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Call Simulator Executive Interview

David Lawson, Co-Founder and CEO, Call Simulator

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Sheri Greenhaus, Managing Partner, CrmXchange, recently met with David Lawson, Co-Founder and CEO of Call Simulator™, an immersive Conversational AI and Generative AI platform that makes it easy and fun to Generate, Simulate, and Evaluate real-world scenarios for Call Training  

Sheri Greenhaus: Let’s discuss how Call Simulator started.

David Lawson: In 2019, our journey began with conversational AI training specifically for emergency call centers. However, we have now expanded our focus to include general call centers. As I delved deeper into emergency dispatcher training methods, I discovered that they employed scenario-based training requiring the navigation of complex software while having a human trainer play the role of the caller. I realized that we could use conversational AI in a unique way—as the caller. By the end of 2019, we had developed a product. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed us the time to refine our offering, as there can be no failures in emergency calls.

Emergency call handling requires active listening, effective communication, and multitasking skills—a truly human endeavor. We also partnered with the largest provider of emergency protocols, creating what we call AISkillLab powered by Call Simulator. We have successfully implemented our solution in over 100 agencies in the U.S. and abroad. We are even approved for continuing dispatcher education (CDE) credits, demonstrating that our approach is effective.

About a year and a half ago, we expanded our focus to the general call center space. We designed Call Simulator to be compatible with any type of call center. Our success in this area has been remarkable, particularly where empathy, acknowledgement, and reassurance are essential— which are very human elements. Our approach allows clients to quickly generate scenarios, putting the control in their hands. We facilitate the creation of immersive scenarios in as many as 16 available languages, including ambient background noise to enhance the experience, such as a busy office or an airport.

Our platform is comprised of three main components. First is the Scenario Studio, where trainers and learning and development professionals can swiftly generate role-play scenarios. Our private instance of generative AI is seamlessly integrated with this studio, enabling quick scenario generation including variations. Second, we have the CallSim Player, which provides learners with the actual simulation experience. This audio box can be positioned on their screen while they navigate their internal call center software. Traditionally, call centers employed building block training, teaching the software and conversation separately. However, we believe in scenario-based training that combines both aspects, mimicking real-life calls.

We also introduced the concept of a playlist, allowing a rotation of scenarios for learners to practice. These playlists can have a specific theme, like overcoming objections or focusing on a particular product. When learners access the platform, they are assigned a personalized home page with their assigned playlists. Lastly, we offer an evaluation component. Every simulation is assessed based on various factors, including script adherence where applicable, compliance verification, average handle time,, and the use of acknowledgement, reassurance and/or empathy. A compliance example is the need for stating specific legal requirements that the operators need to follow during calls.

Sheri Greenhaus: Regarding the Scenario Studio, does it rely on technology listening to calls to generate scenarios, or is it created through verbal or written inputs?

David Lawson: All you need to do is describe the scenario in a few sentences, and the platform takes care of the rest. Within about five minutes, a complete scenario is generated. This goes beyond just a script; it creates the framework for the call. Let's take a home insurance example. Suppose a customer paid $2,000 last year, but their premium increased to $5,000 this year. You can add the mood of the caller – angry, upset, etc. as well as other details. Think of yourself as a director, providing the AI "actor" with a background story and motivation. A skilled actor, or in this case, the AI, will respond logically within the context of the conversation, staying in character throughout.

The introduction of generative AI has revolutionized scenario creation, enabling rapid generation. Once an initial scenario is created, numerous variations can be generated for each element. While the overarching framework remains the same, each simulation can play out differently. When I entered the call center space, I was struck by the significant investment in quality control at the end of the line. However, true quality starts with training. Call Simulator offers learners the opportunity to experience a wide range of scenarios at any time from anywhere, providing scale to role-playing not possible with human trainers. Investing in training is a cost-effective approach with a high return on investment. Interestingly, we even receive direct feedback from agents who find us online while searching for practice calls. These agents are eager to improve their performance and often feel lost due to complex software provided by their companies.

One interesting aspect is that many individuals who seek our platform explicitly state their desire to be better at their jobs and sometimes want to practice their English. Humans, by nature, aspire to excel. This is why our tagline is "Safely practice to perfection." Additionally, human role-playing can be intimidating for some, akin to public speaking, even if they excel in phone conversations. Call Simulator provides a safe space for them to fail, learn, and ultimately succeed.

Through our evaluations, we've observed significant improvements. We ask learners about their confidence levels before and after using the simulator, and the results are striking. Average handle times decrease, and NPS and CSAT scores improve because agents have had the opportunity to practice not only their conversational skills but also their software proficiency.

Sheri Greenhaus: Is your tool integrated with software and/or  learning management systems?

David Lawson: Our CallSim Player is designed to work with any software application. Some of our clients use software emulation platforms like Assima Solutions while others have a training environment. Call Simulator is a SaaS application so it can be easily launched from an LMS. We have seen significant reductions in the time to proficiency on software. This is even more important as call centers implement next generation tools, many powered by AI, that, while helpful, also require training to use them effectively and efficiently.

Sheri Greenhaus: So, in essence, it seems like an automated role-playing solution at scale. Companies no longer need to rely on supervisors or trainers for role-playing sessions. This frees up their time to focus on other tasks, while trainers can now devote more attention to analyzing agent responses and providing coaching and feedback.

David Lawson: Absolutely. When agents review their own evaluations, they can gauge their performance. They can identify areas where they excel, such as empathy, as well as areas that need improvement, like technical proficiency. Supervisors and trainers can transition into coaching roles, spending less time on role-playing and more time guiding agents. With Call Simulator, agents can practice to perfection. They can witness their initial performance and track their progress over time, experiencing the improvement firsthand. This ensures that even if agents encounter rare and critical calls, they have already practiced handling similar issues through the rotation of role-play scenarios.

Sheri Greenhaus: So the playlist feature allows for a rotation of scenarios?

David Lawson: Precisely. The playlist concept works similarly to platforms like Spotify or Pandora. For example, a playlist could consist of 20 scenarios focused on fraud prevention, where someone attempts to gather sensitive information through phishing. By using the rotation feature, you can include normal calls and phishing calls, enabling agents to become adept at recognizing and handling fraudulent calls.

Sheri Greenhaus: Is Call Simulator a relatively new product?

David Lawson: While it is a newer product in the general call center space, we have been developing it since 2019, initially focusing on emergency call centers. We introduced it to the general market in 2022, and it has gained significant traction. We were also accepted into the Engage.vc program, where a diverse group of large corporations, including Fortune 500 companies, voted for us as a potentially valuable tool for them to implement. These companies appreciate our Scenario Studio's capabilities, enabling them  to create and edit scenarios easily, including using different voices and background sounds. Additionally, in the last six months, we have incorporated generative AI and expressive voices, ensuring that the voices have the right tone for each moment and respond to answer out-of-context questions.

Traditionally, using human voice actors in recordings was effective but took a lot of time and posed challenges when making even slight changes. With Call Simulator, modifications are quick and effortless. Another aspect trainers and agents appreciate is the freedom to go off script. Conversations don't need to follow a rigid structure. Agents can adjust their responses based on cues from the caller, such as detecting irritation or the need for empathy.

Personally, I enjoy bringing products to the market. It amazes me how much automation can enhance training in this industry. There is still ample room for us to contribute to its improvement. At heart, I am a social entrepreneur. My background includes working in ed tech and social tech. Our mission is all about empowering and enhancing human performance. In the general call center space, we actively listen to the needs of our clients, making our product highly adaptable. We strive to collaborate with learning and development professionals, positioning ourselves as valuable partners at the table.

The highest compliment we receive is when someone recognizes that we truly understand their industry and the work they do, rather than seeing our platform as a completely novel approach. When people ask about our business, I tell them that we're in the conversation business. We provide people with the opportunity to practice crucial conversations safely and effectively.

Sheri Greenhaus: Looking ahead three years, where do you envision your company?

David Lawson: I reflect on the remarkable growth we have already experienced. We are a global company, with clients in South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and beyond, now offering our platform in multiple languages we see our global reach expanding quickly. We typically start with call centers within a company, but we quickly expand into other areas that involve significant conversations. I'm excited about the potential for scaling our solution with the aid of generative AI, as well as the availability of expressive voices. In three years, I envision our company having significantly expanded and established a broader presence within the companies we serve.


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