a form of messaging to communicate with companies.

2018 Customer Service Messaging Trends Report, commissioned by Nuance Communications

But not every customer is aware that your business offers messaging, so how do you let your customers know about this capability? That’s the whole point of Apple Business Chat Suggest. It lets the user know that there is a messaging option, so they can reach out easily, without waiting on hold, and without the requirement to download an app or accept any further terms of service.

And because Apple Business Chat is built into iMessage and included with every iOS-enabled device there’s a huge market to address – to be exact, there are 1.4 billion Apple devices, 900 million of which are iPhones 

Adding messaging to your customer engagement strategy couldn’t be easier. And with Nuance, enterprises can leverage our knowledge of best practices and conversational design, in combination with a customer engagement platform that addresses the customer’s inquiries in their moment of need without increasing contact center costs.

Engage your mobile customers on their terms.

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Apple Business Chat Suggest

Nuance IQ is back for the summer

With the success of the first Nuance IQ, the innovation hub is back with a summer edition—and this time, it’s all about contact center transformation.
contact center

Summer 2019: Contact center transformation

Last quarter, we saw the importance of humans and AI working together to thrive in the digital world. Nuance experts taught us what the human-AI interaction could achieve, and we saw the leading organizations already making it a reality.

This quarter, we’re taking a deep dive into the latest innovations in contact center transformation. You’ll find out how your contact center could be holding you back, and the key strategies for making your transformation a success.

Head over to Nuance IQ to find:

  • An exclusive webinar featuring Forrester and Nuance experts revealing the common pitfalls organizations fall into during transformation, and how you can avoid them
  • An in-depth look at the customer experience gap, with practical tips on how to bridge it
  • The story of how a leading UK retailer enhanced its customer experience to support increased contact volumes and free up agents’ time.

Coming soon: Nuance Innovation Quarterly issue two

But that’s not all, there’s even more to come. Nuance Innovation Quarterly, the sister publication to Nuance IQ, is just around the corner—and it’s filled with more exciting innovations.

This quarter, you’ll get valuable insights from the people and brands forging a path to customer engagement excellence, plus expert advice on the keys to transformation—from APIs to conversational design. And you’ll even get a closer look at the latest Nuance products that could help your contact center evolve and thrive.

Take a look

Check out Nuance IQ today to get the latest insights in contact center transformation—and don’t forget to sign up for the summer issue of Nuance Innovation Quarterly magazine and watch the latest IQ webinar on-demand.

Did you miss it?

Catch the webinar recording of “4 Contact Center Transformation Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)”.

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STIR/SHAKEN – Shaking things up for fraud prevention

In this current, politically charged climate, the one thing we can all agree on is our collective disdain for robocalls. Since 2014 the FCC has been pressuring mobile carriers to “fix” this problem that has been around since the late 1980s. STIR/SHAKEN is a new protocol that will work to mitigate robocalls and fraud, potentially allowing consumers to answer their phones again.

It might be surprising to know that during my time penning this blog, I received a call from “Kate about my small business loan.” It was a recording and when I called the number back, after answering a few details about myself I was routed to a call center asking me for more personal information.

Did you know that the average American received eight robocalls a month in 2018 according to a Statista report? According to spam expert Hiya, there were approximately 26.3 billion machine calls in the U.S. during that time and the numbers are increasing. Although most people understand what a robocall is, it is interesting to breakdown the different types of calls. Telemarketers, spam and fraud accounts for the lion’s share of calls that are made, with fraud accounting for ~25%.

Consumers have been urging the FCC for over two decades to do something as the machines and software get more creative and invasive. The good news is there is a new solution called STIR/SHAKEN on the scene, and although it doesn’t prevent robocalls, it does prevent caller ID spoofing, which is the largest component to the calling schemes. Mobile carriers and consumers are expecting it to make a noticeable impact.



STIR/SHAKEN is a framework of interconnected standards and are acronyms for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) standards. This is a fancy way of saying someone would place an outbound call which would contain a certificate verifying that the call is indeed coming from the number it claims to be coming from. The phone call is passed along to the incoming carrier (which would then verify the public key against a heavily encrypted private key. A policy administrator, run by the telecom industry with oversight from the FCC, would manage distribution of certificates to ensure it is run seamlessly.


Nuance’s Simon Marchand, Chief Fraud Prevention Officer on Impact

Simon, as someone who is on the front lines of carrier fraud, what are your thoughts on how these new protocols will fare and any potential impact for carriers?

“Carriers have been in discussions around finding a way to stop unwanted spoofing for years now. Not only is it an issue for consumers who receive unwanted calls or fraudulent calls, but spoofing can also be used by fraudsters against businesses. STIR/SHAKEN is the result of years of discussions and reflection and it provides a series of rules that will now have to be followed by carriers within countries implementing it. Theoretically, it should prevent fraudulent spoofing and is a step in the right direction, however we fear it may have limited impact. We expect to see fraudsters simply move to countries not under STIR/SHAKEN protocols; they will simply initiate their fraudulent calls from there. The measures in STIR/SHAKEN can’t prevent cross-border spoofing, unfortunately, but we are hopeful there will be some impact.”

Although STIR/SHAKEN will not be a panacea, what tools does Nuance provide that can help carriers prevent fraud?

“Nuance is helping businesses protect themselves in many ways. Whether it is through the implementation of partner technology helping to detect spoofing or by providing IVR technology that makes businesses less vulnerable to specific fraud attacks using spoofing, we are always working to stay one step ahead of fraudsters. Not only do we stay ahead in terms of technology, but we also work closely with our customers to make sure we’re aware of emerging fraud trends. We can then find mitigation measures and best practices to share with our entire customer base — making sure we work together to stop fraud.

Additionally, Nuance has world class voice and behavioral biometrics solutions that can not only help prevent and thwart fraud, but also allows carriers to reduce contact center costs and reduce customer friction. “

Thank you, Simon, for your time and all you do to help carry the message to mobile carriers across the globe. It looks like STIR/SHAKEN will be a nice addition but will not solve all the carrier spoofing or fraud issues and requires an on-going, constantly living and breathing attack with technology and relationships to continue to keep subscribers safe and confident with as little customer experience impact as possible.

Nuance Voice Biometrics makes impact with mobile carriers

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Contact center transformation pitfalls (and how to avoid them)

Our upcoming webinar with guest Forrester Research will explore why contact center transformation is vital to surviving in the digital age, and how to make yours a success.

Future-proof customer service

Customer expectations continue to rise rapidly, and there’s no sign of that slowing down. They’re going to continue challenging companies to give them better experiences and make every interaction effortless.

To meet these expectations, organizations need a future-proof contact center designed to deliver intelligent engagements—but it takes hard work to get it right.

Register for our webinar on 14th August at 8am PT/11am ET to hear guest Forrester’s Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst, explain how to transform your contact center effectively. In conversation with Nuance experts, Ian will guide us through the common pitfalls organizations encounter when transforming their contact centers, and show how you can avoid them.

Join us to discover:

Plus, you’ll learn about some organizations that have already undergone transformations, and the results they’ve achieved so far.

Space is limited, so reserve your seat now to get all of these valuable insights and more.

And don’t worry if you can’t make it on the day—register now and we’ll send you an on-demand link to watch whenever you want.

Register now!

Don’t miss this insightful webinar to avoid the pitfalls of your contact center transformation.

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Allied Irish Banks and Deutsche Telekom pioneer voice biometrics to ease customer effort

Entering PINs or passwords is a major source of friction for customers. Voice biometrics promise to make authentication instant and seamless, but how well does it work in reality? Two pioneering companies shared their experiences at Nuance Customer eXperience Summit London.

Improving the customer experience is all about removing friction from every interaction. The easier it is to interact with your brand, the more likely your customers are to stay long-term.

But what could be more frictionful (if that’s a word) than calling an IVR and having to answer a multitude of security questions? Not only does it take time, but it’s also not always practical, and the result can be frustration and even defection.

That’s why so many organizations are interested in voice biometrics for customer authentication in the IVR. If the customer enrolls a sample of their voice, the IVR can recognize them when they call and authenticate them without asking for any other details.


Allied Irish Banks and Deutsche Telekom share their experience with voice biometrics

At our recent Customer eXperience Summit in London, delegates packed into a standing-room-only session to hear how two brands – Allied Irish Banks and Deutsche Telekom – have pioneered voice authentication for their customers, and the results they’ve seen.

Here’s a rundown of the advice they gave, in response to extensive questioning from the floor:


How do you enroll customers in the initiative?

The two companies have taken different approaches to enrollment. At Deutsche Telekom, an automated enrollment hotline takes the customer through the process of recording their voice print – essentially repeating the same phrase three times.

“It’s much less expensive to do it this way than to train 16,000 agents,” said Caroline Clemens, Senior User Interface Designer at Deutsche Telekom. “We actually get a lot of calls directly to the hotline, which we didn’t expect. It turns out people like to leave their voice print!”

Allied Irish Banks, meanwhile, has majored on customer-led enrollment, with agents offering customers the chance to enroll, and then taking callers through the process of repeating the same phrase three times.

“Lots of customers call us, so it’s a good opportunity to enroll them as we talk to them,” said Liz Harmon, Digital Development Manager at AIB.

AIB has 800 agents, so training them was less of an issue, and they were heavily involved at all stages of the voice biometrics implementation, Liz Harmon explained. Agents were asked to input into the design of the CRM screens; they attended training workshops on the enrollment process (for example, making sure the customer is in a quiet place); and each team had a dedicated voice biometrics champion to make sure enrollment happens smoothly.


Is voice authentication secure?

Questions about fraud and security permeated all conversations about voice biometrics at the Summit, and the customer panel session was no exception.

What if a fraudster enrolled their voice print before the real account owner was able to do so? What if a family member (or even an ‘evil twin’) with a similar voice managed to fool the system? What if you recorded the account owner’s voice and replayed it to the IVR?

“You need to know your account number to enroll your voice print,” said Deutsche Telekom’s Caroline Clemens. “When a voice print has been enrolled, we send an SMS to the customer to ask them to confirm it was them who enrolled it.”

Nuance’s Brett Beranek, VP and GM for Nuance’s Security business, expanded on the relationship between voice biometrics and fraud. Modern, AI-based voice biometrics can recognize over 1,000 individual characteristics of a person’s voice, he said, which means each voice has a unique print. That makes AI-powered systems like Nuance’s very hard to ‘spoof’ with a similar voice or voice recording.

Voice biometrics should always be used in combination with other technologies to maximize fraud prevention, he added. Nuance’s ConversationPrint™, which compares the patterns of speech, vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, and more that are unique at an individual level with the ones used by known fraudsters, is a powerful new tool for detecting fraudulent calls, even when the request is being made by unknown fraudsters.

AIB’s Liz Harmon added that the bank is using Nuance’s Security Suite, which uses voice biometrics to record the voiceprints of known fraudsters. “It’s helping fight fraud across the bank, because a fraudster often starts in the phone channel before targeting other channels. This way we can tackle fraud relatively early in the process, rather than at the point of loss.”


Does voice authentication increase the volume of inbound calls?

Some audience members were interested to know if an easier authentication experience meant a higher volume of calls into the contact center.

“We’re not specifically measuring that,” said Caroline Clemens. “But it’s safe to say that nobody calls their telecom provider just because it’s an easy experience!”

At Allied Irish Banks, the enrollment process has led to a temporary increase in Average Handling Time, according to Liz Harmon. “AHT will go up while we enroll people, but it will decrease when a lot of people are enrolled. It’s an investment we’re making now, for a payoff in the future.”


The bottom line: voice biometrics improves CX – and has many other benefits besides

As a way of reducing customer effort – and thus improving the customer experience – voice biometrics is paying off for both brands.

“We went live in 2018 and we now have 260,000 voice prints enrolled,” says Caroline Clemens, “Our customers like it because it’s easy to do and there’s no mental effort. And our agents like it because they can just get straight into resolving the customer’s query.”

It’s paid off for Deutsche Telekom in terms of brand perception, too. “We were the first telco in Germany to roll this out, so it’s boosted our reputation for innovation,” said Caroline.

At Allied Irish Banks, Liz Harmon sees further potential beyond improving the customer experience. “The regulatory environment is changing in Ireland, with initiatives like PSD2 and Open Banking coming in. They have an emphasis on strong customer authentication, and voice biometrics is helping us move fast on that front.”


Learn more about voice biometrics with Nuance

Deutsche Telekom and Allied Irish Banks are using AI-powered voice biometrics technology from Nuance to record voice prints and authenticate callers. Learn more about Nuance Security Suite.

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Discover the power of biometric authentication by Nuance

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Rethinking digital transformation

Enterprises are going through a decade of disruption, and customer engagement is advancing fast—those that aren’t quick to adapt will be left behind. But it’s not too late. We’ve written a guide to help organizations like yours navigate their digital transformation journeys in the contact center. With the right strategy, you can not only survive the digital revolution of ever-evolving customer experiences—you can thrive.

Many companies struggle with digital transformation. It should be so easy, though – out with the old and in with the new, correct? Well, wouldn’t that be nice! We all know that this is not how transformation works. No matter if you are a larger company, an enterprise, or a government agency, you cannot just get rid of all your legacy technology and implement some software that magically changes everything.

Looking at your contact center reveals how daunting this task could be. There’s all the hardware, routing systems and other big machines, cables, phones and more (can you see the layer of dust on all of them?) – equipment that is needed to keep going but should be replaced with digital versions of them.

The problem is that you can’t just close your contact center for a few months and redo everything. And even if you could, you still have to figure out how to address all those new hypes that are popping up left and right – from messaging to smart speakers to cross-channel analytics of your customers’ journeys.

Before you can dig into the actual technology and design, there are a few more aspects that might help you get started, formulating a plan and actually moving forward with that digital transformation journey. Let’s take a look:

  1. Culture and communication – First of all, make sure the leadership team is on board. They are the ones that have to execute all the plans eventually. Assign governance, not just as a control mechanism, but to focus cross-functional teams towards the common goal and to be able to communicate the status of the project across the company. Since digital transformation is all about innovating processes, and since innovation requires some sort of risk, create a reward mechanism instead of just accepting the risk everyone is taking.
  2. Digital business strategy – Figure out what today’s pain points are by gathering insights from your data. Then categorize it and provide a summary ROI to identify the most critical issues. Think about how you can drive efficiency for your contact center, but don’t just think about self-service. Keep your agents in mind and how you could simplify their everyday work life.
  3. Organizational alignment – Similar to point 2, data is critical. It’s needed to inform decisions and to get funding for specific projects. Data allows you to get those insights that you need at the beginning to assess the situation and throughout to track progress and adjust as needed. Flexibility is critical because not every project will turn out exactly as planned, so adjust early to avoid unnecessary cost.
  4. Omni-channel roadmap – Start simple, iterate and enhance to deliver incremental capabilities. Rome was not built in one day and so shouldn’t your customer engagement strategy. Again, data is your friend. Define the KPIs that help you keep track of the actual happenings and understand what your customers want (i.e. which channel they prefer). Don’t forget to communicate with them as well. They will be excited to see you change for the better!

Obviously, this is a rather high-level overview of digital transformation in the contact center. There’s more to consider and some strategies depend solely on your specific business needs. We prepared a whitepaper that will give you more insights about the different stages, what to keep in mind when thinking about a great customer experience and once you have embarked on that journey, the value it will drive for you and for your customers.

Download the Digital Transformation survival guide

Rethink digital transformation for your contact center and download our survival guide for the latest insights.


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Zero-effort is hard work!

It takes a winning solutions provider to produce effortless authentication – a vendor with technical expertise and years of experience that can create a customer experience that not only protects against fraud but delights the customer as well. It’s a balancing act that Opus Research has taken notice of. Read on to hear the news of Nuance being cited as the leader in the 2019 Intelliview report.

Zero-effort authentication in customer engagement means creating a balancing act between security and convenience. That’s why voice biometrics has become the golden goose for companies looking at authentication solutions providers. Competitive enterprises are discovering how voice biometrics ensures a more secure engagement than passwords provide within voice channels, and certainly a more convenient experience for customers who have a hard time remembering their password.

This zero-effort, highly secure experience naturally leads to billions of dollars in fraud losses from which companies are saved. This fact alone sends enterprises searching for the right vendor that can produce the same kind of results for them. With the goal to give enterprise executives competitive context to understand the market of software, services and platforms for voice-base authentication, Opus Research has published the 2019 Intelligent Authentication and Voice Biometrics Intelliview Report.

As Opus looked at 13 vendors offering authentication solutions that include voice biometrics, they evaluated each vendor solution’s ability to streamline omni-channel customer authentication and stop fraudsters through all points of access. They evaluated not only voice biometrics tech but also behavioral, non-biometrics factors (device, network, channel, geography, etc.) and anti-spoofing offerings.

Opus learned that the leading vendors approach their authentication solutions with some key beliefs. Among them are:

  • Zero-effort, conversational authentication is important to overcome the annoyance of PINs, passwords and KBAs
  • Authentication is key, not just for security and fraud reduction, but for personalization, privacy protection and customer control
  • Biometrics have primacy because they are something you are, rather than something you know or something you have

So back to my opening statement:

Zero-effort authentication in customer engagement means creating a balancing act between security and convenience.

That balance is what Opus saw in Nuance. That’s why we were cited as the “undisputed market leader” out of the 13 firms that were evaluated.

Take a look for yourself and see why Nuance comes out on top in Opus’ landmark “2019 Intelligent Authentication and Voice Biometrics Intelliview“.

Get the report!

Download Opus Research’s Intelligent Authentication and Voice Biometrics Intelliview Report


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Avoiding customer journey traffic jams

Delivering an effortless customer experience is not necessarily easy for the ones designing and deploying it. Besides deciding which way to go, they also have to think about all the other projects going on within their own company. Shelbi highlights today’s issues that enterprises face and how they can approach their optimization program based on structure and governance.

Considering all the ways that enterprises and customers can engage—across many platforms and channels–interactions can often end up resembling a traffic jam.

There are multiple points of entry and multiple directions, and everyone is trying to get somewhere amidst the chaos.

The result? Inefficient contact center operations, unmet customer expectations and, as a byproduct, unintended consequences.


Unintended consequences? What are those?

Let’s consider an example of unintended consequences using the Voice (IVR) channel. For many in the IVR space, ‘containment’ is a critical metric used to measure success. While there’s nothing wrong with looking at containment as a great way to understand if the IVR is doing its job and providing customers with automated options, often times users from other channels such as the website, social or proactive engagement can impact the IVR’s ability to drive higher containment. This happens when the overall strategy for those channels is not aligned to that of the IVR. In turn, this can lead to creating a customer culture that views the IVR in a way that is counter to the goals of the business. For example, if the digital virtual assistant (VA) doesn’t know the answer to a question, the customer is directed to call the IVR and escalate, or if a proactive notification is sent to a customer, and it contains an IVR contact number, even if the notification itself doesn’t require an action from the recipient, it often compels them to call when they otherwise would not have. As a result, the enterprise is:

  • Forcing the customer outside of their engagement type of choice
  • Introducing friction
  • Limiting the possibility of first contact resolution
  • Adding volume and costs to their contact center operations
  • Clouding their ability to truly understand the performance of all of their channels and where they should improve

All of this stems from a lack of a holistic strategy across channels, which creates a gap in understanding the implications of actions within each channel and how they greatly impact the ability of others to serve the purposes of the organization, and its customers. These are the unintended consequences enterprises should seek to avoid at all costs.


Siloed teams create a traffic jam for customers

So, how does this happen, and how can it be avoided? Today, individual engagement types, such as automated or agent-assisted support, are often siloed within the enterprise and managed by different teams. Imagine that a live chat optimization team finds that the current deployment has a high percentage of missed opportunities. To address this, their recommendation may be to add additional agents. On the surface, this seems logical and a good recommendation, but there is a bigger picture that shouldn’t be ignored.

If the enterprise steps back to take a holistic view, they will see an opportunity to benefit from a VA program that exists in a different department. Instead of simply adding higher-cost agents, they can mine the chat data to evaluate opportunities for automation that the VA can support, providing self-service choices for customers and driving savings for the organization. This allows the enterprise to take advantage of the benefits of intelligent engagement while increasing operational efficiency.


Change the view of success

In order to improve the customer journey, remove the friction and make the experience seamless across all channels, the enterprise has to commit to some important enabling actions. The first of these is to expand its internal view from one that is myopic and siloed to one that considers the entire ecosystem of intelligent customer engagement opportunities. It should consider how to link channels and the experiences they provide in a way that creates omni-channel and operationally efficient interactions. As part of this, the enterprise has to shift and establish KPIs that reflect the complete customer journey. Once established, the new KPIs will align the organization and each channel to collectively support the overarching goals.

Next, the enterprise must create an organizational structure and governance that will provide the framework to align channels intelligently, allowing them to work together to support an executive strategy and drive initiatives that support the customer journey in a way that meets user expectations while maximizing benefit opportunities from one another. To empower an intelligent engagement program there are some definitive factors that enterprises should keep in mind:

  • Establish executive sponsorship in order to define goals, drive communication and provide accountability across all engagement types, lines of business, and functional departments
  • Develop partnerships and include all vendors that are part of the customer journey in order to take advantage of the entire system
  • Access data related to customer circumstances and previous channel interactions that will support the required tactics to achieve these goals

Going back to the traffic jam analogy, applying this foundational structure is much like building a roundabout. While there are still multiple points of entry, the roundabout offers the structure that allows all users to be more efficient. Everyone knows exactly how to get in and out of it, and it helps them get to where they want to go in a much more satisfying and efficient way.

At Nuance, when we engage with a client to optimize their intelligent engagement strategy, we mirror that governance. We establish a lead who institutes internal alignment, holistically evaluates client initiatives, and ensures the program is driving value and delivers impactful results across all engagement types.

The ideal goal is to create a focused and seamless customer engagement across all channels, resulting in improved operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction, as well as a more intelligent conversation with the enterprise’s customers by being proactive, personal and predictive.

Learn more about our intelligent engagement optimization programs

Implementing a best-in-class customer service solution does not end at go‑live. Keep your solutions performing at the highest levels and continue to reap the benefits.

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Introducing Nuance IQ: The new home of AI innovation

AI advancements never stop, and it can be difficult to keep up. That’s why we’ve created Nuance IQ— a regular round-up of the latest insights and innovations in AI today.

After a lot of hard work behind the scenes, we’re excited to finally launch Nuance IQ—the home of AI innovation. Each quarter through a webinar, infohub and digital magazine, we’ll take an in-depth look at the freshest insights and biggest innovations in AI across the world.

Nuance IQ is packed with exciting advancements in the field, interviews with the trailblazers leading the way, real-life examples of advanced AI technology in action, and much more. Our launch edition of Nuance IQ infohub is live right now, so check it to find exclusive content, like our recent webinar with innovation evangelist Tom Hebner.

And as if that weren’t exciting enough, just published the inaugural issue of our digital magazine, Nuance Innovation Quarterly, featuring even more insights and inspiration for your own AI journey.

Spring 2019: The human-AI interaction edition

Our launch edition is all about the human-AI interaction, exploring why humans and AI shouldn’t be seen as alternatives, but as a powerful team, with each learning from the other.

In this edition, you’ll find:

  • An exploration into why humans and AI make the perfect partnership
  • An in-depth look at Agent AI, making customer interactions smarter than ever
  • A close look at how a major bank is beating fraudsters with Nuance biometrics

Happy reading!

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Esurance: Digital engagement for the modern world

Esurance partnered with Nuance to implement the Nuance Digital Engagement Platform that seamlessly combines automated and human-assisted engagements in digital channels. Results have been outstanding, including a virtual assistant first contact resolution rate of 85%, live chat conversion rate improvement of 23% and over $4.4M in policy sales in Q3FY18 alone.

Customers have come to expect a next-generation engagement experience from Esurance, the recipient of multiple consumer-satisfaction awards from JD Power and others. Consumers’ increased use of always-available digital channels has led to their raised expectation of connecting with organizations at any time and at any stage of the insurance customer journey.

Esurance customers know they can get their questions answered any time through digital channels. But as the insurer’s digital customer base grew, they didn’t want to have to increase their costs by adding more agents to their contact center. Instead, they wanted to leverage intelligent technology that understands what the customer needs and then provides the best solution, whether that be a quick answer from a virtual assistant (VA) or more in-depth help from a chat agent with the right skill set, thereby saving on live agent costs and increasing customer satisfaction. This technology would continuously give their customers the kind of service they needed, gathering meaningful and actionable insights that would allow them to optimize their customers’ journeys.

In order to meet these challenges, Esurance partnered with Nuance to implement the Nuance Digital Engagement Platform, that seamlessly combines automated and human-assisted engagements in digital channels. Esurance started with live chat in one business unit, then added other business units across both care and sales as success was proven. Soon, the Nuance VA was added to address the increasing amount of incoming inquiries. Now VA and live chat are “better together” because the VA can interact with more customers, answer their questions and include a human chat agent, if needed.

Targeting and business rules are always put into place, which help to identify which visitors need assistance and why, and co-browse capabilities are interwoven into Nuance live chat so that agents can see what the customer is seeing by sharing a common screen, allowing the agent to explain certain things in a more efficient way.

Esurance has enjoyed fantastic results with the Nuance Digital Engagement Platform. Within the first monthof deployment, virtual assistant interactions had an 85% first contact resolution rate. And because of the combined presence of the VA and live chat, after the launch of the virtual assistant, live chat conversion rates improved by 23%. Both sales and customer care reap the rewards as automated and human-assisted engagements delivered over $4.4M in policy sales in Q3FY18, and 84% of engagements deflected a call, resulting in $1.6M in cost savings (Q3FY18). Esurance customers also benefit, as demonstrated by live chat customer satisfaction of 86%+.

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IVRs and AI, unite!

Digital hasn’t killed the IVR—it’s just pushing it to be better. We’ve identified four key principles that are central to a truly great caller experience. Each one involves the power of artificial intelligence, a key to reinventing IVR because it moves it beyond simple voice recognition to a deeper level of understanding and interaction.

While IVRs have been invaluable in reducing contact center costs, we need to be honest: not many are delivering experiences that live up to consumer expectations. It’s no surprise given the rise of digital—which led many organizations to abandon focus and investment in their IVR in favor of mobile, websites and social channels.

But digital hasn’t killed the IVR—it’s just pushing it to be better. Customers expect the same seamless, intuitive experiences they get in the digital world everywhere they engage your organization—especially in the IVR. The phone is more important than ever for your customers: it’s an escalation point if digital channels don’t deliver what they need, it’s the go-to channel for anyone ‘on the go’ and can’t easily navigate a website or an app, and it’s the top spot for complex or sensitive issues that require human assistance.

So, at your customers’ critical moments of need, are they greeted by an outdated touch-tone phone system from 1998 with awkward menu options? Or an intuitive, conversational and effortless experience that quickly gets them exactly what they need?


Four AI solutions for a modern IVR

We’ve identified four key principles that are central to a truly great caller experience. Each one involves the power of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is a key to reinventing IVR because it moves it beyond simple voice recognition to a deeper level of understanding and interaction.


1. Create an intuitive, personalized first point of contact

Imagine if you and your closest friends had to re-introduce yourselves every time you met. Or every time you ordered a coffee from your local barista, you had to verify your identity. It sounds ridiculous—but that’s basically what outdated IVRs are putting even your most loyal customers through.

There are far better ways to offer personalized first contact experiences. At the simplest level Automatic Number Identification (ANI) eliminates caller identification prompts completely. Instead, your IVR automatically identifies inbound phone numbers and matches them against your customer data to work out who’s calling before the interaction even begins. Sounds easy, but many organizations haven’t taken the time to do this most basic step.

There’s also a far better way to handle authentication painlessly: voice biometrics. Companies such as Barclays, T-Mobile and Vanguard are already using this technology to replace old fashioned passwords and PINs.

Here’s how it works: with voice biometrics, your voice is your password. The IVR automatically verifies your identity by comparing your voice against a “voiceprint” you created during a simple one-time setup process. It’s not just a more pleasant experience—it’s far more efficient and secure. On average, organizations have seen call durations shortened by an average of 42 seconds, freeing up agents to spend time on more complex issues.

Combining both ANI matching and biometric authentication will make your IVR a joy to call.


2. Deliver natural, conversational interactions

Talking to an IVR isn’t new. For years, customers have been able to speak a word or two to make a menu selection or get to an agent. But the IVR typically relied on the caller repeating a pre-programmed set of words—not asking questions or exchanging dialog.

Those kinds of one-way interactions don’t cut it anymore, especially with today’s home assistants and smart speakers. Today’s callers expect your IVR to listen and respond to natural dialog as if they’re talking to a human. And, thanks to huge breakthroughs in AI and NLU, today’s modern IVRs can:

Case in point: Amtrak

  1. Infer intent and ask questions
  2. Understand next steps
  3. Recognize the unrecognizable
  4. Predict and anticipate
  5. Remember critical information

Basically, they can have a real, two-way conversation. A true dialog with your customers without having to master a crazy menu prompt. Imagine your callers being greeted with “Hello Bob, thanks for calling. How can I help you today?” and then the IVR helping resolve the issue. You can almost feel the customer satisfaction growing.


3. Anticipate your caller’s needs

We don’t call a company because we are looking to talk with someone. We call with questions. And we want to spend as little time as possible on the phone. Forward-thinking companies are using the latest advances in AI and predictive capabilities to better anticipate why customers call and get them to the right resolution faster.

Putting AI to work in the IVR enables organizations to predict the reason for a call and then automatically deliver an experience that is hyper-personalized – tailored just for them, based on their unique situation and past history.

Suppose a cable subscriber spends time researching programming packages before calling. The IVR can recognize that activity and greet the caller with a personalized message: “I see you were browsing cable packages online earlier today. Are you calling to add a station or change your programming lineup?”

By analyzing information such as browsing and interaction history and past transaction data, you can anticipate customer needs before they even say “hello.”  And the best IVRs don’t just resolve the customer’s issue more effortlessly; they recommend the right next step for every customer, too. Imagine the satisfaction you can deliver if the IVR call speeds resolution faster and allows callers to get back on with their day.


4. Connect your IVR and digital channels

Companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, compared to only 33 percent for companies with weak strategies. Why? Because 60 percent of customers visit your website before calling your IVR, and 36 percent continue to browse your website while talking to a

representative. Wherever they start their journey, they expect to authenticate once, then move seamlessly between channels to get the answers they need.

An IVR-to-digital solution can reduce your contact center costs, improve customer satisfaction, and optimize channel engagement by allowing customers to transfer seamlessly from your IVR to text messaging, a virtual assistant or a live chat agent. Many customers prefer these anyway, and they offer significant cost savings—making it a win-win for your callers and you.

So how does it work? Imagine a customer calls with a pre-sales question about a new product they’re considering. Here, the IVR offers them a choice:

“No problem, I can have a live agent help you with that—the wait time is just five minutes. Or you could chat with an agent right now via text message. Would you like to chat instead?”

Many times a customer will choose live chat to accelerate the process. Seamless connections between your IVR and your digital channels creates the experiences customers expect and boosts satisfaction.


Helping your IVR flex

Your company’s IVR delivers value, and now with these four imperatives for improvement you can boost your IVR game and become a favorite alongside their digital brethren. Because everyone, even the IVR, likes to flex every now and then.

Learn more!

Learn more about the 4 imperatives for your IVR in a digital world

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Nuance named leader in 2019 Forrester Wave: Conversational AI for Customer Service

Another WIN for Nuance AI: differentiated for artificial intelligence (AI), voice and speech engines, approach to human/AI blending, omni-channel delivery capabilities and security and authentication

Nuance has been focused on pioneering the Conversational AI landscape for decades. Today the world’s biggest companies are using our solutions to engage their customers, and, in any given moment, somewhere someone in the world is talking to a Nuance-enabled conversational system. Our mission since inception has been to change the way humans and machines interact, and today that mission lives on in our laser focus on making it easier for brands to engage their customers and allowing customers to talk to brands as they do their friends.

That’s why being named a leader in Forrester’s 2019 Conversational AI for Customer Service New Wave matters to us. In our opinion, it means we are achieving our goal of pushing the industry forward through powerful innovation – bringing our customers the conversational AI they need to deliver engaging and personalized experiences across all the channels their customers and prospects engage – outpacing others who are beginning to enter our space.

Nuance has been consistently recognized by Forrester for its conversational AI capabilities with this report coming on the heels of the firm identifying Nuance as one of the top emerging voice and chat companies in the “The New Wave™: Conversational Computing Platforms, Q2 2018” report and ranking Nuance #1 in the June 2017 report, The Top 10 Chatbots For Enterprise Customer Service. This third-party validation adds to our impressive list of accolades including our technology being ranked #1 numerous times by Opus Research and our customer deployments winning more than 40 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer Service – more than any competitor in the conversational AI for customer service space.

We see this year’s New Wave as being critical as it evaluated a wider set of criteria beyond just conversational tools and digital chatbots. We believe this Wave looked at the future of the industry – where conversational AI must be channel-less, intelligent, secure and enterprise-grade. It also must interweave with human experts, an area in which Nuance shined in the report, with Forrester citing us as “[outstripping] rivals” with our tools for human agents.

To view the full report please visit: https://www.nuance.com/omni-channel-customer-engagement/landing/analyst-report/forrester-wave-2019-conversational-AI.html. And here’s to our continued trailblazing to a truly intelligent, conversational future.

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Analytics and Jeopardy: Changing the game

Perhaps you aren’t a regular watcher of Jeopardy (although you should be because it’s awesome) and are not aware of the magic that was happening with one contestant, James Holzhauer. Up until June 3rd, James had been showcased as a “professional Vegas gambler” with his “all in” bets racking up to an astounding $2,462,216! What you may not be aware of however is how he used analytics to essentially change the way the game is played.

Although James Holzhauer fell short of dethroning Ken Jennings, who many consider the Jeopardy GOAT (greatest of all time), winning slightly over $2.5 million in a 74-episode span, he managed to turn the game on its heels winning just $60K shy of the all-time record in only 32 appearances.

Many may draw the conclusion that James won at such a faster pace than Ken because of pure intellect or luck or even his “Daily Double” throw-caution-to-the-wind approach, but that’s only half the story. James had been studying the game—studying the data for years—and employed several key tactics to winning. If you consider that Ken Jennings played in 2004, there have been many more years of data gathering taking place since then, only fueling speculation that James played an almost perfect game. Who has time to study all that data you ask? A fan site called “J! Archive” has everything you may never want to know about Jeopardy collected in one location, and it’s intriguing.

James knew, based on the data, where the Daily Double would likely be; in fact a fan site called “The Jeopardy Fan” has compiled these numbers, and it shows, of the 76 Daily Doubles James could have found, he only missed four, resulting in $654K earnings in Daily Doubles alone.

Nuance knows the tactics and how to help businesses win using the latest analytics solutions, like our friend James.


Let’s talk about analytics

As someone who developed a healthy fear of math during elementary education, I was never someone who understood or embraced numbers. Give me a pen and I’ll write all day, but hand me a pencil and a calculator and I’ll break into a cold sweat. About five years ago an analytically inclined teammate was working on a project with me around Nuance Voice-to-Text. Although I was touting all the great attributes of this product, she mentioned the massive amount of data we had that proved the claims we were making about its impact—not anecdotal, but hard and fast numbers. Given Nuance had been one of the first providers of this service, we could show the stickiness year over year for the telecommunications carrier, not to mention the significant amount of money they were making…the numbers were quite impressive and those not typically seen in value-added services. The responses from the carriers were electric; they were clamoring for this type of data, and I was hooked. No longer were numbers something to fear, but a powerful, approachable, user-friendly tool that could help sales, marketing, you name it.

Fast forward to present day and I’m obsessed with the picture that numbers can paint. Working for a tech company, it’s incredible to me how much data we have—subsets of data, data lakes—all a part of the artificial intelligence Nuance employs to make smarter, forward-looking, more efficient products.


Nuance Analytics

Any company worth their salt understands that the customer experience can make or break loyalty. Seamless Intelligent Engagement offerings require meaningful, useful tools that put the customer in the driver seat. All these types of tools are paramount, but even more important is the data that the company can glean—key learnings about the health and wellness of both their end user experience and their bottom line.

Nuance sells solutions but also sells powerful analytics tools to ensure we equip and enable some of the most successful and powerful global companies helping improve customer satisfaction, adjust to head winds and make predictions about seas to come. The goal is to provide customers with a complete view of customer engagements across channels, to improve operational efficiencies, reduce customer friction and to streamline the overall customer experience.

James forever changed the way Jeopardy is played; he utilized the data, employed tactics and adjusted in real-time, achieving real-world, record-breaking results until a 27-year-old librarian at University of Chicago named Emma Boettcher doubled down on Final Jeopardy, and ousted boy wonder. The only thing we can be certain of, is data is power!

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Introducing the Modern Voice: Intelligent, conversational experiences

As more people encounter AI-powered voice in their everyday lives, they come to expect more from their experience as a customer. The Modern Voice is changing the way we interact with brands, and it’s helping us have natural, conversational experiences in every part of our lives.

Think of the conversations you have every day.

They’re rarely straightforward. We get hundreds of new thoughts as we’re speaking, we go on tangents about other topics, and we end up talking about things we never expected to.

And that’s great. Sometimes the best results come from when a conversation de-rails—it can lead to exciting new ideas and solutions to problems we didn’t even know existed.

Think of the last time you called your organization’s contact center.

It was probably a completely different experience. You were likely greeted by a robotic sounding voice and restricted to only a few topics at a time.

Now, imagine what it would be like if those conversations were more like the ones we have every day.

Thanks to the latest advancements in AI-powered speech, you don’t have to imagine. People are already speaking to their banks and phone providers, and more with natural conversational speech—and in many cases, it’s Nuance’s advanced speech technologies making it happen.


A new voice in the market

The more people interact with conversational AI in their daily routine – through virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa—the more they expect from their experience as customers.

They look for easy ways to solve their problems as quickly as possible, without any friction. And the best way to meet these expectations at scale is with AI-fuelled technology.

With Modern Voice technology changing the approach to customer experience across a huge range of industries, businesses are developing intelligent, conversational voicebots for their IVR, websites, or mobile apps that handle customer requests without losing the human touch of a call agent.

Customers can speak in a natural voice—just as if they were talking to a friend—and they’re understood more clearly than ever before.

It doesn’t matter if a caller to the IVR wants to divert from the main topic, ask additional questions at any stage, or even change the purpose of the call completely—Modern Voice technology can adapt and respond instantly.

And with Nuance Vocalizer—an enterprise-ready text-to-speech output engine—making up a core part of the system, the voice the caller hears sounds human-like and expressive.


Modern Voice in action at Nationwide Building Society

At the Nuance Customer eXperience Summit in London in March 2019, Nationwide, a British mutual financial institution, shared the benefits it’s seeing from Modern Voice solutions.

After implementing Nuance Natural Language Understanding and Call Steering—technology that understands the caller’s intent and helps them navigate the call center—Nationwide saw an overnight transformation in its customer experience.

Customers can now speak naturally to the system and make a wide range of requests using just their voice—such as transfer money, check account balances, and hear their recent transactions.

With the power of Modern Voice technology behind them, Nationwide’s team managed to reduce call times by over 20%, as well as double the amount of cases solved in the IVR.

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Learn more about how Modern Voice technology could help you have more meaningful, intelligent and natural conversations with your customers.


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Getting our geek on for Geek Pride Day

Thanks to Nuance’s army of geeks, who get their rush from delving into the science of conversational design, customer insights long hidden within terabytes of conversational data can now be surfaced to drive new opportunities for building stronger relationships with customers and reducing cost of service.

In honor of Geek Pride Day on May 25, today we’re gonna get our geek on as we dig a little deeper into Nuance Pathfinder, an upcoming product that was introduced in our previous post entitled “Designing effortless customer journeys.”

Building conversational AI systems—like virtual assistants, IVRs, chatbots—generally includes three main technologies:

  1. Natural Language Understanding (NLU)
  2. Question Answering
  3. Dialog Systems

AI and, more specifically, machine learning and deep learning have had the biggest impact on NLU, which is implemented using classification and entity extraction techniques. In the research world, question answering is also being impacted by machine learning (for example, see SQuAD), but this technology is still making its way into conversational AI applications. But dialog, wherein a system will engage in a back-and-forth conversation with a user over multiple turns, is still very much driven by conversation and voice UI designers.

Today, the most labor-intensive steps to creating these conversational systems are still:

  • Training a model: Training a natural language understanding (NLU) model to recognize a user’s intent, which requires gathering and manually labeling reams of data to train the model
  • Writing a dialogue: Many virtual assistants rely on a script; their AI simply functions by choosing which branch of the script to follow. Writing this script requires specially trained conversation designers to work extensively with subject matter experts in understanding how a business functions and what questions an agent must ask to solve its customers’ problems.

Nuance Pathfinder makes both steps easier. This diagram explains Pathfinder at a high-level:


First, we start with a company’s conversational data. This conversational data consists of conversations between customers and (human) customer service agents, and it can come from both live chat and phone calls transcribed manually or using speech recognition like Nuance Transcription Engine.

Next, we feed this data through Pathfinder’s proprietary intent discovery algorithms, which analyze the data and automatically identify users’ intents and common topics in the conversations. The process then groups conversations together according to these intents and topics, saving much of the manual labeling effort.

Then we move beyond the level of topic and intent modeling, to analyze the structure of the conversations themselves. By analyzing the turns in the conversations, or the individual utterances between a customer and an agent, we can identify the states in a conversation and the connections between them. By collecting these states and connections, Pathfinder builds a visual representation of all the different paths your customer service conversations take, from first question to each follow-up, to reveal the best paths to resolution as well as unknown problem areas. We call this a dialog graph or model.

With insights and dialog graphs in hand, dialogue designers can rapidly produce more sophisticated, natural and accurate scripts. With most customer service interactions being “monitored or recorded for quality assurance and training purposes” or compliance reasons, and ever greater adoption of live chat options, companies are amassing this kind of data at a blistering pace. However, few companies are truly able to leverage this data using the modern, data-driven techniques now possible with AI and machine learning.

Now, customer insights long hidden within terabytes of this conversational data can be surfaced to drive new opportunities for building stronger relationships with customers and reducing cost of service—thanks to Nuance’s army of geeks who get their rush from delving into the science of conversational design.

So here’s to the Geek! Without them, you’d be lost under a mountain of data and your customers would be following paths to a dead end.

Interested in a demo? Click here to engage us – select “Analytics” in the drop down menu and in the comments section type “I’d like a Project Pathfinder demo” and a member of our team will get in touch with you shortly. 

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GOT fans, do not fret – Dragon power is just getting started

There has been fevered conversations around dragons as “Game of Thrones” is nearing the end to one of the most epic, wildly embraced television series of recent times. Although this exciting series will be gone soon, Dragon TV remains -- a powerful, versatile tool that liberates and enhances television engagement for those wise enough to harness it.

As fans anxiously await and secretly lament the end of “Game of Thrones”, for those of us who are relatively new to this phenomenon, the numbers are extremely impressive. According to Statista, “Game of Thrones” is the second winningest program in history with 38 Emmys, second only to Saturday Night Live with 54. Not too shabby, considering SNL has been around over 44 years and GOT just came on the scene in 2011. In fact, according to HBO, the last episode reached an all time high of 12.5M viewers, the highest viewership of any cable show, EVER.

If you’re like me, you are dying to know what will happen to Daenerys Targaryen and her dragon.

Although, I won’t divulge any theories or spoilers, for those who are unfamiliar, this young queen has been hiding in a distant land, facing all manner of villains, assassins, spies and attackers; but she has the strongest ally you can imagine – her dragons.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a powerful resource you could summon when you need help, customer service or even a hot pizza? Fear not; Dragon TV is on your side.


What is Dragon TV?

Dragon TV is a technology and engineering Emmy award-winning platform that emulates everything one might want in a dragon: powerful, personal and secure. Dragon TV is an intuitive speech-driven solution that makes content discovery and television engagement faster and easier than ever before with the power of your voice.

Powerful – Dragon TV leverages Nuance Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to manage conversations by using both context and memory, integrating with a wide variety of content partners to deliver a seamless, natural experience. In fact, it’s so robust it can manage multiple requests simultaneously, ensuring the dragon has your back, every time.  An example might be, “Hey Dragon, show me episode 3 of season 4 of ‘Game of Thrones’.”

Personal – The goal of Dragon TV is to not only make things easier, but to make the experience meaningful. Using your voice, you can set up your own preferences: content, networks, movies, celebrities and other topics of interest. The solution knows that my husband and I watch GOT separately given our work schedules and can make distinctions in suggestions and offers. The system will know my voice from my teenage daughter’s voice and can navigate accordingly.

Secure – Dragon TV leverages Nuance Voice Biometrics, ensuring accurate identification, verification and classification for every interaction. Identification is vital as it determines “who is speaking,” allowing for management of the user’s account, allows for specific offerings to be presented and detects known fraudsters. Dragon TV will dig deeper and “verify” the user; eliminating insecure and unreliable PINs, restricting access to protected content to individual users (think underage viewers who aren’t quite ready for “Game of Thrones”) and authorizing high-security transactions (purchases, premium content, etc.). Additionally, classification acquires data about who is using the system (e.g. % of men and women users) and understands each household make-up to create appropriate package offerings and an overall pleasant experience.


Where do we see the television experience going?

Given the lightning speed at which technology is changing the viewing landscape and behavior; the one thing we can be certain of is change. What I do know for sure is that voice is not going anywhere; it’s in the middle of most every technical channel and advancement, and Nuance is locked in for the adventure.

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Consumers get ready to fight fraud with biometrics

1 in 4 people have fallen victim to fraud in the last twelve months, losing an average of $2,000 due to inefficient passwords – biometrics is on the rise to change that.

World Password Day is a great opportunity to evaluate the role of PINs and passwords today and consider their limitations when it comes to safeguarding financial and personal information in today’s digital society – never mind causing consumers serious headaches. Nuance recently commissioned a survey asking 5,000 citizens, aged 18+ across the US, UK, Germany, Spain and Australia, how they feel about traditional passwords and the potential of new technologies designed to safeguard their data and reduce fraud. Here’s what we learned:


Password frustrations are real

Passwords are still creating challenges for consumers. The survey found consumers manage an average of 11 online accounts (for example, emails, banking, bills, shopping, entertainment, etc.) each and have to remember around nine different passwords for use across those accounts for access.

One in four people forget those passwords at least once a month, with nearly a third (28%) calling a contact center every three months to reset login credentials. One in 10 US consumers have to make this call more than once a week due to forgetting their login information.


Fraud still hitting consumers hard

More than causing frustration, traditional passwords are not secure. Nearly one in four (24%) citizens across the globe have fallen victim to fraud in the last 12 months, losing an average of $2,000 as a result of poor account protection. Those in the US were the hardest hit, with nearly two in five (38%) affected in the same time period. To make matters worse, fraud claims took over a month on average to be resolved.

Consumers are quick to act when this happens, with three in five (62%) respondents noting they would likely change service providers if they fell victim to fraudsters through their services – and the loss of bank, online shopping and utility account details were cited as most inconvenient. That said, more than a quarter (27%) of victims did not change their passwords for other accounts following fraudulent activity, leaving them exposed to further criminal activity, as is typical in Account Takeover (ATO) attacks.


Getting ready to prevent fraud

As PINs and passwords continue to fail – and hacks and breaches climb – more and more organizations are deploying biometrics to enable a simpler and safer way for customers to validate their identities and access services. The adoption is growing at a rapid rate. Over 400 million consumers globally make more than eight billion successful authentications yearly already. Just recently HSBC announced that their innovative voice biometrics system, VoiceID, has stopped over £300 million of customers’ money from falling into the hands of telephone fraudsters. HSBC customers have used the technology 15 million times since it launched in 2016. Each month around 50 weeks or 8,400 hours of customers’ time is saved due to fewer password resettings and less use of manual security.

According to the survey data, consumer comfort level with the use of biometrics – which authenticates individuals by their physical and behavioural characteristics – is growing, with more than two thirds (68%) globally and 78% in the US saying they feel comfortable using the technology.

Nearly one in three (30%) respondents already rely on biometrics technology – via fingerprint or facial biometrics – to unlock their smartphones many times each day. 18-24-year-olds are most prolific in their use of biometrics, with nearly two-thirds (59%) using it for this purpose, compared to around one in five (22%) aged 55+.

This year’s World Password Day comes at an interesting time in the world of security, as fraudsters continue to evolve their hacking strategies and consumers demand more streamlined access to their accounts. Biometrics takes the onus away from insecure and tedious PINs and passwords and places the emphasis on our unique characteristics – making authentication not only more secure but a lot easier to do.

Survey methodology: Nuance Communications commissioned OnePoll to conduct an online survey of 1,000 adults (18+) in each of UK, US, Australia, Germany and Spain (5,000 participants in total). The survey was carried out between 9th – 18th April 2019. 

All figures in USD are representative of the Google Finance exchange rate between GBP and USD on 23 April 2019.

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Four steps to modernizing government IVR

Citizens have become accustomed to modern voice experiences and they expect the same conversational, convenient, personalized and intuitive interactions from government agencies. What can these organizations do to modernize their IVR programs?

Despite the public’s prevalent use of websites, mobile applications and social media to access information and conduct business, phone calls are still a primary link to government service. Although government entities have long used interactive voice response (IVR) to alleviate the burden on call center agents and route calls more efficiently, citizens are weary of antiquated call systems that rely on touchtone input and outdated speech recognition. They have become accustomed to the modern voice experiences they encounter with banks, airlines and in their home; and they expect the same conversational, convenient, personalized and intuitive interactions from government agencies.

Artificial intelligence (AI), natural language understanding (NLU), voice biometrics and other innovations are revolutionizing self-service. Whether a citizen wants to pay property taxes, schedule a doctor’s appointment, check the status of a disability claim or inquire about a court date, modern, conversational IVR can intelligently route them to the right self-service application or agent while reducing agent call volume, improving the citizen experience and increasing efficiencies. In addition, organizations can realize operational efficiencies that reduce overtime, improve employee retention and more.

Modern IVR solutions address the challenges of dated speech technology and enhance citizen self-service by using natural, language-based voice technology, AI and other innovations to make interactions faster, cheaper, smarter and more human. Read the Center for Digital Government’s whitepaper on Taking Citizen Self-service to the Next Level: Four Steps to Modernize Interactive Voice Response for a thoughtful discussion of how to get there. Or, read on for a quick overview:

  1. Create an intuitive first point of contact. Automatic number recognition and voice biometrics are two modern IVR tools that streamline the initial contact process, enhance the caller’s experience, reduce costs and strengthen security. The Australian Taxation Office uses voice biometrics to enable a single credential for authentication across multiple channels, including its call center, IVR and mobile applications. With these changes, ATO reduced the average call time for repeat callers by 48 seconds.
  2. Deliver natural, conversational interactions. Thanks to breakthroughs in AI and NLU technology, modern IVR allows callers to interact with the system using their own words as if they are conversing with a human being. New York City’s 311 services (NYC311) use their modernized IVR to significantly enhance self-service options, reduce wait times and streamline caller interactions with agents. NYC311 has increased agent availability by up to 25 percent and call center capability by more than 20 percent during high-demand days and emergencies.
  3. Make every call personalized, predictive and contextually aware. Modern IVRs use AI to analyze a caller’s browsing history, transactions, scheduled appointments, past interactions with the call center and other back-end information to anticipate the reasons for a call and deliver accurate, relevant and easily understood information. Imagine greeting a caller with a personalized message: “I see your license is expired and that you also have two unpaid parking tickets. Are you calling to pay the fines?”
  4. Adopt an omni-channel approach. Modern IVRs that incorporate omni-channel capabilities allow callers to transfer between IVR and digital channels flexibly, seamlessly and securely — without having to repeat information. Work done in one channel is automatically reflected in other channels, enabling seamless transfer from the IVR to a digital experience. So picture this engagement: “Okay. A live agent can help you with that; the wait time is about five minutes. Or, you can chat with an agent right now via text message. Would you like to chat instead?”

Government organizations require improved service delivery, lower call center costs, strengthened security and compliance, and the ability for all citizens to have equitable access to government services. Given the opportunities that modern voice services present, organizations may want to consider the suggestions in CDG’s whitepaper to get started.

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Voice is alive and well

Voice will never die. Voice connects people like nothing else; it continues to evolve and take on different shapes, but it is still one of the most powerful tools we have. With all the buzz around multi-channel customer engagement, voice sits squarely in the middle of the entire interaction. In fact, many other technologies are marrying their products with the capability of voice and seeing remarkable results.

When speaking to a Communications Service Providers (CSPs) or a Multi-System Operator (MSO), when they discuss the topic of voice, they are typically referring to an actual voice call. Voice messaging like voicemail may also fall into this category but for the most part it is connecting two or more parties on a voice call. We can all agree there has been an evolution of sorts with respect to voice calls. Some decades ago we all had landline phones and, in many cases, paid a premium for the line and actual phone device, and suffered outrageous fees for long distance.

When mobile began to take center stage, long distance fees were forfeited and the mobile consumer paid for voice by the minute; eventually texting was the pretty girl at the dance and consumers paid per text. The smartphone completely changed the game, allowing carriers to charge for data and voice, but losing huge revenues to over-the-top applications like What’s App. All along, the carrier has been trying to find ways to monetize their channels, replacing evaporating revenue streams with new technologies to fill the gap. Although I agree that voice has changed over the years, it is still there, is still as powerful as it ever was and, in some cases, is growing in new and different ways.


Is voice alive or on life support?

Voice is alive but also changing. There are plenty of statistics showing the decline of the duration of voice calls and the growth of texting, but voice calls are still going strong. Whatsapp, one of the most prolific applications on the planet, leverages wifi or data to provide free calling and texting globally. Whatsapp reported in May of 2018 that 65B messages were sent daily, equating to approximately 29M messages per minute. That’s straightforward, but what you might not know is that people are using this application to send recorded voice messages (voice texts or voice notes), similar to voicemail messages, directly to one another; no interface other than the app is needed. Anne Yeh, spokeswoman for Whatsapp, wouldn’t divulge the total users of voice texts but says it’s the second most widely used feature, behind picture sharing. Traditional voicemails are in decline, but again we see technology using voice to transform the landscape, and voicemail-to-text has been a strong, growing feature since introduced by Nuance in 2007.

Further evidence that voice is evolving is the rise of the virtual assistant. More people than ever are using voice to interact with their mobile phones, their vehicles and in the home as is evidenced by the strong use of Alexa and other smart speakers. A 2018 Nielsen report claims that 24% of U.S. households have smart speakers and 42% of those surveyed have two or more. With prices becoming very reasonable, experts project over 72% will have a smart speaker by the end of 2020.


Where do we see the voice evolution going?

There is strong evidence voice will continue to grow significantly over the next several years. According to Statista, 55% of all new cars have a built-in voice recognition platform. My new vehicle knows my voice, understands my preferences and enhances my daily driving experience. In the realm of healthcare, Nuance has done significant study into the impact of voice and has seen 80% reduction in delayed diagnosis when voice is implemented. BCC Research projects that the predicted global market for voice recognition will be ~ $185B by the end of 2021. With Dragon TV, Nuance has seen extremely high retention numbers, upwards of 60% when voice is introduced to the television viewing experience.

No, voice will never die; it will continue to grow and take shape in different technologies. Voice is part of the human experience. It is powerful yet simple, not requiring any technical acumen. It connects us all.

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How to make a difference in the world

The possibilities of AI get us pumped here at Nuance. Tom Hebner is one of the reasons behind the excitement. Read on to get a taste of the insights he imparts on a daily basis, helping to make a difference in the world of customer engagement.

“Make the world a better place.” That’s the stereotypical catch phrase fans of “Silicon Valley” tend to hear from the various tech startups pitching their products on the show.

But it’s more than a catch phrase. For some tech innovators, it’s a vital mindset. In order to rise above the hype of artificial intelligence, they must first determine what problem their innovation is going to solve. How will it make the world a better place (or at least the world of their target market)?

There is a lot of hype about AI these days. From tech companies touting all the great things AI innovations can do to dooms-dayers stirring up fears about AI taking over the world. The truth of the matter is, AI innovations are only as real as the problem they’re trying to solve, and many companies have yet to get on board with exactly how to implement new technology into their processes. In the customer engagement world, chatbots and voice technology are the big AI vehicles in which, to be effective and valuable, AI needs to somehow eliminate friction and solve a problem.

Nuance’s head of product innovation, voice technology and AI, Tom Hebner, has a lot to say about where AI is headed and how organizations can take full advantage of it. He even hints toward the “make the world a better place” mantra. “AI should make lives easier, whether it be interacting with banks and airlines, improving the quality of communication when folks go to the doctor or making the lives of doctors easier by taking a lot of the manual work they have to do out of their hands and doing it automatically.”

In two recent articles on Mediaplanet, Tom lays it all out in practical terms of what happens when AI is integrated into the contact center. He talks about the complexity of the human language when developing voice technology, the importance of biometrics and data, and the prerequisite for the business to know what problem they’re solving for.

These two articles can also be found in a special insert on AI for Business, in the San Francisco Chronicle. Take a look at them both and absorb the infectious energy that Tom exudes as he passionately talks about making a difference in the world through innovation.

Things to Come from the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Separating Hype from Reality in Voice Technology

And to hear and see Tom Hebner’s expert insights and passion about what AI can do for the enterprise, watch this Ask the Expert Series installment.

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The nuances of negotiating with a king

Just because you have conversations every day doesn't mean that you have successful ones every day. Teaching a robot to talk to customers takes more than being gifted the ability to talk. It takes understanding everything behind a successful human interaction. Let’s look at a scenario from “ye olden times”.
By and

So you want to make a robot that talks to people.

It’s not as simple as you think. It’s hard to imagine the complexity of human language when it comes so naturally to you. Unlike visual design, where it’s pretty easy to self-determine whether or not you have artistic talent and ability (especially if you’re anything like me and struggle to draw even a passable stick figure). Because you have conversations with many different people constantly every day, it can be tempting to think that typing out a conversation with a robot will be easy, or at the very least — easier.

Here’s a thought experiment to illustrate this point.

Imagine you’re the queen and you are negotiating peace with a neighboring king. You’ve been fighting over 100 acres of land on the border of your two kingdoms, and you think you should just split it to avoid bloodshed. Neither you nor the king can travel, so you’re going to send your best adviser to negotiate. What advice do you give him?

The first part is easy – you tell your adviser to offer to split the land. But what if your adviser walks in and the king offers to take 25 acres and give you 75 since you have a bigger military? Or, what if the king wants a different 100 acres of your land in return for the 100 acres being disputed? What if at any point any of the offers being made by the adviser are misinterpreted to the point that war could be declared? This gets complicated quickly, and so far, we didn’t talk about the emotional considerations. What if the king is in a bad mood – should your adviser stall and wait until the king is in a better mood? If the king is in a great mood, should your adviser ask for all the land?

Furthermore, all these decisions and actions are based on assumptions and on the premise that the adviser truly understands that the core of the issue has to do with the dispute over the 100 acres of land. Wouldn’t it be worth the time and effort to do some preliminary work, identify the needs and expectations of each side, before you start coming up with negotiation techniques and words to use?

Just because you have conversations every day doesn’t mean that you have successful ones every day. And even if you do have successful conversations every day, it doesn’t mean that you know why or how. Nor does it mean that you can deconstruct the underlying choices into a strong conversational system architecture that can support all of these scenarios and keep your user engaged, both from a high level game strategy perspective (what actions to take in different scenarios), and from a lower level tactical one (how to adjust your phrasing, depending on the specifics of the situation you’re in, for maximum effect).

The game is to design these conversational systems with enough logic that they can successfully automate more than 80% of the interactions that robots would encounter. It takes expert designers who know the game well.

So, before you send your robots in to interact with your customers, make sure you’ve done the preliminary work of gathering the right information and developing the appropriate “negotiation tactics”. But don’t do it alone. Find conversational design experts to help you through it.

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Designing effortless customer journeys

What is it like for your customers when they don’t get the easy path? With the myriad of paths a customer conversation may take, good conversational design is a must-have for any customer care application today. It takes specialized skills to create customer journeys that don’t encounter “secret squirrel routes”. It takes Pathfinder.


Last weekend I got invited to check out a new restaurant in one of the hipster neighborhoods in Seattle. Given that I don’t live in the hipster scene, I typed in the address on my map app and hit the road. What came next was an overly complicated journey with difficult-to-navigate streets, hard-to-cross, busy intersections and what I would call a “secret squirrel route” that left me feeling more stressed than supported. It seems that the map app focused on speed, rather than convenience. And while the map app did its job, for me, it illustrated how the quickest, fastest path isn’t always the best path.


What is it like for your customers when they don’t get the easy path?

What may seem like the best route to the people designing your applications may not be the easiest or preferred route for your customers. In customer service, the end point on the “map” may be paying a bill, or rebooking a flight, or filing a claim. Like an inefficient map, inefficient customer service can lead to consumer frustration. On the other hand, easy, effortless, convenient customer service can lead to brand loyalty. When your customers contact you, are they encountering an inefficient chatbot or complicated maze of menus, or are you providing an easy, intelligent engagement that leads to task success, customer satisfaction, trust and loyalty?


Interacting like a human takes work

With the myriad of paths a customer conversation may take, good conversational design is a must-have for any customer care application today. And while there is a plethora of technologies available today that can provide question-and-answer capability with ease, building effective conversational applications that can interact like a human requires specialized skills. Conversational design isn’t simply accessing AI technology – it’s an expert process of creating experiences that are human-centric, social and interactive, grounded in communication principles, regardless of mode of interaction.

Effective conversational design that can handle the complexity of human interaction takes work – a lot of it. Today, the process involves subject matter experts sitting down with conversational designers to script paths according to business processes. It’s a highly manual, time-consuming and often lengthy process, prone to human error. Using our map app analogy, imagine the many ways you might be instructed by a human to get to a new restaurant across town – “Don’t take the freeway”, “Avoid the toll road by going this way”, “Take the scenic route”, or “I go down the back alley to save time”. Inevitably, there are missed turns along the way, or preferences that are anecdotal that may not deliver the easiest route.


The best path forward

As consumer demands (and expectations) for intelligent conversational applications increase, organizations must find more efficient and effective ways to ensure high quality conversational design. One path forward to accelerate conversational design is a new category of conversational tools – Conversation Accelerator Tools. These tools allow organizations to leverage the terabytes of data they already accumulate today, ingest the data to discover the most helpful answers to commonly asked questions and potential problem areas, and automate the build of effective “conversation maps” for their customer care applications.

This data-driven approach results in more natural and accurate scripts, opening the door for more organizations to deploy highly intelligent assistants that consumers will love, while also providing insights that lead to opportunities for strengthening customer relationships.

No tool today can completely displace the critical need for conversational design expertise – but it sure beats the secret squirrel route approach. In the coming months, Nuance will be launching our own automated dialog design tool, Pathfinder. To learn more about Nuance technologies, visit here


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Getting your organization “in the know” with speech analytics

Today’s consumers expect easy, effortless ways to get things done with your business. And yet, 65% of US customers believe they work harder solving problems than the companies they do business with*. By using speech analytics, companies can uncover even the thorniest problems thwarting their customer service efforts - bringing to light information that otherwise might remain buried to deliver an experience that customers will love. *Source: 2016, 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report

What does the number 366 have to do with speech analytics? Let me share a little story about that number and how being “in the know” could have saved me a whole lot of hurt last summer.

366 was my August water bill. $366 in one month, nearly triple my typical bill. So, I did what any panicked consumer would do and called Seattle Public Utilities to find out what was going on with my water bill. But it turns out there are many reasons for unusually high water bills – leaky faucets, running toilets, lengthy showers, irrigation leaks and more!

But no one at the utility company predicted what I wished I had known and the reason behind my heart-stopping bill: the Ashby Kids Car Wash, where for a whopping 50 cents, my kids would unleash gallons of water (and my hard-earned paycheck) on the neighborhood cars.

And that is what 366 has to do with speech analytics, and why analytics are so important. Companies have clues into problems, like I did. For me, it was an unusually high, $366 water bill. For enterprises, it could be a low NPS score, high compliance fines or increasing contact center costs that can’t be easily explained away. These clues point to problems, but they don’t pinpoint the why and the what to fix. Without analytics, chasing down answers can be a manual, inaccurate and incomplete endeavor because hidden problems (and opportunities) exist in all parts of the business – in products, in marketing, in processes and technology. These “leaky faucets” can bedevil even the best customer services efforts and cost companies in customer satisfaction, in profits, and in revenue.

Taking an analytics-based approach, companies have the insights to identify common issues that prompt customer contact, resolve more problems on first contact, shorten handle times and improve the quality of their agents, products, and service offerings. Combine those insights with AI, and contact centers can supercharge customer service with real-time prompts on how to best handle calls with complex situations that may require personalization, expertise and additional knowledge.

At Nuance, we take an end-to-end approach to analytics and recommend a three-pronged approach to ensuring you are capturing actionable insights across 100% of the customer journey. It’s important to apply analytics:

  1. In your automated self-service applications – are your applications themselves working as you expected? Are call flows and menus operating as designed? Is the technology enabling self-serve or are customers opting out to a live agent? Finally, do you have the right information to tune your application to meet the KPIs you set out to achieve?
  2. Live with your agents – are you monitoring real-time interactions while calls are in process to provide support or intervene as necessary? Are you ensuring regulatory compliance adherence? Are you helping agents to upsell and cross-sell with personalized, real-time guidance? Finally, are you adding value to each customer contact with personalized next best action support and offers?
  3. Post-contact are you capturing and analyzing 100% of your customer interactions to identify actionable insights and make improvements across the customer journey?

With the sheer volume of customer data available to companies today, applying analytics to any or all of these areas is the first step in tackling your thorniest problems or unlocking hidden opportunities to boost CSAT, improve agent performance or reduce costs. You never know when you might find the next covert car wash in need of a business overhaul.

To learn more about how analytics can help your contact center deliver better business outcomes, check out our use case guide for practical examples here: https://www.nuance.com/omni-channel-customer-engagement/analytics/analytics-use-cases.html

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Advance your IVR to the Final Four

The Final Four is officially here, and the top 4 teams made it through multiple challenges to get here and are ready to see who is number 1. And just like this major basketball tournament, customer service all boils down to your customers successfully navigating your inbound support channels to reach their goal. Read on for four strategies to ensure your company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system reigns victorious.

The NCAA Tournament Final Four is upon us! Brackets have been busted. Office pools across the country are ruined. And that guy in accounting who picks teams based on their mascot is the only one happy. The basketball teams themselves – Michigan State, Auburn, Texas Tech, and Virginia – are excitedly preparing for their big weekend in Minneapolis.

Some teams’ paths to the Final Four were tough with many close calls. Others had more comfortable wins along the way. Either way, all the teams excelled and there are 60 other teams who didn’t quite have the right stuff to make it all the way to the end. The Final Four teams all did a few things well and knew how to navigate the pitfalls.

Callers to your company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) may sometimes feel like they are embarking upon their own tournament bracket with each call. Callers must work their way through a maze of menus to reach their end goal. When your IVR greets callers, their personal “bracket” is established. Can they navigate easily to what they want – i.e. the Final Four or championship game? Or do they have to work their way through a challenging maze of menus and complicated commands?

Simplifying your callers’ IVR bracket

Innovations in today’s IVR technology make it possible for customers to easily engage your contact center and reach their desired destination with fewer steps and greater satisfaction. Let’s see how we can work our way through four tournament-tested strategies and beat back the opponents getting in the way of IVR success.


1. Personalize the greeting

It’s tip-off time. The first game is on and a customer contacts your IVR. A good start is crucial for both basketball teams and an IVR experience. How does your IVR greet your callers? Is it a long, canned message advising them to “Listen carefully because the menus may have changed” and instructing them to “Push 1 for Sales, Push 2 for Service,” etc.? Any referee would call foul on this approach!

If this is the face your company shows to customers, then you are missing out on great advances to create a more welcoming experience.

How about greeting your callers by name?

How nice would it be for a caller to hear “Hello, Sue. Welcome back” when they are a returning customer dialing into your IVR? Personalized greetings are possible using caller ID technology known as Automatic Number Identification (ANI). ANI matching lets your IVR connect to existing customer phone numbers, match that number to your CRM system and identify the caller’s name. Then Text-to-Speech technology converts names into a personalized greeting for each caller.


2. Use voice authentication, and send PINs to the bench

We’re further into the tournament now, and the IVR must validate that you are who you say you are. Typically, this requires entering PINs or passwords. Sometimes you can’t enter your PIN, forget your password, or can’t remember the exact answers to your security questions. If you can’t easily confirm your identity, you could be stuck in a long loop of transfers or be blocked from your account.

What if authentication was as easy as speaking into the phone? No passwords or PINs to remember – just confirming your identity by the sound of your voice.

Voice biometrics creates a unique voiceprint for each customer that is as individual at their fingerprint. Callers can validate themselves with a short vocal passphrase such as “At Nuance, my voice is my password”. Using voice as authentication eliminates the need to remember PINs, passwords, or the answers to security questions (which require an average of 23 seconds of interaction with a live agent – adding time to the call and souring customers’ experience).

Customers want this technology. Ninety percent of users prefer voice biometrics over the status quo. Implementing voice biometrics will excite your customers while driving results against your key metrics – making you feel like you hit the long three-pointer to win the game.


3. Let your customers use natural language

Why not let your callers speak in their own words? Advances in Natural Language Understanding (NLU) allow your IVR to understand not just the words that are said, but their intent – and that makes all the difference when it comes to getting callers to the right content.

IVRs that use natural language are more personal, intuitive, and welcoming. We’ve had customers see a 45 percent reduction in call volume, 90 percent fewer escalations, and a 53 percent drop in non-compliance. That, as they say in basketball, is a “triple-double”.


4. Multi-channel integration

There’s one more opponent to vanquish until we’re at the Final Four. Now is the time to utilize all possible strategies. Now is the time for multi-channel integration.

The days of customers only calling the contact center or hitting your IVR are long gone. In fact, today most customers begin their self-service journey on your website, shifting to the IVR when they can’t find the answer they need. A modern IVR system will connect the dots, capturing the data and prompting the customer with an appropriate path. For example, “Hello Mrs. Smith. I see you recently accessed your account statement online. Are you calling to pay your bill?”

Unfortunately, older, stand-alone IVR systems can’t make these connections. Today’s forward-looking organizations see the value in all channels working together cohesively – just as all five players on the court must be a part of one team.


Cut down the nets!  Victory achieved 

We’re at Minneapolis! We took our IVR game to the next level through these strategies and helped people navigate their own personal IVR “bracket” and propel them directly to their end goal – the Final Four. All that’s left to do is to ask the local fortune teller if Texas Tech can pull off the upset.

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Strength in numbers: Band together to excel in fraud prevention

Selena Castellanos brings us insights into a TRMA event, where risk management professionals gather together and share their experiences on the battlefield with the ever-more sophisticated fraudster. Hear how fraud is ramping its force, yet also how telco carriers are executing on fraud prevention – and winning.

Communications Service Providers are facing unprecedented pressure from fraudsters, every channel is constantly being tested for vulnerabilities and in many cases, exploited. What is a carrier to do when as much 10% of their revenues are on the line? Telecommunications Risk Management Association, or TRMA, is a collection of mobile carriers, multiple system operators and vendors who have banded together to leverage their challenges and key learnings to stay ahead of fraud attacks.

The CFCA reported over $30B were lost in 2018 in the carrier space due to fraud. If that doesn’t frighten you enough, picture the fraudsters as they continue to evolve, typically working in large groups, each bringing their own expertise to the fraud attack cycle. They understand the ins and outs of the carrier business, which creates an urgent need for Communication Service Providers to stay on top their technology, their behaviors, and of course of the market.

TRMA has two core audiences: fraud-focused attendees and the collections audience. These topics, although separate, oftentimes overlap. During the 2019 Spring Conference event, TRMA creatively set up the 2-day sessions in a thoughtful way so that each attendee could either partake in both or focus on their main area of interest. On Day One there was a “learning lab,” where we circulated between sessions and could engage in small groups, discussing challenges in the various areas.


Recognize the human, not the device

After Capt. Mark Kelly, the keynote speaker, delivered a powerful message about perseverance and goal setting, Nuance’s own Roanne Levitt shared some jarring statistics around fraud in the telco space, but married that with messages of how authentication and biometrics can help protect the carrier. One key take-away was “Recognize the human, not the device.” With biometrics, fraudsters can be identified by the sound of their voice, which is more personal than a fingerprint. Behavioral biometrics can also detect differences in the cadence of how the person types, the structure of their sentences, the weight with which they touch the screen – the technology really is an exciting arrow in the quiver of the CSP. 


Fraud vs Friction

Throughout the various sessions, another theme that kept coming up was that of “Fraud vs. Friction.” The goal in every company is to ensure the customer and their data is secure; however, the challenge is to do so without creating too many demands on the subscribers. The digital channel seems to be able to accomplish this: ThreatMatrix mentioned in their session that digital is the fastest growing channel, with over 90% of transactions happening there.

As a first-time attendee, I was impressed by the openness of both the vendors and carriers as the event pertained to both the challenges and opportunities. If you’re interested in thwarting fraud in the contact center, connecting with carriers and potential partners in the communications space then you may want to check out TRMA. I’m very glad I did and am looking forward to the Fall event in October – I hope to see you there!

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No joke: Customers don’t like chatbots

Why are we talking about an infographic that sheds a very dim light on customer sentiment for chatbots? Because we know something most basic chatbot vendors don’t know… Why customers don’t like chatbots, and how contact centers can provide a chatbot that customers do love.

We have an enlightening infographic from Forrester Research to show you.

It’s titled “Customer Service Chatbots Fail Consumers Today”.

You may be wondering if this is an April Fool’s joke.

You may think we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

Why talk about how customers hate chatbots? Isn’t Nuance in the “chatbot” business? Well, sort of. You see, we’re not just any ordinary chatbot company. We deliver technology and services that launch automated customer engagement way beyond the common perception of a chatbot.

Looking at the infographic, which is full of revealing data discovered by Forrester, we see that customers aren’t in love with chatbots.

  • Nearly 2/3 of US online adults did not use a chatbot on a website in the last 12 months.
  • 2 in 3 consumers are skeptical of chatbots and their ability to provide just as great an interaction as a live representative.

And here’s the kicker –

  • 54% of US online consumers expect interactions with customer service chatbots to negatively affect their quality of life.

With this kind of feedback, what’s left to live for in the chatbot world? Well, nothing much if you’re the basic chatbot about which this infographic was made. But if you’re what Nuance calls a virtual assistant, you’re a chatbot done right, and your future looks bright, indeed!

Forrester goes on to say that, “when done correctly, chatbots can move the needle in a big way.” You’ll have to look at the infographic yourself to learn just how big. It’s enough to convince you that there’s something to this chatbot thing, despite the poor expectations from consumers. Forrester also leaves you with some hope by giving recommendations on how to do chatbots right so that you can receive the intended benefits.

As producers of virtual assistants that go beyond the typical chatbot capability, we’d like to think we know a thing or two about why chatbots fail and how to fix them. So, to dive a bit deeper into the reasons behind the alarming findings of the infographic, take a look at our ebook: Chatbot fails: 6 reasons they break and how to fix them.

Not all chatbots are alike

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Beyond Containment

Containment is an important and valuable metric that almost all customer care organizations use to measure the success of their automated applications. But, are they placing too much emphasis on it? John Dionne talks about the dangers of putting too many eggs in the containment basket.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak at Nuance’s annual Customer eXperience Summit on the topic of Continuous Optimization – a process that improves performance of deployed applications while enhancing the customer experience and growing operational savings. One of the key strategies by which contact centers can continuously optimize their performance is in measuring the success of their automated applications. In doing this, I’ve found, many organizations place a heavy weight on containment rates.

From a customer care perspective, containment refers to the percentage of users who engage with an automated system and end their interaction without transferring to a voice or live chat agent. Almost every organization that offers self-service applications focuses on and measures containment regularly. It’s been the single most emphasized and well-known measure of automated system performance and value delivered, and one that many organizations base their savings targets against. Consequently, they’ve invested heavily in efforts to achieve higher and higher containment results.

I’m sure that many of you can relate to a narrative like this: “We need to save <insert dollar figure> this year, and to do that, we have to increase our containment by <insert percentage>.”  Generally speaking, the logic behind that is sound because if end-users engage in the lower-cost, self-service application and do not transfer to higher-cost agents, the organization will save money while simultaneously providing customers with a quick and easy way to complete transactions, all on their terms. A pretty simple win-win.

So, containment is the best metric, right? Well, let’s pause for moment and consider these questions:

  1. In a modern care environment where end-users interact through many channels, often using them for different reasons as they move between them, is emphasizing one metric the right approach?
  2. Will having such a focus on containment blind you from aggressively pursuing the other sources of benefit?
  3. Is it time to start thinking more broadly and be open to the many other ways that benefits can be achieved and measured?

Take a moment to think about how you interact with organizations when you need care. It doesn’t matter whether you think of a personal banking example or one with your telco provider or utility company, or something else. What’s important is that you think about your expectations and behaviors and how you engage. If you’re like me, those things depend on the reason for your contact. There are times when you have a request that can be completed through automated self-service and you gladly do that, while there are other times when the complexity of the situation means that you need to interact with a human. Still yet, there are instances when you use an automated system to partially complete a task but then decide you need to contact an agent because you have additional questions that require their assistance. These are just a few examples of the different scenarios that can occur. Nevertheless, a key takeaway from them is to acknowledge that as an end-user your needs and expectations and also your behaviors are dynamic and can change from interaction to interaction. 

Now, put your work hat back on. As a customer care professional, it’s important to recognize that the end-users that interact with your care solutions have the same expectations and will exhibit the same behaviors as you do when seeking care. Just like you, they’re driven by the specific needs they have and the situation in which they find themselves. This means that sometimes they’ll automate and contain in your self-service applications, sometimes they will partially automate and then transfer to a contact center, and yet in other situations, they’ll simply transfer. Therefore, if you want to provide the best user experience and maximize operational savings, it’s critical that you understand their reasons for contacting you, and then create an experience that aligns to their needs.

For example, in situations where users are going to transfer to your contact center, utilize strategies in your automated system that increase identification and authentication (ID/Auth), gather accurate intent and partially automate. This will result in more precise contact center routing and transfer of information to agents which will save money through decreased Average Handle Time (AHT), while offering a much better customer experience with better First Contact Resolution (FCR). In this example, containment is nowhere to be found, but by focusing on how benefits can be achieved through other means and measuring related metrics such as ID/Auth, Intent Gathering, AHT and FCR, the value to your organization and your end-users is obvious and real.

To be clear, automation and containment should continue to be an important part of your customer care strategy; but focusing solely on containment as a measure of success and savings is far too narrow a view and can indeed blind you from maximizing other benefits that are available to you and your customers.

If you’re not already doing so, now is the time for your organization to start thinking and acting more broadly about how benefits can be achieved and their associated measures of success.

Ask the experts

If you want to learn more about how to look beyond containment, talk to our Business Consulting team.

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Keto or Atkins? IVR or Voice bots?

Voice is everywhere now thanks to its increased usage in our homes, cars, and TVs. This renewed interest is leading many people to come up with new words or phrases to describe similar technologies. From IVR to voice channel to voice bots or even voice assistants, no matter what you call it, voice-enabled customer service solutions are really very similar. Each requires strong speech recognition technology, good natural language understanding, and, finally, amazing designers to help bring the experience to life. And, oh yeah, Nuance can handle them all.

Low carb, South Beach, Atkins, paleo, and keto. Say them fast enough and it feels like you are singing the classic Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. What do they have in common? They are all variations of the same type of diet that focuses on low or no carbs and higher fat intake. Trends come and go, and people will always rush to the shiny new thing. Keto is the hot trend now in dieting, but is it that different from the paleo or Atkins diets? Oh, sure, purists will email me with differences, but essentially they are offshoots of the same formula.

IVR, voice channel, voice bots, voice assistants. While these may not sound as cool as diets, these terms also have a lot in common. They are all variations for customer service solutions that feature speech. And, just like in diets, trends come and go in technology. Voice is everywhere now, thanks to its increased usage in our homes, cars, and TVs. I even saw a new mirror you can talk to. This renewed interest in voice has led many people to adopt new words for how customer service channels handle speech.

The traditional “IVR” (Interactive Voice Response) channel seems outdated and stodgy to some folks. They prefer to call it a “voice assistant” or even a “voice virtual assistant”. And if you interact via speech on the web or mobile device, you may talk to a “voice bot”. Some people are asking Nuance to help them build a voice bot for customers who call them. They prefer the term voice bot instead of IVR because it conveys a more modern approach. It is after all an automated speech recognition engine.

We don’t know what the next hot term will be for these types of solutions, and it doesn’t matter. Yet one thing will remain constant: no matter what you call it, all speech-enabled solutions have similar characteristics:

  • Strong automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology – You can’t have a functioning speech-enabled TV if it can’t understand what you are requesting. Same with the IVR. Callers get frustrated when the technology doesn’t accurately pick up what they are saying.
  • Strong natural language skills – Delivering great customer service through a voice bot, IVR, or voice assistant means being able to not just recognize what is said, but to interpret the customer’s intent and have a two-way dialog to help resolve the issue.
  • Strong conversational design – It’s professional designers with experience in customer service solutions that make a great customer experience. The best and most natural voice experiences in the IVR or through the car or TV are created by people who know the power of good voice design.

And there is one other thing that will remain constant when it comes to voice technologies – Nuance can help with them all. With over 20 years’ experience working on speech and delivering real-world speech solutions for some of the world’s largest brands, we’ve got you covered no matter the name. So bring us your voice bots, voice assistants, and, yes, your IVR. Your keto diet is on you, however.

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Keeping up with the fraudsters

Preventing fraud involves constant change. It takes work, but a few companies are adapting to fraudsters’ ever-resourceful attacks on their contact centers. RBS is one of these organizations who are giving the bad guys a run for their money.
Learn how RBS works with Nuance to prevent fraud in their contact centers.

According to industry watchers, preventing fraud involves constant change: Apply safeguards in one area today, and see where the bad guys show up next.

In a new report on application fraud and its impact on banks, insurers, credit unions and other financial services institutions, Aite Group says that, “Since identity crimes are so easy to commit in the current environment, fraudsters will increasingly apply for accounts fraudulently (and take over accounts to commit fraud as well). Until safeguards are put in place to stop them, it is just like taking candy from a baby1.”

This fluidity is echoed in Javelin’s annual report on identity fraud2. While improvements in payments process led to notable drops in card fraud in 2018, that coincided with criminals shifting gears and taking aim at new account fraud and account takeover fraud.

This back-and-forth was a dominant theme at the recent ISMG 2019 Fraud Summit. Nearly 200 leaders from banks, credit unions and other organizations met in New York City, to talk about challenges and solutions.

One of the most intriguing speakers was Jason Costain, Head of Fraud Strategy and Relationship Management at Royal Bank of Scotland. Nuance was fortunate to join this client on stage to share how RBS is adapting to fraudsters targeting its contact centers’ voice-based services and agents. Jason captivated the audience by sharing how voice biometrics helped the bank cut its fraud losses in half in two years while generating a 300% ROI within 12 months.

Clearly, with the right strategy, fraud prevention can be achieved, as evidenced by the diligence of RBS and Nuance.

Click here to read the full RBS story and hear from Jason Costain directly.

1 Application Fraud: Fighting an Uphill Battle, Aite Group, December 2018

2 2019 Identity Fraud Study: Fraudsters Seek New Targets and Victims Bear the Brunt, Javelin Strategy & Research, March 2019

How they did it

Read how Royal Bank of Scotland fought the fraudsters with voice biometrics.


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Learn how RBS works with Nuance to prevent fraud in their contact centers.

Spring cleaning the contact center

Customer Satisfaction is considered one, if not the most, important tenant of any business or industry. This will never be achieved without happy, effective employees. Richard Branson said, “Happy employees equal happy customers, and happy customers don’t leave.” How can smart organizations leverage state of the art technologies in their contact centers to ensure they are set up for success in the future? With the right partners and a little bit of common sense.

In many organizations the contact center is the heartbeat of the company. This is where almost every customer will eventually travel, whether it be to ask a question, purchase a new good or service or to complain when things are not working properly. An entire company’s brand can rest on the experience that happens here; for this reason, it requires constant monitoring, evaluation and, in many cases, some spring cleaning.

Many folks, including myself, have jumped on the Marie Kondo “Tidying Up” bandwagon. In fact, I have released 15 large bags full of linens, shoes and kitchen items that no longer “spark joy.”  For those who are unfamiliar with this best seller and newly released Netflix program, Kondo’s is not a terribly complicated concept: quite simply, if you do not use it and it does not make you happy, thank your item and send it on its way to potentially spark joy in someone else.

It’s really about reflection, allowing the person to take a moment to really think about what is working, what is just taking up space and what is simply no longer valuable. Companies should do this also, taking time to consider what is working well in their contact centers and what needs to be released or retooled.


Does your contact center spark joy in your agents?

Many organizations are spending more and more to train new agents, and many of these employees  leave within the first 90 days. Why do we suppose so many agents run for the exits so quickly? The most likely cause is being overwhelmed with information and pressure.

What’s more, the Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC) reports that the average churn rates for contact center agents is almost double most other industries at 30-45%.


How can technology spark joy in contact center agents?

Although there are countless frustrations agents face, the most common are lack of training, feeling overwhelmed or conversely not being challenged. Smart companies invest in technology that puts the agent effectiveness at the center of the purchasing decision.

Incorporating technology that is ever evolving, continuous learning is the key to success. Nuance has various contact center products that leverage artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a phrase that is tossed around frequently, but within the context of the contact center, there can, in fact, be great impact. AI can streamline the calls that seem more rudimentary, leveraging virtual assistants (VAs), and then ramp to more complex issues as both the VA and live agent grow in their decision making.

Customer engagements go from being reactive to proactive when the predictive power of AI is introduced to contact center operations. This not only enhances agent understanding but empowers them as well. As Marie Kondo would say, this “sparks joy.”

Feedback is also a crucial tool used to ensure the agent is learning; fully understanding, in simple, useful data, where they shine and where they need to focus their development. AI is now a two-way street, allowing for the extraction of vital information for decision making purposes but also leveraging that data to review, predict and offer solutions – this is a game changer.


How do companies spring clean their mindsets and potentially their tools?

Smart companies will take time to evaluate and reflect on the current state of their contact center agents. What is the attrition and to what do they attribute these numbers? What technologies are being employed to facilitate, lead and empower the agent workforce? What can they leverage in their current technology arsenal to achieve their company goals, and where are the blind spots in their offerings? This is how to find what “sparks joy” in the contact center. If something doesn’t, throw it out.

Retain contact center agents by leveraging technology

Nuance has various product suites to enable companies to retain, empower and educate their contact center workforce with AI.

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How to avoid the doom and gloom of a chatbot’s future

Experts predict that customers will revolt against chatbots this year. But don’t let that scare you. Your chatbot can have a much brighter future if you know what to do

This is going to sound ironic coming from a “chatbot” vendor, but get ready for a chatbot backlash in 2019. Yes, you heard correctly.

Forrester Research predicted in their report, Predictions 2019: Customer Service and Sales, that customers will lead a community-based revolt against corporate chatbots in 2019. Meaning customers will do whatever it takes for a brand to give them a human being to talk to. What’s the lesson here? People want to talk to humans because their experiences with chatbots have not been pleasant.

This unpleasantness can be due to a number of reasons, all of which are the result of chatbot implementation missteps. In most cases, the reason chatbots fail is that organizations have overlooked one or more of these critical areas:

– Their business objectives

– The science of customer interaction

– The nuances of language

– How to handle hard-to-answer questions

– Branding the chatbot

– The ability for the chatbot to learn and grow

So why are we pointing out this doom and gloom? Because it doesn’t have to be that way.

If a chatbot or virtual assistant deployment is properly done with the right kind of help, the chatbot can have a very bright future. They will be able to ask the right questions, interpret inquiries accurately, and learn as they go for continuous improvement. They’ll also be able to work hand-in-hand with live agents as they share information and learn from each other.

A chatbot done right will satisfy the self-service needs of today’s customers yet make it easy to connect them with the human touch. Not only that, but they’ll help the business to meet their goals of efficiency and cost-savings.

So predictions of a chatbot backlash shouldn’t scare you – as long as you know what to do. To help you avoid any negative outcomes of your chatbot implementations – or to help you fix them – download our ebook, Chatbot fails: 6 reasons they break and how to fix them.

Soon your chatbot’s future will look brighter than ever.

Avoid the predicted chatbot backlash

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Nuance wins big at 2019 Stevie Awards

What does it take to succeed at digital transformation? These enterprises can attest to how Nuance helped them achieve Stevie Award-winning digital customer experiences that are part of their DT stories.

Digital transformation really is happening!

It’s not just a pie-in-the-sky notion for an enterprise or organization to undergo digital transformation. It really does happen – and it’s happening now. Many companies don’t see the disruption headed their way, coming from those who are succeeding at transforming their businesses through digital solutions and operations. They don’t understand that this disruption will happen very quickly, and if they fail at their own digital transformation, they will disappear.

That’s why they can’t do it alone. They need a partner to come alongside them for expertise and support throughout the process. The vendor they choose should become their trusted advisors that provide strategic guidance and actionable roadmaps, aligning with their company’s key business goals and addressing pain points that can no longer be ignored.

That’s part of the story behind several recent Stevie Award winners. They partnered with Nuance in addressing their pain points and transforming their customer experiences into award-winning, customer-pleasing interactions that bring impactful ROI to the business. Their transformations are happening now!

These customers, along with Nuance, were honored with the following 2019 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service at the February 22nd gala held in Las Vegas, Nevada:

Nuance and Esurance – Gold, Award for Innovation in Customer Service, Financial Services. 

Nuance and RBS Group – Silver, Best Return on Customer Service Investment.

Nuance Security Suite – Silver, Contact Center Solution New Version.

The Modern Voice: Nuance’s AI-powered Engine for Conversational Dialog – Silver, New Contact Center Solution.

Nuance, A5 and Oi – Bronze, IVR or Web Solution, New Version.

To read some of their stories and learn more about the Stevie Awards, go here.


Get the scoop on the key to achieving award-winning customer service!

Read about Nuance’s and our customers’ big wins at the 2019 Stevie Awards.

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Creating a bionic contact center agent

Contact center agents are still irreplaceable when it comes to customer engagement. Instinct and context are abilities unique to humans, but artificial intelligence can augment those skills, creating a bionic contact center agent that accelerates the Enterprise’s digital transformation journey.

“Bionics” describes technology that is inspired by nature – similar to AI, which describes the ability of a computer to act like a human. When talking about bionic agents we don’t mean contact center agents with prosthetic arms that make them type faster, or any other physical modification of the human body. We are talking about agents being augmented and supported by artificial intelligence. What could that look like?

First, AI can find patterns in huge amounts of data much faster than any human could. Which means, by leveraging AI, we augment our own ability to gather insights or knowledge. With contact center agents, AI can listen in to conversations between customer and agent, analyze what they talk about and recommend next best actions, upsell and cross-sell opportunities or the answer to a support question – all in real time. Today, agents either need to know a lot of details about the organization’s offering or to search through script trees, knowledgebases or manuals to find answers. In answer to this, AI can search for the agent, allowing them to focus on the customer, not on the information retrieval.

Continuing the thought about patterns in data, every person has their own voice identity. Similar to a fingerprint, the way we talk, the frequency of our voice and several other identifiers are unique to every human. AI is capable of distinguishing between different voices, even identifying if the voice is human or robotic. This technology, called voice biometrics, enables agents to authenticate customers much faster, without asking the usual three identification questions like “What was your first pet’s middle name?”. This makes the authentication process more conversational and less frustrating for the customer and the agent, and it reduces fraud.

In general, looking into conversations and understanding what’s going on, finding opportunities to improve the experience and sharing useful insights with agents in simple ways such as indicators in the agent desktop, will help make the agents’ work life easier, will empower them and will strengthen their confidence while assisting customers. All of this helps with agent satisfaction – and we all know, if we like to go to work, we are happier.

But think a step further. If your agent is happy, if AI technology supports them by getting answers faster to the customer, if their tools highlight what they should pay attention to instead of guessing and if they feel more secure when asking for private information, it will also ensure that your customers are satisfied.

Because happy agent = happy customer.

Learn more about what Nuance can do to empower your agents.

Nuance agent-facing technologies utilize artificial intelligence to ensure your agents can focus on what really matters—solving your customers' inquiries.

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Building trust with a virtual assistant voice

What does a pastrami sandwich, debit card fraud and customer service have to do with selecting a voice for your virtual assistant? Dan’s pastrami story tells how trust can be built with an easy and successful customer service interaction.

Credibility and trust are instrumental in ensuring consumer loyalty. A customer who believes you and trusts you, works for you. They champion your brand and products and bring other folks with them.  For a voice-enabled application this puts a lot of pressure on the virtual assistant’s persona, how they sound and what they say. As we automate more and more, the virtual assistant is becoming the first “person” a customer talks to at your company, and it’s usually because they have a problem.

Before we dive further in, let me tell a story about a pastrami sandwich, debit card fraud, and how a company won me over with their customer service.

My pastrami sandwich story

On a day like any other, after I made my way through an entire hot pastrami sandwich (it was a ‘cheat’ day…I swear), I waddled back to the office to continue working. On the way, my phone buzzed in my pocket and a text notification told me that someone withdrew $500 using an ATM in the Upper East Side of NYC, quite far from the Financial District where I was. As I looked at the screen in mild shock, another text showed up for another $500 from a different location. Panic set in, I immediately stopped waddling to make a phone call, and the person behind me walked right into me, letting out a few choice words as he charged past.

By the time I called the number listed in the texts, thousands of dollars were gone from my checking account, withdrawn from various ATMs around Manhattan. And, it was the first of the month, meaning rent was due. My stomach churned at seeing my checking account drained and was only amplified by that greasy pastrami sandwich. Yet, by the grace of excellent customer service, my problem was no longer a problem after only five minutes on the phone. Card cancelled, replacement on its way, and money refunded like nothing happened.


How can I help you today?

I tell this story to drive home how much trust can be built with an easy and successful customer service interaction. All the advertising in the world could not even attempt to build the same level of trust that was instilled in me from that single phone call. Not only did they solve my problem quickly and with little effort on my part, but they took a customer problem and used it as an opportunity to increase my perception of and trust in their brand. And, it all began with an automated voice saying, “How can I help you today?”

Is there a secret recipe when selecting a voice for your virtual assistant? What’s the magic mix of character, pacing and tone that absolutely guarantees a voice that is credible and trustworthy? People form initial judgments on a voice within half a second.1 To add, we all have different life experiences and cultural backgrounds that form other perceptions of how a voice sounds. Some studies suggest that higher tone and greater expression through high and low pitch contours are more trustworthy.2 But, does that hold true if the person engaged with a virtual assistant just had their checking account fraudulently drained and their adrenaline is pumping?


More than just the right voice

I argue that importance should not be put on the singular act of picking the ‘right’ voice but the many tasks and decisions that go into defining a virtual assistant persona. These decisions will guide a voice talent in how they should speak and steer how a text-to-speech voice could be sculpted. Without that foundation you’re betting on luck when picking the best voice and have little direction during voice production. While a book could be written about this, here are a handful of foundational principles.

Foundational principles to creating your brand’s voice

  • Be empathetic to your users. Brand alignment is important, but an understanding of what your users want to hear is fundamental. The bonus of having this user feedback is that there’s no better direction during a voice-over recording session than setting the stage with a user story. If you can tell a story like the one told here, a voice talent will have a real purpose when delivering lines. That purpose will lead to a delivery that is credible and trustworthy.
  • Be open to change throughout the process. Allow for tweaks to the persona throughout voice casting and user research. Different use cases come up and adjustments may be needed. Perhaps there’s one voice talent who doesn’t completely align with the persona, but there’s something about them that just works. Or, users are hearing a selected voice as something other than your already defined persona attributes and they provide a different description of voice characteristics. Run with it. A voice persona should be malleable to many situations.
  • Let writing and speaking style influence each other strongly. They have a symbiotic relationship. If one succeeds, it helps the other succeed. If one fails, the other will struggle. Once you cast a voice or pick a text-to-speech voice you may find that there’s an even better way to handle certain wording based on how the voice sounds. Lastly, if you haven’t been in a voice-over session before, consult with voice actors. They are masters at interpreting written copy and understanding how a character should sound.

Picking the ‘right’ voice for your virtual assistant is a daunting task with opinions galore. Rather than get hung up on that specific point, focus on the elements that influence that choice. Above all else, listen to users to understand their problems, and let that lead to a persona that can be relatable to many users. Then, you’re on a path to having a virtual assistant that is credible and trustworthy – a voice that can put a consumer at ease and increase their loyalty, despite their choice of lunch and panic-inducing problem.



1 – https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2014/march/headline_312691_en.html

2 – https://curiosity.com/topics/what-makes-a-voice-trustworthy-curiosity/

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2019 AI Predictions from Nuance

2018 marked the peak of enterprise AI hype with nearly every brand on the planet deploying an AI strategy. Companies spent money—a lot of money—on the promise of using machines to deliver better experiences to their customers. And a very important lesson was learned: AI doesn’t add enough value on its own—it’s the solution across it all that allows machines to engage with humans in a natural and contextual way that makes AI valuable.

2018 marked the peak of enterprise AI hype with nearly every brand on the planet deploying an AI strategy. Companies spent money—a lot of money—on the promise of using machines to deliver better experiences to their customers. They invested in the bright, shiny object—a bot that can be created in minutes, a bot that can book your next salon visit or order an Uber for you, an application that can offer product recommendations—and they learned a lot in the process. That AI isn’t a strategy, it’s a tool. And perhaps most importantly, that AI doesn’t add enough value on its own—it’s the solution across it all that allows machines to engage with humans in a natural and contextual way that makes AI valuable.


In 2019 enterprise bots will grow up to be the intelligent virtual assistants we need them to be.

Right now, there is no common ground with most of the AI technology consumers engage with. Instead of knowing who you are by simply the sound of your voice, most people are identified as a fresh user every time. Logging you in, authenticating you and knowing your history will be critical—and it all must be done seamlessly. Pins, passwords, security questions won’t cut it.

Further, there is a difference between a bot that can schedule a haircut and a virtual assistant that can address a complex question or problem that can only be solved with two-way dialog—for example “what is the best investment for my parents?” We’ll see a paradigm shift from bots with limited and downright frustrating conversational abilities, to industry-specific, virtual assistants that tap enterprise-grade AI to support meaningful and contextual conversations.

And context and anticipation is key. Truly intelligent systems will know why you’re calling. For example, a retailer will know—before you ask—that you have an order in-process and will provide with accuracy your shipping status and delivery timing. A travel and hospitality company will use AI and machine learning models to identify keywords within the context of a conversation to offer suggestions based on their profiles and previous interactions.


Businesses will invest in AI solutions that can generate ROI.

Companies will start demanding better knowledge of the ROI of their AI investments. They will be looking for a more accurate way to measure AI’s impact on the bottom line and customer experience. This starts by considering your unique data acquisition situation. What data do you have and what data you can get? What data do you not have, that you need to solve for? And they will look for new ways to leverage their existing AI investment by blending AI and human touch—identifying where AI can support humans in their daily roles, and when to transition from a machine-driven interaction to live person for a better outcome.

Bottom line, if you’re asking how to deploy more AI, you’re asking the wrong question.


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Rankings show banks are doing well – are you keeping up?

The Temkin Experience Ratings show that the retail banking industry ranks fourth. Nuance is proud to count many of the highest-ranked (and largest) banks in the world as customers; based on our work in helping them improve their customer engagement, Vance Clipson has some suggestions for those financial institutions trying to climb the customer experience ladder – especially regional banks that may have to make tough decisions about where to spend their money.
customer experience

I always look forward to reviewing the customer experience report that the Temkin Group puts out each year. The Temkin Experience Ratings use a survey of 10,000 US consumers to rank companies and industries on the basis of customer experience alone. I suppose the results may come as a surprise to some, but not to others – perhaps dependent on which brands you patronize. For example, hotels as a whole rate fairly well, but there is a remarkable disparity between Holiday Inn Express and Motel 6 in delivering an enjoyable experience to their guests.

The same, of course, holds true in banking. Retail banks are generally meeting the expectations of their customers, rating an admirable fourth out of the 20 industries ranked. Nuance is proud to count many of the highest-ranked (and largest) banks in the world as customers; based on our work in helping them improve their customer engagement, I have some suggestions for those financial institutions trying to climb the customer experience ladder – especially regional banks that may have to make tough decisions about where to spend their money:

  1. Focus on the area of greatest “friction”

    Customers want you to “make it easy.” You’ll see that request pop up again and again in surveys. You’ll also hear customer experience experts point you toward customer journeys, to find the moments of greatest friction. Our banking customers come back, again and again, to streamlining authentication. We need to stop asking callers what their first car was, which is their favorite pet or what street they lived on growing up (and we ask them that over and over). Leveraging voice biometrics alone has helped several of our largest fiserv clients cut 40 to 45 seconds off their average handle time – and that means less friction for their customers.

  2. Get started on digital – now

    According to PwC’s 2017 Digital Banking Consumer Survey, 46% of bank customers are using only digital channels for their banking, and 73% start researching investment products online or through apps. If you’re a regional bank that hasn’t started down this road, start with a virtual assistant – and call in the experts now before customer losses mount. My most important recommendation here, though, is to find a vendor that can set you up for the extent of your digital roadmap. You’ll want to add escalation to live chat, other forms of messaging and integration with other channels such as IVR down the road.  Don’t take shortcuts.

  3. Don’t forget voice

    This point is two-fold. You may think I’m primarily referring to voice assistants like Alexa, and that’s reasonable. Six percent of US customers are using voice assistants for banking, but 27% are open to using them in the future (Bain & Company). But the AI-powered engine behind voice assistants should be the same as that behind your IVR or your desktop or mobile virtual assistant. My key point is that while “digital” can help your customers self-serve in a wide variety of situations, they still pick up the phone for the most complex.  That’s why one top-four bank customer of ours circled back to their IVR after implementing digital, and we helped them optimize it with upgraded natural language and prediction capabilities that helped them improve from 59% to 68% containment in less than a year. Wow.

These are just a few recommendations I have based on spending time with a LOT of experts on our financial services team. But don’t dawdle. Things are moving fast in the banking industry, and, while you’re discussing what to do first, your customers could be moving on to banks or fintechs that have charged ahead.

Are you keeping up?

Your customers expect you to make life easier—providing the services they need on their preferred channels. They expect secure transactions with no hassle. With Nuance, you can meet these demands.

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How big is your AI imagination?

When enterprises undertake the crucial step of incorporating AI into their business, they can't start with just using AI for basic functions. That's already being done by their competitors. Instead, they absolutely must reach far beyond that and let their imagination soar when determining how to bring their business into the AI Revolution.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

Albert Einstein


When enterprises undertake the crucial step of incorporating AI into their business, they can’t start with just using AI for basic functions. That’s already being done by their competitors. Instead, they absolutely must reach far beyond that and let their imagination soar when determining how to bring their business into the AI Revolution.


“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”

Carl Sagan


Enterprises in the Age of AI must now re-imagine the way they do business, because AI can fundamentally change aspects of how things are done. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, where traditionally, nine out of ten candidate drug therapies would fail and billions of dollars would be spent, deep learning is used to identify disease characteristics and patterns, which leads to new treatments or finding new drugs faster and more cheaply. AI is “turning the drug-discovery paradigm upside down.”


But organizations must keep in mind that AI is not yet at the level of human understanding – nor will it be for quite a long time. That’s why “human + machine = win” rings true. A group of researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) found that in breast cancer detection AI is 92% accurate and human pathologists are 96% accurate. Both impressive numbers. But the two working together produces 99.5% accuracy in tumor detection. That level of understanding is invaluable for cancer patients!


Technology and human consciousness are truly better together. For example, when automating a customer engagement program through AI-powered chatbots, virtual assistants, or IVR, true customer satisfaction cannot be reached without the option of being redirected to a human agent when needed, or even without the behind-the-scenes “training” of the virtual assistant by live agents who “get” the human nuances that AI has not yet grasped.


Come to think of it, even if the business’ AI success was solely technology-driven, it wouldn’t have gotten there without that human power – imagination.


So, go ahead. Dream big! (And Nuance can help you realize your AI dreams in customer engagement.)


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“How many ounces in a cup?” or “Show me pictures of a pup.”?

In order for Conversational AI to work, Natural Language Understanding needs to see both context and the human condition. Ken Arakelian helps us understand what happens when speech technology only gets part of the picture.
Quantum Leap

There was a TV show called “Quantum Leap” where Sam Beckett, a scientist, is trapped in a time travel experiment gone wrong and “leaps” into a different person’s body each week. Every episode starts with the moments after he leapt into the next body and he found himself in a funny (or dangerous) situation. Sam had to make a quick decision on how to get out of it; this is basically what happens when you say, “Alexa, how many ounces in a cup?” Alexa wakes up with little context and makes a split-second decision about the question you’re asking. What makes Alexa’s job harder than Sam Beckett’s is that Sam was a person and always leapt into a human body and Alexa doesn’t understand what it means to be human.


Out of context

Let’s leap into a situation and try to understand what we’re seeing when we only get a snippet out of context. What do you see below?

You’re probably saying, “Not much,” or “Not sure,” and that is what the latest AI vision algorithms are saying, too. The results from MS AI Vision API is below, and it’s worse than “not sure” because it’s 28.2% sure this is a “close up of a brush”. It’s definitely not a closeup of a brush and 99% of people know that.

What’s missing from being able to identify this picture is context of the situation and the knowledge that comes with being human. Without these two things our AI solutions have hit a wall. The dumb and funny things that smart speakers and IVRs (Interactive Voice Response – aka “Press 1 for billing”) recognize out of context have been a source of amusement for years. I can think of dozens of movie scenes where the computer mis-recognizes and hilarity ensues (think Idiocracy | Not Sure – YouTube).  So how do we make our robots smarter? Give them context by letting them always watch and listen, and teach them about what it means to be human, with all of our fears, desires, etc.


The human condition (or – I can’t make back-to-back meetings at opposite ends of the campus)

Sam Beckett had the benefit of being human when he leapt into a new body and had to work his way through a situation. Our robots today do not have this understanding and make ridiculous “errors” because of that. For example, the problem of finding a meeting time for a large group at a company is an age-old problem. Smart people have tried to solve this problem with automated meeting scheduler bots. They gave their bots context about what rooms are available and what everyone’s schedule looks like. These meeting scheduling programs still fail because they miss the subtleties of being human-like: just because 18 of 20 people are available 1-2 pm on Friday doesn’t mean it’s a good meeting time because the two people that aren’t available are the CEO and the Customer and their scheduling needs take precedence. Also, most people have a town hall meeting across campus from 12-1 pm so they probably can’t make it back in time for the 1 pm meeting. These are things outside the computer’s understanding and why automated schedulers still miss the mark.

Another example of why understanding the human condition is so important is in healthcare and healthy living programs. Why does the “eat healthy and exercise” message have such a low take-rate (or any healthy living program for that matter – “smoking cessation” etc.)? Kerry Evers, CEO of www.prochange.com, explains that the message needs to be tailored to whichever state of change the person is in on the Transtheoretical Model. Put simply, does the person even understand that they have a problem?  Understanding whether a person acknowledges their health problem and is ready to make a behavior change, or if the person is still in denial of this, is important in deciding how to craft the message and conversation. Our Conversational AI doesn’t do this today.


Situation context + human condition = human-level understanding

We’re getting better at context, but having our automated systems understand the human condition is only just being thought about now. For context we’ve used Enterprise CRM and other data sources to understand what’s happening in the account so that we don’t ask dumb questions, at worst, and, at best, that we’re able to predict the customer’s needs before they have to ask.

Table stakes for context today are the use account histories from CRM systems (Are you calling about the higher than usual bill you just received?), weather reports from the interwebs (Are you chatting about the power outage due to a storm?), or news reports (Are you texting about the stock market correction?), etc. State of the art context is a combination of aggregate context (What is the most asked question during tax season?) and individual context (This person is an independent contractor and wants copies of her 1099s).  At Nuance we build machine learning models to use context to help personalize and predict our bots’ conversations, and this is why we’re the best in the industry at building expert conversational bots.

Giving computers/bots an understanding of the human condition is a much harder problem, and we’re only scratching the surface today. There are efforts underway to give computers general knowledge about the world through ontologies. Simply put – ontologies organize knowledge in a giant, connected graph – one example would be this snippet of a movie ontology.

What hasn’t been attempted yet is to give computers an understanding of what it means to be hungry, lost, hesitant, etc. and how a computer should change its conversational strategy to accommodate these things. There are no conversational bots today that understand that I wouldn’t want a meeting in my open 9-10 am slot because I will have taken the red eye home the night before.


“How many ounces in a cup?” or “Show me pictures of a pup.”?

Back to our “leap” experiment – let’s zoom out a bit and give more context. Do you know what the picture below is now? I bet most of you do, but MS Vision API still doesn’t.

Watch the video below for full context. You still can’t see the image on the screen that well, but you know what it says because you have context.


The next leap forward

The next leap forward comes from context and understanding the human condition/perspective. At Nuance our deep industry experience allows us to maximize the value of data sources, as well as to preemptively account for unexpected situations, allowing users to get back on track. Anyone can design solutions that follow happy paths, but not everyone knows how to build robust solutions for when users act, well, human.

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Seamless customer experience is critical. But it’s not always easy.

At Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, no matter your job title or function, everyone who plays a role in supporting customers can discover new insights from the event built around the theme of “Seamlessness”. Chris Caile outlines four takeaways to help you improve your customer service offerings and gain a competitive edge.

Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum last month featured the theme of “Seamless customer experiences”. With a range of top-notch panelists from Amazon, USAA, Google, Schwab and many more sharing their experiences, the discussion was enlightening and informative. Below are my four key takeaways relevant for anyone trying to deliver customer experiences that provide a competitive edge:

1. Seamless customer experiences are critical

The idea of seamless experiences makes complete sense. Customers want to start an engagement with you, in any channel or experience, that flows effortlessly from beginning to end. Forrester defined “seamless” as any experience that a user can interact and comprehend with no extra effort. Any disruption that prevents or slows them from accomplishing their goal erodes their loyalty to the brand.

Just ask Jennifer Wise of Forrester who recalled a frustrating experience with JetBlue, where she was on her phone and they asked for her customer loyalty number. She didn’t have it memorized and had to swipe around on her phone to try and find it. Not seamless. (Hey, Jet Blue – check out Nuance Biometric Security that lets callers authenticate with only their voice – talk about seamless!) Contrast that with American Funds customer speaker James Jacob, who flies American Airlines and used their IVR that always recognizes him when he calls. That’s a positive example of a seamless experience.


2. Stop thinking of channels; think holistic experiences

The best line of the event came from James Alexander of IBM/Watson Marketing when he encouraged everyone to “Take the Digital out of Digital Transformation and Make It a Customer Experience Transformation.” Right on! Too many organizations operate around their silos or are enamored with the power of digital solutions, without thinking about the full customer experience.

Forrester explained how the best companies break theses silos through three C’s:

  • Conversation – talking to each other
  • Coordination – working together
  • Cohabitation – shared work spaces

Imagine putting the contact center team in the same room as the web and digital teams. The innovation and focus on customers would be outstanding.


3. Technology plays a role, but needs human help

Customer expectations are changing, thanks to the rise of cool new technologies such as voice assistants, digital chat, and messaging. The best organizations are taking those elements and creating unique experiences. With messaging and chat, brands allow customers to drive the time-table to get answers – asynchronous experiences where a customer contacts the organization via messaging at one time and picks up the answer later (on their terms). No more waiting for an agent to reply.

Same goes for voice. Alexa and Google have changed the way we interact with computers. We can get answers using the sound of our voice. But, as VP of Alexa Voice Services Pete Thompson noted, “Voice is not easy.” It takes human interaction to be involved to craft and build great experiences. To help address this, Forrester recommended companies create a “Conversational Framework” to think about all the ways customers engage their company via voice and plan accordingly. This combination of technology and human design will create the most optimal experience.

4. The human component must be diverse

To ensure the best customer experiences, the humans involved must offer diverse personalities and viewpoints. Forrester noted that any great advancement over the years involved groups of people that each played a different role:

  • Visionaries – see what can be possible
  • Engineers – see how to build it
  • Investigators – figure out what’s working
  • Artisans – build customer trust (aka the UX designer)
  • Doomsayers – Bring up the negatives and see why it can’t work
  • Ambassadors – Persuade the right people and speak the right language

This unique mix of people ensures the best possible outcome and prevents poor experiences from ever seeing the light of day.

No matter the role you play in driving CX, the conference highlighted that customer experience professionals are more important than ever and we as consumers have wonderful new opportunities awaiting us all.

Human driven CX is the way forward

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Television viewing is no longer a one-way street

Since the late 1940s, television has transformed the way viewers live and consume news and entertainment – and it is ever-evolving. The next frontier of change is coming and may very well transform everything you know about television with the introduction of bi-directional engagement.

According to Nielsen, the average television viewer watches upwards of five hours of television per day, reaching eight hours in some areas. Although, in an omni-channel world, some might consider television simply another channel or avenue for accessing content, it is so much more. Television is a companion, a friend, a babysitter for a mom who needs to make breakfast and, of course, provides a bird’s eye view of cutting-edge news and world events; to relegate the importance and power of television is unwise.

We can all agree that television is powerful, but have we considered what’s next? The notion of interacting with the television is rather nascent; several programs have scratched the surface with real-time voting or even text voting, but as technology advances our interaction with our favorite screen could be limitless.

With the integration of speech in the consumer remote control, we’ve seen engagement with the television increase upwards of 45 minutes per day. The personalization of the viewing experience with voice makes access and navigation of some 500+ channels manageable and meaningful.


Now let’s consider what moving beyond speech and into deeper engagement with your screen might look like. 

Many people are anxiously anticipating the return of the final season of Game of Thrones. Perhaps you are like me and have yet to watch one episode. Let’s say I decide to check it out, I binge watch all seven seasons on Netflix, and finally season 8 arrives and I do not have HBO. With the simple use of my voice or click of the remote, I can engage seamlessly with my screen, accessing customer service to determine what the additional cost of adding HBO to my plan might be. I receive a confirmation notification on my screen and I’m ready to watch, never having had to speak to an agent.

Sound too practical and not terribly exciting? Well, how about this scenario…

I’m watching the ABC show Scandal, and I spy an amazing olive color, crocodile leather handbag on Olivia Pope’s arm. I want it. I want to know all about it: can I afford it, does Amazon have it available on Prime shipping…GIMME NOW. With my voice or the click of the remote I can interact with the television screen to access the meta data and pull up the product details, allowing me to figure out how many coffees I will have to forego to be able to put that bag in my hot little hands.

The ability to access information, engage and purchase is the future of engagement, and I am most excited about the possibilities.

Of course, not to sound shallow and totally focused on material goods, imagine what fundraising and real-time help could be afforded when tragedy strikes or when Sarah Mclachlan’s voice is overlaid with the faces of hurting or injured animals – again, the possibilities are endless.


How close or real is this technology?

The ability to engage around billing and services is very real today. The ability to purchase and engage at a deeper consumer level is making advances every day. Today Nuance is transforming the engagement experience with the power of voice on the remote control with Dragon TV, showing powerful retention and net promoter scores. Additionally, Nuance leads in the customer contact center space, providing both virtual and live experiences to improve engagement and customer satisfaction.


How will it help me?

Seamless self-service, rich, targeted engagement and the ability to improve the entertainment and consumer experience is the holy grail for both consumers and service providers. When these pieces all work together, it creates happy customers. Happy customers tend not to churn and tend to spread the word.

The future of customer engagement - now

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Bot vs spouse: How much do customers talk to chatbots?

Is it true that by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse? It depends on your definitions of “bot” and “conversation.” Under some definitions, the average person is probably already talking to bots more than their spouse. Under other definitions, we have a long way to go before we get there.

By 2020 the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.¹

How would you go about making such a prediction? To start, defining these terms and measuring them is not a simple task.

First, we should start by defining what a “bot” is. The term “bot” can mean a lot of things, but here we should only talk about bots that you can have a conversation with.

Second, what is a conversation? Is it a time-boxed, linguistic interaction? Does it need to be spoken language, or can it be text-based? How many turns are needed to count as a conversation – i.e. does a simple question and answer count as a two-turn conversation? And should we measure based on the total amount of time spent in conversations, or should it be based on the total number of these time-boxed interactions?

Third, let’s define a time frame for these conversations – let’s limit it to one day.

If we define a conversation as a back-and-forth over SMS or IM, then maybe asking a bot a question or requesting it to do something for us would count. In this case, typing a search into Cortana or Google might count as a conversation. And in this case, the average person probably already does have more of these simple conversations with bots than their spouse in a day.

If conversations must involve more than two turns, a simple question-and-answer pair does not count, and simply counting the number of conversations might not be enough, so we’ll want to look at time spent. In the best-case scenario for bot usefulness, we would assume that these bots will become as useful as smartphones. Various studies have shown people use smartphones three to five hours per day.² I wasn’t able to find a good statistic for how long couples spend talking to each other on average per day, so let’s assume working couples probably spend at most two to three hours together per day, and let’s assume 20-30 minutes of that is spent in conversation. If bots become as useful as smartphones, they could easily surpass 20-30 minutes.

However, today, when we are on our phones, most of our activity is passive. Sure, we spend plenty of time actively texting and commenting, but most of our time is spent passively consuming media—reading social media, reading articles, watching videos, etc.

The real question here is how much time are we spending asking questions, or trying to get the kinds of things done that would require a conversation? In other words, what if bots understood natural language as well as humans? In that case, we might replace all of our business interactions with bots (e.g. calls to customer service, making reservations, etc.).

But, on average, we probably don’t spend a lot of time talking to people to get business done – how much could we really get done talking to a bot? For example, could we replace all of our time spent scheduling meetings by talking to bots (e.g. like Amy from x.ai)? Or could we talk to a personal shopper bot that would save us the time of reading reviews and comparison shopping online? These kinds of conversation with bots would arguable save time, but tasks like these would add up.

Alas, bots are still quite far from understanding natural language as well as humans, and they are quite far from being able to do complex tasks like comparison shopping and reading reviews.

In summary, it depends on your definitions of “bot” and “conversation.” Under some definitions, the average person is probably already talking to bots more than their spouse. Under other definitions, we have a long way to go before we get there.

  1. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-predicts-a-virtual-world-of-exponential-change/
  2. https://www.emarketer.com/content/mobile-time-spent-2018

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Apple Business Chat momentum grows, allowing consumers to message with their favorite brands

Apple announced Tuesday a growing list of organizations who are rolling out Apple Business Chat. Early adopters and industry leaders in customer experience have already selected the Nuance CSP to deploy Apple Business Chat.

Apple announced Tuesday a growing list of organizations who are rolling out Apple Business Chat as part of their customer engagement strategies, now allowing consumers to contact them the same easy convenient way they do their friends.

As one of the Customer Service Platform (CSP) providers for Apple Business Chat, Nuance has seen growing interest from large enterprises who want to expand the intelligent customer engagement strategies that have been successful on traditional phone, mobile and web channels to emerging messaging applications. This is not surprising as messaging has become one of the top means of communication today – according to Forrester, in the US alone, 75% of US adults send or receive text messages daily.

Early adopters and industry leaders in customer experience have selected the Nuance CSP to deploy Apple Business Chat. A leading telco company has already seen the service making impact after deploying with Nuance, noting 88% of customer issues were resolved at the first point of contact. The organization has also seen positive customer reaction to the new capability with individuals noting “iMessage to receive support is smooth as butter” and that Apple Business Chat “makes life so much easier and makes the company feel easier to reach and chat with.”

The Nuance Intelligent Engagement Platform allows organizations to extend customer engagement to more channels, combining virtual assistant messaging with AI tools for agent-assisted messaging to enable personalized engagement with millions of incoming customer messages – overcoming the volume barrier that can make the transition to messaging a challenge for brands.

Over 6,500 enterprises have selected Nuance as a part of their customer engagement solutions, including Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, FedEx, The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Swedbank, TalkTalk and USAA. Nuance automates and enhances an estimated 16 billion customer interactions a year across voice, text and digital channels.

Learn more on Nuance Customer Service Messaging and the Apple Business Chat integration here.

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Ask the expert about customer engagement innovation

Today we’re bringing you a small sampling of our “Ask the Expert” series. We hope it fills your DIY tank in learning more about customer engagement innovation.

It’s no secret that today’s culture has adopted more of a self-help mentality. Not only do we prefer to serve ourselves when dealing with our bills or bank accounts, but we like to dabble a bit with DIY. From DIY cooking to DIY home repairs, from DIY language learning to DIY crafting, YouTube has become our source of expert advice and how-to’s. And not only do we turn to the experts for learning how to do things for ourselves, we turn to experts to feed our souls and minds – hence the TED Talk era.

Why is it that we’ve taken to this “ask-the-expert” mode, watching videos rather than going to a physical classroom or attending an expensive seminar? There is probably an endless number of reasons, but it all boils down to convenience. We expect immediacy and ease in pursuing our goals, whether it’s finding out what that mysterious spot on your hand is or figuring out how to sync your phone’s calendar with your pc’s calendar.

Considering this “ask-the-expert” mindset, Nuance has a large library of videos showcasing various issues enterprises face in their quest for optimal customer engagement, from security and analytics to virtual assistance and voice interfaces.

Today we’re bringing you a small sampling of our “Ask the Expert” series. We hope it fills your DIY tank in learning more about customer engagement innovation. If there is a topic none of these few videos covered, refer to the list below.

What is voice biometrics?

How can speech technology  improve the customer experience?

What’s with all the hype about AI?

More from the Nuance Ask the Expert video series:

Giving brands back their voice – How text-to-speech has changed

The transformation of customer engagement – What does the Modern Voice mean for businesses

Proactive engagement is more than just outbound – How organizations are tying together outbound and inbound engagement

Customer service messaging – engagement on the go. – Why do people message with companies?

Messaging for seamless customer engagement. – Can it be used for continuous engagement?

AI innovations for the Engagement of Things. – What are the benefits of AI to enterprises and customers? 

Virtual assistants powered by conversational AI. – What’s the difference between a chatbot and a virtual assistant?

Creating a virtual assistant powered by conversational AI. –  What should be considered? 

Deploying a virtual assistant powered by conversational AI. –  How do enterprises get started?

Virtual assistants learning from live agents. – How does it work?

Virtual assistants and live chat – better together. – When should you offer a virtual assistant vs. a live chat? 

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Predict why customers engage? It’s no fantasy

Football is driven by stats and analysis. Fantasy football, too, with weekly projections as to player success or failure against the opposing teams. Millions of people try to predict how someone will perform so they can have bragging rights with friends and family. That power of prediction is becoming more accessible for organizations with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics. It’s moving into the world of customer service and allowing organizations of all types to create hyper-personalized experiences that save time and boost customer satisfaction. Learn how organizations can build a foundation of prediction using principles familiar to football teams.

Football is back and that means fantasy football leagues are in full swing. Every owner is searching for the winning combination. While each has their own strategy such as selecting players from their local team (Go Hawks!), every owner is counting on one thing – strong predictions. Analysts and pundits all try to guess which players will do well this week or against a specific defense. Accurate predictions will make one owner a star, and poor predictions? Well, winning isn’t everything. And, hey, you get to pick first next year!

Football lives on stats and prognostication every year. And with the rise of artificial intelligence and data analytics, the power of prediction is moving into the mainstream for customer service. Organizations seeking an edge to improve their customer service should investigate what prediction offers.


Prediction playbook #1 – fundamentals

Using predictive capabilities starts, just like football, with the fundamentals and basic “blocking and tackling”. Most organizations already have the most fundamental element – customer transaction data. It all revolves around the data. Your customers are calling your contact center, engaging a live chat agent, or visiting your website to search for answers. With the right analysis, you can better determine why they are calling and if they will call again in the future.


Prediction playbook #2 – the coach

Data on its own doesn’t do any good if it’s sitting idle in a database. It would be like a bunch of players mulling around on the field wondering what to do. Players and data need structure and someone to help them deliver their full potential. They need coaches. Like a good football coach, when it comes to prediction, the “coach” is a set of machine learning models powered by AI. Machine learning models are sophisticated tools that aggregate the massive amounts of customer data and then conduct analysis on them to identify patterns and trends. Over time the models get smarter as they see more and more patterns and learn what doesn’t work. As the models improve, the service an organization can offer its customers also improves.


Prediction playbook #3 – executing plays

Once the fundamentals (data) and the coach (machine learning) are in place, organizations can set about deploying predictive capabilities using some of the most standard use cases. Think of these as the football team executing the plays they’ve worked hard to practice. For most organizations there are three typical scenarios where prediction will serve them well:

  • Predictive intent – Predict why someone is contacting the organization. This can be an incoming call or an engagement with a live chat agent. If the company knows why someone is calling the IVR, for example, they can customize the menus and speed their resolution.
  • Predictive routing – Use prediction to proactively, and effectively, route an inbound caller to the best agent or resource on the web to service their needs.
  • Proactive notification – Machine learning models can identify customer patterns and trends and proactively contact a customer in advance via SMS or email. For example, a cellphone provider may spot patterns with certain customers calling about problems with a particular model. Prediction allows the provider to proactively contact customers with the problem phone and address issues before a phone call.

No matter how an organization wants to improve customer service, the power of prediction is making it possible. Organizations need to explore predictive capabilities to continue to innovate and stay ahead of customer needs. Besides, why should fantasy football owners have all the fun?


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Explore the various use cases of prediction service and what it can do for you.

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Why RCS Business Messaging might be the next big thing

Step into the mind of your typical customer… There are so many messaging channels that can be used for communication with friends, family and businesses. Here is why RCS Business Messaging might be a new favorite for innovative customer engagement.

I’m dreaming of a world where it is easy to use my mobile phone to connect with a brand wherever I am. No fuss, just picking it up and asking my question or doing whatever needs to be done. Just to be clear, I don’t contact the companies I do business with on a daily basis – usually only if there’s something wrong or if I need to update my address or upgrade my plan. The issue is that I have a life – like most customers – which means I usually can’t call between 9am and 4pm or, if I have a chance to make that call, I can’t wait for half an hour. Nor do I have the desire to download every app for every retailer, credit card company or insurance company just to connect with them once a year.

I’ve always assumed that it is a good thing that I’m one of those customers who don’t call for every little thing or just to talk to someone because I’m bored. So, why do I feel punished when I actually have an issue and need to connect with them? I would really prefer if there would be an easier way to work with businesses – big and small. I thought that messaging might be the holy grail for solving this problem. Turns out it did make things better, but not perfect. Now I have Facebook Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp AND all the other apps to connect with organizations.


What is Rich Communication Services (RCS)?

In my journey of looking for alternatives, I heard about Rich Communication Services. Rich Communication Service, or RCS for short, is a carrier-enabled, text-based communication. It’s touted as the replacement for SMS and enables a variety of new features. Currently, RCS is still in its early stages and only available for specific phones or carriers. This is especially true of the business version, since it is not available through every carrier yet. However, companies like Google are working hard to get it to a point where everyone can use it – I can’t wait for this to happen!

How will it help me?

First of all, once readily available, RCS will be native to the phone’s default messaging app. (It’s the one app that allows me to connect with anyone.) RCS will enable not just simple back and forth messages, it will also show me suggested answers, so I won’t need to type as much. I’ll be able to easily send images, look at maps, schedule appointments and so much more; and – because it’s basically SMS on steroids – I will be able to receive push notifications to which I can respond. No more receiving an alert and then trying to call the company to figure out what’s next. I will simply continue on and solve the issue in ONE SINGLE CHANNEL. I’ll even pay for items, using whichever payment system I want, in that same channel.

I’m excited to follow the journey of Google and others as they sign up more carriers and more vendors. I envision a day when RCS Business Messaging allows all customers to use one messaging app to engage on the go and start and end a transaction without ever leaving this channel. A true dream come true!

Learn more about RCS Business Messaging

Nuance is looking into RCS as an opportunity for advanced messaging without limitations to simplify customer engagement for organizations and consumers.

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Do you and your chatbot need therapy?

Organizations that have implemented a chatbot as part of their customer engagement program can eventually find themselves in a rocky relationship with that chatbot. The reasons can vary, but much of the time, it boils down to three major issues that need to be addressed.

In all good relationships, there comes a time when the two parties involved find themselves needing a little intervention, a bit of therapy, a series of counseling sessions… Close partnerships will inevitably encounter the same issues as other partnerships. In marriages, the culprit for bumpy roads can range from children and religion to money and in-laws. In business relationships, the problems can arise from miscommunication, loss of trust, or change in finances. Regardless of the nature of the problem, and regardless of the kind of relationship, therapy is in order.

Organizations that have implemented a chatbot as part of their customer engagement program can eventually find themselves in a rocky relationship with that chatbot. The reasons can vary, but much of the time, it boils down to three major issues that need to be addressed.

  1. Communication – A chatbot is able to answer questions pretty efficiently and accurately – as long as the customer is using the kind of language or semantics that were used when the chatbot was being programmed. But what happens when a customer uses broken English or misspells or mispronounces a word? Or what if they use a colloquialism with which the chatbot is not familiar? Well, what you have there is a failure to communicate. Fortunately, there is a more advanced sort of chatbot – a virtual assistant (VA) – which is equipped with Natural Language Understanding, so it’s able to discern intent of the customer and thereby can find the appropriate resolution or redirect the customer to a live agent with the needed skillset.
  2. Values – Your values can change the longer your chatbot is in place. You may soon find that you value the quality of service your customers receive much more than you value the savings that is supposed to come from automating customer interactions. Chatbots are great at answering common, surface-level questions many customers have, but they are not able to add to their knowledgebase on their own. Without artificial intelligence (AI), there is no machine learning to continuously teach the chatbot, as there is with a virtual assistant. Nor can chatbots learn from real-life agent interactions – VAs can. The more a VA learns, the more in-depth knowledge it can provide your customers – and the more value they receive from their experience with your company.
  3. Passion – All good relationships have their honeymoon period, where nothing wrong can be done by either party. But then the passion dies, and someone’s going to be disillusioned. As with a chatbot, many organizations finally come to realize that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Their chatbot is very limited in its abilities and there’s no foreseeable future of improvement. However, a virtual assistant that’s powered by AI and comes with the service of customer engagement experts can be continuously optimized – continuously improving the relationship between VA and customer, VA and brand, and, most importantly, customer and brand. The passion lives on and grows.

These three issues, of course, are only a few of what could potentially be many problems that arise from automating your customer engagements with a chatbot. If your organization has found themselves looking at their chatbot, wondering what went wrong, it’s time for therapy. You need to find a professional that specializes in repairing broken relationships and helps you redesign your partnership.

To look into “chatbot therapy”, watch this webinar led by two customer engagement pros that specialize in designing optimal customer relationships by cultivating a healthy brand-chatbot/VA relationship. “Why is my chatbot not working? The secrets to designing a great customer experience.”

Is your chatbot relationship broken?

Watch this webinar recording led by two customer engagement pros that specialize in designing optimal customer relationships by cultivating a healthy brand-chatbot/VA relationship. “Why is my chatbot not working? The secrets to designing a great customer experience.”

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What does it really mean to optimize customer experience?

A hallmark of successful digital transformation programs is continuous optimization. Organizations will reap the rewards of incremental customer satisfaction, operational savings and market leadership by committing to relentlessly analyzing, learning and enhancing the digital experiences.

Win in today’s hyper-competitive world by harnessing actionable insights to continuously improve user experience and solution performance.

As many organizations continue their journey to digitally transform, those that focus on delivering exceptional experiences that engage end-users and reduce effort will see the rewards of higher rates of digital adoption, containment and customer satisfaction.

Most organizations strive to create exceptional customer experiences that set them apart from competition, and many solutions are designed to deliver on these expectations when first deployed. However, for a solution to benefit enterprises and maintain a competitive advantage, it requires a commitment to continuously analyze and optimize.

While tools, methodologies and techniques vary and will continue to evolve, continuous optimization of digital solutions simply requires organizations to commit to the process of discovering, quantifying, implementing and communicating actionable insights. This improves the experience by reducing customer effort and increases rates of self-service success and overall value delivered.


Getting Started – Understanding the customer

Companies must begin by building an understanding of all aspects of the digital customer experience, such as bounce rates, site navigation including page progression or abandonment timing and rates. Analyzing consumer search behavior, task accomplishment and engagement rates by flow helps develop critical insight into the customer’s digital experience.

Insight-driven companies rely on accurate, extensible data as the foundation of effective digital optimization efforts. Powerful insight can be developed by leveraging customer journey analytics, heat mapping, voice of the customer surveys, verbatim feedback and cross-channel contact data. The ability to correlate the data to connect the dots across social, mobile, web, retail stores and contact centers provides the best view of digital friction – and identifies existing opportunities to improve.

Various analysis techniques can be applied to create meaningful insights.

  • Joining chat data with web analytics and cross-channel reporting can help identify and quantify the overall impact of website usability issues.
  • Applying advanced analytics tools, including machine learning powered by artificial intelligence, can accelerate the discovery process and remove human biases, leading to new findings.
  • Leveraging topic extraction and sentiment analysis technology can assist with root cause identification and customer experience impacts of the self-service digital failure.


Demonstrating the Value

Organizations should focus on the benefits by developing a comprehensive ROI model reflecting the value of resolving specific issues. Whether it’s a simple content change or a complex functional enhancement, product owners can more efficiently and effectively prioritize improvement initiatives based on ROI. They need to be sure to benchmark performance, measure relentlessly and test their way into ongoing successes. Innovation and change demand continuous optimization.


Creating Organizational Alignment

Successful insight-driven organizations leverage cross-functional membership from Marketing, Product Management, Operations, and Analytics ensuring a broad awareness of the optimization goals, tools and processes. A common trait of data-centric companies includes embedding analytics and feedback loops into the core of their business. Senior leadership support is crucial to communicate the data-driven strategy, align resources adequately across organizations and fund the optimization initiatives.

A hallmark of successful digital transformation programs is continuous optimization. Organizations will reap the rewards of incremental customer satisfaction, operational savings and market leadership by committing to relentlessly analyzing, learning and enhancing the digital experiences.


Continuously adapt to your customers’ needs

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Virtual or real? Or both?

With the rise of chatbots and virtual assistants, we see chatter about these technologies replacing humans. But it shouldn’t be an “either – or” decision…

How do you know whether a customer would benefit from a virtual assistant or human agent?

With the rise of chatbots and virtual assistants, we see chatter about these technologies replacing humans. But it shouldn’t be an “either – or” decision. Instead, organizations should look at their own unique needs and connect the two to deliver a better customer experience.

When it comes to utilizing both in combination, there is a variety of conditions to consider when it’s time to present a virtual assistant (or chatbot) or a live agent to your customer. Here are just a few.

  • VAs can be trained to handle specific questions so that if the customer shows intent within that scope, they can be helped by the VA. The VA can determine intent with a combination of information from the targeting engine and customer history. If the customer’s intent is proven to be out of the VA’s knowledge range, they can be routed to a live agent within that scope.
  • If there is adequate agent availability, then certainly use a human agent. However, if there is limited agent availability, there will be missed opportunities to connect and convert. This is the perfect scenario for VA support.
  • Occasionally a customer may be interacting with a VA, but there may be some incomprehension of the question. In this case, they need to be transferred to a live agent. Yet, it is critical to check on agent availability beforehand.

When routing from VA to live agent occurs, the VA needs to transfer all information for a seamless experience, keeping in mind that 69% of customers would like to move between channels and not have to repeat their situation every time. (Forrester)

The important thing to remember, though, is to be honest with your customers. Tell them when they are talking to a VA versus a human; that also helps for the user experience because users tend to use simpler and shorter phrases when they know they are talking to a self-service tool.


Better together!

Whether a customer receives service from a VA or a live agent, they get optimal service when the two work in tandem. Overall, the combination of both VA and human will benefit organizations and customers in several ways:

The two working together creates a better, more seamless customer experience, thus driving customer loyalty.

  • It enables customers to get answers immediately in their moment of need.
  • It reduces operating costs – automating repetitive tasks enables more efficient agent operation, which also leads to higher agent satisfaction.

To learn more about this partnership that’s so vital in meeting customer expectations, watch this brief interview with digital engagement expert Jessica Langdorf. She also answers the question – if a VA has to transfer to a live agent, is that considered a fail?

Deliver a seamless and conversational customer experience.

Explore the many ways customers can engage with enterprises across channels.

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Leave the IVR hold line behind

We wait in lines every day. At the bank. At a shop. When it comes to customer service, however, waiting on hold on the phone isn’t great. Customers don’t want to wait to get their issue resolved. Fortunately, there is a better way that allows callers to be moved out of the IVR in favor of a digital experience, saving time and boosting customer satisfaction. Check out this interactive infographic to see how two people’s bank experiences differ when the IVR-to-digital option is used to optimize their time.

Would you stand in line to talk to a bank teller if you could get your questions answered from a kiosk five feet away? No, of course not. Or how about waiting on hold for product support if the same answer was waiting for you on the company website? Only true line lovers opt to wait. Yet that’s what many of us do when we stay on hold for a call center agent to ask about a problem that’s easily addressable in other channels.

In the modern omni-channel world for customer service, there is so much more organizations can do to help callers escape long hold times. Companies need to start offering customers the ability to leave the IVR and resolve their query via digital experiences.


Shifting from IVR to digital – a better way

Modern organizations today can move targeted callers out of the IVR to a digital experience such as a virtual assistant, live chat, or self-service guides on the website. This allows the caller to resolve their issue faster, on their terms, and lightens the load on the call center – freeing agents to help callers with more complex questions.

An IVR to digital solution allows both the company and the customer to be in control. The company selectively targets who they offer the chance to move. And the customer chooses whether to take the option to move or stay put in the call queue. Both parties win.


Will I lose my place?

Leaving a line is often scary. Will I lose my place? Will I have to call back in? Nobody likes to feel like they are losing their spot in line. It’s human nature to be concerned. But an IVR-to-digital solution takes callers to the answer to their problem in the first place without dropping the connection. And they are transferred with context to avoid repeating themselves over and over.


Will my issue be resolved?

Curious on how an IVR-to-digital solution can work for you? Check out this interactive infographic to see how two customers get two different experiences when they contact their bank. Organizations need to determine if they want to offer a “Pam” experience or an “Oliver” experience. Only the most die-hard line lovers would choose Oliver. The rest of us choose Pam!

Don’t make them wait

Nuance IVR to Digital gives customers options that lead to quicker results and reduce call center costs.


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The fraudsters are coming!

With digital channels having stronger fraud prevention controls than voice services, fraudsters are getting more sophisticated, so organizations need to adapt an even more sophisticated approach to handle the risk and protect their customers.

There were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud in 2017, with the amount stolen rising to $16.8 billion, according to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study released earlier this year by Javelin Strategy & Research.

Adding to that astounding fact, a recent Gartner article* calls contact centers the “epicenter of vulnerability in many organizations” and projects that by 2020, 75% of omni-channel customer-facing organizations will sustain a targeted, cross-channel fraud attack with the contact center as the primary point of compromise.

With digital channels having stronger fraud prevention controls than voice services, fraudsters are getting more sophisticated, so organizations need to adapt an even more sophisticated approach to handle the risk and protect their customers.

To balance customer experience with the need for security, industry experts are increasingly calling for the use of biometrics as it can play a key role within the contact center and across multiple contact channels.

Voice biometrics has already proven to be effective in stopping fraud attempts and preventing future fraud:

“As users increasingly demand frictionless authentication everywhere, biometrics solutions have garnered significant attention for both authentication and fraud prevention, especially on mobile and IoT devices. Furthermore, as their adoption increases, they will hasten the demise of the industry’s least user-friendly method — passwords.” – Forrester Research, “TechRadar™: Biometric Authentication, Q1 2017

Independent research conducted by Forrester and commissioned by Nuance shows a biometrics solution delivered 191% ROI by preventing fraud, simplifying authentication and increasing customer satisfaction.

But there are other biometrics that can be used to secure authentication and prevent fraud. The same analysis that was used to prove the Unabomber guilty in 1998 is used today to stop smaller-scale crime – based on a choice of words and patterns of speech. Using speech-to-text, a core competency of Nuance, we can now analyze vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar—and more nuances that are unique at an individual level.

This technology, called ConversationPrint™, is a biometric modality based on behavioral characteristics only. When used as a complement to voice biometrics, the technology enables frictionless and continuous authentication throughout the customer engagement, increases customer satisfaction by reducing false rejection rate and can also improve fraud detection rate.

This layered approach to security can now enable us to authenticate an individual and catch fraudsters based on HOW they talk, not just the sound of their voice.

In the future, we see the use of ConversationPrint also within digital applications (live chat, interactions with virtual assistants) and not only within the contact center.

ConversationPrint™, along with other biometrics, intelligent detectors and anti-spoofing technologies, is now available with the latest SecuritySuite v12 that was released last week.

To read more about ConversationPrint and Nuance next generation SecuritySuite, click here.

*(“Don’t Let the Contact Center Be Your ‘Achilles Heel’ of Fraud Prevention” – Gartner, March 2017.)

Curb fraud across voice and digital channels

ConversationPrint™, along with other biometrics, intelligent detectors and anti-spoofing technologies, is now available with the latest SecuritySuite v12.

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Do you need “expert conversations” in your automated customer service interactions?

When looking at your automated customer engagements, how can you tell if you're dealing with an expert conversation or simple Q&A or commands? The distinction is important to know.

If you went into a barber shop or a salon and said, “I want a haircut, please,” and then someone started cutting your hair – you’d probably walk right out because that person didn’t bother to ask questions and get into the details of what you really want. Similarly, if you told a designer that you’d like to have your kitchen remodeled and they said, “Ok, that’ll be $150K and we’ll start tomorrow,” you’d probably hire someone else.

There’s a big difference between talking to an expert to come to a shared understanding about something complicated and asking a simple question like, “What time do you close today?” This is an important distinction in customer service. AI and automation are good at answering simple questions or understanding commands like “play Taylor Swift on Spotify”, but they’re in their infancy when automating expert conversations.

How can you tell if you’re dealing with an expert conversation or simple Q&A or commands?  If you answer yes to these questions, then you’re having an expert conversation:

  1. Do smart people disagree about the correct answer? (e.g. – what is the best investing strategy?)
  2. Do the customer’s intentions, background, preferences, etc. change the answer? (e.g. – what type of healthcare insurance should I have?)
  3. Is there more than one correct answer whose pros/cons/risks need to be explained for the customer to make the best choice? (e.g. – Where should I go on vacation?)

For a taste of the complexities involved in an expert conversation, watch Sara Elyse Kufeldt scratch the surface in this video.

If you’re automating expert conversations, then talk to the experts – Nuance designs customer service automation and is the leader in the industry.

Intelligent automated conversations with a human touch

A conversation with Nina feels much more human than a chat‑bot, understanding everything your customers do to maintain a truly consistent voice for your brand.

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The pursuit for better customer conversations

As contact center managers look around for how to improve the conversational experience their organizations deliver, they run into an all-encompassing theme: AI. Artificial intelligence has become a staple in the conversational platform space, and companies must find the vendor that specializes in it if they're going to join the AI race.

As contact center managers look around for how to improve the conversational experience their organizations deliver, they run into an all-encompassing theme: AI. Artificial intelligence has become a staple in the conversational platform space, and companies must find the vendor that specializes in it if they’re going to join the AI race. In an effort to assist enterprises in their search for a conversational platform, Gartner published the “Market Guide for Conversational Platforms”*, in which Nuance is listed. In studies such as this one, conversational AI is a key topic of interest.

Why is AI so important to customer engagement?

AI enables prediction.

Customers love to be greeted by name and appreciate being offered experiences contextually relevant to their most recent interactions. Artificial intelligence enables brands to recommend the next best action to satisfy a person’s need through an IVR, virtual assistant or live agent. It also minimizes churn through identifying and tracking signals that a person may be unhappy based on activity, words, tone and sentiment. Proactive action can then be taken by offering relevant and useful assistance, thereby reducing effort and ensuring efficient use of resources.

AI enables conversation.

Artificial intelligence lets people engage in a natural way through text or speech to gain immediate help. It enables information (through text-to-speech and natural language understanding) to be understood and delivered, deriving concepts and meaning from user intents and tapping into databases as necessary. Furthermore, AI powers machine learning whether it’s self-service (automated) or assisted service (live).

AI enables analysis.

Artificial intelligence enables organizations to process oceans of data generated by interactions within and across channels, analyzing relevance, patterns, preferences, behavior, sentiment and intents. The analysis of speech, voice of the customer and customer journeys improves and makes more secure conversational interactions.

If an organization finds the right partner for their AI initiatives, they will experience a growing list of benefits:

  • Customer experience that saves time and effort
  • Personalized and spot-on information delivered every time
  • Development of new products and services
  • Increased Net Promoter Score
  • New and increased revenue streams
  • Increased customer lifetime value

Nuance AI expert Tom Hebner talks about the exciting prospects for AI in customer service in the following interview:


 *Gartner; Market Guide for Conversational Platforms; Magnus Revang, Van L. Baker, Brian Manusama, Anthony Mullen; June 20, 2018; gartner.com

Learn more about Nuance AI

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World Cup teaches lessons on service

In soccer, announcers sometimes refer to a pass from one player to another as “service” of the ball. One announcer in particular referred to it as ‘the great service’. That everyday phrase works great in soccer, and we can also learn from it in our own customer service happenings. Read on to see three uses of the word ‘service’ and how they can make us re-think how we manage customer engagements.

The World Cup is winding down, and this weekend we’ll know if either France or Croatia will lift the cup. The tournament has captivated viewers worldwide with great goals, colorful fans, and even some interesting language. During a recent game I heard a wonderful turn of phrase by a British announcer that caused me to pause and reflect as it seemed out of place – but it was actually brilliant.

While recounting a great goal, the announcer commented that the goal was only made possible by a pass from another player. But rather than being boring and saying ‘pass’ he noted it was ‘the great service’ from another player. ‘The great service’. It’s an everyday phrase, but when applied to soccer (I know it’s football outside the US) it elevates the meaning to a whole new level.

In our business we are all about providing the great service to our customers, and there is much we can learn from how ‘the great service’ in soccer applies to what we are all trying to achieve in business.


Service as a thing

Many times, service is an activity. It’s what you do. ‘The great service’ in this instance was a thing – a pass. It has physical properties such as shape (direction and angles) and weight (speed). If companies think about their customer service as a thing, does it have the right properties? Does your customer service have the right overall speed? Do your channels take customers in the right direction?


Service as helping someone be their best

The passer in soccer delivers the ball to his team mate. While they may not get the glory, their role in the process is equally important as the scorer can’t accomplish anything without the ball, providing ‘the great service’ allows the scorer to be their best. Customers use your products or solutions to make their life better. Your products may literally help them be their best, or at least be better.

If something isn’t right with your service, they’ll engage you because it’s impacting their day to day lives and taking them away from other matters. Is your organization ready to help them be their best? Are your staff trained how to help customers resolve a question efficiently and effectively so they can get on with being their best? Are your service channels optimized to best help people?


Service as ensuring your needs are secondary to another’s

When someone is helping another, they place their needs below those of the recipient. For many, giving to others and helping others is the most noble pursuit. This holds true for ‘the great service’. It’s possible the passer in soccer could have figured out a way to take a shot themselves. Go straight to the goal and see if they can be the hero. But the team needs a goal and the team’s needs must take priority. Many times, looking for ways to put someone or some thing above your needs is often the better course of action. Will your customer support team set aside their own aspirations to help another colleague provide the great service? Are your departments set up to assist customers easily and move them to the right location – even if it means someone else gets credit for helping them? Are your service channels working together, ensuring customers don’t feel like they are working with siloed groups?

Achieving ‘the great service’ is challenging in soccer and business. Only the best soccer pros and businesses can deliver that level of quality. But when service is done well in sports or business, it is noticed and the reward is immediate for both parties.

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Biometric authentication reduces friction and cuts fraud

In many circumstances traditional authentication methods fail to deliver on their primary purpose of securing customer accounts and their confidential data, as rising losses due to fraud demonstrate. Voice biometrics offers an easy, quick and positive experience for customers while reducing costs and fraud risk.

The need for secure interactions via an authentication process has often led to complex alphanumeric passwords that are challenging to remember and enter. Within the IVR, personal identification numbers (PINs) pose users with a similar challenge. For example, callers to a contact center are often subjected to an interrogation process by agents to verify the callers are who they say they are.

Beyond an inconsistent and unpleasant experience for the customer, these authentication methods directly impact the bottom line. In addition, failure while using automated authentication pushes customers to use the business call center to avoid providing their personal credentials. This additional traffic to the call center increases overall operational costs.

In many circumstances traditional authentication methods fail to deliver on their primary purpose of securing customer accounts and their confidential data, as rising losses due to fraud demonstrate. Voice biometrics offers an easy, quick and positive experience for customers while reducing costs and fraud risk. It can provide your business with voice biometric solutions that offer consumers a single credential that can be used across your customer service channels. This can be within the enterprise contact center transformation, a customer care and insight solution or a mobile initiative.

Large financial institutions have a wide variety of business units including retail banking, private banking, corporate banking, brokerage services, and wealth management. Their contact centers can handle millions of calls a year, and despite years of optimization, according to Avivah Litan, Gartner Analyst (Absolute Identity Proofing Is Dead, November 2015) an average of 15% to 30% of these customers fail the identity proofing, while up to 60% of criminals pass. As a result, a majority of these calls are transferred to contact center agents who spend between 60 to 90 seconds authenticating callers by asking multiple personal and transactional questions. Agents report that many customers are annoyed by having to answer several questions, especially when they are unable to provide an answer. By the time the authentication process is over, the agent rushes to respond to the customer request because the caller is already impatient. Many of the calls are for tasks that could easily be performed in the IVR.

This is driving up contact center costs and tying up agents on calls that are not revenue generating. Executive management is demanding that the contact center drive more revenues while requiring cost reductions.

The resolve to this situation is to deploy the Nuance Secure Biometric solution to automatically authenticate callers to the IVR. Customers are prompted to say “My voice is my password” and are automatically authenticated.

With the deployment of Nuance Security Suite, large financial institutions in UK have achieved the following:

Automated authentication has increased from 55% of calls to 95%. Callers that fail or bypass automated authentication and reach an agent no longer need to answer security questions, as the callers are passively authenticated during their conversations with agents.

Average call handling time has been reduced by 40 seconds.

One of the greatest benefits has been an average increase of 40 seconds that agents are able to spend upselling customers instead of asking multiple authentication questions. Increased revenue along with reduction in AHT deliver an ROI within six months of deployment.

Other benefits include:

  • An increase in call center agent satisfaction, which has reduced the turnover rate
  • An increase in customer retention rates, as well as an increase in new customer acquisition
  • The recognition of one bank as an innovative leader in delivering improved customer experiences

To get an insider’s expert look at the power of voice biometrics in customer experiences, watch this interview with Nuance Brett Beranek.

Get a customer’s view of biometric authentication

Customers can authenticate naturally with the sound of their voice, face or even the way they interact with the device.


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How Opus is helping organizations simplify their communication strategy

Why is communication between consumers and businesses so cumbersome? With all the technology enhancements from the past few years, this should be an easy thing, right? Consequently, intelligent assistant technology has rapidly evolved to solve this problem. To help enterprises navigate the complex world of intelligent assistant vendors, Opus Research has issued a report with the goal to create the next generation of customer engagement.

Have you ever asked yourself why business-to-consumer communication has become much more complicated over the years? After all, asking a question and then getting a response is a natural, everyday part of life. Since technology has taken over the world of communication, it seems like it has become more difficult to get an answer, even though the purpose of technology is to simplify things.


Customer communication: from vocal to digital

It all started with the first phone call on March 10, 1876. With this event, people all over the world would be able to communicate with each other – and soon also with businesses. As phones became more available, organizations had to deal with more incoming calls. So in order to handle all these incoming calls, the IVR was invented in the 1970s. It allowed organizations to understand the customer’s needs and then route them to the right agent. The result? Consumers had to wait on hold.

Thanks to the internet (which went live August 6, 1991) and the creation of web chat (the first version was ICQ, launched in November 1996), we were then able to communicate through a computer, without waiting on hold. Instead, consumers were required to sit in front of the device until the conversation was over – not very convenient.


Digital engagement becomes mobile – and convenient – and abundant

With the rise of mobile phones and with them the beginning of SMS in 1992, consumers were able to text at any time, no matter where they were. Although SMS was (and still mostly is) used for proactive notifications – things like alerts and reminders – organizations are now starting to see the potential in using this channel for two-way communication.

Facebook and Twitter might have started the messaging hype by introducing their own “instant messaging” capabilities in 2010. Within just a few years, consumers were also confronted with messaging apps like WeChat (January 2011), Line (March 2011), Facebook Messenger (August 2011), smart speakers like the Amazon Echo (November 2014) and the “revamp” of SMS through RCS Business Messaging (February 2017) and Apple Business Chat (June 2017). This plethora of communication channels made it slightly overwhelming for enterprises.

Soon, every consumer had their preferred channel, and they used it to ask questions to businesses. To cope with the flood of incoming requests, organizations started to deploy the IVR for the digital world: chatbots. They became popular with the release of Facebook Messenger Bots in 2016; however, they and their more intelligent counterparts, virtual assistants, have been around for a while. The purpose was to automate conversations and deliver an always available self-service that is easy to use. Unfortunately, a lot of vendors and organizations underestimated the complexity of conversations, which led to bad experiences and frustrated customers.

How are these businesses to know which virtual assistant solution is able to deliver a modern customer experience that understands the nuances of how people communicate?


Finding the right solution

Analyst firms like Opus Research have taken on the task to analyze all the virtual assistant vendors, sort through their claims and recommend the best of the best with the goal to provide reliable information to enterprises so they can simplify their communication strategy and create the next generation of customer engagement. We’ve provided for you Opus’s recommendations here. Spoiler alert: Nuance is ranked as one of the best Enterprise Intelligent Assistant vendors; but see for yourself by downloading a complimentary copy.

Read more about Opus and their EIA ranking

Download your free copy of Opus Research’s Decision Makers Guide to Enterprise Intelligent Assistants to get a head start in your digital transformation journey.


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Forrester’s New Wave™ report reveals the reality about current AI technology

Finding a vendor that an organization and their customers can trust is not a simple task. It gets even more complicated when this vendor deals with technology that is a “hot topic” right now. Forrester analyzed the current AI market and evaluated the best vendors and their technology outside of buzz terms and marketing hype. Here is their result.
learn who are the leaders in the artificial intelligence marketplace

In a world that is becoming more and more automated it’s important to still feel safe and in control. With self-driving cars, Roombas and other “autonomous everyday items” becoming more and more popular, we as humans want to make sure that the best and most reputable technology is used. If we sit in that car, we don’t want to worry about it driving into the next tree; if we let the vacuum cleaner run, we don’t want to think about it accidentally sucking in our kids’ toys. Artificial intelligence (AI) should be our dream for a better life, not a nightmare of a Terminator-like world.


The beginning of a new era

Who knows how many years it will actually be before robots walk among us? Currently, we are at the beginning of this new era. This is an exciting time, but also a confusing one. Every day we hear about a new startup that has found a supposedly new angle in solving every problem using artificial intelligence. How, as an organization and as a consumer, can we make a decision on which of these vendors delivers the best technology? With so many companies blasting their message of a better world out there, it seems to be impossible to find the needle in the haystack.

Forrester took on the task to evaluate a variety of AI vendors and summarized their findings in “The Forrester New Wave™: Conversational Computing Platforms, Q2 2018” report from April 2018. In this report, Forrester looked behind glamorous marketing phrases and brought up the truth about current capabilities of AI used for communication purposes.


Making the right choice

Nuance is honored to be named a “Strong Performer” next to AI giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft. We are thrilled that Forrester recognized our true nature of being an AI veteran with innovative advancements. By being listed in this report we now have proof that enterprises all over the world can rely on the fact that Nuance AI technology will improve their engagement strategy delivered through customer service channels, and for car systems, smart IoT devices and more. The combination of our Natural Language Understanding (NLU) capabilities, Speech Recognition, dialog handling, and other AI-enabled algorithms ensure a seamless experience for consumers, customers and businesses.

To let you to read through Forrester’s findings yourself, we prepared a copy of their latest report as a free download. Simply follow this link, and once you’ve read it we would love to discuss your AI plans with you.

See what Forrester sees in Nuance

Download your free copy of Forrester’s New Wave™: Conversational Computing Platforms, Q2 2018” here.


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Change, and the case for continuous optimization

Change calls for optimization, and optimization helps you benefit from change. It’s within the complex, ever-changing environment of evolving technology, increased data availability, heightened customer expectations, and competitiveness that continuous optimization is critical - and also thrives.

Change is a constant part of our lives and influences everything we do. At times, the pace of change can seem slow, but when you take a few moments to look back and reflect, it’s easy to see just how much change can happen over a relatively short period of time. From a customer care perspective, much of the recent change we’ve seen has resulted from the rapid adoption of digital technologies and the application of data and analytics to the customer experience. Smart phones, devices such as Amazon Alexa, computers, tablets, and even landlines all provide consumers with an extraordinary level of access to organizations and their products and services. At the same time, organizations are making heavy investments to expand the data that’s available to them about their customers, and they’re using that to create personalized, engaging interactions that lead to more profitable relationships, increased operational efficiencies and a connected omni-channel experience.

All of this change has impacted consumer expectations and behaviors. Customers demand immediate access to products and services, using their channel of choice, and they won’t hesitate to hop between channels to resolve their inquiry. They expect organizations to know them, be aware of their situation, and to use that knowledge to make their interaction as effortless as possible, especially when their journey moves across channels. Add to this that most organizations operate in a highly competitive environment where differentiation is critical. This often means that to keep up, their products must constantly change and the services they provide be very efficient – creating yet another important dynamic to consider.

It’s within this complex, ever-changing environment of evolving technology, increased data availability, heightened customer expectations, and competitiveness that continuous optimization is critical –  and also thrives.

Continuous Optimization Services (COS) refers to an on-going program of analysis whose goal is to identify and implement recommendations to improve business performance and the customer experience in one or more contact channels. The most effective CO programs are characterized by a dedicated team of experts who follow a data-driven approach to build a deep understanding of how customers interact within and across contact channels. That knowledge is then used to create recommendations aimed at improving business outcomes, including those related to lowering costs and creating an innovative and differentiated customer experience.

Compared to those who do not seek to regularly improve, organizations who invest in continuous optimization are much better equipped to quickly adapt to changing customer needs, behaviors and expectations, allowing them to provide a relevant and engaging conversational experience. These organizations also benefit from gaining insight into the end-to-end journeys their customers undertake, including how and why they navigate between channels. It’s this knowledge that helps them to proactively uncover opportunities to improve and how they can apply personalized, omni-channel solutions that deliver higher rates of automation and more accurate routing to create the operational benefits they need, but also a superior, more effortless experience that aligns to the expectations of today’s consumer.

Continuous optimization requires investment, commitment and perhaps even some patience to succeed. Those organizations that remain steadfast in their dedication to it not only put themselves in better alignment to more rapidly meet their customers ever-changing needs, but also position themselves favorably to lead rather than follow their peers, drive innovation, achieve operational efficiencies and meet their business goals and objectives now, and in the future.

Continuously adapt to your customers’ needs

At Nuance, continuous optimization is ingrained in the fabric of how we do business. Discover how it works.

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Here’s how you give your customers their time back!

Nuance released the results of a new survey that found the majority of consumers today are avoiding contacting brands due to the time required to get their questions answered. In fact, 90% estimate they are wasting the equivalent of a full day “on hold” with customer service each year. Here is what organizations can do to help.

A new study commissioned by Nuance shows that each year 90% of US consumers are wasting a day “on hold”. That’s 24 hours which could be used for so many things, all better than holding a phone to your ear. Our survey respondents said they

  • would spend more time with family (37%)
  • would get more done at work (25%)
  • would exercise more (18%)
  • would sleep more (17%)

Personally, I would read an entire book from start to finish. But no matter what it is that you would do instead, how can organizations actually give consumers the time to do whatever they want, instead of sitting on the phone?

Based on our survey results 78.8% of consumers between ages 18-34 prefer to contact companies using channels other than a traditional phone call, with over 55% preferring to use a form of messaging to communicate with companies. Messaging channels seem to be the new trend when it comes to customer engagement, but before throwing out all the “old technology”, here are a few things to consider.


Tell your customers about your messaging channels and transition them seamlessly

How can customers know to use messaging channels like SMS or your app to connect with you if you don’t inform them? The majority of consumers is still calling in, so tell them about the new opportunity right in the IVR. But give them a choice; don’t force them to do something with which they might not be comfortable. Allow them to stay on hold, tell them the approximate wait time and offer them an SMS engagement as an alternative that gives them immediate access to a chat agent. Then, when they transfer from the IVR to an SMS conversation, ensure your agents know what the customer is inquiring and continue the conversation versus letting them start over.


Give your customers a choice

Just because you can offer your customers messaging doesn’t mean you should every time. Make sure it is the right channel for that moment, and consider the use cases in which a call or a store visit might make more sense. For example, if you’re dealing with a long-time business customer who has a question about portfolios, don’t let them deal with an FAQ bot, but offer a call or a video chat instead.


Connect the dots so your customers don’t have to

Consumers are using different channels throughout their journey. Depending on their stage of the buying cycle, they might check out your social media channels, download your app, walk into a store, etc. Having historical information at the ready helps the agent (whether automated or human) to give answers in context. This in turn allows your customers to spend time on finding the best product or plan versus repeating their intent over and over again.


React to your customer immediately

Messaging is great. It allows the consumer to go on with their day and get their answer moments, hours or days later. Unfortunately for the consumer it also allows organizations to let them wait – not a great experience, considering 74% of survey respondents want to hear back from a company within an hour of when they messaged. We understand that agents are not always available, but there are other ways of acknowledging an incoming message, starting with a simple auto response or, a little more elegant, by using a virtual assistant to help answer simple questions, collect information upfront and then route the incoming message to the agent with the right skillset, which allows first-contact resolution.

It all sounds more complicated than it actually is. The most important part is to think about messaging channels as one option in your customer engagement strategy. By including messaging channels, you enable your customers to get to their answers sooner, help your contact center to work more efficiently and create a great customer-centric experience everyone will love.

Consumers want to message with you

Learn more about Nuance Customer Service Messaging and how you can deliver a seamless and secure experience in any channel.

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5 best practices for healthcare providers: Automating appointment management

A well-implemented and well-supported appointment management solution doesn’t just cut no-shows. It can also improve patient adherence, boost patient satisfaction and positively impact your financial performance. If your solution (or vendor) doesn’t do the five things I cover, it’s time for a change. Not just for your own efficiency and bottom line — but for the health and satisfaction of your patients.

A good appointment management solution – whether your organization calls this kind of technology appointment reminders or something else entirely — leverages outbound communication integrated with your EHR to make things easier for both you and your patients. For you, it lets you make the most efficient use of your resources: your clinicians’ and administrative staff’s time, your facilities, and your equipment. For your patients, it means they get the care and treatment they need at the optimal time to improve their health and even enhance their experience.

With input from my colleagues, I’ve pulled together five things you and your patients need an appointment management solution to do. If yours isn’t currently delivering in these areas, it could be time to look for an alternative. And if you’d like to learn a bit more about these five “best practices” (plus an additional five!), be sure to download our new best practice guide.


Our top five:

  1. Make it easy for the patient to engage: Give the patient an easy way to reply to the message — whether to confirm they’ll be there or to let you know they can’t make it (or to reschedule). Many systems are “one-way-only” or can’t distinguish between people and voicemail, so they play the same message regardless, leaving the patient frustrated and confused.
  2. Treat every patient as an individual: The more your appointment management solution can learn about patients’ preferences, the more likely your patients will be to engage with it. At the very least, that means contacting them in their preferred channel (e.g., text, voice or email), in the right language and at the right time.
  3. Speak your patients’ language: Nobody enjoys listening to irrelevant menu options. That’s why the best solutions use conversational interfaces with “Natural Language Understanding.” These systems can understand what the patient says or texts, determine what they mean, and reply intelligently in almost any language.
  4. Don’t just remind — reschedule: A good appointment management system will also allow the patient to reschedule on the spot. This option makes life easier for the patient and avoids the merry-go-round of following up on missed or canceled appointments. This requires two-way communication with the EHR via an application programming interface (API).
  5. Help patients prep for appointments — and stay informed after: By using your solution to send prep instructions, you stave off last-minute cancellations or patients arriving unprepared for a procedure or screening. Apply the same technology for other communications, such as discharge instructions, and you’ll improve patient compliance and reduce readmission rates.

If these don’t sound like features available with your appointment management system, it’s time to shop for a new one.  Between the increased value of patient satisfaction and experience, the dollars at stake with missed appointments and unprepared patients, and the importance of acquiring and retaining patients with elevated expectations, there’s too much at stake not to.

Check out our new guide

A good appointment management solution doesn’t just cut no-shows. It can also boost patient satisfaction and improve your financial performance. If your solution doesn’t do the things covered here, download our new guide.


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Now’s the time to reevaluate the role of voice

For years, investments in the voice channel have taken backseat to digital. But with the rapid rise of IoT devices and AI-driven conversational experiences in the consumer realm, organizations must rethink the role of voice in a world where consumers want to engage through channels and devices beyond the phone.

Voice everywhere

We are living in a world where you can talk to virtually everything – from our cars to smart speakers to our TVs. With more and more consumers becoming increasingly comfortable with voice technology, they are talking more and clicking less. And, it won’t be long before even the slickest apps and websites will feel slow and difficult compared to just talking.

This rise of voice is shifting consumer behavior and expectations. With Alexa in our living rooms and Siri on our phones, people are becoming accustomed to interacting with organizations, devices and the world around us in a different way. And if you are thinking maybe this trend is a fly-by-night fidget spinner, think again. This year, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month. That’s a jump of nearly 130% over last year.*

These rising consumer expectations for voice-enabled everything are a huge deal for enterprises – even if it may not seem like it just yet. Here’s why: very soon, consumers will expect these experiences everywhere. In fact, CapGemini predicts that as early as 2020, fully 40% of consumers will prefer to engage with organizations using their voice. Think about it: in less than two years, two out of every five of your customers will want to talk to your brand and get things done, just as they can with their smart speaker today.


Rethinking the role of voice

This voice-everywhere world is going to force organizations of all sizes to re-think not just WHERE voice is used in their customer service, but also HOW it works. They’ll need to think about this voice-everywhere approach in their most popular use of voice – the IVR. It’s going to create a new paradigm – because people aren’t going to use voice just to turn on their lights or get the weather. When it’s easy to use voice for everything, when those same consumers call the IVR and get a clunky, frustrating, outdated, touch-tone experience, it’s a jarring, Back to the Future experience that degrades your brand.

With loyalty and revenue at stake, now is the time to reevaluate the role of voice – and the technologies behind it – as part of your organization’s omni-channel customer engagement strategy.


What next?

The good news is that technology is forging ahead. Advancements in AI are fueling the development and evolution of conversational voice interactions including speech recognition, text-to-speech (TTS), natural language understanding (NLU) and biometrics, machine learning and deep learning. These advancements are making conversational intelligent dialogue a reality. So the question really is – how should your enterprise leverage them? Is your enterprise ready for voice everywhere?

Join us to learn more, when we welcome guest Art Schoeller, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, and Nuance as we explore:

  1. Advancements in AI fueling the development and evolution of conversational voice interactions including speech recognition, text-to-speech (TTS), natural language understanding (NLU) and biometrics, machine learning and deep learning
  2. Strategies for delivering consistent, conversational voice experiences within and across IVR, virtual assistants and IoT devices
  3. Building the business case and gaining buy-in for a reboot of voice at your organization

Space is limited. Reserve your seat now.



Learn how to create automated, intelligent, contextual conversations with AI‑powered, enterprise-grade speech technologies.

Register here for "The Reboot of Voice: Transform Customer Engagement in the IVR and Beyond" webinar on Thursday, May 24th with guest Forrester Research.

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English Language Day: Thoughts on the conundrum of linguistics

The origins and mechanics of language is a hotly debated topic, and we're only beginning to understand how it works. Ken Arakelian looks back on English Language Day with insights into using intelligent linguistics to speak to your customers.

“The more we know about something, the less able we are to imagine what it feels like to not know it.” –Steven Pinker

“And I can’t think of any place where that is more true than with language.” –Elyse Kufeldt (distinguished designer at Nuance) commenting on quote by Steven Pinker.

Monday, April 23rd, was English Language Day. This day celebrates a language that started on a few islands off the coast of Western Europe and spread across the world.

Human language is an incredible and magical thing that we mostly take for granted because we use it effortlessly. Human language has allowed us to share thoughts and ideas and pass them down through generations. The entirety of human knowledge only exists because language has allowed us to incrementally build that knowledge.

“We think of the bow and arrow as a primitive technology, but raise Einstein in the woods with no existing knowledge and tell him to come up with the best hunting device he can, and he won’t be nearly intelligent or skilled or knowledgeable enough to invent the bow and arrow.” – Tim Urban

Linguistics is the scientific study of language, and it has many sub-branches that focus on syntax, morphology, etc. You’re yawning? You’re thinking that language has been around forever. You’re sure all the good stuff has been discovered in linguistics, and all that remains are just the boring esoteric stuff (Should I use who or whom?). You’re wrong – the origins and mechanics of language is a hotly debated topic, and we’re only beginning to understand how it works. Tom Hebner, from Nuance Cognitive Innovation Group, in a recent Wall Street Journal article, was quoted saying, “Language is a harder problem than self-driving cars.”

Consider these sentences from Steven Pinker’s book, “The Language Instinct”.

  1. Yoko Ono will talk about her husband John Lennon who was killed in an interview with Barbara Walters.
  2. Two cars were reported stolen by the Groveton police yesterday.
  3. The license fee for altered dogs with a certificate will be $3 and for pets owned by senior citizens who have not been altered the fee will be $1.50.
  4. Tonight’s program discusses stress, exercise, nutrition, and sex with Celtic forward Scott Wedman, Dr. Ruth West-heimer, and Dick Cavett.
  5. We will sell gasoline to anyone in a glass container.

Each of these sentences has more than one meaning depending on how you interpret it. You instinctually know that Barbara Walters did not kill John Lennon during an interview and that the police were not stealing the car. This complexity is just the tip of the iceberg.

Language is a difficult problem, and Nuance tackles this conundrum to become the leader in language research. The advances that Nuance is making in applied and theoretical AI, especially in linguistics, help enterprises use language to engage with customers. Are you ready to speak the language of your customers?

Speak the language of your customers

Transform the way you engage with customers through advanced speech technologies.

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Offer great customer service for everyday loyalty

May 1st is National Loyalty Day. While it’s great for citizens to show their commitment to their country, can a business claim the same loyalty with customers? Consumers think about their loyalty to a company, or potential lack thereof, all the time and businesses must react. Here are five tips on creating meaningful customer experiences that build long-term customer loyalty.

May 1st is National Loyalty Day, which was first observed in 1921 as a day set aside for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States. It’s nice for citizens to show their commitment to their country as it brings people together for a common cause. Can the same be said for businesses? How many loyal customers set aside time to re-affirm their commitment to their cellphone or TV provider? While they may not have a specific day to observe loyalty, consumers are making that decision constantly. Every day is Loyalty Day for business!

Businesses are faced with daily loyalty challenges as consumers have more options than ever. Better price from another supplier? They’ll consider switching. Disruption in service? They’ll consider switching. Product delivery late? You get it. It’s a constant battle for all organizations and isn’t contained to just one day per year. So how can they build a loyal customer base who will stick with them year after year? One approach is to start with outstanding customer service.

Consumers know which companies deliver great service and those that don’t. They stick with great service companies because they make their lives easier and have a relationship. Here are five tips on creating meaningful customer experiences that build long-term customer loyalty:

  1. Use their love language. Personal relationships are much more successful when each other’s love language is spoken. Each party receives communication in a way they understand and appreciate. Customer service relationships should operate on the same principle. Understand how your customers prefer to engage with you, whether via self-service guides, virtual assistance, live chat, mobile, or a combination. Furthermore, within that engagement, study the nuances that are specific to the channel – for example, customers engaging through mobile chat will be using short, simple sentences to communicate because of the small typing space, and would appreciate the same in response due to less screen space for reading on the go.
  2. Always remember a face. Don’t you feel important when someone remembers your name and something specific about you? When your customer calls your 800 number or comes back for a subsequent purchase, let them know that you remember them and appreciate their loyalty. Offer them personalized offers or deals that are relevant to their history. Showing them generic ads or content they have not shown interest in can turn them away. A good memory (made possible with customer data) makes your personalization efforts more meaningful.
  3. Talk about the weather. OK, maybe not. But real-time, location-based customer data should give you a good picture of where your customer is, and you can support or market to them accordingly. If your customer is in Boston in the middle of a snow storm, perhaps an apparel company would offer a special on scarves, or a telemedia company would proactively offer a free streaming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for a snowed-in family hunkered by the fireplace. Help the customer understand that you know what they are going through at any time.
  4. Be a good listener. People know you value their words when you ask them polite, probing questions, listen to their answers, and respond appropriately. In customer relationships, agents should actively listen to what’s at the core of their customer’s issue or search. And whether interacting through live chat, virtual assistance or self-serve guides, customers should be able to voice their opinion through surveys, customer forums, or social media. Pay attention and take the opportunity to improve.
  5. Be consistent. Customers don’t care if one engagement with your business was on their lap top and another is on their smartphone; they consider both to be part of the same interaction. Your customers’ omni-channel world-view expects nothing less than to receive the same engagement across all the channels they use. Eliminate those silos to present one consistent face to your customers.

Does your company deliver on these customer service skills? If so, great! You may be ready to set up your own Loyalty Day. If not, apply these engagement rules and start building customer loyalty worthy of celebration every day.

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It’s more than IoT. It’s EoT.

The evolving customer experience propelled by the Internet of Things has brought about a need for businesses to engage with consumers in a more connected way than ever before. We call this the Engagement of Things™.

You’ve heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the universal state of the modern age in which more and more objects in our daily lives are integrated with some sort of link to the internet and other devices. It’s basically a big information system. That’s why the nature of an IoT user’s interaction with a smart device, whether in the home, in a car, or on their body, has been one of simple requests like “What good Italian restaurant is near me?” or even “Do I need to buy more milk?” or “Please set the thermostat to 70 degrees.”

But the consumer’s relationship with their IoT world has become more sophisticated in that they assume they can converse with businesses in much the same way they access information at a simple command. Their interactions with brands are moving beyond their laptop or smartphone and onto whatever smart object they choose – while still reserving the right to engage the old-fashioned way on the phone. To increase the challenge, they expect the conversation they started on their smart TV to be the same conversation they continue on the mobile website or via SMS.

The question is how can organizations enable consumers to engage with them anywhere, through any device, without making it too complex?


This evolving customer experience brings rise to the concept we call the Engagement of Things™.

The Engagement of Things (EoT) is what we at Nuance define as the ecosystem of intelligent, conversational platforms that interconnect to provide consumers with a singular experience from whichever end-point they choose to engage.

In today’s world, intelligent conversational platforms are becoming interconnected to provide consumers with a streamlined, singular experience that helps them get complex, multi-layered tasks done through simple and intuitive dialog. By bringing together each end-point, from web, mobile phones and TVs to smart home devices and connected cars, and combining conversational AI with intelligent engagement, the Engagement of Things™ (EoT) enables brands to immediately understand a consumer’s need, no matter which channel they use, and predict exactly what that individual will do next.

The days of simple question and answer dialog with conversational systems are behind us. The Engagement of Things will let more complex tasks get done by connecting disparate sources of information and combining that data to better serve the consumer. Over time, simple requests like “Play my favorite song” will turn into complicated propositions like “I had an accident, I need to file a claim” that require a system to know what qualifying questions to ask (“is there a police report”, “what’s the account number,” “where was the accident”, etc.). The result will be a world in which consumers engage with brands the same way they do friends – through natural conversation across channels and without losing context.

We’re excited to be powering the Engagement of Things. It shows a promising future of organizations that can predict their customers’ needs and be there for them whenever and wherever they need. And for us at Nuance, that future is now.

Join the EoT world

Watch this simple explanation of the Engagement of Things and start connecting with today’s connected customers

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Let’s address the elephant in the contact center

A growing number of channels, more automation, increasing consumer inquiries - contact centers are facing many new challenges that weren't an issue just a few years ago. What can contact center managers do to continue delivering great customer service?
Deliver great customer service through your contact center

There has been a lot of noise around customer engagement lately. New channels to use for customer service, an increase in self-service, decline in traditional channel usage, a robot take-over – but what does all of that actually mean?

With new channels comes more choice. Customers have more options to reach out to a brand than ever before. Gone are the times where you could only get an answer if you walked into a store or picked up the phone. Nowadays, we can yell at our fridge to get customer support or we can use our mobile phone while on the way to work (car is parked, of course).


Why is there an elephant in my contact center?

In the end, the presence of more channels means more consumers trying to connect with businesses. At first thought, that’s a good thing as it allows companies to sell more. The problem is that contact centers are not capable of scaling. There is a point where hiring new agents is not an option anymore. Yes, technology can be improved to route incoming messages more efficiently, agents can be trained to handle concurrent conversations, and they can be enabled with all sorts of information. But, there will be a point when customer satisfaction drops because consumers have to wait too long for an answer.

Automation seems to be the holy grail. Let’s use a bot to handle all the incoming conversations. Thanks to AI they are smart enough, right? Not quite. Current technology is capable of handling certain things. Bots and the more sophisticated virtual assistants can help enterprises with their work load. But even if they are fed with hundreds of chat logs and have been trained by professionals, they can only handle so much. Businesses will always have some topics that have to be handled by an actual human. Hint: That’s the elephant!


Balancing customer engagement

A McKinsey survey stated that 94% of customer care executives believed they would need to hire new agents or train current ones with new skills.This is not too far away from the truth. Nuance best practice for customer engagement is the following balance between technology, automation and humans:

  • Enterprises need technology that handles interactions as efficient as possible, from intelligently routing incoming messages to providing an interface that simplifies the everyday tasks of agents and their supervisors, to meaningful and actionable insights that help optimize the experience.
  • Agents transform into two different directions. They are either used to train the virtual assistant until it has a certain confidence to handle the majority of the repetitive tasks, or they become a customer advisor for the complex inquiries. That means contact centers now need more highly skilled, paid and competent people.
  • Using today’s AI technology, businesses can use virtual assistants for a variety of use cases that will all help augment the customer engagement processes, for example collecting all needed information upfront, pointing users to a knowledge base article or landing page, helping compare specific products or services, and much more.


It’s time to get rid of the elephant

This paradigm shift requires enterprises to rethink their approach to training and managing the agent workforce. New skills must be developed, new processes put in place and interfaces should be redesigned to ensure an always successful contact center. No need to panic, though. This is not an impossible task. There are experts out there that know exactly what contact center managers are going through and that have tested several options on how to transform your contact center. Let’s tackle that elephant together and create an experience your customers will love.

How to balance technology, humans and bots to create a successful contact center.

Contact us if you want to learn more about how to train and manage an agent workforce that meets your customer's needs for instant service through any channel. Click here for more information.

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Deliver great customer service through your contact center

Oh! I know! I know! – Proactive voice interfaces: Part III of “What’s left to tackle in voice technology”

Get ready to make friends with the kid who always has the answer. The next thing we're going to see in smart speakers is proactive engagement in conversations. Alexa, Google Home, and all the variants will have an option for them to be proactive and helpful in conversations. Ken Arakelian paints a picture of how that will look.

Everyone knows that kid in class that knew everything. Constantly raising their hand when the teacher asked a question, silently insisting, “I know! I know the answer! Call on me!” If you don’t know this kid – maybe you were this kid. Well, here he is again, in your adult life. The smart speaker.

The next thing we’re going to see in smart speakers is proactive engagement in conversations. Alexa, Google Home, and all the variants will have an option for them to be proactive and helpful in conversations. They’ll start listening to what people are talking about and get involved in the conversation when it makes sense. Imagine a typical Saturday morning conversation in the kitchen:

Mom: “What time is your lacrosse practice today, Ted?”

Ted: “Uhhh, I don’t know… It’s going to rain all day so it’ll probably be cancelled.”

Alexa: “Ted’s practice is on Google calendar at 1pm today at East Field. The forecast does show heavy rain and thunderstorm around 12:30pm.”

Mom: “Thanks, Alexa.”

Alexa: “No problem.”

This is an example of a smart speaker being helpful when it jumps into a conversation.  Smart speakers will use affirmations like “Thanks, Alexa” to decide whether it’s interrupting too much or if it should offer more info.

“The Clippy Balance – A Cautionary Tale”

Clippy was the user interface agent that came bundled with Microsoft Office starting in 1997. It remains, arguably, the best known and most hated user interface agent in computer history. It would pop up and try to predict what you wanted to do and most of the time miss the mark. When our smart speakers become proactive and start conversations or interject themselves into our conversations they’re going to have to strike a balance – Let’s call it “The Clippy Balance”. Smart Speakers will need to listen for affirmations that they’re being helpful and also listen for the negative feedback from users like “Shut up Alexa!

Read more in this series:

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How the machines will adjust to us: A short story about “conversational AI” growing up

2018 is going to be an exciting year to witness the start of a huge leap into the area of conversational AI. Josefine Fouarge takes a look into how it has developed so far and where it's going very soon.

For years we have been trained on how to interact with machines – how to use a mouse, what to click for a specific action, and maybe even how to write code in a variety of languages. But talking, gestures, or facial expressions are natural ways for us to communicate. Machines that can understand these nuances have only been subject to Hollywood interpretation so far.

“So far” are the key words here. Technology has evolved in a way that it can interpret the human language and draw a conclusion based on what was said or texted. The complex part here is not just the algorithm, though; it’s the ability to combine phonemes to words for speech recognition, letters to words for text recognition, and either one of them to meaning – and then react based on that. 2018 is going to be an exciting year to witness the start of a huge leap in that area, because today’s technology is already capable of engaging with humans in a conversational way.


Where do we start?

Where do we see conversational interfaces? Chatbots and virtual assistants are probably the most known example. Used in customer service scenarios, conversational interfaces can do a lot of things already. They can react to very specific scenarios like resetting a password, updating the address or helping with selecting a specific product. Usually, these can be found on a brand’s website, in their messaging and social channels and even in the IVR.

If you have used a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo before, then you have dealt with a machine that interprets your words into meaning for itself. For example, when you ask Alexa to play music it will analyze your request and then, as a result, start to play some tunes. Have you ever called a brand and it told you to simply ask a question instead of pressing “1”? That’s basically a virtual assistant with speech recognition.


What’s the next step?

There is a variety of conversational interfaces available, for example the ones that provide a list of items from which a user can pick; others react on specific keywords and can be used as a simple Q&A. The next step of these rather “simple-minded” versions is a conversational interface that is capable of handling all sorts of conversations, back and forth, without the need for human intervention. Today’s “state of the art” virtual assistant can disambiguate without a pick list, just by asking for the missing information.


That’s the goal.

The final, so far unsolved, stage is actual complex interactions. Something that could simulate a heated discussion, a brainstorming with a colleague, etc. Things that require a lot of external data or background information that influence the conversation. These are the areas on which Nuance is working, bringing automated conversations from a simple back and forth to an actual conversational tool that will allow you to augment your life.

To give you an idea of how this future could look, watch our vision of next generation omni-channel customer engagement.


Discover the intelligence behind our conversations

Conversational AI lets consumers engage in natural interactions through text or speech to gain immediate access to information and easy, effortless outcomes through IVR, messaging or web channels.

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Love in the Age of AI

Love is in the air… well, it’s in the voice. Tom Hebner shares a few thoughts on why he loves smart speakers and AI for customer service.

I love my smart speakers.

I have three in the house from two different manufacturers. Why do I love them, and why am I writing this post on Valentine’s Day?

Let’s get this out first – it’s not THAT kind of love. I’m not putting in earbuds and going on picnics with my smart speaker, ala Her. So what kind of love? Let me tell a little story, with some background first.

I have the fairly unique experience of raising a toddler in the late 90’s and a toddler now. In the late 90’s when my son said, “I want to hear Beauty and the Beast,” (he loved the “Gaston” song) I had to go find the CD, put it in the cd player, click next next next next (yes it’s the 4th song, and yes I still remember) and then he’d get his song. Today, my youngest son loves the “Belle” song, so now I just say, “Play the “Belle” song from Beauty and the Beast,” and it’s playing.

This story is not about why both my children, almost a generation apart, love Beauty and the Beast (I think that says more about me); it’s about ease of use. The smart speakers make it SO easy.

I keep hearing from my Enterprise customers about “digital transformation”. When I hear this, I translate it to, “We are finally trying to make things easier.” So many of my customers are using things like smart speakers and virtual assistants in their personal lives and experiencing how easy they are and thinking, “Our company should be this easy.”

But do the smart speakers and the VA’s themselves make it easy? No – they enable easy experiences, but there’s work to integrate to music services and to train the recognizer to understand all the songs available. In the Enterprise there is work to do to be easy. Right now, enterprises that want to digitally transform, or become easier to do business with, should stop looking for technology to do this for them. “AI” alone will not solve their problem. They should be looking internally at their own complexity, facing it and fixing it, and leveraging technology to help enable “easy”.

I love my smart speaker because it made raising a toddler just a little easier. I want to love my Bank and my Insurance Company, too; all they need to do is be a bit easier.


Nina and Alexa – a match made in heaven

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Gold standard vs. good enough

It’s time for the Olympics again! This year it’s the athletes in the Winter Olympics who get to shine. Their talent is amazing, but the best part of the story is their commitment to be the best and not settle for good enough. There is no prize for finishing 12th in the downhill. It’s top three or nothing, and athletes will train accordingly. Can you say the same about your customer service channels? Organizations looking to create great experiences for customer service can learn from Olympians and shift thinking about their channels from being “good enough” to “Gold standard” and get all their service channels podium-worthy.

Every two years the Olympics come around and treat us to the best athletes competing and showing us what excellence means. This year it’s the winter competitors who will shine. Their talent is amazing and feats of skill breathtaking. But the best part of the story is behind the scenes. It’s their commitment to be the best and not settle for good enough. There is no prize for finishing 12th in the downhill. It’s top three or nothing, and athletes train accordingly.

Transferring this to the business world: are organizations taking the same approach with their customer service channels? Unfortunately, no. Organizations looking to create great experiences for customer service can learn two Olympian habits and shift their performance from being “good enough” to “Gold standard”.


Excellence in all phases

The athletes we’ll see in South Korea in the next two weeks only think about excellence in all they do. There is no area of their game or skill that can be average. Does anyone believe Shaun White, snowboard master, thinks “I’ll just focus on my flips and be good enough on my landings”? No chance. Dominance in his field requires all the pieces working together with equal strength for a strong, consistent run in the half-pipe. The end-to-end process requires excellence.

The same holds true for a strong customer service experience. Some organizations think about their customer service in a narrow, siloed approach. They put extra focus on a particular channel such as the web or chat while ignoring traditional channels such as IVR or text. Digital transformation is important, but it can’t be done at the expense of some of your most important channels. A gold medal performance on the web or mobile app experience isn’t any good if the customer then engages on an outdated, touch-tone-based phone system that wouldn’t even reach the Olympics qualifying round.

Raise the bar across the board

Just like a figure skater who works on jumps, turns, and nailing the compulsories, enterprises must also raise their game in all channels. The technology is there today for top-podium experiences. Advances in text and push notifications allow for richer text messages, smart outbound communications synced with the IVR, and two-way SMS that allows customers to reply directly to a text and make updates. Taking it a step further in the IVR, natural language technologies and voice biometrics make calling the contact center a far easier and friendlier experience.


Balance speed with precision

Beyond always striving for excellence, Olympians show us the need to balance speed with precision. No matter the winter sport, speed is always a factor. Skating, downhill skiing, bobsled, and, hey, even curling rely on speed. Seriously. In all the sports, speed must be executed perfectly but it must be balanced with precision. Precise movements on a downhill ski run prevent tragedy. Control on the ice rink helps skaters avoid hitting the wall. And precise use of the broom in curling ensures the right speed for the rock to land in the target zone. The speed may vary, but it must work in harmony with precision.

Precision is important in customer service, too. Simply trying to make everything faster may feel good, but if customers end up in the wrong location or can’t find the right information, then nobody wins. Consider a website optimized for speed that is difficult to navigate or an enterprise so desperate to get customers through the IVR, that they don’t know how to accurately route them or explore the benefits of shifting them to digital.

Thoughtful quickness

Proper planning and analysis can lead the way. The best starting point is to analyze all your service channel experiences from beginning to end. Be the customer. Learn the areas where blockers occur or where unnecessary information is getting in the way. For customer queries, examine if your website would benefit from the addition of a virtual assistant that can determine precisely what customers want, and quickly direct them to the right location. For callers to your IVR, do you thoughtfully consider the whole journey, or try to route them quickly to someone, something, anything to help expedite the resolution? Flip it around by offering other options such as live chat that may take the caller out of the IVR but will ultimately address their issue faster. Finally, use analysis tools on inbound calls or the IVR menus to put a spotlight on trouble spots.


Offer podium-worthy service

The Olympians that will rise to the top over the next couple weeks will exhibit all the qualities above. They can’t get to this point without a deep commitment to excellence. They won’t execute well if they blindly rush down the mountain or along the track without control. Customer service leaders that learn from Lindsey Vonn, the US hockey teams, or even the curling teams will raise their customer service game and get all their service channels podium-worthy.

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No stone unturned: Reducing risk in digital government optimization

Public institutions are increasingly turning to virtual assistants as they aim to better meet citizens’ digital expectations, but are seeking ways to optimize their digital presence with manageable risk. The Fortune 100 is providing numerous examples of well-executed deployments, but a model use of this technology lies Down Under.

From state and local agencies to the federal government, public institutions are increasingly turning to virtual assistants as they aim to better meet citizens’ digital expectations. Whether consumers are seeking the web page or phone number for the correct court, or trying to better understand how to file for unemployment benefits, they’re looking for interactions that match the experiences they’re having with USAA, Coca-Cola, their bank or their airline.

Nuance Nina, the virtual assistant (variously referred to as an intelligent assistant or chatbot), has been ranked #1 in its field by a variety of analysts and is gaining broad adoption in a variety of verticals. Maturing technology that is achieving acceptance by respected Fortune 100 companies can turn the heads of government CIOs as they “leave no stone unturned” in their search for solutions. They may be looking to improve the citizen experience and lower operating costs through the stellar first contact resolution (FCR) rates that can be achieved by Nina and others, but what may be even more comforting to them is the minimal, manageable risk that deployments like these infer.

Nothing is more reassuring to public entities, however, than peers attaining real, demonstrable success with a capability that they are hoping to leverage. And just as it’s the case when it comes to better beaches, more interesting mammals and smarter travel, the Australians are a leader in digital government. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) wanted to reduce the high volume of call center inquiries and to enhance the self-service offerings currently available to its clients. Because of previous successful collaboration with voice biometrics, the ATO partnered with Nuance for their virtual assistant technology to deliver a contemporary 24/7 self-service support tool named Alex.

Alex delivered. In the first 18 months Alex had over two million conversations, and, as of September 2017, Alex’s FCR rate was 88 percent, exceeding the industry benchmark of 60-65 percent. Moreover, the ATO has achieved a reduction in client red tape (time it takes clients to find the information needed), valued at approximately $9.7 million per annum and Alex has contributed to the 8-10 percent reduction in contact center call volumes. After implementation, the ATO and Nuance began to extend the Alex persona to other interested government agencies to build a “whole of government” approach to self-service.

Thanks, Australia, for providing us with an example of how to make constituents happy and for providing an unmissable landmark  to lead the way.

Check out how the ATO did it

Government is turning to virtual assistants to meet citizens’ digital expectations but are seeking ways to optimize their digital presence with manageable risk. Other industries and Australia may provide the best examples.

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Why Punxsutawney Phil should not be the norm for prediction in customer service

While it is entertaining to receive weather predictions from a groundhog, it is rarely accurate. Prediction for customer engagements have to be precise and meaningful for the brand's customer in their moment of the customer journey. Josefine Fouarge shares her thoughts on how prediction can be a success.

Punxsutawney, a small town in Pennsylvania, draws thousands of visitors every year on February 2nd when Phil the Groundhog predicts the weather. On February 2nd, 2018 it will be the 132nd time. According to a legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring. This legend originates from the German-speaking areas where a badger used to forecast the weather.

But no matter which animal is used, those predictions are rarely accurate. In fact, Phil is only right 39% of the time. In order to predict the weather, or anything else for that matter, you need data. And the only data animals have is how much longer they want to sleep. That’s why actual weather forecasts utilize data from the past to predict the upcoming changes for the wind direction, likelihood of rain, etc.

This is very similar for brands who want to utilize predictive targeting for their customer engagement. Without historic data there is nothing on which a prediction can be based. Before thinking about adding a prediction engine to customer service, brands have to take a close look at the data they have available. This can be recordings from calls that have been transcribed, chat scripts, customer journey data, etc. The more the better. This allows the prediction to be more accurate over time.

If there is not much historical data available, brands can use current information from their customer engagement tools. For example, implementing a virtual assistant and a live chat in several digital channels allows the brand to gather new data and insights. These can then be leveraged to improve the prediction over time.

The best way to create a great customer engagement experience is to continually gather customer data. Every bit of information that can be received during conversations can be utilized for valuable and meaningful insights, which then result in a better optimization process that then allows the brand to predict customer behavior better and better.

This information loop can be augmented by humans who help analyze the data, adjust it to put into the right context and, in addition, help the prediction engine and the underlying machine learning algorithm to learn what to look for. The combination of both automation and humans drives higher accuracy and a better experience for the user.

This said, I’ll still be hoping that that Phil doesn’t see his shadow.

Better customer engagement in digital channels

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Be the MVP for Super Customer Service

It’s Super Bowl time! This Sunday the Philadelphia Eagles will square off against the New England Patriots. Each team will focus on a couple areas to help them win – how to best move easily down the field to score and not turn the ball over. Think those are only relevant to the big game? Incorrect. And whistle for a penalty on you! Customer service executives should examine the game for ways they can improve their service channels and create a great customer experience.

This Sunday will be the 52nd Super Bowl (that’s Super Bowl LII if you read Roman numerals) featuring the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the New England Patriots. Each team will focus on a couple areas to help them win – moving easily down the field to score and not turning the ball over. Both are apt analogies when thinking about customer service.

Are your service channels easy to move through quickly or do they act like the defense, always putting up blocks to your customers? Does a caller who wishes to move from one channel to another get lost or “fumbled” on the hand-off? Principles for success in the Super Bowl translate well to great customer service.


Finding the fastest route down the field

Does a caller move freely through the IVR quickly and easily? Can they navigate your digital channels to find what they need as fluidly as Tom Brady when he moves the Pats offense effortlessly through opposing defenses?

Many times, companies develop their IVR or digital channels with added content and menus to better explain a topic or assist customers. It’s well-intentioned but those extra steps may be acting like a defender getting all over a wide-receiver and preventing them from running their route. The goal for any customer service manager must be to remove as many barriers as possible in each channel.

In football, the fastest route down the field is the deep throw. “The Bomb”. Fans love it, and it’s a thing of beauty when it works well. Imagine this same approach when calling a company’s IVR. You simply say one sentence as to why you are calling, then BOOM! You are taken immediately to the right location or agent. You are overjoyed! You are elated! You may even do a fist pump like Tom Brady when he completes a long TD pass.

But most IVR menus and even digital channels don’t allow for this type of direct connection to the desired location. Rather, they put up menu after menu or ask you to push buttons to slowly move forward. It would be like the Eagles running for two yards, passing for six, then being sacked, then passing for twelve. It may ultimately get you there, but it takes a long time, is frustrating, and isn’t the most direct.


The right play call? Natural Language Understanding (NLU)

There is a winning play every time however – Natural Language-based solutions. With Natural Language your customer service channels can quickly and more efficiently determine what someone is trying to say and then get them to the right destination. NLU-based virtual assistants can smartly help visitors move to the desired location within your website. And adding NLU to the IVR takes the experience from “Press 1 for checking” to “Say anything you’d like, and I’ll help you” – speeding the process and delighting customers.


Don’t fumble the ball – or the customer

Moving quickly down the field, and through channels, is paramount to success. But so is keeping the ball. Fumbles and turnovers stop momentum and reduce odds of success. If Eagles quarterback Nick Foles doesn’t make a clean hand-off to Jay Ajayi, it could spell disaster. The same holds true with customer service. Organizations that mishandle the customer experience may drop the ball and risk losing them.

This is easily done and likely occurs all the time. Often someone will end up calling the contact center when a live chat agent may be the best support option. Or someone may find that the wait times for an agent on the phone are a little too long. Trying to move between these channels is challenging, and many companies today force callers to hang up and go to the web –  creating a poor experience and an unhappy customer.


A winning approach? IVR to digital solutions

There is an option as smooth as a well-executed hand-off from Brady to anyone in the Patriots backfield. IVR to digital solutions exist that allow organizations to help move the customer seamlessly from the IVR to a digital experience. Targeted callers can be offered the opportunity to leave the IVR and go to a digital experience such as live chat or the web for more information. Choosing this approach allows callers to get their questions resolved faster and reduce call volumes into the IVR. A winning approach for both the customer and the company.

No matter who wins the Super Bowl, both sides will implement the same proven strategies for success – moving easily down the field while eliminating possibility of fumbling the ball. Customer service managers who seek high customer satisfaction will do the same.


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Nina for Google Home: The ultimate enterprise smart home hook-up

Each day we’re saddled with mundane and oftentimes time-intensive tasks to accomplish. Whether it’s checking our bank accounts and transferring funds, booking a flight, or even just ordering dinner, we can all use a little help. Fortunately, with advancements like our Nina for Google Home, we’re paving a path for enterprises to extend customer service to popular consumer-focused intelligent assistants to change our lives for the better – seamlessly communicating with our favorite brands and helping us get what we want.
The Virtual Assistant Nina for Google Home allows enterprises to bring their customer service to the smart home speaker

26 billion. That’s the number of intelligent, connected devices that, by 2020, are anticipated to be available with conversational virtual assistants. With virtual assistant usage on an upswing, it’s now time for these human-machine interactions to become simpler and richer. Now’s the time for that same virtual assistant in your home that you can ask questions of – such as “What’s today’s weather going to be?” or “What’s the latest news?” – to be able to help you with other time-consuming and oftentimes frustrating tasks. Now’s the time for the virtual assistant in your home to be able to communicate with the enterprise virtual assistants we’re all coming to value, such as those being used by airlines, banks, and other brands. And now’s the time for us to apply the old adage, “Two heads are better than one,” to our virtual assistant counterparts – where two or more virtual assistants working together have a better chance of solving a problem than one virtual assistant working alone.


Enabling brands to intelligently engage customers through domain-specific virtual assistants without losing control

It is in this same vein that we recently unveiled Nina for Google Home and last summer announced Nina for Amazon Alexa. Both of these new solutions enable brands to integrate intelligent, enterprise-grade virtual assistants to offer customers a human-like service experience through their Google or Amazon smart home devices. With Nina for Google Home, organizations can leverage customer service investments through Nuance to extend the reach of their domain-specific virtual assistants – the same one they use on the web and through their social channels – to ensure a unified omni-channel experience no matter which platform customers choose to connect.

Both Nina for Google Home and Nina for Amazon Alexa leverage our new Cognitive Arbitrator – an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology that gives consumers the ability to access their preferred services from various assistants and third-party content providers without having to remember which assistant handles which task and how to interact with it. This ultimately solves one of the biggest consumer challenges in today’s connected world: the ability for virtual assistants to effortlessly communicate with each other. And, it does so by seamlessly connecting and integrating disparate virtual assistants, third-party services, and content via a single interface that spans the smart home, automotive, and Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem to complete complex tasks and enhance the user experience.

This seamless communication between virtual assistants is the future of how we, as consumers, are going to get stuff done. And we’re going to be able to do it with little effort given the sheer level of intelligence that is built into these modern virtual assistants. By leveraging conversational, cognitive and human-assisted AI capabilities, this new wave of enterprise-grade virtual assistants is capable of delivering the highest levels of automated customer service across an array of channels, and long gone will be the days of needing to dial a phone number to connect with our bank, airlines, telco, retail brands and other companies with whom we do business. Instead we’ll be able to simply ask our smart-home companion to connect us with a brand’s intelligent virtual agent, which will take it all from there.


 “Ok, Google – when does my flight leave?”

With Nina for Google Home, enterprises can bring their customer service to the smart home speaker, allowing consumers to do everything from checking their bank balance to paying their phone bill. If they need to upgrade a flight, their Google Home assistant will be able to easily connect to their airline’s Nina-powered intelligent assistant, which will be able to confirm flight details and check on upgrade capabilities. And should they decide to move forward with the upgrade, it will securely bill the card on file, and deliver the new flight confirmation details to their mobile device.

By bridging the gap between enterprise intelligent assistants and smart home devices, we are making it simple for banks, retailers, airlines and telcos to engage with customers across these channels in a streamlined, efficient way by enabling a design-once, deploy-many approach.

Creating an environment where intelligent assistants can seamlessly connect and conquer tasks at hand is ultimately a win-win for all involved. We’ll be able to accomplish so much more in our daily lives – leaving us all satisfied with the overall experience and enabling brands to efficiently and cost-effectively deliver on our needs.

Virtual assistants help customers in their homes

Nina for Google Home enables brands to integrate intelligent, enterprise-grade virtual assistants to offer customers a human-like service experience through their Google home device.

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The Virtual Assistant Nina for Google Home allows enterprises to bring their customer service to the smart home speaker

Finding the right tools for DIY IVR

Organizations can now do more themselves to make changes and develop their IVR with powerful new tools spanning all phases of the IVR lifecycle. They do this in hopes of accelerating development time, increasing business agility and reducing contact center costs—with less reliance on external vendors. If you’re one of these companies, consider the different types of tools to make your staff DIY experts.
Develop your IVR on your own with the help of the right tooling suite

Home improvement is big business for a simple reason that every homeowner knows well – every home ALWAYS needs something done. Whether they enjoy doing the work or loathe it, there’s no getting around it – continuing maintenance is always necessary. Homeowners have a choice with every fix – do it themselves or hire professionals. As countless TV shows illustrate, many people don’t want outside help and prefer to unleash their inner Chip Gaines and install their own shiplap (Oh yeah, I’ve seen Fixer Upper!)

This desire to do more themselves is also popping up in business when it comes to IVR improvement. More and more companies don’t want to hire vendors for changes. They see value in taking on the more everyday updates and fixes themselves. And regardless if it’s home improvement or IVR maintenance, both require the right tools for the job. Organizations must get the right gear for their enthusiastic DIY staff.


Opening the toolbox

Picking the right tool for any job is critical as one tool doesn’t fit all. Sure, you can pound a nail with the back of a screwdriver, but experience shows that typically results in bruised fingers. Consider choosing a mix of tools best suited to the IVR job.

IVR designAt the start of any job is planning and design work. IVRs need to be well planned out and then tested thoroughly. Design applications are like the ruler you use to measure twice and cut once for error-free design. Be sure to find a design application that offers automated code and test case generation. And ideally it will be platform-independent, which allows you to deploy with multiple vendors and platforms.

Testing – Everything that’s built must be tested. For homeowners the most common testing instrument is a spirit level. If the bubble isn’t in the middle, that shelf isn’t level and it doesn’t matter what your spouse says. IVR developers must also test their work and should look for tools that allow them to rapidly create and iterate IVR regression test cases and then automatically track that testing coverage based on revisions.

Menu updates – After go-live, there will be changes to IVR menus and prompts. Consider a tool with a simple, user-friendly interface that allows users of all skill levels to quickly and easily make immediate changes to their production IVR, including prompt updates, emergency broadcasts, or seasonal messaging. Software that easily adjusts menus is like a good screwdriver that is easy to grab and fix that loose chair – you go to it quickly, and everyone knows how to use it. And it just does its job.

NLU development and tuning – Using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) in your IVR offers the highest possible experience for callers. The system recognizes what they ask for and provides intelligent responses. Building and updating NLU models requires tools that are easy to use, always at the ready, and perfectly suited for that job – like the reliable hammer. Hammers are great for hitting nails and they are versatile in that you can use them on wood, metal, or sheetrock. A great NLU tool must also support versatility. It must allow users to build and maintain one NLU model that works across IVR and digital channels—eliminating the need to maintain multiple NLUs. As an added bonus, if it’s easy to use, like the hammer, people will continuously choose it for everyday IVR improvements.

IVR maintenance and check-up – Appliances in our homes need monitoring and check-ups to ensure they are functioning properly. It’s the annual maintenance check on your furnace or water heater. IVRs need the same thing to test if menus are working properly and ensure customers aren’t getting bogged down in certain areas. To perform this type of check-up, companies must get a robust reporting and analysis solution that works continuously on the IVR. The solution can’t tell you they can’t come because they are booked solid for the next two months. It must provide a data-driven understanding of your IVR, highlight answers to important questions including where and why calls are being misdirected, and flag issues impacting containment rates, routing, handle time and satisfaction.


Filling the toolbox

Wow! That’s a lot of tools for organizations to add to a toolbox. Each one supports a different part of the IVR lifecycle for full coverage. When considering options, be sure to check out Nuance’s IVR Tooling Suite and see if it meets your needs. Any of these tools will empower employees and staff across the organization from IT to development to business analysts will unleash their inner DIY skills. Perhaps there is a Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor lurking in your company!

Fill your toolbox with DIY IVR tools

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Develop your IVR on your own with the help of the right tooling suite

Become the psychic for your customer service

Consumers create a lot of data throughout their journey with you as a brand. Utilizing this data can enable both automated and human assistants to make smart decisions for an easier and more efficient customer engagement. Chris Caile and Josefine Fouarge discuss one way this data can be leveraged by artificial intelligence to predict the customer’s intent for contacting you.
By and

Working in Marketing requires us to read about what’s going on in the market. This can be challenging at times, sifting through the massive volumes of content, especially when you deal with technology that is a hot trend right now, like AI. But every now and then you stumble over great pieces like an article by VentureBeat’s Blair Hanley Frank, who states,  “People don’t go and buy two quarts of AI. They buy a product to solve a problem […]”

We couldn’t agree more. The problem with delivering a great customer experience has always been the same, AI or no AI: understanding how technology addresses customer needs while solving a business problem. Unfortunately, technology can be blinding. It promises so much but, if used incorrectly, can come with a lot of sorrows. One of them is that your customers may not like it, thus won’t use it, which most likely will result in their seeking alternatives from you or, worse, seeking alternatives from your competitors.

Instead of running down the rabbit hole, let’s take a step back and think about the actual business problem. What do your customers want? Most likely they want a fast answer if they have a problem. They also want efficient customer service. No matter if they want to buy something new, add a new feature to their plan or ask a question about the latest bill, they want it done in the easiest way possible.


Taking the right steps

The first step to addressing either of these is to ensure that connecting with you is easy; therefore, letting your customer search for a phone number or an email address for too long won’t help.

Step two is making sure that existing data about your customers is fully utilized. For example, if you know that your customer called you about the same question three weeks ago, don’t make them repeat the question. Instead delight them by using that knowledge to streamline their engagement. And if you have to transfer them, for example from the IVR to an agent, also transfer the context. Strong integration with your CRM system (or any other system that you use to store customer data) is a must across all your automated or human-assisted interaction channels.


Enter the psychic

Now comes the fun part, the one that you’ve probably heard before: using artificial intelligence to improve the customer’s experience. One of the most common scenarios is predicting a customer’s intent. It’s like having a personal assistant that tells you exactly what you need in the moment it is needed. Let’s say you receive a notification telling you about a roaming upgrade to your phone plan (because the system realized that you are going to Europe next month). You call the number that is displayed in the outbound notification, and the IVR greets you with:

“Hi Chris, are you calling about upgrading your plan for your Europe trip next month?”

“Uhm, yes.”

“Great! How long are you staying in Europe?”

“About three weeks.”

“We can add the roaming option for you and automatically remove it once you’re back. Do you want to add the option with a start date of February 4th and end date February 25th?”

“Yeah, that would be great.”

“You’re all set, Chris. Enjoy the trip.”

Several things will change as soon as this technology is implemented. First, your customer will view your customer service as both fast and efficient. No need for them to remember to call you – you will proactively reach out ahead of time. Kudos, for sure. In addition, it will help streamline your contact center operations as callers won’t need to take time working through IVR menus or being transferred to other departments. Or better still, they may not even need to call at all. Both of which mean less cost for you. Finally, your own CRM system will become smarter by learning what does and doesn’t work with customers, driving even further speed and efficiency improvements in the future.

Does this all sound like something from the far future? It’s not as far away as you think. The technology exists today to put these solutions into action. Let us show you how we can use AI to improve customer service, streamline your contact center, and create more efficient digital channels. And, of course, become the psychic your customers will love.

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It’s time to get to know your customers better with actionable data insights

Consumers today have more choices than ever in deciding what businesses to interact with, buy from, and recommend. Do you know how or why they make the decision to work with you? Stay with you? Taking stock with speech analytics is one smart way forward.

Today is “Get to Know Your Customers Day,” and for businesses of all sizes, understanding the constantly evolving needs and wants of customers is essential for both initial and long-term success – especially in today’s competitive market. The valuable knowledge obtained from listening to your customers is what ultimately helps you improve the customer experience that can build brand loyalty, while reducing operational costs and boosting profits for you.

But let’s face it; if you are relying on one dedicated day to get to know your customers, you probably don’t really know them. And, if you don’t know what they expect (or these days, ‘demand’) from your business, it’s a lot more difficult to give it to them.

Speech analytics can help companies go from celebrating “Get to know your customers day” to “Every day I know my customer better”. A quality speech analytics solution will analyze 100% of customer interactions and distill it into information that helps a company get to know them better. With those insights at their disposal, businesses can have confidence they’re helping their customers in ways they couldn’t before.  It’s no surprise then, that CEO’s have prioritized analytics as the #1 priority to improve the customer experience. (Forrester, Customer Experience Innovation Survey 2017.)

Here are a few of the essentials you’ll want when deploying an analytics-based approach:


Interpretable and actionable insights, not just a data dump

Forrester reports 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% are actually successful at connecting analytics to action. Actionable insights often are the missing link for companies that want to drive business outcomes from their data.

When selecting an analytics solution, make sure you are getting insights that are:

  • Easy to understand at-a-glance;
  • Specific enough to apply effectively;
  • Unique enough that they aren’t rehashing previous insights;
  • and extracted from graphs and charts such that they are clear enough that contact center personnel can understand how to apply them to their jobs without having to dig or take time away from their day-to-day responsibilities.


Combine speech analytics with application performance analytics to get the full picture

Customers tend to stop doing business with a company after one bad IVR experience, so getting to know your customers’ IVR journey is essential. Using application performance analytics can help you do this by quickly spotting and reacting to changing caller flow patterns, gaining visibility into caller engagement and informing ongoing application tuning – ensuring you are serving up an optimal experience for your customers.


Know your customers on every channel

Getting to the heart of what the customer needs, expects, and demands is what speech analytics is all about. And it’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to interactions within a business’s call center. Speech analytics include all of the various interactions that customers have with your organization, including written communications through chat, text/SMS and emails. And the insights you uncover in these interactions can be applied to things beyond the contact center – marketing campaigns, sales, new product designs and more.

Deeper insight into your customers has real and tangible business benefits. From driving revenue and reducing costs to supporting customer satisfaction and brand – whatever your KPIs, knowing more about your customers puts you in the best position to succeed. Learn more by reading our “Harnessing the power of speech analytics” white paper here.

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Can cyber criminals “compromise speech recognition systems with ease”?

Not all scientific studies produce the voice of authority on their subject matter. Brett Beranek takes a closer look at why news stories on voice biometrics are missing the mark. What he finds will make you reconsider...

A recent Finnish university study on voice biometrics has been making headlines – and most of those news stories have been inaccurately summarizing the results with concerns as in our title above, leading many to believe that cyber crooks can compromise even the best speech recognition systems.

Before commenting on the article and the study, I feel it is important to highlight that Nuance’s voice biometrics solutions have secured over five billion transactions to date, and not once has an impersonation attack been reported. We have conducted several voice impersonation attacks with famous voice impersonators in the US and the UK, and none proved successful.

So why are the news stories missing the mark? The real story? Let’s start with the conclusion.

 “The results indicate a slight increase in the equal error rate (EER). Speaker-by-speaker analysis suggests that the impersonations scores increase towards some of the target speakers, but that effect is not consistent.

So how could the researchers write that “Voice impersonators can fool speaker recognition systems”? To understand that, you need to dig deeper into the study. Here are the actual data points:

So what does this data mean? Let’s start with some definitions.

Text Independent– This is passive voice biometrics where a voiceprint is created from listening in on a normal conversation and that voiceprint is compared to a voiceprint on file.

Same Text– This is active voice biometrics where the user is given a specific phrase to repeat. (Often it is “My voice is my password”.) Once enrolled the user is asked to speak the phrase and then this new voiceprint is compared to the voiceprint on file.

False Accept Rate– This is the percentage of times a system incorrectly matches to another individual’s existing biometric. Example: fraudster calls claiming to be a customer and is authenticated.

False Reject Rate– This is the percentage of times the system does not match the individual to his/her own existing biometric template. Example: customer claiming to be themselves is rejected.

Equal Error Rate or EER– The EER is the location on the graph curve where the false accept rate and false reject rate are equal. In general, the lower the equal error rate value, the higher the accuracy of the biometric system. Note, however, that most operational systems are not set to operate at the “equal error rate”, so the measure’s true usefulness is limited to comparing biometric system performance.

GMM-UBM; i-vector Cosine; & i-vector PLDA– These are three different algorithmic approaches to voice biometrics.  Notice that the latest technology, Deep Neural Networks, is not tested.

Now that we have that, the data showcases the following:

  1. In one instance (text-independent GMM-UBM) the EER is decreased with impersonation – meaning that the imposters were less successful at generating a false accept than a random individual not attempting any voice mimicry.
  2. In another instance (same text i-vector PLDA) the EER is virtually identical between the impersonation testing and random attacks. In other words, imposters have the same performance via mimicry as a random individual not attempting to modify their voice.
  3. In four instances, there is an increase to the EER rate, but given the small sample size (60 voices) the results are not statistically relevant. In other words, a test performed with a larger sample may showcase opposite results.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the researchers did not perform the tests with Nuance voice biometric technology. This is evident by the very high EER rates reported by the study as a “baseline” result, ranging from 4.26% EER to 10.83% EER. No tests were conducted on deep-neural-network based voice biometric algorithms, the technology used by Nuance and deployed through scores of enterprises worldwide.

In conclusion, although this topic does merit additional research, Nuance will continue its focus on improving our ability to address actual fraud attack vectors, including brute force attacks, voice imposters, and recording attacks while continuously improving the voiceprint and also improving mitigating strategies for future attack vectors that we believe will eventually be used by fraudsters such as synthetic speech attacks.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about the great strides Nuance has made in Voice Biometrics.

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2018 predictions: Five ways AI will make you love customer service this year

2018 will be all about effortless, meaningful conversations between brands and customers. Robert Weideman kicks off the year with five predictions on how AI will make you love customer service in 2018.

1. Your voice will be your password

2017 was a record year for hacks of personal customer details. These breaches give fraudsters access to our identities including the answers to those annoying security questions. One thing the fraudsters can’t do much with? Voice data. And that is why banks and telcos are increasingly replacing security questions with biometrics.

With a few words of speech, voice biometrics can confirm you are who you say you are at accuracy and security levels better than pins, passwords and security questions. And it knows how to detect recordings from real, live speech – rendering the data useless to fraudsters in the case of a breach.


2. You will use a virtual assistant (VA) for customer service, and it will work.

Conversational AI breakthroughs have led to a new generation of VAs specific to your bank, your telco and your pizza ordering, all providing personalized, concierge-like service. In 2018, this generation of VAs will be made even more effective, through technology called HAVA (Human Assisted Virtual Assistant). HAVA adds a human-in-the-loop capability, first to help answer new questions the VA may not know, but more importantly to provide a learning loop that updates the VA’s “brain” in real time.


3. You will add a brand as your messaging “Friend” – and you will mean it.

In 2017, Facebook Messenger, Line, Kik and more added capabilities for their users to “friend” organizations and companies, and late in the year, Apple announced Apple Business Chat, which will do the same for Apple Messages. In 2018 you will start engaging brands in the same way you talk to friends – in your messaging app, through SMS and even inside your banking and telco apps. And AI will allow each brands’ VA engine to respond to you in a personalized way, referencing past engagements you have had across other channels.


4. Prediction will let brands anticipate your needs

Customer service creates a ton of data. In 2018 this data will be harnessed more than ever to fuel new AI engines. Predictive customer service will let brands anticipate what you need or may do, before you even know, by analyzing and detecting the patterns of billions of customer engagements over time.


5. The “800” number will enter early retirement

Digital customer engagement combined with mobile devices, tablets and data lines will lead to less calls. A lot less. In 2018 you will engage with a virtual assistant and if they can’t resolve an issue, you will be seamlessly texting with a live contact center agent. If the issue is really complicated and can’t be resolved through messaging, you still won’t call the 800 number. In 2018, that step will be integrated through advanced technologies like WebRTC and IVR-to-digital, allowing the contact center agent to connect with you by voice or video within the app, on your laptop, even through your TV screen or smart speaker.

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Over and Out – Moving beyond the walkie-talkie voice interface: Part II of “What’s left to tackle in voice technology”

When game changing technology comes out sometimes it's hard to look past the dazzle and see what else is needed to make it great. This is true for today’s smart speakers and voice interfaces in general. At Nuance, we are focused on transforming the way people interact with technology – looking beyond what’s cool to what makes tech interfaces “easy” to use. This post will examine the shortcomings of today’s smart speakers and the complexity of getting to a viable solution.
walkie talkies are voice technology of the past just as today's smart speakers will fade into the past as well

“Over” was short for “over to you” indicating that it’s your turn to talk on a short wave radio or walkie-talkie (or any half duplex comm tech for you nerds out there). Smart speakers are super cool and a step forward in voice – but they’re still half duplex, klunky, unnatural voice interfaces. We’ll all look back one day and remember how quaint today’s smart speakers were – like we remember morse code, tape players, and VCRs. Try turn-taking a face-to-face conversation or conference call sometime, and you’ll get a feel for what smart speakers, and all voice interfaces for that matter, are missing out on. There’s a whole field of study around the protocols and rules of human conversation called “Pragmatics” that study how humans interact one to one, one to many and many-to-many.

For example – I’ll say, “Alexa, play ‘Fool in the Rain’ by Led Zeppelin on Spotify,” and wait the requisite three seconds of silence so Alexa knows I’m done talking (might be easier to just say “over”). Then Alexa says, “I’m sorry, I can’t find ‘Fool in the Rain’ by Led Zeppelin on Spotify.” I’ll remember I cancelled Spotify and try to correct myself by speaking over Alexa, “No, play it on Amazon Music.” It’s natural to do this – a person wouldn’t miss a beat having the same conversation.

In addition to the half duplex limitation, Alexa also can’t understand multiple speakers. Even the best user interfaces today employ turn-taking to manage the conversations and don’t work at all with more than two speakers in a conversation. For example, if my children interrupt Alexa while she’s playing “Fool in the Rain” and ask her to play “Space Unicorn“, a song that can make you insane after hearing it for the 400th time, I typically respond by shouting, “Laa Laa Laa Laa!!” to confuse Alexa and keep her playing good music.

Managing the turn-taking in a conversation with multiple speakers is no simple task. It requires that you listen while you talk and also respond to visual queues (in a face-to-face conversation). For example, Japanese speakers often produce back-channel expressions such as un or  while their partner is speaking. They also tend to mark the end of their own utterances with sentence-final particles and produce vertical head movements near the end of their partner’s utterances. See Turn-taking – Wikipedia for a long description of the complexity. The listen-and-talk problem gets exponentially worse when you add more speakers. A bot will need to know whether it’s having a friendly conversation and should wait until the person is done talking, or if the bot is arguing and should cut into the rant.

Recognizing these short-comings is the first step in over-coming them. Nuance R&D is working on these problems and others to transform the way people interface with technology.

Stay tuned for Parts 3 and 4 as we catalog the technical problems when telling your customer to “talk to the IVR like you would a human”.

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walkie talkies are voice technology of the past just as today's smart speakers will fade into the past as well