Nick Panayi is the Chief Marketing Officer at Amelia, a leading software firm focused on conversational AI. Before joining Amelia as the CMO in 2018, Nick was the vice president of brand, demand, and digital marketing at DXC Technology. DXC is a $20 billion global IT services leader formed in 2017 after the merger of CSC and HPE Enterprise Services.
In addition to DXC, Nick’s 20 plus years of marketing experience in the technology industry includes a variety of marketing leadership roles with Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Avaya. Nick was named one of the top 25 digital marketers by B2B Magazine, and his marketing teams have won multiple awards and distinctions from Serious Decisions, ITSMA, and other marketing analyst firms in recent years.
In today’s episode, we’re going to dive into the topic of artificial intelligence.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Nick explained that artificial intelligence (AI) is “getting machines to think, act, and communicate as humans do; therefore, elevating our ability to get things done and letting us focus on the things that humans do best.”
In Nick’s case, he specifically works with conversational AI, which is all about machines that understand a human conversation and can communicate back effectively. This is very different from a chatbot or interactive voice response (IVR).
Nick described a chatbot as a human programmed decision tree, similar to an FAQ page. It can give programmed responses based on commonly asked questions we program into it. Similarly, an IVR is an automated phone system feature that gives callers a choice from a menu, and based on their response, the IVR will give them an answer. In both cases, they are very limited in their communication skills, set to answer only specific questions and phrases.
Conversational AI is what Nick calls IVR 2.0. He explained, “The next generation of systems artificial intelligence is different in that the software knows how to communicate with humans, and then take action on their behalf.”
Working with a chatbot or IVR can cause a lot of frustration since they are very limited in their responses. We may call into a customer service department and when the IVR lists the menu options, our questions may not match any of the listed options. With conversational AI, the experience suddenly becomes a lot easier and a bit more humanized.
Nick explained that conversational AI doesn’t just use a system of classification. It can actually comprehend information and respond to questions asked in multiple different ways. It understands and it can then communicate back in a human-like manner. The software is already integrated into the system, so it knows it all.
Nick explained it is like uploading a document into its brain: it doesn’t just recognize keywords or sentence structures, it has a knowledge of the information and can use different words to explain it to others.
But what makes conversational AI any better than the systems we already have in our businesses? Here are three benefits of AI:
3 Benefits of AI
1. Increases Cost Efficiency and Makes It Easier to Scale
“How can businesses take advantage of [AI]? They can scale their resources because they can take the mundane, redundant tasks that otherwise their employees would have to deal with, and give them to machines so they can focus on the things that humans do best, which is creativity, empathy, and personalized service,” Nick said.
One way we can use AI is on our customer service lines or help desks. Instead of getting employees to answer simple questions, we can get the AI to do it so our employees can focus on more difficult questions or important projects. This saves us time and money, making it much easier to scale a business.
“Most of what we ask when we call a call center are challenges and problems. . . . We usually call them because we have some sort of an issue. 80% of those issues are usually resolvable by a conversation with AI. Think of the efficiencies that a business would gain from doing that. That will free up their agents to do more high-touch work with high-touch customers,” Nick explained.
Telefonica, a multinational telecommunications company headquartered in Spain, has used Ameila (Nick’s conversational AI) in their call center in Peru. Amelia takes about 7 million calls a month for their company and then can take actions based on the customer.
By doing this, she saves the company a lot of money and time. Not only that, she also increases employee engagement and customer satisfaction, which we will discuss below.
2. Increases Employee Engagement
“The employees that would otherwise have to be on the phone and listen to you and me complain about a phone bill or want to reset a password [won’t have to anymore],” Nick said. “Imagine doing that all day long. I don’t think a lot of people can see that as meaningful work. [With AI,] they’re able to move into a higher value proposition, and use a higher level of human interaction where necessary, so employee engagement increases.”
Answering the same questions for angry customers all day long can be draining and upsetting. When employees can spend their time engaged in more meaningful work, they will become more productive, happier, and stay longer with our companies.
3. Increases Customer Satisfaction
AI can also increase customer satisfaction because it reduces call time and removes human error.
When Telefonica used Ameila, they could help about 7 million customers each month. According to Hubspot, a call center agency can take up to 50 calls in a day. With 15 employees on the phone answering 50 calls a day, that is still only about 22,500 calls a month, about 20% of what an AI can answer. An AI can help significantly more customers than an employee can, reducing hold time to nothing.
“Especially during the pandemic, all the call centers are getting flooded with two or three times the volume of incoming calls. Most people have to wait on hold,” Nick said. “With an artificial intelligence agent, hold time is zero. She answers the phone every single time with no wait time, and solves [approximately] 80% of the problems, . . . so of course customer satisfaction goes up.”
An AI can also solve questions more effectively because it has instant access to information. It doesn’t have to wait for the database to load, it doesn’t have to transfer, and it doesn’t have to wait for a supervisor to take a call.
Not only that, but an AI is also consistent. Have you ever been given a wrong answer on the phone or been transferred to five other call agents before solving an answer before?
I have an employee who once lost out on about $4,000 of college scholarships because the call center agent gave her wrong information. You can imagine her frustration. An AI can avoid all of that because it has all of the right answers already uploaded into its “brain”.
A conversational AI also has infinite patience. It won’t get upset or yell at a customer. A customer may ask the same question five times, and an AI will answer it five times. When a customer doesn’t have to speak to an employee who would naturally be upset by this, they will feel happier. Finally, an AI doesn’t have bias. It gives us an objective approach which can also increase our customer satisfaction as well.
Conversational AI has the potential to bring a lot of benefits to our businesses. Have you considered adding AI?
Best Monetization Secret
Near the end of this episode, Nick shared with me his best monetization secret: pursuit marketing. He explained we should focus on one-on-one and direct marketing with our best sales prospect. Part of his secret includes having great marketing and sales teams that work together. He explained that his biggest mistake was not building a relationship with sales. When we have a marketing team and a sales team that are on the same page with a potential customer or client, our marketing and sales efforts both have more potential for success.
One of the biggest tectonic shifts he sees is the expansion of the digital world. We are seeing how a strong marketing strategy can put us in a position of power since we have access to our customers’ digital footprints. Nick explained we should take advantage of all this data and use it with our sales team so we can make a win together. In the next episode, we will dive deeper into the but pursuit of marketing and how we can effectively implement it within our own businesses to increase the success of our marketing and sales efforts.
Thank you so much Nick for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Conversational AI can comprehend information and respond to questions asked in multiple different ways, communicating in a human-like manner.
2. We can use AI in our customer service department, saving us time and money, and making it much easier to scale a business.
3. About 80% of customer problems are usually resolvable by conversations with AI.
4. AI can save our employees the hassle of answering basic questions. This way they can spend their time engaged in more meaningful work.
5. AI can increase customer satisfaction because it reduces call time and removes human error.
6. When our marketing and sales team are on the same page, we are more likely to win over a customer or client.
Connect with Nick
To learn more about or connect with Nick:
-Connect on LinkedIn
-Visit his website at Amelia.ai
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