The Latest Innovations in CX Automation in 2019

Airport robots, voice avatars and more

Kindra Cooper

cx automation 2019

CX automation was a top investment priority for 2018, with hype effervescing around chatbots, marketing automation and smarter IVRs designed to obliterate call center wait times.

Touted as a cure-all for tamping down staffing costs and agent turnover, expectations for CX automation shot through the roof, with businesses scrambling to invest in new toys without stopping to consider what their goals were. Some used automation as a stopgap to handle excess customer support inquiries, offload monotonous tasks, or cut costs for expensive voice channels - in short, targeting internal operational efficiencies without weighing how it would impact the customer.

But CX automation is a double-sided equation, says Bobby Amezaga, senior director of product marketing at Salesforce. “On one end, companies need to deliver a completely seamless, engaging and automated experience for their customers. On the other end, companies need to deliver a best-in-class agent experience that ultimately helps them deliver a killer customer experience and provides a path for career and professional growth.”

Here are some of the latest CX automation technologies we’re seeing in 2019.

1. “Skype on wheels”

Robot guides are becoming more and more of a mainstay at airports around the world. London’s Southend Airport is testing out two BEAM robots whose job is to perambulate the departure lounge and answer queries from customers by allowing airport employees to Skype with customers via a screen. The bots can also field questions about flight status, the location of boarding gates and more.

It’s clear from an employee engagement and cost standpoint why a bot might be preferable to hiring a human to do the rounds, and customers are increasingly accustomed to querying bots for administrative or transactional matters. They’re not unlike the automatons deployed at Seoul’s Incheon airport, the Airbot, which speaks four languages and is even programmed to walk passengers to their gate. Meanwhile, the RADA bot at the Delhi International Airport in India owned by Vistara, a private Indian airline, has an entertainment component; it can play games, music and display audiovisual content.

2. Yodel voice avatars

Despite strides in self-service, IVR and chatbots, voice channels are still the leading customer engagement channel. However, voice interactions are notoriously costly and inefficient - hence difficult to scale. Yodel’s latest voice technology offering is an advanced interactive soundboard delivered via avatar, which enables agents to pre-record a script spoken by a “model agent” and manually program sequence playbacks during a live call.

While avatars are typically used for outbound voice calls, Yodel is trying to reposition them for inbound customer support interactions as a human-sounding alternative to the impersonal IVR by making customers feel as if they are speaking to a live agent.

By automating inbound calls as a button-pressing task for agents, the technology company touts the software as a way to reduce human error - especially when outsourcing to offshore agents - and reduce the costs of hiring highly trained agents.

The company insists that automating inbound calls (while giving the appearance of a live interaction) frees up agents to do higher level work, but the job of a call center agent is to field calls. If attrition rates from agent monotony are already worryingly steep, what will happen when an agent’s job is reduced to button-pushing - to say nothing of their wage prospects?

3. Yext digital knowledge management

Fragmentation is a major vexation when it comes to knowledge management - with inconsistencies in the information contained in the back-end knowledge base, the company website and automated marketing emails. Or perhaps your company updates its business hours on its website but forgets to do so on Yelp, resulting in angry customers demanding to know why they can’t reach you at 5:15pm.

The Yext digital knowledge management platform allows brands to control their business information and data across the web and across digital devices like voice assistants. Already integrated with hundreds of leading brands like Google, Amazon Alexa, and Yelp, the platform recently integrated with Snapchat to help businesses optimize their presence on the social networking site using Snapchat Context Cards and Venue Geofilters.

Additionally, the new Intelligent Review Response feature automatically trawls the world wide web for customer reviews and performs sentiment analysis to categorize reviews as positive or negative and flag important keywords. The technology also helps build problem solving-oriented responses based on a template of preset options.

And through the new Tableau app, a business intelligence and analytics platform, you can view customer engagement and performance metrics across the knowledge network for every site, platform and device on which your business has a presence.   

4. Robotic process automation

Business process automation technology automates mundane tasks like data entry or automated email responses to free up people’s time to focus on more high-value work. On the customer-facing side, it’s designed to reduce human error. Using “if..then” type programming, the bot can be programmed to perform certain tasks if certain circumstances are present.

For example, a bot responsible for processing invoices can be trained to recognize emails with specific subject lines, open the email, download the attached invoice into a defined folder and create the bills in the accounting software by copying and pasting information from the attached invoice into an ERP.

RPA robots can login into applications, move files and folders, copy and paste data, fill in forms, scrape browsers and more. They replicate rote human tasks based on specific commands while AI, by contrast, simulates human intelligence and is designed to get smarter with use.

5. Automatic voice authentication technology

Voice biometrics 2.0 automatically authenticates a customer throughout the course of a natural conversation with a live agent. There is no interruption, no requiring the customer to utter a specific passphrase, and no intrusive authentication questions about date of birth and mother’s maiden name. Text-independent technologies like the Verizon VoIP Inbound Anti-Fraud and Authentication captures voice biometrics data in the background, generating a unique voice print for each customer based on the distinct shape of their vocal tract.

The system integrates voice authentication with more than 1300 other parameters, such as the origin of the call, the make and model of the caller’s cellphone, behavioral biometrics and even keystroke patterns from when a user enters a DTMF code.

Verizon uses media forking technology to generate multiple streams of audio associated with a single call and send it to Verizon partner Pindrop’s anti-fraud and authentication cloud service. Pindrop then provides an authentication score of green, yellow or red, depending on the tolerance thresholds specified by the call center.

To learn more, download our Special Report, The Evolution of CX Automation.