ONE of the kingdom’s leading contact centres is all set to unleash the region’s first beautiful bot to take the angst out of calling for information and having to wait ages for straight forward answers to simple questions.
And, we’ve all done it, inadvertently pressed the wrong button as the digital world leads you on a merry dance of dismay and you just pray for a helpful voice.
IVA, pronounced ‘Aiva’, may just be what we’ve been waiting for.
It stands for Invita Virtual Assistant or Invita’s first Virtual Assistant and the sweet-talking bot programmed to act like a human when you talk to her ... and will make it feel like you’re asking a person for help instead of just typing in a search engine.
“The reason for a name, is to make the BOT more personable and relatable.” explained Rahul Bhalla, chief executive of Invita, the multi-lingual contact centre in Bahrain that delivers business process outsourcing (BPO) services to regional clients operating across a spectrum of industries from banking, insurance, retail, telecom, utilities to airlines and the public sector.
“I think this is a first, not only in Bahrain but in the region, for any BPO company to add BOT to their line of services.
“The name works on a second level as well, as ‘Aiva!’ in Arabic, exudes a feeling of welcome and acceptance. We intend to make the user interaction and experience as human as possible, no different from chatting online with a live person.
“We intend to help develop the bot into a virtual person and will actually be celebrating IVA’s Birthday on June 3 every year.
“There are many reasons why customers would like to connect with IVA. Customers connect with the contact centre when they have a problem, and would like to be served as soon as possible.
“With the traditional way of phoning you may connect immediately or have to wait depending upon the call volumes at any given moment.
“Interactive voice response systems are sometimes designed to direct calls to different specialist teams, if one selects the wrong option, one will end up with the wrong team. This can be frustrating.
“With IVA you can connect instantly, regardless of the number of customers, and you do not have to worry about calling the correct number or selecting the write menu option, to get the information you are looking for in a matter of seconds.
“The service will be available 24/7 and you can use the service even when you are outside Bahrain without having to pay for expensive international call charges. Furthermore, the scope of the enquiries that can be handled is not limited to the specialisation or experience of the advisor who is handling your enquiry. The same bot can be trained and retrained on multiple products and services.”
Invita is a fully-owned company of BBK Bank and was established in 2006 as a BPO arm of the BBK group, the first in the country to be ISO and PCI-DSS certified, and now employs more than 400 people.
“We wanted customers to have easy access to information 24/7 and it came very naturally to us to harness the potential of Artificial Intelligence using our expertise in the contact centre industry,” explained Rahul, an Indian expat from New Delhi who came to Bahrain to help establish the company.
“Being a part of the customer experience (CX) industry in Bahrain for more than 12 years, we always keep thinking of innovative ideas to serve our customers faster and let them have access to information in the easiest way.”
Success along the way has included adapting the latest technology to implement changes such as developing a video contact centre in 2006 and introducing web chat in 2010. But nothing compares to IVA.
“I’m very excited with the launch of IVA as it opens a whole new world of Artificial Intelligence,” said Rahul. “We wanted to build a tool that can give customers access to information when they want it and how they want it.
“As we are already managing a contact centre for many clients from different sectors in Bahrain, we thought of adding an additional channel to serve customers.
“With consumers today increasingly demanding a fast, easy access to information, the BOTs play a very important role in providing the required information. “
He believes this is the next step in the evolution of online help. In the past, people had to read through product and service webpages in order to understand and find answers, baffling for many people as they tried to decipher the jargon used.
This led to the creation of online communities and forums, allowing people to present their queries and wait for the wisdom of others and experts. However, answers were not readily available – people had to wait for days or had to review multiple responses, or go through another maze of links to try and find the right answer.
What was missing was the lack of easy access to feedback … which is where IVA comes in. The team looked at different BOTs available and decided to go with Microsoft and organised teams to develop the project - IT for the design and core development, led by Syed Ahamed, a Knowledge Development Team – to work on the empirical data on customer interactions that the company had gathered over the years and could develop the initial knowledge base, and Beta Teams – to simulate the most common scenarios and testing the responsiveness. The user interface was outsourced to a third party to get the right look and feel for IVA.
There are two main reasons why Invita is confident IVA will prove to be a blessing.
- Potential customers – IVA will help reach a wider segment of users who don’t like navigating through websites, pressing buttons on phones to be served with an agent but are quite savvy with messaging apps and other social channels.
- Business – IVA will help companies to serve their customer day and night without having to incur heavy payroll costs as IVA will free up contact centre agents to focus on more complex and value-added interactions.
“There is a lot of information on any company’s website and it becomes very difficult for the customer to traverse through the site and the various documents, and read through all this information,” Rahul explained.
“Customers can go to their service provider’s website and click on the BOT tab to either key in their query or use the speech recognition tools. The BOT will refine and evaluate the query, find the information with the help of the information published on the website and knowledge bases, and will either display on the screen or play it back as a message.
“IVA understands the customer’s intent and will respond to it in the most appropriate manner.
“A bot typically keeps developing itself with time with an ever-expanding knowledge base and query to response mapping, as more and more customers start using it and start to ask different questions or the same question in different ways.
“And, our intelligent reporting system give us the insights and confidence level for each question asked to make the responses better. So the same way as you type your messages and interact with IVA, you will be able to talk to IVA and get your answer without having to even touch a keyboard.
“Speech enables the integration of speech processing capabilities into IVA - convert voice into text or produce natural sounding speech from text using standard voice fonts.
“It uses the Microsoft Cognitive service API’s to convert spoken audio to text and vice versa and all the user has to use is the microphone of the device to ask the question.
“The device will play the message back to the user in standard voice fonts. We have the algorithm ready and will wait for the market demand to further develop and test it but it would not take us more than a month.
“It will be offered to any business that wants to offer customers easy access to information. We will obviously, begin with offering it to all our existing clients, especially from the banking, insurance and the government sectors.”
Companies can contact 17506000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Stanley Louis Szecowka
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