Call Simulator Executive Interview
David Lawson, Co-Founder and CEO, Call Simulator
Click here to read the ebook
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
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
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
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
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
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.