7 Intros the Next Generation of Chat and Announces first Customers
Promising “step-function” improvement in both revenues and customer satisfaction, customer care outsourcer 7 has introduced 7 Assist, a new Web-based chat platform that leverages the company’s long-term investment in “Big Data”, analytics and decisioning resources. Unlike the near-ubiquitous dialogue boxes that bounce across customer care Web sites entreating visitors to join in a general-purpose chat, 7 Assist is already aware of the purpose of each visitor’s intent. It also enables live agents to respond to the anticipated queries using the modality that makes the most sense.
If a customer is trying to find a nearby ATM or retail outlet, the agent can serve up a map. In cases where he or she is looking for technical support or more detailed product information, the agent can serve up links to a video brochure or “how-to” document. However, the real value of this type of context-awareness will be most manifest when interactions originate from a smartphone or tablet. Retailers, airlines and telecommunications carriers are well aware that the percentage of calls and Web site visits that come from mobile customers is growing. They are also becoming aware that there is value in the fact that 7′s investment in technologies that capture, aggregate and analyze data across all of the customer touchpoints.
On the flip side, there are some unique aspects to the agent-facing side of 7 Assist. It starts with an “Agent Lobby” that is the starting point when sales or support personnel log on at the beginning of a shift. It features collaboration spaces where individuals can chat and share insights, called “Team Feeds”. It also features the trappings of the gamification of commerce, with scores and badges taking prominent roles.
When they transition from lobby to workspace, the agents’ screens are topped by a “carousel” whose tiles present “live” engagement opportunities. When an agent clicks on the best match, he or she is presented with a wide variety of supportive information, topped by suggested responses, recommended upgrades or changes and scripts to help wrap up a call or complete a transaction.
Computer maker Lenovo and Australian Telecoms company Optus (part of SingTel Group) are the first companies to announce that they are using 7 Assist. Both companies were long-standing customers of 7, or its one of its acquisitions (i.e. Voxify). They had already gained experience with the 7 Predictive Experience Platform to support interactions over the Web, IVRs (interactive voice response systems), using virtual personal agents or talking with live agents. 7 tells us that several of its global customers are working with the system. In many cases they are already offering Web Chat (either live or automated) using other company’s products – from the likes of LivePerson or eGain or others, for live agent chat, VirtuOZ, NextIT, IntelliResponse, CreativeVirtual or others, for automated handling.
One of 7′s salient differences is its value proposition. It offers “outcome-based pricing,” which is really a form of gain sharing. Customers like Lenovo or Optus set new goals for closing sales or support inquiries. By licensing 7 Assist, they are acknowledging that Web chat is on par with the Web and live agents when it comes to promoting new sales and customer satisfaction and that they recognize it as a formal channel for new sales as well as support and upsales.
7′s wedge into the marketplace is its Predictive Experience Platform. Indeed, the use of data analytics in real-time to support more productive interactions with customers and prospects a central to the advancement of Conversational Commerce. It’s a competitive landscape where 7 competes head-to-head with large outsourcers like Convergys and West; contact center outsourcers like Teleperformance, Live Ops or others; or IVR ourtsourcers like Interactions, Angel, Nuance on Demand, Voxeo and others. All of them are working with partners or internally developing more human-like and conversational applications with robust “hooks” into enterprise data, CRM and transaction processing resources.
As Lenovo and Optus are joined by other forward-looking companies that see how new technologies enable them to support customer engagements that link their agents with customers and prospects across all communications and modalities, it is firing up an opportunity area that should exceed $2 billion in spending on software, IT infrastructure and outsourcing in 2013. It’s built on quick recognition of customer intent and enabling both live agents and virtual agents to provide real services to their users.