I know, I know. Last time you heard from me, in my January 2022 column in this magazine, I told you I was retiring. And I did. For the most part.
I’ve found retirement to be quite liberating. There are no more Saddletree Research clients and I have no more contracted projects left to do. I’m not worried about meeting deadlines or getting contact center professionals to participate in the surveys sponsored by Saddletree Research and the National Association of Call Centers (NACC). In fact, the NACC is currently being reorganized into more of an industry community with the sole objective of serving the contact center profession and those who work in it. I think it will be a unique and useful approach to professional networking. Watch for it.
In the meantime, I’ve been free to pursue whatever interests me. Just because I’ve retired from the contact center industry doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve lost interest in it. In fact, I think my 33-year history with the industry provides me with a different perspective than someone who isn’t quite as long in the tooth, so to speak, may have.
The normalization of work-from-home (WFH) and generational expectations of today’s employee and consumer are the driving forces behind many of the emerging innovations in the market today.
Today’s contact center industry reminds me very much of the contact center industry of 20 years or so ago. The late 1990s and early 2000s was when the industry saw a spike in creativity and innovation, mostly from small companies and start-ups that weren’t weighed down by “the way it’s always been done,” as many of the larger companies were. This is the era that saw the emergence of software companies like Blue Pumpkin, which redefined the industry’s approach to workforce scheduling and managing. There were literally dozens of small companies working to disrupt the customer service industry while the larger companies tried to convince the market that they were actually CRM or e-business companies.
These disruptive contact center companies of 20+ years ago tended to attract customers that were disruptors in their own right – deploying disruptive technology in order to disrupt their own industries. While it was not as in vogue to call yourself a disruptor in the late 1990s as it is today, these contact center industry disruptors were definitely disruptive.
These new solutions are taking a more holistic approach to solving the challenges of both the customer and employee experience today.
Back to my original premise – the same type of disruption is happening today, but today’s disruptors are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) in the same way their predecessors leveraged software back in the day.
The normalization of work-from-home (WFH) and generational expectations of today’s employee and consumer are the driving forces behind many of the emerging innovations in the market today. These new solutions are taking a more holistic approach to solving the challenges of both the customer experience and the employee experience today.
Observe-AI (https://www.observe.ai/) is a sort-of offspring of the original employee engagement platform, workforce optimization (WFO). A self-described Intelligent Workforce Platform, Observe-AI provides a number of AI-fueled solutions, such as real-time monitoring and personalized coaching on the employee engagement side. It can also transcribe and analyze every customer conversation in real time, including sentiment analysis, silence detection, talk-over, and so on. This visibility into, and analysis of, 100 percent of customer conversations is all accomplished using its AI engine. Cutting-edge stuff.
Balto (https://www.balto.ai/) relies on its AI engine to help agents provide the correct response to callers every time, all in real-time. This looks to me like super-charged agent coaching, done on the spot, during the call rather than after the call. It supports agents, whether in-house or WFH, by providing them with dynamic prompts and the best responses during the call. Beyond that, it automatically scores 100 percent of calls and alerts managers of potential problems, all in real time. Once again, a solution that has the potential to redefine employee engagement, and employee engagement practices.
Xaqt (https://www.xaqt.com/) is going beyond the AI-driven point solution to offer a comprehensive approach to addressing every aspect of the contact center’s operation, from infrastructure to omnichannel engagement to analytics, and everything in between. Xaqt’s management has deep roots in the contact center that includes experience on the operational side as well as the technical side of the industry. Xaqt’s CEO is also the founder of Latigent – an advanced contact center reporting platform that was acquired by Cisco.
Xaqt’s layered platform approach allows it to work as a new standalone solution in any contact center, or to work in whole or in part with virtually any contact center platform in the industry today. Contact centers with older technologies or with solutions not yet fully depreciated no longer need to be concerned about the AI revolution passing them by. Xaqt can integrate with any platform, migrate existing data from any vendor, and infuse any system with advanced AI capabilities.
As in the past, I see this new generation of disruptive contact center companies appealing to companies that are disruptors in their own industries. The cycle will complete when today’s disruptive AI solutions become as mainstream as their disruptive software predecessors of the 1990s have. Until then, expect to see continued disruption from these disruptive disruptors.