Five9, Inc. has gone through a lot of ups and one major down over the past few weeks. It recently broke off a deal with video conferencing giant Zoom, which said it would acquire Five9. The cloud contact center provider's shareholders, on the other hand - rejected the deal, forcing Five9 to abort the merger that would have enhanced both Zoom and Five9's portfolios significantly.
We may never know what a Zoom-Five9 merger might look like, but we could speculate that artificial intelligence might play a major role. A large part of what Five9 does involves inserting AI intelligently into the contact center space.
It recently received the Best Application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Award at Enterprise Connect 2021. Recognized for Inference Studio 7, a (low code/no-code) development platform that lets anyone build and manage intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) in a contact center with no development experience needed.
In essence, it enables companies to build conversational experiences harnessing Five9's multi-cloud approach. Users gain access to some of the most advanced AI technologies, including Google, Amazon, IBM Watson, etc. Located in the offering's 'Task Library' - users can leverage several pre-built IVA application templates to customize their IVA deployments.
Five9 rereleased a newly-designed version of the capability back in July 2021, breathing new life into the platform. The platform, also closely integrated with Five9's Intelligent Cloud Contact Center - an enabler of seamless transfer of context between IVAs and live agents no matter the channel.
I wanted to uncover more about how Five9 customers are implementing these advanced functionalities into their contact centers to help reduce agent workloads across the globe. I sat down with Five9's Callan Schebella, Senior Vice President, Product Management, who told me how the firm manages to do all this while the contact center continues evolving.
AI Ubiquitity in the Future Contact Center
According to a recent study by Talkdesk called "The Future of AI in the Contact Center," the cloud contact center provider found that 89 percent of the organizations surveyed; noted understanding the significance of AI in the contact center.
A mere 14% considered themselves equipped to do the "heavy lifting' to deploy AI in the contact center, though. Five9 hopes to overcome this with the implementation of its low/no-code contact center AI platform.
Today, you no longer need a dedicated team of developers to write code all day, nor do you need them to fine-tune said software code. In 2021, you can get up and running with a viable CCAI (contact center artificial intelligence) offering in a matter of minutes.
The ease of implementation could make conversational AI in the contact center much more ubiquitous in the future. This thought is right on par with what Talkdesk found in its recent survey, which noted that organizations plan to invest more in AI capabilities, with 64% of respondents citing deeper investment in AI functionality as a priority for their contact center technology through the year 2025.
AI Delivers New Age Contact Center Possibilities
Over the last five years, Schebella said he saw the evolution of taking (CCAI) with enhancements to the effectiveness of these platforms. By effectiveness, he means the core of the technologies used for conversational AI.
Good CCAI relies on solid underlying engines, and they have to get trained. Engines typically require years worth of training to become good at what they do. But what if you don't have years to wait to set up your contact center? Schebella said you have two choices:
- Invest in R&D (research and development) centers and build your (own) acoustic models, a timely and costly option.
- Or, he noted, you can rely on commercially available, massively scaled, trained public models as well as niche players.
"The effectiveness of these core engines has improved a lot, and people are building more ambitious AI applications. Things that we dreamt of ten years ago are now possible."
The COVID-19 pandemic is the principal catalyst that bears responsibility for this shift, forcing companies to think out the box and understand not only what customers want but what they need.
Industries like governments across the globe suddenly needed to transform digitally. They needed to do so fast, as did healthcare workers. They needed ways to automate redundancies. Never had so much strain been felt by those in the travel, healthcare, and government industries.
Retail and hospitality, on the other hand, which pre-pandemic did use a lot of AI and automation and saw less use of automation/AI during. They faced other issues, though. There were new issues like training, on-boarding, and even the big one of staying compliant with various privacy laws/regulations.
Real-World Practical AI
As the goal of Five9 is to help companies intelligently and practically insert AI into their various comms tech stacks one particular challenge it recently solved is for a contract labor hire company. These are the ones you send to clean up an office building, work as a security guard in a park in the middle of the night, and to do various other jobs.
The folks in this industry face a unique set of challenges. Is the person you hired doing the job? They used Five9's AI to build a biometric system for payroll, benefits, etc. It is a system so smart that it lets employees go to the job's location then pick up their mobile device that registers the endpoint to the location.
It then asks if they are ready to start working - logs them into the payroll system and authenticates that user - mimicking the old-school clock-in process in a high-tech way. If an employee gets sent to do a risky job - one on a ladder for instance, or a job that requires specialized training, the system will ensure they have completed the necessary training before taking on that task.
The process gets mocked when employees clock out - ensuring the right person did the job and that they left safely. For those in niche markets, Schebella said that these partners publish their own content on how to best leverage Five9 AI technology and they develop new use cases all the time.
These resources, free and available for those in a variety of specialized markets from hospitality, to retail, and government. These self-service tool guides, in addition to online resources and training help users, get up and running with little-to-no human interaction, Schebella noted.
Some Elephants in the Room, However
Behavioral guidance powered by AI sounds a bit futuristic, eh? Well, it is actually possible today for AI to listen in on conversations to save agents time by advising the human in real-time. Capable of giving tips like; if it is an opportune moment for the agent to empathize with the customer; for example. CCAI can also do a lot more.
It can prompt agents to speak more slowly and help deescalate a situation - both new capabilities of the past few years. Addressing an obvious elephant in the room: Schebella noted that those in the industry have to strike a balance between a machine telling a human how to behave and employee happiness, productivity, etc.
If I were a contact center agent, I know I would find this rather invasive.