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Awaken Intelligence Executive Interview

Simon Black, CEO, Awaken Intelligence

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Sheri Greenhaus, Managing Partner of CrmXchange, sat down with Simon Black, CEO, Awaken Intelligence, which offers a unique combination of technologies for contact centers, including agent guidance, near-time voice and text analytics, and a blend of decision trees and AI.

Awaken is platform agnostic, integrating with various telephony and other contact centre systems. Their solution provides unbiased scoring, improves agent performance, enhances the customer journey, and enables proactive outreach. Their technology offers valuable insights into customer interactions, improves efficiency, and ensures compliance, making it an attractive choice for contact center optimization.

Can you please provide an overview of Awaken?

Awaken is a start-up, but with a 20 year history in the contact center space. The idea for Awaken emerged from my chairman's BPO and more recently we’ve acquired various technologies, including a company called CallScripter. CallScripter is a web-based agent guidance solution that allows agents to build customer processes into a single web application. It integrates multiple applications into one, eliminating the need for agents to switch between different systems during phone calls. Agent guidance is primarily process-driven rather than AI-driven.

Our second product is near-time voice and text-based analytics. It can automatically transcribe phone calls into text and analyze the emotions and sentiment expressed in the voices. This feature enables 100% automatic quality assurance and ensures compliance by flagging inappropriate agent responses or verifying the reading of compliance statements.

Another capability is understanding why customers contact the call center. If there's a sudden spike in calls, we can explain the reason behind it. When combining the process-driven agent guidance and near-time voice analytics, we have a third product that listens to the voice in real-time and uses AI to understand customer intent. For example, if a customer calls to inquire about a new insurance policy but finds the cost too high, the system is able to recognize their concern and prompts the agent to offer a discount if the customer is an existing policyholder. This improves the rate of first call resolution and their win rates.

Would setting up the call guidance involve a decision tree or AI?

It involves both. Some companies rely solely on AI, which I believe is flawed, while others solely use decision trees with predefined flows. We believe a combination of both is necessary for successful outcomes. For straightforward processes like insurance claims after a car accident, a decision tree with a predefined flow works well. However, for more complex scenarios where customers raise objections or unexpected issues arise, AI understanding of real-time conversations is crucial to support the agent effectively. We offer the ideal combination by integrating the decision tree process with AI, providing flexibility based on the use case.

We are quite unique in the market as we offer both decision tree and AI capabilities, unlike companies that focus solely on one or the other. Our approach allows customers to choose depending on their specific needs.

Do clients typically start with decision trees and then transition to AI?

Yes, definitely. Decision trees are effective and especially useful when it comes to challenges in recruiting agents. Many simple tasks in contact centers are now handled through self-service options like chatbots, leaving the more complex jobs for the agents. However, without the right tools, their job becomes more difficult. Decision trees provide valuable support, reduce training times, and can improve the agent experience, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention.

If AI is not implemented correctly, customers may become annoyed if the agent provides incorrect responses. This puts additional pressure on the agents. It's important to be cautious and consider the appropriate use cases for AI.

Is your platform agnostic?

Yes, one of our unique selling points is that we are platform agnostic. We integrate with every telephony system, including Genesys, NICE, Twilio, Five9, and 8x8, among others. We act as a layer on top of existing systems, supporting agents and enhancing the overall customer experience without requiring a complete replacement of current products.

You mentioned quality. Do you also provide quality scoring?

Yes, we do. Our solution includes a front-end dashboarding capability. One of our key strengths is how easy our technology is to roll out and administer. We are low code and don't require developers or highly skilled analysts to work with our product. We implement quickly, and with our voice product, we offer a free 2-week proof of concept. During this period, we use the customer's data to build scorecards aligned with their quality assurance standards or any specific scoring criteria they have. Calls are then automatically scored against these scorecards, providing unbiased and comprehensive quality assurance. The system highlights outliers and identifies areas where agents may need additional training or improvement.

What do your customers consider the biggest benefits?

The benefits vary depending on the vertical market. Many of our customers focus on complex or emotionally charged interactions. Our technologies help guide agents to deliver better service in such situations. Our customer base mainly consists of regulated industries like banking, insurance, telecom, and utilities, as well as outsourced companies. Our platform-agnostic approach makes us a preferred solution.

Understanding why customers call the contact center is crucial. For example, we worked with a rural telco company in the States. They had a power line issue and were unaware of the extent until they had spoken to about 30 customers. Our analytics alerted them to the larger problem, allowing proactive communication with the entire customer base in the affected area. This reduced call volumes significantly. We also help customers improve their self-service options and enhance the customer journey by analyzing the voice of the customer to identify website issues.

In addition to these benefits, our technology enables 100% quality assurance on every call (plus email or texts-based messages), providing unbiased scoring and eliminating the need for team leaders to manually score calls themselves.

It seems that the ability to combine all your solutions is highly attractive to companies.

Absolutely. Many companies offer standalone manual QA tools, and we integrate with those tools to automate call scoring, pushing more detailed analysis to the manual side. Our combined solution becomes more appealing to customers because it offers a comprehensive package.

What kind of feedback do you receive from the agents using your system? Do they appreciate the unbiased scoring?

Yes, the unbiased scoring is highly appreciated. Currently, most agents' calls are manually scored, typically only 1% to 5% of calls. Manual scoring can impact their performance reviews, and everyone has off days. Agents who believe they perform well want unbiased automated scoring. The key benefit, however, is the guidance provided during calls.

Before implementing our technology, agents often felt lost and struggled to support customers effectively. They faced irate customers and lacked the necessary information, resorting to creating their own spreadsheets and documents to guide them. With our agent guidance system, agents feel empowered and equipped with the right information, making their job much easier.

Would you say that now agents, armed with this information, provide better calls, resulting in better scores?

Absolutely, 100%.

In our last few minutes together, is there anything else you would like to share with the CrmXchange audience?

I believe many software companies act as standalone entities, focusing on their individual products. There is a lack of collaboration among software companies to explore how combining technologies can improve the customer experience. We go out of our way to ensure we improve our clients’ connectivity.

Our technology also has the ability to understand the mental well-being of agents by analyzing their emotions. This enables proactive support, such as moving agents to different departments if they're struggling.

Furthermore, there are challenges related to noise, whether it's agents working from home with background noises or customers calling from busy streets. We have partnered with IRIS Audio to address these issues. Their AI technology removes background noise from phone calls, allowing agents and customers to hear each other clearly. Improved call quality enhances the effectiveness of our analytics.

Additionally, about half of our customers use mono recording for calls, resulting in lower quality. With IRIS technology, we have achieved a 15% increase in call dualization, separating the agent's and customer's voices. This combination of technologies, along with our analytics, is a game-changer as it helps us truly understand how to assist agents and provide a perfect customer experience.