As more and more transactions and customer interactions are moving into the digital space, there is an ever-increasing need for better, faster and more personalized customer engagement. Companies are faced with the challenges of long queues, even longer wait times, an increase in unresolved issues and support tickets and a steep decline in overall customer experience.
I interviewed Spase Miloseski, chief information officer of CodeWell about technology that is a true Force for Change for all businesses.
Linda Wellbrock: Why is CodeWell Group is a force for change?
Spase Miloseski: At CodeWell Group we have created an advanced Conversational AI technology that allows us to create smarter digital assistants that can speak and understand any language on a human level and be trained to become experts in any given field or industry.
What’s unique about our assistants is that they are context aware. They can recognize the context of the conversation and provide more accurate and appropriate answers that make them almost indistinguishable from human agents. They handle slang language, multi-line questions and they can transfer the customer to a real human if there is a need. Since our technology is completely built in-house, we can distribute our assistants across any chat platform as well as integrate with any backend systems the enterprises are already using.
The ultimate fear in this space is that many jobs will be replaced by AI assistants and become obsolete. While it is true that many tasks and processes may become automated, history has shown that many jobs, roles and positions will be rather transformed where the use of human knowledge and ingenuity will be better utilized.
Companies will also become more efficient at servicing their clients and customers and at the same time better engage their employees, ultimately leading to better job satisfaction. AI powered assistants are just a tool that frees up employee time and allows each employee to work on more productive tasks and solve higher complexity problems. This greatly increases the scale and complexity at which customers can be served and engaged leading to better margins and ROI’s.
Q. What is an AI powered digital assistant?
A. AI powered digital assistants provide the necessary boost in capabilities that allow companies to engage their customers at a faster and deeper level. AI digital assistants work 24/7, can scale on demand and get smarter with time and experience. And they won’t leave you to work for your competitor.
AI powered digital assistants are poised to revolutionize knowledge work the way robotics and CNC machinery reimagined manufacturing. They did not eliminate human labor but rather realigned it and made it more efficient. Trains, automobiles and airplanes did not make us forget how to walk but rather made us get to where we’re going faster. AI powered digital assistants allow companies to serve more customers better, faster and with less overhead. They can automate rudimentary customer service that often drains company time and resources allowing the human workforce to focus on solving the more complex issues and problems.
CodeWell’s approach to building digital assistants is more unique in that it is more human centric, similar to the way human children are raised into adulthood or new employees are trained into new roles. Rather than relying heavily on machine learning or data intensive AI training our assistants are carefully trained to fulfill specific roles.
Using guided interactions and scenarios while at the same time sharing other more basic levels of experiences that allows them to be almost indistinguishable from human assistants. They are trained to distinguish different meanings to expressions based on the context of the conversation – for example, slang and different languages – and shift between contexts based on a particular question or interaction. This is why most of our projects start out as pilot projects that eventually take on more responsibilities. As the assistants’ capabilities expand we then expand their training into deep and machine learning allowing them to gain expertise in particular fields and industries.
Q. Who can use this product?
A. Companies that need to engage their customers at scale in order to sell, distribute or support their products and services. This type of technology can be applied across a variety of different industries due to the fact that digital agents can be trained on any topic and be allowed to develop deeper expertise over time in any field. The pilot projects often focus on automating smaller, more repetitive engagements. With time and training, the projects expand into more complex processes and engagements.
For example, this type of product can be used in the banking industry, initially automating simple transactions such as checking balances and receiving reports and then later expand into bill payments, balance transfers or more complex financial management transactions. In the healthcare industry, a digital assistant can help with checking and setting up appointments, collecting relevant personal and insurance information and then expand into more complex transactions such as medical records, prescriptions, inter-office collaboration and general patient care. In the telco industry, for example we’ve seen this technology start out as sales support which then expanded into more complex service engagement and technical support.
Q. Who developed this product and how has it been tested?
A. This product has been developed in house by CodeWell Group data scientists, engineers, linguists and industry experts. The technology started out as a simple personal task and time management application with rudimentary automation that then expanded into a more complex AI-driven platform. We currently have several established projects using our AI platform.
One of our projects is a digital assistant named Slavcho. It was initially launched as a sales agent for an Austrian telecom in Europe helping customers through the buying process. This pilot project then expanded into a customer service assistant that now helps resolve customer service-related issues such as technical problems with equipment and services, handling 94% of online transactions for one of their regions. The agent integrates with the telco’s knowledge base and ticketing systems and helps offset a huge workload from their customer service department. And yes, the AI agent is smart enough to properly hand off a customer to a human agent when it gets stuck or can’t resolve an issue.
Another more recent project is our healthcare agent Mia, which allows healthcare providers better engage their patients by helping them with scheduling appointments, prescription refills, or connecting them with the right doctor or specialist. One of the more interesting integrations we are working on is with remote monitoring equipment where patients can take their blood pressure or monitor their sugar levels at home. The information is then sent to the provider and monitored by Mia. If she detects an irregularity, she proactively contacts the patient or the provider about any possible issues that may need to be addressed. We also have a product being developed in collaboration with Asseco, one of the largest bank software providers, where CodeWell AI banking assistants will be deployed and ready to serve over 190 different banks in their portfolio.
Q. What are the biggest challenges with this technology?
A. Let’s face it, customers are never satisfied with the status quo. They always want better, faster and cheaper. With advances in technology and business practices, they are used to constantly being served better. They want a more streamlined experience when dealing with companies and want to make the most of their time. Anything that creates obstacles to the buying process such as dealing with call transfers, delayed responses and long queues will cause them pain and frustration. They will not hesitate to abandon you as soon as the next opportunity comes along, perhaps from your closest competitor or a new entrant into the market. It is a necessity for most companies to perpetually innovate through the use of technologies such as AI and process automation so that they can continuously improve and better serve their customers.
Companies and industries are finding it more difficult to find and retain talent, but constant competition in the markets puts pressure on companies to streamline operations and become more efficient. Companies are faced with the constant challenge of hiring, training and retaining employees to handle higher and unpredictable workloads. Gen-X and Gen-Z employees are used to instantaneous access to tools and information and keeping them engaged becomes a challenge for most organizations. Inefficiencies in operations and dealing with rudimentary tasks and processes further alienate them from the workplace.
What’s unique about our assistants is that they are context aware. They can recognize the context of the conversation and provide more accurate and appropriate answers that make them almost indistinguishable from human agents.
– Spase Miloseski
Q. What are the benefits of creating a digital workforce?
A. Improved customer service. AI can resolve employee and customer issues faster, more efficiently and at scale which can lead to an increase in employee engagement and customer satisfaction. With more transactions becoming digital, customers almost expect instantaneous responses and resolutions. Unfortunately, with the continuous increase and unpredictable peaks in volume of these transactions, it is becoming more difficult for companies to hire, train and retain a human workforce to manage the demand. Interestingly, a large percentage of these transactions are similar in nature and require a similar path to resolution. A smart, AI-driven digital workforce is the most suitable solution for a large portion of these transactions. A digital workforce becomes smarter over time and can easily scale to meet the increasing demands as well the unpredictable peaks in transactional volume.
Improved efficiency and employee engagement. Digitalization and automation reduce human error and redefines the roles human employees play in the value chain. Employee fatigue and disengagement can lead to millions of dollars in lost wages and costly errors and overall disruptions in the supply chain. The general misconception is that AI will replace human jobs with machines. However, human cognition, intuition and ingenuity will remain an important part of the business. In fact, companies have always adopted new technologies that allow them to better serve and connect with their customers. As these new technologies were adopted the human workforce adapted and evolved. An AI digital workforce is just a new technology that continues that trend and as was the case in the past, the human workforce will continue to evolve so that employee time can be better utilized for more complex and strategic initiatives. The human and digital workforce can work in tandem to help companies deliver better value to their customers, employees and stakeholders.
Q. How has COVID changed the landscape for this technology?
A. Adoption of new technologies such as an AI powered digital workforce was already in place even before the Pandemic shut down most of the world. COVID-19, the lockdowns and the bans on travel have drastically accelerated the process. As we have already seen, companies that had not already invested in new digital technologies and process automation, whether internal or customer facing, have suffered the most during this pandemic. Companies that had been slow to digitize and automate were forced to suffer huge losses in revenue and take on the burden of investing in technologies that allowed their workforce to work from home. Companies, such as giant online retailers like Amazon, that were already using streamlined online shopping experiences, virtual shopping assistants or digital customer service agents could easily scale and take on the increased demand for online transactions.
It is now more apparent than ever that companies need to accelerate their investments in digital automation technologies that can scale vertically or horizontally to not only survive the current pandemic economy but rather to prepare for the new opportunities that the new post-pandemic world will bring.
Linda Wellbrock is the CEO and founder of Leading Women Entrepreneurs and the Force for Change NJ.