Progress Report: Vendor Conferences Provide Mid-Year Snapshot of Conversational Cloud Offerings

As the first half of 2023 came to a close, a succession of vendor events provided an opportunity to assess the state of the Conversational Cloud based on their product and service offerings of major solution providers. Events convened by NICE, Verint, Genesys and Avaya brought together thousands of customers, partners, prospects and analysts. Meanwhile, Customer Contact Week (CCW) 2023, attracted more than 3,000 attendees from the ranks of contact center operators, BPOs and technology providers. Collectively these events enabled vendors to showcase solutions that address pragmatic concerns from both enterprise and medium-sized businesses, with special attention to cloud migration, digital transformation and (most conspicuously) Conversational AI-infusion.

Opus attended three out of five of these get-togethers. Here’s our subjective assessment and commentary.

For NICE/CXOne, AI is a “CX Alchemist”

In his keynote at NICE Interactions, CEO Barak Eilam estimated that “only 20 percent of enterprises have begun their native cloud migration.” That’s on the low end of the 20-40% estimate that a consensus of analysts routinely quote for the percentage of IT infrastructure that has migrated to remote server farms. Still, the citation drives home a point. There is lots of room for continued growth in the market for Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) as part of a broader category of IT spending called Cloud Migration.

As for Digital Transformation, Eilam had a very short, attention-grabbing piece of advice: “Start it over!” Many of NICE’s prospects and customers are just beginning to embark on their move to the cloud and they have an opportunity to “do it right” by totally replacing premises-based hardware and software and by employing AI-infused resources to speed the pace of innovation. When thinking of digital transformation, Eilam posited that, the first efforts by most companies “have failed” and that it is time to start over with the objective of moving to a single platform (CXOne) and use AI as “the natural mediator” or “CX Alchemist”. NICE AI has one name, and that is Enlighten.

NICE has several flavors of Enlighten but focuses initially on three solutions that are trained on NICE’s domain-specific language models:

  • Enlighten Copilot – An agent-assist offering that provides accurate, informed, brand-specific guidance during the course of a conversation.
  • Enlighten Autopilot – An approach to self-service that informs voicebots or chatbots with trusted company knowledge.
  • Enlighten Actions – A new offering that combines Enlighten’s AI models for CX, Generative AI technology, and industry benchmarks to enable employees to build AI-powered CX processes quickly through a natural language interface.

Verint Introduces “Open CCaaS” and a Team of Specialized Bots

Migrating to a single platform on the cloud is the explicit purpose of Verint repositioning its core product offering under the umbrella of “the only Open CCaaS Platform”. Verint raised eyebrows with its new terminology because “Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)” intrinsically refers to the functional equivalent of a telephony switch or automated call director (ACD) coupled with agent workspaces connected to a plethora of call management and session management software. Verint offers no “native” ACD and, instead, conforms to CEO Dan Bodner’s maxim that “To be truly open, you must be open to all solutions and dimensions.” That militates towards a BYOT (Bring Your Own Telephony) approach, acknowledging that every customer pursues its own path to the Conversational Cloud, including its choice of ACD.

Openness especially applies to data. The “Open Data” approach is supported by Verint’s Open Engagement Hub which is an aggregation of chat transcripts and transcribed recordings, along with associated metadata from call detail records, surveys and other data that is traditionally trapped or siloed in back-end IT systems. Verint execs repeatedly referred to the hub as a “gym where bots go to train.” Da Vinci supports many different models, as appropriate, to train “bots” that are based on the company’s domain-specific data.

At Interactions, Verint demonstrated numerous purpose-built bots that are ready-made for deployment. Examples included:

  • Forecasting Bot
  • Summary Bot
  • Insight Bot
  • Coaching Bot
  • Knowledge Search Bot
  • Compliance Bot

Verint has long trained proprietary AI models for Da Vinci and related bots, but that is changing quickly. Da Vinci will now be an offering that is open to “any commercially available model” according to Chief Product Officer Jaime Meritt. The objective is to make both the data (conversational intelligence) and bots accessible to everyone, giving employees the opportunity to query their own data *and* review results to avoid egregious mistakes.

Genesys Touts Journey Management With Focus on CX

For Genesys both cloud migration and digital transformation are givens. The Genesys Cloud CX (TM) Platform is packaged as CX as a Service, which takes digital transformation into account by unifying customer and agent experiences across phone, email, chat, text and social channels. When thinking about accommodating the various paths enterprises take toward cloud migration and digital transformation, Chairman and CEO Tony Bates observes, “We leave it up to you regarding how to ‘onboard’ onto that platform.” But once on it, Genesys pursues a land-and-expand strategy, encouraging its customers to decide what they want to add and where they want to go. “It’s just that easy.”

Bates regards the biggest challenge that enterprises confront to measure the quality CX so that businesses can make informed decisions about features and functions to add. Genesys launched a new methodology called the Genesys Experience Index for comparing individual agent’s performance as well as the end-to-end experience of customers to established benchmarks that cross channels and entire industries. Its version of Conversational Intelligence “combines human sentiment with industry benchmarks and data from the Genesys Cloud CX™ platform or potentially even other sources.”

Message to Enterprises: “You Are Your Own LLM”

Conversational AI is giving shape to CX, Self-Service and Workforce Engagement. How well companies are able to share Conversational Intelligence between and among bots and agent assistants (co-pilots) across departments has an impact on customer experience, enterprise efficiency and the bottom line. The point of origin for each enterprise’s approach is informed by the following three truths:

  • Every enterprise is on a unique path to the Conversational Cloud. They would welcome the certainty and predictability of a single vendor solution. But, over the years, they have opted for “best-of-breed” solutions to specific challenges around areas like workforce optimization (WFO), interaction analytics, chatbots, voicebots and other forms of intelligent assistance.
  • New relationships are being forged between centralized IT and business units. Many of today’s innovative, purpose-driven solutions were developed under the auspices of department or project level “shadow IT.” Now we are witnessing unprecedented cooperation around application integration and data sharing sharing to support consistent responses to queries from agents and customers alike.
  • Every enterprise has the opportunity to be its own LLM provider. The content of conversations between brands and their customers is foundational for local language models that also includes data and metadata from CRM, Knowledge Management and other backend systems.

In short, enterprises must now evaluate and choose solution providers that help them in ways that go beyond cloud migration, digital transformation and AI-infusion and get right to the point of competitive differentiation. It starts with recognizing the value of Conversational Intelligence and culminates when each company employs the “I am my own LLM” strategy.

Categories: Conversational Intelligence, Intelligent Assistants, Intelligent Authentication, Articles