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Blue KC Taps IntelliResponse for Website Questions about Affordable Care Act

2014 March 18

KCWhile much has been made about last year’s website troubles in the online rollout and implementation of President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) is touting the use of virtual agents for a “more engaging online experience for its members to meet the needs of members.”

This week, prospective Blue KC insurers can navigate online to find consolidated group and individual account information and ask a variety of billing, policy or insurance coverage questions — such as, “Where can I view my bill?” — and get answers in similar, natural language. The self-service platform, developed by IntelliResponse, is indeed meant to create a better user experience for healthcare customers.

“Our new website was designed with our members in mind. We want to ensure users can quickly and easily navigate to find the information they seek,” said Deb McCabe, Department Vice President of Customer Experience at Blue KC. “The IntelliResponse Virtual Agent solution will help us respond to the changing interests and needs of our customers.”

According to the announcement, Blue KC plans to develop a mobile website and consumer portal that will be customized to tap the knowledge base of both group and individual healthcare customers.

Updated Experience Portal and Orchestration Designer Differentiate Avaya’s Aura Multi-channel Customer Care Offering

2014 March 13

imagesThis week Avaya announced new enhancements to its Customer Experience Management product suite. In this press release, the company quotes research results in which show that 93% of business managers recognize the downside not providing “a holistic, personalized customer experience” with consequences that include “lost customers, missed sales opportunities and lower revenue, and reduced loyalty.”

In anticipation of the upcoming Enterprise Connect trade show, Avaya is showcasing a newly updated and globalized Aura® Experience Portal (version 7.0). The latest release leverages long-standing commitment to open, Web services-based architectures to support interactive SMS and email-based customer communications. Two new features, Proactive Outreach and Intelligent Customer Routing (ICR), run on the Experience Portal.

Using a free tool set called Avaya Orchestration Designer, enterprise customers (even non-technical ones) can create or customize self-service and assisted service applications and workflows that span mobile, SMS, email, social, and other touchpoints. Thus it can claim to “optimize each and every interaction through real-time visibility into caller intent, cross channel interaction history and other business insights.” The latest release of ICR, allows even finer control based on target service levels, enterprise resources, and customer segmentation.

For example, using these tools enables a large chain of pharmacies, to pursue an “SMS-first” strategy, with full knowledge that the “open rate” for an SMS-based link far exceeds anything that is achieved with email or banner ads. In addition, a new feature, which Avaya refers to as “zoning” makes it easier for customer care solutions to be localized. This means that different languages can be supported in various forms of communications and companies can better manage communications networking costs.

The new Experience Portal is positioned to fit into the Avaya Aura® Collaboration Environment which will enable companies to bring context management, enterprise work assignment, real-time speech analysis and WebRTC-based streamed communications into the mix of services. It joins a handful of solutions providers, that includes Genesys, [24]7 and Aspect/Voxeo and a few others that have taken concrete steps to productize platforms to support real-time, omnichannel conversational commerce.

CaféX Fusion: Real-time Customer Care Software that Delivers on WebRTC’s Hype

2014 February 23

cafex-logoIn September 2013 WebRTC specialist Thrupoint successfully spun out a software company called CaféX to bring a suite of real-time, multi-channel customer care resources to market. Today, the stand-alone company has made impressive strides in that direction. Its OEM relationship with Cisco has insured that the CaféX Fusion Live Assist has been incorporated in trials or live customer care offerings by 6 of the top 10 global financial institutions (branded as Cisco’s Mobile Advisor offering). CaféX Live Assist is also going to have high visibility at the Enterprise Connect Conference in Orlando where it is one of 6 finalists for the “Best of Enterprise Connect” Award.

Yet, from Opus Research’s point of view, the most noteworthy aspect of the company is that its products make it simple for a company to add real-time video to its customer care offering (delivering on WebRTC’s promise of initiating a live stream of audio or video from a Web browser without requiring a customer to download and install a client or plug in). The other is to make it possible to initiate such a stream while a customer is in the middle of using a mobile app.

The first capability is made possible by the aforementioned Live Assist platform. It enables two-way video communications between an agent and customer as well as co-browsing, screensharing and “annotation” (which means that the agent can write instructions or draw pointers on a customer’s screen. This video demo illustrates how the platform is designed to work for a financial services company targeting high net-worth investors.

Supporting a secure link from inside a mobile app to a company’s customer care resources is the role of CaféX In-App Communications. CaféX supplies enterprise or 3rd party developers with an SDK that includes a tool-kit that helps extend the Live Assist capabilities to an iOS- or Android-based tablet using just two lines of HTML, Javescript or Objective-C code. It is believed that CaféX In-App and Live Assist is the basis for the “Direct Connect to personalized servicing for Platinum and Centurion Consumer Card Members” mentioned in the app description in the iTunes store.

The third “pillar” of the CaféX offering is called Fusion Palettes. This is a set of middleware that serves as the connective tissue between many elements of existing customer care resources – such as existing IVR scripts – and figures out how to represent them as buttons in a mobile app. It also acts as an analytical engine that performs what CaféX calls “dynamic translation of contextual data” – which means it takes user generated data and metadata and uses it to support intelligent routing or generation of screen pops on agent desktops.

CaféX is plowing ahead to add a number of practical capabilities on top of clientless and plugin-less two-way streams. It has incorporated electronic signatures, as depicted in the video demo mentioned above. This is a capability that is relevant for other verticals such as healthcare, insurance and government applications. The company has been aggressively marketing to these verticals and has a relatively low cost (approximately $50,000) 90 day trial that enables companies to get acquainted with the platform and its capabilities.




Microsoft’s Silent, But Cortana is Getting Ready to Replace Bing on Windows Phones

2014 February 20

CortanaBy popular demand (though without confirmation from Microsoft), the fictional artificially intelligent being that first appeared in the xBox videogame “HALO: Combat Evolved” and its sequels, is being recruited to be the “Siri-equivalent” for Windows-based phones and tablets.  As indicated by this post from June of 2013 in Microsoft’s Windows Phone Community page, the idea of having Cortana as an Intelligent Virtual Assistant has been a hot topic among Microsoft’s fan base for a while. Today, coverage by Tom Warren in The Verge, based on a “leaked” SDK, shows that the Bing search box which has graced past versions of Windows Phone 8, will be replaced by the ever-conversational Cortana, who will have a personality “like Siri” but bring some of the predictive assistance functions that are popularizing Google Now. (Warren’s article sparked coverage of the imminent launch by Eric Limer in Gizmodo and by Darrell Etherington in TechCrunch.)

Perhaps most import is that Microsoft sees Cortana on a smartphone as the natural language-based controller for apps and media that run or play on a Notebook. According to Warren, Microsoft will position this approach as a form of privacy protection. Over time, Cortana will learn a lot about her users’ activities, likes, dislikes, preferences and other personal data. It will also be set up to react to the content of emails and alerts automatically, including the management of “Do Not Disturb” functionality that will let an inner circle of friends and family get their messages through during quiet hours.

Microsoft has been totally mum on the topic, so it is unclear whether it will be using its own speech recognition and text-to-speech software. Ford Sync, for instance, which is “powered by Microsoft” is an amalgam of speech processing resources, including Microsoft’s home-grown speech recognition and Nuance’s text-to-speech. As The Verge’s Warren notes, the xBox voice command is highly accurate, but appears to have a relatively small vocabulary (mostly commands). To be “Siri-like” Cortana will have to be accurate, human-sounding and possessed of a relatively large vocabulary, or at least one that can speak to individual users in their own terms.

Banco Santander Mexico to Keynote Voice Biometrics Conference San Francisco 2014

2014 February 18

SantanderOpus Research is pleased to announce José Ignacio Zorrilla, with Banco Santander Mexico, will present key findings from a new contact center strategy for customer authentication in a keynote presentation for Voice Biometrics Conference San Francisco (May 14-15, 2014).

With more than 3 million calls into contact centers monthly, Banco Santander Mexico is using voice biometrics as a means to identify and authenticate banking customers rather than relying on passwords and knowledge-based questions. The new strategy helps improve contact center efficiency, says Ignacio, in reducing the time it takes for agents to identify customers and helps streamline the customer experience.

As Executive Director of Channels at Banco Santander Mexico, Ignacio is in charge of the operation of state-of-the-art contact centers, Internet banking, mobile and ATM networks for a commercial bank serving 6.5 million customers. Ignacio will highlight the organizational strategy for Banco Santander Mexico in assessing new technologies for customer authentication and outline the opportunities and challenges in implementing the voice biometrics solution.

Santander México is the country’s third largest financial group by business volume, with market shares of 14.8% in deposits and 13% in loans, and the first Santander country to implement voiceprint technology.

Voice Biometrics Conference San Francisco is being held May 14-15, 2014 at the Fairmont San Francisco. To learn more about the conference agenda and early-bird registration deadlines click here.

Webcast: “Evaluating Enterprise Virtual Assistant Options”

2014 February 14

Dan Miller, Senior Analyst with Opus Research, presents results from the latest Opus Research “Intelliview” report. He will describe criteria that should be taken into account when marketing, sales and contact center professionals evaluate vendors of Enterprise Virtual Assistants (EVAs) – especially those providing human-like interactions on the Web and with mobile devices.

Miller will be joined by Brett Beranek, Solutions Marketing Manager at Nuance Communications, who will provide insights into customer acceptance of EVAs based on implementations of Nuance’s Nina Web and Nina Mobile services.

Evaluating Enterprise Virtual Assistant Options

February 20, 2014 — 1:00 p.m. EST / 10:00 a.m. PST
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Sestek Invests in Enterprise Intelligent Assistant Marketplace with 30% Stake in Botego

2014 February 13

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.11.30 PMOn February 4th, speech-processing specialist Sestek completed an investment in Botego, acquiring 30% of the company. It signaled the beginning of stepped up efforts to develop and market solutions that combine Sestek’s automated speech processing assets with Botego’s natural language processing products and expertise.

According to company-supplied literature, Botego means “Bot with an Ego.” In its seven years of operations, it has distinguished itself as the only company, based in Turkey, offering a commercial product using NLP created for the Turkish language. Its main products include virtual agents, an automated email reply agent and tools that support document indexing and search as well as natural language search.

Botego can brag an impressive set of customers for these core products and services. They include Johnson & Johnson which employed Botego as the basis of “Ask Asli,” an artificial intelligence-base consumer chat line that fielded questions about O.B. tampons, a topic that J&J correctly believed its target customers might find to intimate or sensitive for live chat. Other customers include global brands like CocaCola, Fox and Lipton, as well as a number of domestic, Turkish firms like wireless provider Avea, TurkTelekom, DigiTurk and Finansbank. Together the two companies will expand their international footprint by adding languages and marketing efforts in the U.S. Botego has already opened an office in New York City. In addition to Turkish, Sestek’s platform supports English, German, Portuguese and a number of Arabic languages and dialects.

3iLogic-Designs’ SimSim Brings a Voice Interface to the Internet of Things

2014 February 11

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 12.21.10 PMThose of us who have been following development of a Conversational Interface for the Internet of Things (IoT) are very familiar with the myriad of challenges confronting product or service developers. We all start with a vision, rooted in the old Star Trek TV series and perpetuated in subsequent movies and sequels. Whenever, wherever a person needs to invoke the aid of a computer or computer-based resource, that system stands “at ready,” apparently listening for a trigger word to get started on its merry way.

My personal favorite is when Scottie or some other denizen of the holodeck has the ready-to-please system replicating his or her favorite cocktail whenever it is asked. “Computer,” he may say and then continue, “I’ll have another.” It’s just that simple. As anyone who has invoked speech recognition in an automobile by pressing a button on the steering wheel well knows, this is all  too futuristic with today’s technology. That’s where 3iLogic-Designs enters the picture. Today this speech processing specialist with offices in Fremont, CA, and R&D in Gugaon, India, is formally introducing SimSim, automated speech processing resource designed to be integrated with the low-cost microcontroller or application specific processors that power today’s consumer electronic devices.

The implications of SimSim are profound. If it works as described, it can be that ubiquitous, always-on resource with a relatively large vocabulary of “take action” words that work at low power and without a connection to the cloud. 3iLogic-Designs takes a hardware-based approach, calling SimSim “the world’s first speech recognition hardware engine in the form of an IP core. SimSim features a high-performance, ultra-low-power, embedded design that resides on an extremely small footprint and is fully self-contained.” It is also capable of running in a speaker-dependent mode. The company is in the process of lining up relationships or deals with chip makers whose core products are the microcontrollers (MCUs) that act as the brains of all the “smart” appliances, mobile phones and tablets, consumer electronics, and automotive or home automation peripherals.

SimSim speech recognition capabilities seem to be different from other offerings because of its small power requirements and the small size of the program itself. Management claims that it is also able to conduct speaker recognition and can, thus, be a tool for personalization. So that brings us ever-closer to Star Trek’s world, where people are especially comfortable talking to their computer-powered devices, whether they are connected to the cloud or not.

Sochi Showcases The Power of Avaya’s Fabric-Enabled Network to Fuel Innovation

2014 February 7

Avaya logoThe opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics is taking place as I write this. My prediction: Avaya’s approach to supporting multiple high-speed digital networks to support communications and collaboration at the Olympic Games will have profound implications for supporting multiple, multichannel conversations between companies and their customers. While this may seem like a stretch goal today, by the end of The Games, it will make perfect sense. At a recent briefing, Avaya executives made it clear that this is an event that showcases many “firsts” when looking at the architecture, nature and functions of the underlying network fabric. First and foremost, the scope of the project and the speeds involved – both for carriage of voice, video, text, tweets; and for network provisioning, construction and operations – are industry “firsts.”
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Aquisition of UserEvents Is Part of Predictable Transformation at LiveOps

2014 January 27

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 4.47.33 PMObserving that it has seen 55% growth in its core platform revenue over the past two years, Redwood City-based LiveOps is undergoing some fundamental, though predictable, changes. Flush with $30 million in debt funding from Comerica Bank, the company is formally separating its cloud-based contact center platform from its outsourced agent services business. The two businesses, called LiveOps Cloud Platform, LLC and LiveOps Agent Services LLC, will be run as wholly owned subsidiaries of LiveOps, Inc. and CEO Marty Beard will be Chairman of the Board.
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