Does GenAI Leak Your Sensitive Data? Exposing Common AI Misconceptions (Part Three)

This is the final post in a three-part series clarifying the biggest misconceptions holding CX leaders like you back from integrating GenAI into their CX strategies. Our goal? To assuage your fears and help you start getting real about adding an AI Assistant to your contact center — all in a fun “two truths and a lie” format.

There are few faux pas as damaging and embarrassing for brands as sensitive data getting into the wrong hands. So it makes sense that data security concerns are a major deterrent for CX leaders thinking about getting started with GenAI.

In the first post of our AI Misconceptions series, we discussed why your data is definitely good enough to make GenAI work for your business. Next, we explored the different types of hallucinations that CX leaders should be aware of, and how they are 100% preventable with the right guardrails in place.

Now, let’s wrap up our series by exposing the truth about GenAI potentially leaking your company or customer data.

Misconception #3: “GenAI inadvertently leaks sensitive data.”

As we discussed in part one, AI needs training data to work. One way to collect that data is from the questions users ask. For example, if a large language model (LLM) is asked to summarize a paragraph of text, that text could be stored and used to train future models.

Unfortunately, there have been some famous examples of companies’ sensitive information becoming part of datasets used to train LLMs — take Samsung, for instance. Because of this, CX leaders often fear that using GenAI will result in their company’s proprietary data being disclosed when users interact with these models.

Truth #1: Public GenAI tools use conversation data to train their models.

Tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google Gemini (formerly Bard) are public-facing and often free — and that’s because their purpose is to collect training data. This means that any information that users enter while using these tools is free game to be used for training future models.

This is precisely how the Samsung data leak happened. The company’s semiconductor division allowed its engineers to use ChatGPT to check their source code. Not only did multiple employees copy/paste confidential code into ChatGPT, but one team member even used the tool to transcribe a recording of an internal-only meeting!

Truth #2: Properly licensed GenAI is safe.

People often confuse ChatGPT, the application or web portal, with the LLM behind it. While the free version of ChatGPT collects conversation data, OpenAI offers an enterprise LLM that does not. Other LLM providers offer similar enterprise licenses that specify that all interactions with the LLM and any data provided will not be stored or used for training purposes.

When used through an enterprise license, LLMs are also Service Organization Control Type 2, or SOC 2, compliant. This means they have to undergo regular audits from third parties to prove that they have the processes and procedures in place to protect companies’ proprietary data and customers’ personally identifiable information (PII).

The Lie: Enterprises must use internally-developed models only to protect their data.

Given these concerns over data leaks and hallucinations, some organizations believe that the only safe way to use GenAI is to build their own AI models. Case in point: Samsung is now “considering building its own internal AI chatbot to prevent future embarrassing mishaps.”

However, it’s simply not feasible for companies whose core business is not AI to build AI that is as powerful as commercially available LLMs — even if the company is as big and successful as Samsung. Not to mention the opportunity cost and risk of having your technical resources tied up in AI instead of continuing to innovate on your core business.

It’s estimated that training the LLM behind ChatGPT cost upwards of $4 million. It also required specialized supercomputers and access to a data set equivalent to nearly the entire Internet. And don’t forget about maintenance: AI startup Hugging Face recently revealed that retraining its Bloom LLM cost around $10 million.

GenAI Misconceptions

Using a commercially available LLM provides enterprises with the most powerful AI available without breaking the bank— and it’s perfectly safe when properly licensed. However, it’s also important to remember that building a successful AI Assistant requires much more than developing basic question/answer functionality.

Finding a Conversational CX Platform that harnesses an enterprise-licensed LLM, empowers teams to build complex conversation flows, and makes it easy to monitor and measure Assistant performance is a CX leader’s safest bet. Not to mention, your engineering team will thank you for giving them optionality for the control and visibility they want—without the risk and overhead of building it themselves!

Feel Secure About GenAI Data Security

Companies that use free, public-facing GenAI tools should be aware that any information employees enter can (and most likely will) be used for future model-training purposes.

However, properly-licensed GenAI will not collect or use your data to train the model. Building your own GenAI tools for security purposes is completely unnecessary — and very expensive!

Want to read more or revisit the first two misconceptions in our series? Check out our full guide, Two Truths and a Lie: Breaking Down the Major GenAI Misconceptions Holding CX Leaders Back.

Will GenAI Hallucinate and Hurt Your Brand? Exposing Common AI Misconceptions (Part Two)

This is the second post in a three-part series clarifying the biggest misconceptions holding CX leaders like you back from integrating GenAI into their CX strategies. Our goal? To assuage your fears and help you start getting real about adding an AI Assistant to your contact center — all in a fun “two truths and a lie” format.

Did you know that the Golden Gate Bridge was transported for the second time across Egypt in October of 2016?

Or that the world record for crossing the English Channel entirely on foot is held by Christof Wandratsch of Germany, who completed the crossing in 14 hours and 51 minutes on August 14, 2020?

Probably not, because GenAI made these “facts” up. They’re called hallucinations, and AI hallucination misconceptions are holding a lot of CX leaders back from getting started with GenAI.

In the first post of our AI Misconceptions series, we discussed why your data is definitely good enough to make GenAI work for your business. In fact, you actually need a lot less data to get started with an AI Assistant than you probably think.

Now, we’re debunking AI hallucination myths and separating some of the biggest AI hallucination facts from fiction. Could adding an AI Assistant to your contact center put your brand at risk? Let’s find out.

Misconception #2: “GenAI will hallucinate and hurt my brand.”

While the example hallucinations provided above are harmless and even a little funny, this isn’t always the case. Unfortunately, there are many examples of times chatbots have cussed out customers or made racist or sexist remarks. This causes a lot of concern among CX leaders looking to use an AI Assistant to represent their brand.

Truth #1: Hallucinations are real (no pun intended).

Understanding AI hallucinations hinges on realizing that GenAI wants to provide answers — whether or not it has the right data. Hallucinations like those in the examples above occur for two common reasons.

AI-Induced Hallucinations Explained:

  1. The large language model (LLM) simply does not have the correct information it needs to answer a given question. This is what causes GenAI to get overly creative and start making up stories that it presents as truth.
  2. The LLM has been given an overly broad and/or contradictory dataset. In other words, the model gets confused and begins to draw conclusions that are not directly supported in the data, much like a human would do if they were inundated with irrelevant and conflicting information on a particular topic.

Truth #2: There’s more than one type of hallucination.

Contrary to popular belief, hallucinations aren’t just incorrect answers: They can also be classified as correct answers to the wrong questions. And these types of hallucinations are actually more common and more difficult to control.

For example, imagine a company’s AI Assistant is asked to help troubleshoot a problem that a customer is having with their TV. The Assistant could give the customer correct troubleshooting instructions — but for the wrong television model. In this case, GenAI isn’t wrong, it just didn’t fully understand the context of the question.

GenAI Misconceptions

The Lie: There’s no way to prevent your AI Assistant from hallucinating.

Many GenAI “bot” vendors attempt to fine-tune an LLM, connect clients’ knowledge bases, and then trust it to generate responses to their customers’ questions. This approach will always result in hallucinations. A common workaround is to pre-program “canned” responses to specific questions. However, this leads to unhelpful and unnatural-sounding answers even to basic questions, which then wind up being escalated to live agents.

In contrast, true AI Assistants powered by the latest Conversational CX Platforms leverage LLMs as a tool to understand and generate language — but there’s a lot more going on under the hood.

First of all, preventing hallucinations is not just a technical task. It requires a layer of business logic that controls the flow of the conversation by providing a framework for how the Assistant should respond to users’ questions.

This framework guides a user down a specific path that enables the Assistant to gather the information the LLM needs to give the right answer to the right question. This is very similar to how you would train a human agent to ask a specific series of questions before diagnosing an issue and offering a solution. Meanwhile, in addition to understanding what the intent of the customer’s question is, the LLM can be used to extract additional information from the question.

Referred to as “pre-generation checks,” these filters are used to determine attributes such as whether the question was from an existing customer or prospect, which of the company’s products or services the question is about, and more. These checks happen in the background in mere seconds and can be used to select the right information to answer the question. Only once the Assistant understands the context of the client’s question and knows that it’s within scope of what it’s allowed to talk about does it ask the LLM to craft a response.

But the checks and balances don’t end there: The LLM is only allowed to generate responses using information from specific, trusted sources that have been pre-approved, and not from the dataset it was trained on.

In other words, humans are responsible for providing the LLM with a source of truth that it must “ground” its response in. In technical terms, this is called Retrieval Augmented Generation, or RAG — and if you want to get nerdy, you can read all about it here!

Last but not least, once a response has been crafted, a series of “post- generation checks” happens in the background before returning it to the user. You can check out the end-to-end process in the diagram below:

RAG

Give Hallucination Concerns the Heave-Ho

To sum it up: Yes, hallucinations happen. In fact, there’s more than one type of hallucination that CX leaders should be aware of.

However, now that you understand the reality of AI hallucination, you know that it’s totally preventable. All you need are the proper checks, balances, and guardrails in place, both from a technical and a business logic standpoint.

Now that you’ve had your biggest misconceptions about AI hallucination debunked, keep an eye out for the next blog in our series, all about GenAI data leaks. Or, learn the truth about all three of CX leaders’ biggest GenAI misconceptions now when you download our guide, Two Truths and a Lie: Breaking Down the Major GenAI Misconceptions Holding CX Leaders Back.

Is Your CX Data Good Enough for GenAI? Exposing Common AI Misconceptions (Part One)

If you’re feeling unprepared for the impact of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI), you’re not alone. In fact, nearly 85% of CX leaders feel the same way. But the truth is that the transformative nature of this technology simply can’t be ignored — and neither can your boss, who asked you to look into it.

We’ve all heard horror stories of racist chatbots and massive data leaks ruining brands’ reputations. But we’ve also seen statistics around the massive time and cost savings brands can achieve by offloading customers’ frequently asked questions to AI Assistants. So which is it?

This is the first post in a three-part series clarifying the biggest misconceptions holding CX leaders like you back from integrating GenAI into their CX strategies. Our goal? To assuage your fears and help you start getting real about adding an AI Assistant to your contact center — all in a fun “two truths and a lie” format. Prepare to have your most common AI misconceptions debunked!

Misconception #1: “My data isn’t good enough for GenAI.”

Answering customer inquiries usually requires two types of data:

  1. Knowledge (e.g. an order return policy) and
  2. Information from internal systems (e.g. the specific details of an order).

It’s easy to get caught up in overthinking the impact of data quality on AI performance and wondering whether or not your knowledge is even good enough to make an AI Assistant useful for your customers.

Updating hundreds of help desk articles is no small task, let alone building an entire knowledge base from scratch. Many CX leaders are worried about the amount of work it will require to clean up their data and whether their team has enough resources to support a GenAI initiative. In order for GenAI to be as effective as a human agent, it needs the same level of access to internal systems as human agents.

Truth #1: You have to have some amount of data.

Data is necessary to make AI work — there’s no way around it. You must provide some data for the model to access in order to generate answers. This is one of the most basic AI performance factors.

But we have good news: You need a lot less data than you think.

One of the most common myths about AI and data in CX is that it’s necessary to answer every possible customer question. Instead, focus on ensuring you have the knowledge necessary to answer your most frequently asked questions. This small step forward will have a major impact for your team without requiring a ton of time and resources to get started

Truth #2: Quality matters more than quantity.

Given the importance of relevant data in AI, a few succinct paragraphs of accurate information is better than volumes of outdated or conflicting documentation. But even then, don’t sweat the small stuff.

For example, did a product name change fail to make its way through half of your help desk articles? Are there unnecessary hyperlinks scattered throughout? Was it written for live agents versus customers?

No problem — the right Conversational CX Platform can easily address these AI data dependency concerns without requiring additional support from your team.

The Lie: Your data has to be perfectly unified and specifically formatted to train an AI Assistant.

Don’t worry if your data isn’t well-organized or perfectly formatted. The reality is that most companies have services and support materials scattered across websites, knowledge bases, PDFs, .csvs, and dozens of other places — and that’s okay!

Today, the tools and technology exist to make aggregating this fragmented data a breeze. They’re then able to cleanse and format it in a way that makes sense for a large language model (LLM) to use.

For example if you have an agent training manual in Google Docs and a product manual in PDF, this information can be disassembled, reformatted, and rewritten by an AI-powered transformation that makes it subsequently usable.

What’s more, the data used by your AI Assistant should be consistent with the data you use to train your human agents. This means that not only is it not required to build a special repository of information for your AI Assistant to learn from, but it’s not recommended. The very best AI platforms take on the work of maintaining this continuity by automatically processing and formatting new information for your Assistant as it’s published, as well as removing any information that’s been deleted.

Put Those Data Doubts to Bed

Now you know that your data is definitely good enough for GenAI to work for your business. Yes, quality matters more than quantity, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.

The technology exists to unify and format your data so that it’s usable by an LLM. And providing knowledge around even a handful of frequently asked questions can give your team a major lift right out the gate.

Keep an eye out for the next blog in our series, all about GenAI hallucinations. Or, learn the truth about all three of CX leaders’ biggest GenAI misconceptions now when you download our guide, Two Truths and a Lie: Breaking Down the Major GenAI Misconceptions Holding CX Leaders Back.

5 Tips for Coaching Your Contact Center Agents to Work with AI

Generative AI has enormous potential to change the work done at places like contact centers. For this reason, we’ve spent a lot of energy covering it, from deep dives into the nuts and bolts of large language models to detailed advice for managers considering adopting it.

Here, we will provide tips on using AI tools to coach, manage, and improve your agents.

How Will AI Make My Agents More Productive?

Contact centers can be stressful places to work, but much of that stems from a paucity of good training and feedback. If an agent doesn’t feel confident in assuming their responsibilities or doesn’t know how to handle a tricky situation, that will cause stress.

Tip #1: Make Collaboration Easier

With the right AI tools for coaching agents, you can get state-of-the-art collaboration tools that allow agents to invite their managers or colleagues to silently appear in the background of a challenging issue. The customer never knows there’s a team operating on their behalf, but the agent won’t feel as overwhelmed. These same tools also let managers dynamically monitor all their agents’ ongoing conversations, intervening directly if a situation gets out of hand.

Agents can learn from these experiences to become more performant over time.

Tip #2: Use Data-Driven Management

Speaking of improvement, a good AI platform will have resources that help managers get the most out of their agents in a rigorous, data-driven way. Of course, you’re probably already monitoring contact center metrics, such as CSAT and FCR scores, but this barely scratches the surface.

What you really need is a granular look into agent interactions and their long-term trends. This will let you answer questions like “Am I overstaffed?” and “Who are my top performers?” This is the only way to run a tight ship and keep all the pieces moving effectively.

Tip #3: Use AI To Supercharge Your Agents

As its name implies, generative AI excels at generating text, and there are several ways this can improve your contact center’s performance.

To start, these systems can sometimes answer simple questions directly, which reduces the demands on your team. Even when that’s not the case, however, they can help agents draft replies, or clean up already-drafted replies to correct errors in spelling and grammar. This, too, reduces their stress, but it also contributes to customers having a smooth, consistent, high-quality experience.

Tip #4: Use AI to Power Your Workflows

A related (but distinct) point concerns how AI can be used to structure the broader work your agents are engaged in.

Let’s illustrate using sentiment analysis, which makes it possible to assess the emotional state of a person doing something like filing a complaint. This can form part of a pipeline that sorts and routes tickets based on their priority, and it can also detect when an issue needs to be escalated to a skilled human professional.

Tip #5: Train Your Agents to Use AI Effectively

It’s easy to get excited about what AI can do to increase your efficiency, but you mustn’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a complex tool your team needs to be trained to use. Otherwise, it’s just going to be one more source of stress.

You need to have policies around the situations in which it’s appropriate to use AI and the situations in which it’s not. These policies should address how agents should deal with phenomena like “hallucination,” in which a language model will fabricate information.

They should also contain procedures for monitoring the performance of the model over time. Because these models are stochastic, they can generate surprising output, and their behavior can change.

You need to know what your model is doing to intervene appropriately.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you’re more optimistic about what AI can do for your contact center, and this has helped you understand how to make the most out of it.

If there’s anything else you’d like to go over, you’re always welcome to request a demo of the Quiq platform. Since we focus on contact centers we take customer service pretty seriously ourselves, and we’d love to give you the context you need to make the best possible decision!

Request A Demo

AI Gold Rush: How Quiq Won the Land Grab for AI Contact Centers (& How You Can Benefit)

There have been many transformational moments throughout the history of the United States, going back all the way to its unique founding.

Take for instance the year 1849.

For all of you SFO 49ers fans (sorry, maybe next year), you are very well aware of the land grab that was the birth of the state of California. That year, tens of thousands of people from the Eastern United States flocked to the California Territory hoping to strike it rich in a placer gold strike.

A lesser-known fact of that moment in history is that the gold strike in California was actually in 1848. And while all of those easterners were lining up for the rush, a small number of people from Latin America and Hawaii were already in production, stuffing their pockets full of nuggets.

176 years later, AI is the new gold rush.

Fast forward to 2024, a new crowd is forming, working toward the land grab once again. Only this time, it’s not physical.

It’s AI in the contact center.

Companies are building infrastructure, hiring engineers, inventing tools, and trying to figure out how to build a wagon that won’t disintegrate on the trail (AKA hallucinate).

While many of those companies are going to make it to the gold fields, one has been there since 2023, and that is Quiq.

Yes, we’ve been mining LLM gold in the contact center since July of 2023 when we released our first customer-facing Generative AI assistant for Loop Insurance. Since then, we have released over a dozen more and have dozens more under construction. More about the quality of that gold in a bit.

This new gold rush in the AI space is becoming more crowded every day.

Everyone is saying they do Generative AI in one way, shape, or form. Most are offering some form of Agent Assist using LLM technologies, keeping that human in the loop and relying on small increments of improvement in AHT (Average Handle Time) and FCR (First Contact Resolution).

However, there is a difference when it comes to how platforms are approaching customer-facing AI Assistants.

Actually, there are a lot of differences. That’s a big reason we invented AI Studio.

AI Studio: Get your shovels and pick axes.

Since we’ve been on the bleeding edge of Generative AI CX deployments, we created called AI Studio. We saw that there was a gap for CX teams, with the myriad of tools they would have had to stitch together and stay focused on business outcomes.

AI Studio is a complete toolkit to empower companies to explore nuances in their AI use within a conversational development environment that’s tailored for customer-facing CX.

That last part is important: Customer-facing AI assistants, which teams can create together using AI Studio. Going back to our gold rush comparison, AI Studio is akin to the pick axes and shovels you need.

Only success is guaranteed and the proverbial gold at the end of the journey is much, much more enticing—precisely because customer-facing AI applications tend to move the needle dramatically further than simpler Agent Assist LLM builds.

That brings me to the results.

So how good is our gold?

Early results are showing that our LLM implementations are increasing resolution rates 50% to 100% above what was achieved using legacy NLU intent-based models, with resolution rates north of 60% in some FAQ-heavy assistants.

Loop Insurance saw a 55% reduction in email tickets in their contact center.

Secondly, intent matching has more than doubled, meaning the percentage of correctly identified intents (especially when there are multiple intents) are being correctly recognized and responded to, which directly correlates to correct answers, fewer agent contacts, and satisfied customers.

That’s just the start though. Molekule hit a 60% resolution rate with a Quiq-built LLM-powered AI assistant. You can read all about that in our case study here.

And then there’s Accor, whose AI assistant across four Rixos properties has doubled (yes, 2X’ed) click-outs on booking links. Check out that case study here.

What’s next?

Like the miners in 1848, digging as much gold out of the ground as possible before the land rush, Quiq sits alone, out in front of a crowd lining up for a land grab.

With a dozen customer-facing LLM-powered AI assistants already living in the market producing incredible results, we have pioneered a space that will be remembered in history as a new day in Customer Experience.

Interested in harnessing Quiq’s power for your CX or contact center? Send us a demo request or get in touch another way and let’s talk.

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Google Business Messages: Meet Your Customers Where They’re At

The world is a distracted and distracting place; between all the alerts, the celebrity drama on Twitter, and the fact that there are more hilarious animal videos on YouTube than you could ever hope to watch even if it were your full-time job, it takes a lot to break through the noise.

That’s one reason customer service-oriented businesses like contact centers are increasingly turning to text messaging. Not only are cell phones all but ubiquitous, but many people have begun to prefer text-message-based interactions to calls, emails, or in-person visits.

In this article, we’ll cover one of the biggest text-messaging channels: Google Business Messages. We’ll discuss what it is, what features it offers, and various ways of leveraging it to the fullest.

Let’s get going!

What is Google Business Messages?

Given that more than nine out of ten online searches go through Google, we will go out on a limb and assume you’ve heard of the Mountain View behemoth. But you may not be aware that Google has a Business Message service that is very popular among companies, like contact centers, that understand the advantages of texting their customers.

Business Messages allows you to create a “messaging surface” on Android or Apple devices. In practice, this essentially means that you can create a little “chat” button that your customers can use to reach out to you.

Behind the scenes, you will have to register for Business Messages, creating an “agent” that your customers will interact with. You have many configuration options for your Business Messages workflows; it’s possible to dynamically route a given message to contact center agents at a specific location, have an AI assistant powered by large language models generate a reply (more on this later), etc.

Regardless of how the reply is generated, it is then routed through the API to your agent, which is what actually interacts with the customer. A conversation is considered over when both the customer and your agent cease replying, but you can resume a conversation up to 30 days later.

What’s the Difference Between Google RCS and Google Business Messages?

It’s easy to confuse Google’s Rich Communication Services (RCS) and Google Business Messages. Although the two are similar, it’s nevertheless worth remembering their differences.

Long ago, text messages had to be short, sweet, and contain nothing but words. But as we all began to lean more on text messaging to communicate, it became necessary to upgrade the basic underlying protocol. This way, we could also use video, images, GIFs, etc., in our conversations.

“Rich” communication is this upgrade, but it’s not relegated to emojis and such. RCS is also quickly becoming a staple for businesses that want to invest in livelier exchanges with their customers. RCS allows for custom logos and consistent branding, for example; it also makes it easier to collect analytics, insert QR codes, link out to calendars or Maps, etc.

As discussed above, Business Messages is a mobile messaging channel that integrates with Google Maps, Search, and brand websites, offering rich, asynchronous communication experiences. This platform not only makes customers happy but also contributes to your business’s bottom line through reduced call volumes, improved CSAT, and better conversion rates.

Importantly, Business Messages are sometimes also prominently featured in Google search results, such as answer cards, place cards, and site links.

In short, there is a great deal of overlap between Google Business Messages and Google RCS. But two major distinctions are that RCS is not available on all Android devices (where Business Messages is), and Business Messages doesn’t require you to have a messaging app installed (where RCS does).

The Advantages of Google Business Messaging

Google Business Messaging has many distinct advantages to offer the contact center entrepreneur. In the next few sections, we’ll discuss some of the biggest.

It Supports Robust Encryption

A key feature of Business Messages is that its commitment to security and privacy is embodied through powerful, end-to-end encryption.

What exactly does end-to-end encryption entail? In short, it ensures that a message remains secure and unreadable from the moment the sender types it to whenever the recipient opens it, even if it’s intercepted in transit. This level of security is baked in, requiring no additional setup or adjustments to security settings by the user.

The significance of this feature cannot be overstated. Today, it’s not at all uncommon to read about yet another multi-million-dollar ransomware attack or a data breach of staggering proportions. This has engendered a growing awareness of (and concern for) data security, meaning that present and future customers will value those platforms that make it a central priority of their offering.

By our estimates, this will only become more important with the rise of generative AI, which has made it increasingly difficult to trust text, images, and even movies seen online—none of which was particularly trustworthy even before it became possible to mass-produce them.

If you successfully position yourself as a pillar your customers can lean on, that will go a long way toward making you stand out in a crowded market.

It Makes Connecting With Customers Easier

Another advantage of Google Business Messages is that it makes it much easier to meet customers where they are. And where we are is “on our phones.”

Now, this may seem too obvious to need pointing out. After all, if your customers are texting all day and you’re launching a text-messaging channel of communication, then of course you’ll be more accessible.

But there’s more to this story. Google Business Messaging allows you to seamlessly integrate with other Google services, like Google Maps. If a customer is trying to find the number for your contact center, therefore, they could instead get in touch simply by clicking the “CHAT” button.

This, too, may seem rather uninspiring because it’s not as though it’s difficult to grab the number and call. But even leaving aside the rising generations’ aversion to making phone calls, there’s a concept known as “trivial inconvenience” that’s worth discussing in this context.

Here’s an example: if you want to stop yourself from snacking on cookies throughout the day, you don’t have to put them on the moon (though that would help). Usually, it’s enough to put them in the next room or downstairs.

Though this only slightly increases the difficulty of accessing your cookie supply, in most cases, it introduces just enough friction to substantially reduce the number of cookies you eat (depending on the severity of your Oreo addiction, of course).

Well, the exact same dynamic works in reverse. Though grabbing your contact center’s phone number from Google and calling you requires only one or two additional steps, that added work will be sufficient to deter some fraction of customers from reaching out. If you want to make yourself easy to contact, there’s no substitute for a clean integration directly into the applications your customers are using, and that’s something Google Business Messages can do extremely well.

It’s Scalable and Supports Integrations

According to legend, the name “Google” originally came from a play on the word “Googol,” which is a “1” followed by a 100 “0”s. Google, in other words, has always been about scale, and that is reflected in the way its software operates today. For our purposes, the most important manifestation of this is the scalability of their API. Though you may currently be operating at a few hundred or a few thousand messages per day, if you plan on growing, you’ll want to invest early in communication channels that can grow along with you.

But this is hardly the end of what integrations can do for you. If you’re in the contact center business there’s a strong possibility that you’ll eventually end up using a large language model like ChatGPT in order to answer questions more quickly, offboard more routine tasks, etc. Unless you plan on dropping millions of dollars to build one in-house, you’ll want to partner with an AI-powered conversational platform. As you go about finding a good vendor, make sure to assess the features they support. The best platforms have many options for increasing the efficiency of your agents, such as reusable snippets, auto-generated suggestions that clean up language and tone, and dashboarding tools that help you track your operation in detail.

Best Practices for Using Google Business Messages

Here, in the penultimate section, we’ll cover a few optimal ways of utilizing Google Business Messages.

Reply in a Timely Fashion

First, it’s important that you get back to customers as quickly as you’re able to. As we noted in the introduction, today’s consumers are perpetually drinking from a firehose of digital information. If it takes you a while to respond to their query, there’s a good chance they’ll either forget they reached out (if you’re lucky) or perceive it as an unpardonable affront and leave you a bad review (if you’re not).

An obvious way to answer immediately is with an automated message that says something like, “Thanks for your question. We’ll respond to you soon!” But you can’t just leave things there, especially if the question requires a human agent to intervene.

Whatever automated system you implement, you need to monitor how well your filters identify and escalate the most urgent queries. Remember that an agent might need a few hours to answer a tricky question, so factor that into your procedures.

This isn’t just something Google suggests; it’s codified in its policies. If you leave a Business Messages chat unanswered for 24 hours, Google might actually deactivate your company’s ability to use chat features.

Don’t Ask for Personal Information

As hackers have gotten more sophisticated, everyday consumers have responded by raising their guard.

On the whole, this is a good thing and will lead to a safer and more secure world. But it also means that you need to be extremely careful not to ask for anything like a social security number or a confirmation code via a service like Business Messages. What’s more, many companies are opting to include a disclaimer to this effect near the beginning of any interactions with customers.

Earlier, we pointed out that Business Messages supports end-to-end encryption, and having a clear, consistent policy about not collecting sensitive information fits into this broader picture. People will trust you more if they know you take their privacy seriously.

Make Business Messages Part of Your Overall Vision

Google Business Messages is a great service, but you’ll get the most out of it if you consider how it is part of a more far-reaching strategy.

At a minimum, this should include investing in other good communication channels, like Apple Messages and WhatsApp. People have had bitter, decades-long battles with each other over which code editor or word processor is best, so we know that they have strong opinions about the technology that they use. If you have many options for customers wanting to contact you, that’ll boost their satisfaction and their overall impression of your contact center.

The prior discussion of trivial inconveniences is also relevant here. It’s not hard to open a different messaging app under most circumstances, but if you don’t force a person to do that, they’re more likely to interact with you.

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Google has been so monumentally successful its name is now synonymous with “online search.” Even leaving aside rich messaging, encryption, and everything else we covered in this article, you can’t afford to ignore Business Messages for this reason alone.

But setting up an account is only the first step in the process, and it’s much easier when you have ready-made tools that you can integrate on day one. The Quiq conversational AI platform is one such tool, and it has a bevy of features that’ll allow you to reduce the workloads on your agents while making your customers even happier. Check us out or schedule a demo to see what we can do for you!

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How to Improve Contact Center Performance (With Data)

Contact centers are a crucial part of offering quality products. Long after the software has been built and the marketing campaigns have been run, there will still be agents helping customers reset their passwords and debug tricky issues.

This means we must do everything we can to ensure that our contact centers are operating at peak efficiency. Data analytics is an important piece of the puzzle, offering the kinds of hard numbers we need to make good decisions, do right by our customers, and support the teams we manage.

That will be our focus today. We’ll cover the basics of implementing a data analysis process, as well as how to use it to assess and improve various contact center performance metrics.

Let’s get going!

How to Use Data Analytics to Increase Contact Center Performance

A great place to start is with a broader overview of the role played by data analytics in making decisions in modern contact centers. Here, we’ll cover the rudiments of how data analytics works, the tools that can be used to facilitate it, and how it can be used in making critical decisions.

Understanding the Basics of Data Analytics in Contact Centers

Let’s define data analytics in the context of contact center performance management. Like the term “data scientist”—which could cover anything from running basic SQL queries to building advanced reinforcement learning agents—“data analytics” is a nebulous term that can be used in many different conversations and contexts.

Nevertheless, its basic essence could be summed up as “using numbers to make decisions.”

If you’re reading this, the chances are good that you have a lot of experience in contact center performance management already, but you may or may not have spent much time engaging in data analytics. If so, be aware that data analysis is an enormously powerful tool, especially for contact centers.

Imagine, for example, a new product is released, and you see a sudden increase in average handle time. This could mean there is something about it that’s especially tricky or poorly explained. You could improve your contact center performance metrics simply by revisiting that particular product’s documentation to see if anything strikes you as problematic.

Of course, this is just a hypothetical scenario, but it shows you how much insight you can gain from even rudimentary numbers related to your contact center.

Implementing Analytics Tools and Techniques

Now, let’s talk about what it takes to leverage the power of contact center performance metrics. You can slice up the idea of “analytics tools and techniques” in a few different ways, but by our count, there are (at least) four major components.

Gathering the Data

First, like machine learning, analytics is “hungry,” meaning that it tends to be more powerful the more data you have. For this reason, you have to have a way of capturing the data needed to make decisions.

In the context of contact center performance, this probably means setting up a mechanism for tracking any conversations between agents and customers, as well as whatever survey data is generated by customers reflecting on their experience with your company.

Storing the Data

This data has to live somewhere, and if you’re dealing with text, there are various options. “Structured” textual data follows a consistent format and can be stored in a relational database like MySQL. “Unstructured” textual data may or may not be consistent and is best stored in a non-relational database like MongoDB, which is better suited for it.

It’s not uncommon to have both relational and non-relational databases for storing specific types of data. Survey responses are well-structured so they might go in MySQL, for instance, while free-form conversations with agents might go in MongoDB. There are also more exotic options like graph databases and vector databases, but they’re beyond the scope of this article.

Analyzing the Data

Once you’ve captured your data and stored it somewhere, you have to analyze it—the field isn’t called data analytics for nothing! A common way to begin analyzing data is to look for simple, impactful, long-term trends—is your AHT going up or down, for instance? You can also look for cyclical patterns. Your AHT might generally be moving in a positive direction, but with noticeable spikes every so often that need to be explained and addressed.

You could also do more advanced analytics. After you’ve gathered a reasonably comprehensive set of survey results, for example, you could run them through a sentiment analysis algorithm to find out the general emotional tone of the interactions between your agents and your customers.

Serving Up Your Insights

Finally, once you’ve identified a set of insights you can use to make decisions about improving contact center performance, you need to make them available. By far the most common way is by putting some charts and graphs in a PowerPoint presentation and delivering it to the people making actual decisions. That said, some folks opt instead to make fancy dashboards, or even to create monitoring tools that update in real time.

Effectively Leveraging Data

As you can see, creating a top-to-bottom contact center performance solution takes a lot of effort. The best way to save time is to find a tool that abstracts away as much of the underlying technical work as possible.

Ideally, you’d be looking for quick insights generated seamlessly across all the many messaging channels contact centers utilize these days. It’s even better if those insights can easily be published in reports that inform your decision-making.

What’s the payoff? You’ll be able to scrutinize (and optimize) each step taken during a customer journey, and discover how and why your customers are reaching out. You’ll have much more granular information about how your agents are functioning, giving you the tools needed to improve KPIs and streamline your internal operations.

We’ll treat each of these topics in the remaining sections, below.

How to Improve KPIs in Contact Center

After gathering and analyzing a lot of data, you’ll no doubt notice key performance indicators (KPIs) that aren’t where you want them to be. Here, we’ll discuss strategies for getting those numbers up!

Identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

First, let’s briefly cover some of the KPIs you’d be looking for.

  • First Contact Resolution (FCR) – The first contact resolution is the fraction of issues a contact center is able to resolve on the first try, i.e. the first time the customer reaches out.
  • Average Handle Time (AHT) – The average handle time is one of the more important metrics contact centers track, and it refers to the mean length of time an agent spends on a task (this includes both talking to customers directly and whatever follow-up work comes after).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) – The customer satisfaction score attempts to gauge how customers feel about your product and service.
  • Call Abandon Rate (CAR) – The call abandon rate is the fraction of customers who end a call with an agent before their question has been answered.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) – The net promoter score is a number (usually from 1-10) that quantifies how likely a given customer would be to recommend you to someone they know.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the many contact center performance metrics you can track. Ultimately, you want to choose a set of metrics that gives you a reasonably comprehensive view of how well your contact center is doing, and whether it’s getting better or worse over time.

Strategies for Improving Key KPIs

There are many things you can do to improve your KPIs, including up-training your personnel or making your agents more productive with tools like generative AI.

This is too big a topic to cover comprehensively, but since generative AI is such a hot topic let’s walk through a case study where using it led to dramatic improvements in efficiency.

LOOP is a Texas-based car insurance provider that partnered with Quiq to deploy a generative AI assistant. Naturally, they already had a chatbot in place, but they found it could only offer formulaic answers. This frustrated customers, prevented them from solving their own problems, and negatively impacted KPIs overall.

However, by integrating a cutting-edge AI assistant powered by large language models, they achieved a remarkable threefold increase in self-service rates. By the end, more than half of all customer issues were resolved without the need for agents to get involved, and fully three-quarters of customers indicated that they were satisfied with the service provided by the AI.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you can solve every problem with fancy new technology. No, our point here is that you should evaluate every option in an attempt to find workable contact center performance solutions, and we think this is a useful example of what’s possible with the right approach.

Tips to Boost Contact Center Operational Efficiency

We’ve covered a lot of ground related to data analysis and how it can help you make decisions about improving contact center performance. In this final section, we’ll finish by talking about using data analytics and other tools to make sure you’re as operationally efficient as you can be.

Streamlining Operations with Technology

The obvious place to look is technology. We’ve already discussed AI assistants, but there’s plenty more low-hanging fruit to be picked.

Consider CRM integrations, for example. We’re in the contact center business, so we know all about the vicissitudes of trying to track and manage a billion customer relationships. Even worse, the relevant data is often spread out across many different locations, making it hard to get an accurate picture of who your customers are and what they need.

But if you invest in solutions that allow you to hook your CRM up to your other tools, you can do a better job of keeping those data in sync and serving them up where they’ll be the most use. As a bonus, these data can be fed to a retrieval augmented generation system to help your AI assistant create more accurate replies. They can also form a valuable part of your all-important data analytics process.

What’s more, these same analytics can be used to identify sticking points in your workflows. With this information, you’ll be better equipped to rectify any problems and keep the wheels turning smoothly.

Empowering Agents to Enhance Performance

We’ve spent a lot of time in this post discussing data analytics, AI, and automation, but it’s crucial not to forget that these things are supplements to human agents, not replacements for them. Ultimately, we want agents to feel empowered to utilize the right tools to do their jobs better.

First, to the extent that it’s possible (and appropriate), agents should be given access to the data analytics you perform in the future. If you think you’re making better decisions based on data, it stands to reason that they would do the same.

Then, there are various ways of leveraging generative AI to make your agents more effective. Some of these are obvious, as when you utilize a tool like Quiq Snippets to formulate high-quality replies more rapidly (this alone will surely drop your AHT). But others are more out-of-the-box, such as when new agents can use a language model to get up to speed on your product offering in a few days instead of a few weeks.

Continuously Evaluating and Refining Processes

To close out, we’ll reiterate the importance of consistently monitoring your contact center performance metrics. These kinds of numbers change in all sorts of ways, and the story they tell changes along with them.

It’s not enough to measure a few KPIs and then call it a day, you need to have a process in place to check them consistently, revising your decisions along the way.

Next Steps for Improving Your Contact Center Metrics

They say that data is the new oil, as it’s a near-inexhaustible source of insights. With the right data analysis, you can figure out which parts of your contact center are thriving and which need more support, and you can craft strategies that set you and your teams up to succeed.

Quiq is well-known as a conversational AI platform, but we also have a robust suite of tools for making the most out of the data generated by your contact center. Set up a demo to figure out how we can give you the facts you need to thrive!

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Your CX Strategy Should Include Apple Messages for Business. Here’s Why.

Your CX Strategy Should Include Apple Messages for Business. Here’s Why.

A common piece of marketing advice says you should “Meet your customers where they’re at.” These days, there are something like 23 billion text messages sent daily across the world, so your customers are probably on their phones.

Twenty years ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that text messaging was a method of communication reserved for teenagers sending each other inscrutable strings of hieroglyphic emojis, but more and more business is being done this way. It’s now relatively common for contact centers to offer customer support over chat, which means text messaging has emerged as a vital customer service channel.

In this piece, we will focus specifically on one text messaging service, Apple Messages, and how it can be leveraged to create personalized and efficient customer interactions. Along the way, we’ll talk about some of the exciting work being done to leverage AI assistants through text messaging so you can stay one step ahead of the competition.

The Advantages of Apple Messages in Customer Service

Here, we’re going to discuss the myriad advantages conferred by using Apple Messages. But before we do that, it’s worth making sure we’re all on the same page by discussing what Apple Messages is in the first place.

You probably already know that Apple’s line of iPhones supports text messaging, like all mobile phones. But Apple Messages is a distinct product designed to allow businesses like yours to interact with customers.

It makes it easy to set up a variety of touchpoints, like QR codes, an app, or an email message, through which customers can make appointments, raise (and resolve) problems, or pay for your services.

There are many ways in which utilizing Apple Messages can help you, which we’ll discuss now.

Personalization at Scale

First, tools like Apple Messages allow businesses to personalize communication at a scale and sophistication never seen before.

This personalization is achieved with machine learning, which has consistently been at the forefront of automated content customization. For instance, Netflix is well-known for identifying trends in your viewing habits and using algorithms to recommend shows that align with your preferences. Now, thanks to generative AI, this technology is making its way into text messaging.

Yesterday’s language models often lacked the flexibility for personalized customer interactions, sounding “robotic” and “artificial.” Modern models significantly bolster agents’ ability to tailor their conversations to the specific context. Though they do not completely replace the unique human element, for a contact center manager focused on enhancing customer experience, this represents a significant advancement.

Speed and Convenience

Another place where text messaging shines strategically is its speed and convenience. Texting became popular in the first place because it streamlined the communication process. But, unlike with a phone call, this communication could be done privately, without disturbing others.

Customers needing to troubleshoot an issue while they’re on the bus or somewhere public will likely want to do so with a chat interface. This provides the opportunity to

High Engagement Rates

One aspect of a customer communication strategy you’ll have to consider is what the likely engagement with it will be. Text messaging, particularly through platforms like Apple Messages, boasts higher open and response rates than other channels.

The statistics backing this up are compelling – 98% of text messages sent to customers are opened and eventually read, with fully 90% of them being read just three minutes after being received. Even better, nearly half (48%) of text messages sent to customers get responses.

On its own, this indicates the enormous potential for text-messaging strategies to get your customers talking to you, but when you consider the fact that only around a quarter of emails are opened and read, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that you should be investing seriously in this channel.

Leveraging AI in Apple Messages

Artificial intelligence, especially large language models, are all the rage these days, and they’re being deployed in text messages as well. Since Apple Messages allows you to use your own bots and virtual agents, it’s worth spending a few minutes talking about how generative AI can help.

There are a few different ways in which an AI customer service agent can streamline your customer service operations.

The simplest is by directly resolving issues—or helping customers to directly resolve their own issues—with little need for intervention by human contact center agents. There are many problems that are too involved for this to work, of course, but if all a customer needs to do is reset a password it could well be sufficient.

(Note, however, that Apple Messages requires you to include an option allowing a customer to escalate to a human agent. As things stand today, that part is non-negotiable).

Even when a human agent needs to get involved, however, generative AI can help. The Quiq conversational CX platform has a tool called “Quiq Compose”, for example, which can help format replies. An agent can input a potential reply with grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and a lack of warmth, and Quiq Compose will work its magic to turn the reply into something polished and empathic.

Improving Contact Center Performance with Apple Messages

Assuming that you’ve set up Apple Messages and supercharged it with the latest and greatest AI customer service agent, what can you expect to happen? That’s the question we’ll address in these sections.

Reducing Response Times

When combined with AI assistants and related technologies, Apple Messages can significantly reduce response times and increase customer satisfaction. It’s well known that contact center agents are often juggling multiple conversations at a time, and it can be hard to keep it all straight. But when they’re backed up by chatbots, Quiq Compose, etc., they can handle this volume in less time than ever before.

Generative AI is now good enough to carry on relatively lightweight interactions, answer basic questions, and help solve myriad issues; this, by itself, will almost certainly reduce response times. But it also means that agents can pivot to focusing on the thorniest, highest-priority tasks, which will further drive response times down.

Increasing Resolution Rates

For all the reasons just mentioned, AI assistants can increase resolution rates. Part of this will stem from the fact that fewer customers will fall through the cracks or end their calls early. But it will also come from agents being less rushed and more able to work on those tickets that really require their attention.

This is easy to see with an example. Imagine two people, each with daunting lists of chores they’re not sure they can finish. One of them is all on their own, while the other can outsource the most banal 30% of their tasks to robots.

Who would you bet on to have the highest chore resolution rate?

Implementing Apple Messages in Your Contact Center

The basic steps for getting started with Apple Messages are easy to follow.

First, you have to register your account. We’ve been using the name “Apple Messages” throughout this piece, but its full name is “Apple Messages for Business,” and your account must be tied to an actual business to be eligible.

Then, you have to create an account where your branding assets will live and where you’ll select the Messaging Service Provider (MSP) that you’d like to use. Apple will then review your submission, and, after a few days, will tell you whether you’ve been approved. As you’re planning your text messaging efforts, make sure that you’re factoring in the approval process.

With that done, you’ll have to start thinking in detail about your customer’s journey by filling out a Use Case template. You need to outline what you hope to achieve with text messaging, then decide on the entry points you want to offer your customers.

Next up, you’ll work out the user experience. This involves creating the automated messages you want to use, configuring Apple Pay if relevant, and designing customer satisfaction surveys.

Afterward, you need to set up metrics to figure out how your text messages are landing and whether there are things you can do to improve. If you’ve read our past articles on leveraging customer insights, you know how important data is to your ultimate success.

Last of all, Apple will spend a week or two reviewing everything you’ve accomplished in these steps and deciding whether anything else needs to be tweaked. Assuming you pass, you’re ready to go with Apple Messages!

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Final Thoughts on Why Your Business Should Use Apple Messages

Contact centers are increasingly coming to resemble technology companies, and the rise of Apple Messages is a great illustration of that. Apple Messages makes it easy to deploy AI assistants to interact with your customers, thereby reaping the enormous benefits of automation.

And speaking of the benefits of automation, check out the Quiq platform while you’re at it. We’ve worked hard to suss out the best ways of applying artificial intelligence to contact centers, and have built a product around our findings. We’ve helped many others, and we can help you too!

Retrieval Augmented Generation – Ultimate Guide

A lot has changed since the advent of large language models a little over a year ago. But, incredibly, there are already many attempts at extending the functionality of the underlying technology.

One broad category of these attempts is known as “tool use”, and consists of augmenting language models by giving them access to things like calculators. Stories of these models failing at simple arithmetic abound, and the basic idea is that we can begin to shore up their weaknesses by connecting them to specific external resources.

Because these models are famously prone to “hallucinating” incorrect information, the technique of retrieval augmented generation (RAG) has been developed to ground model output more effectively. So far, this has shown promise as a way of reducing hallucinations and creating much more trustworthy replies to queries.

In this piece, we’re going to discuss what retrieval augmented generation is, how it works, and how it can make your models even more robust.

Understanding Retrieval Augmented Generation

To begin, let’s get clear on exactly what we’re talking about. The next few sections will overview retrieval augmented generation, break down how it works, and briefly cover its myriad benefits.

What is Retrieval Augmented Generation?

Retrieval augmented generation refers to a large and growing cluster of techniques meant to help large language models ground their output in facts obtained from an external source.

By now, you’re probably aware that language models can do a remarkably good job of generating everything from code to poetry. But, owing to the way they’re trained and the way they operate, they’re also prone to simply fabricating confident-sounding nonsense. If you ask for a bunch of papers about the connection between a supplement and mental performance, for example, you might get a mix of real papers and ones that are completely fictitious.

If you could somehow hook the model up to a database of papers, however, then perhaps that would ameliorate this tendency. That’s where RAG comes in.

We will discuss some specifics in the next section, but in the broadest possible terms, you can think of RAG as having two components: the generative model, and a retrieval system that allows it to augment its outputs with data obtained from an authoritative external source.

The difference between using a foundation model and using a foundation model with RAG has been likened to the difference between taking a closed-book and an open-booked test – the metaphor is an apt one. If you were to poll all your friends about their knowledge of photosynthesis, you’d probably get a pretty big range of replies. Some friends would remember a lot about the process from high school biology, while others would barely even know that it’s related to plants.

Now, imagine what would happen if you gave these same friends a botany textbook and asked them to cite their sources. You’d still get a range of replies, of course, but they’d be far more comprehensive, grounded, and replete with up-to-date details. [1]

How RAG Works

Now that we’ve discussed what RAG is, let’s talk about how it functions. Though there are many subtleties involved, there are only a handful of overall steps.

First, you have to create a source of external data or utilize an existing one. There are already many such external resources, including databases filled with scientific papers, genomics data, time series data on the movements of stock prices, etc., which are often accessible via an API. If there isn’t already a repository containing the information you’ll need, you’ll have to make one. It’s also common to hook generative models up to internal technical documentation, of the kind utilized by e.g. contact center agents.

Then, you’ll have to do a search for relevancy. This involves converting queries into vectors, or numerical representations that capture important semantic information, then matching that representation against the vectorized contents of the external data source. Don’t worry too much if this doesn’t make a lot of sense, the important thing to remember is that this technique is far better than basic keyword matching at turning up documents related to a query.

With that done, you’ll have to augment the original user query with whatever data came up during the relevancy search. In the systems we’ve seen this all occurs silently, behind the scenes, with the user being unaware that any such changes have been made. But, with the additional context, the output generated by the model will likely be much more grounded and sensible. Modern RAG systems are also sometimes built to include citations to the specific documents they drew from, allowing a user to fact-check the output for accuracy.

And finally, you’ll need to think continuously about whether the external data source you’ve tied your model to needs to be updated. It doesn’t do much good to ground a model’s reply if the information it’s using is stale and inaccurate, so this step is important.

The Benefits of RAG

Language models equipped with retrieval augmented generation have many advantages over their more fanciful, non-RAG counterparts. As we’ve alluded to throughout, such RAG models tend to be vastly more accurate. RAG, of course, doesn’t guarantee that a model’s output will be correct. They can still hallucinate, just as one of your friends reading a botany book might misunderstand or misquote a passage. Still, it makes hallucinations far less prevalent and, if the model adds citations, gives you what you need to rectify any errors.

For this same reason, it’s easier to trust a RAG-powered language model, and they’re (usually) easier to use. As we said above a lot of the tricky technical detail is hidden from the end user, so all they see is a better-grounded output complete with a list of documents they can use to check that the output they’ve gotten is right.

Applications of Retrieval Augmented Generation

We’ve said a lot about how awesome RAG is, but what are some of its primary use cases? That will be our focus here, over the next few sections.

Enhancing Question Answering Systems

Perhaps the most obvious way RAG could be used is to supercharge the function of question-answering systems. This is already a very strong use case of generative AI, as attested to by the fact that many people are turning to tools like ChatGPT instead of Google when they want to take a first stab at understanding a new subject.

With RAG, they can get more precise and contextually relevant answers, enabling them to overcome hurdles and progress more quickly.

Of course, this dynamic will also play out in contact centers, which are more often leaning on question-answering systems to either make their agents more effective, or to give customers the resources they need to solve their own problems.

Chatbots and Conversational Agents

Chatbots are another technology that could be substantially upgraded through RAG. Because this is so closely related to the previous section we’ll keep our comments brief; suffice it to say, a chatbot able to ground its replies in internal documentation or a good external database will be much better than one that can’t.

Revolutionizing Content Creation

Because generative models are so, well, generative, they’ve already become staples in the workflows of many creative sorts, such as writers, marketers, etc. A writer might use a generative model to outline a piece, paraphrase their own earlier work, or take the other side of a contentious issue.

This, too, is a place where RAG shines. Whether you’re tinkering with the structure of a new article or trying to build a full-fledged research assistant to master an arcane part of computer science, it can only help to have more factual, grounded output.

Recommendation Systems

Finally, recommendation systems could see a boost from RAG. As you can probably tell from their name, recommendation systems are machine-learning tools that find patterns in a set of preferences and use them to make new recommendations that fit that pattern.

With grounding through RAG, this could become even better. Imagine not only having recommendations, but also specific details about why a particular recommendation was made, to say nothing of recommendations that are tied to a vast set of external resources.

Conclusion

For all the change we’ve already seen from generative AI, RAG has yet more more potential to transform our interaction with AI. With retrieval augmented generation, we could see substantial upgrades in the way we access information and use it to create new things.

If you’re intrigued by the promise of generative AI and the ways in which it could supercharge your contact center, set up a demo of the Quiq platform today!

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Footnotes

[1] This assumes that the book you’re giving them is itself up-to-date, and the same is true with RAG. A generative model is only as good as its data.

6 Questions to Ask Generative AI Vendors You’re Evaluating

With all the power exhibited by today’s large language models, many businesses are scrambling to leverage them in their offerings. Enterprises in a wide variety of domains – from contact centers to teams focused on writing custom software – are adding AI-backed functionality to make their users more productive and the customer experience better.

But, in the rush to avoid being the only organization not using the hot new technology, it’s easy to overlook certain basic sanity checks you must perform when choosing a vendor. Today, we’re going to fix that. This piece will focus on several of the broad categories of questions you should be asking potential generative AI providers as you evaluate all your options.

This knowledge will give you the best chance of finding a vendor that meets your requirements, will help you with integration, and will ultimately allow you to better serve your customers.

These are the Questions you Should ask Your Generative AI Vendor

Training large language models is difficult. Besides the fact that it requires an incredible amount of computing power, there are also hundreds of tiny little engineering optimizations that need to be made along the way. This is part of the reason why all the different language model vendors are different from one another.

Some have a longer context window, others write better code but struggle with subtle language-based tasks, etc. All of this needs to be factored into your final decision because it will impact how well your vendor performs for your particular use case.

In the sections that follow, we’ll walk you through some of the questions you should raise with each vendor. Most of these questions are designed to help you get a handle on how easy a given offering will be to use in your situation, and what integrating it will look like.

1. What Sort of Customer Service Do You Offer?

We’re contact center and customer support people, so we understand better than anyone how important it is to make sure users know what our product is, what it can do, and how we can help them if they run into issues.

As you speak with different generative AI vendors, you’ll want to probe them about their own customer support, and what steps they’ll take to help you utilize their platform effectively.

For this, just start with the basics by figuring out the availability of their support teams – what hours they operate in, whether they can accommodate teams working in multiple time zones, and whether there is an option for 24/7 support if a critical problem arises.

Then, you can begin drilling into specifics. One thing you’ll want to know about is the channels their support team operates through. They might set up a private Slack channel with you so you can access their engineers directly, for example, or they might prefer to work through email, a ticketing system, or a chat interface. When you’re discussing this topic, try to find out whether you’ll have a dedicated account manager to work with.

You’ll also want some context on the issue resolution process. If you have a lingering problem that’s not being resolved, how do you go about escalating it, and what’s the team’s response time for issues in general?

Finally, it’s important that the vendors have some kind of feedback mechanism. Just as you no doubt have a way for clients to let you know if they’re dissatisfied with an agent or a process, the vendor you choose should offer a way for you to let them know how they’re doing so they can improve. This not only tells you they care about getting better, it also indicates that they have a way of figuring out how to do so.

2. Does Your Team Offer Help with Setting up the Platform?

A related subject is the extent to which a given generative AI vendor will help you set up their platform in your environment. A good way to begin is by asking what kinds of training materials and resources they offer.

Many vendors are promoting their platforms by putting out a ton of educational content, all of which your internal engineers can use to get up to speed on what those platforms can do and how they function.

This is the kind of thing that is easy to overlook, but you should pay careful attention to it. Choosing a generative AI vendor that has excellent documentation, plenty of worked-out examples, etc. could end up saving you a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money down the line.

Then, you can get clarity on whether the vendor has a dedicated team devoted to helping customers like you get set up. These roles are usually found under titles like “solutions architect”, so be sure to ask whether you’ll be assigned such a person and the extent to which you can expect their help. Some platforms will go to the moon and back to make sure you have everything you need, while others will simply advise you if you get stuck somewhere.

Which path makes the most sense depends on your circumstances. If you have a lot of engineers you may not need more than a little advice here and there, but if you don’t, you’ll likely need more handholding (but will probably also have to pay extra for that). Keep all this in mind as you’re deciding.

3. What Kinds of Integrations Do You Support?

Now, it’s time to get into more technical details about the integrations they support. When you buy a subscription to a generative AI vendor, you are effectively buying a set of capabilities. But those capabilities are much more valuable if you know they’ll plug in seamlessly with your existing software, and they’re even more valuable if you know they’ll plug into software you plan on building later on. You’ve probably been working on a roadmap, and now’s the time to get it out.

It’s worth checking to see whether the vendor can support many different kinds of language models. This involves a nuance in what the word “vendor” means, so let’s unpack it a little bit. Some generative AI vendors are offering you a model, so they’re probably not going to support another company’s model.

OpenAI and Anthropic are examples of model vendors, so if you work with them you’re buying their model and will not be able to easily incorporate someone else’s model.

Other vendors, by contrast, are offering you a service, and in many cases that service could theoretically by powered by many different models.

Quiq’s Conversational CX Platform, for example, supports OpenAI’s GPT models, and we have plans to expand the scope of our integrations to encompass even more models in the future.

Another thing you’re going to want to check on is whether the vendor makes it easy to integrate vector databases into your workflow. Vectors are data structures that are remarkably good at capturing subtle relationships in large datasets; they’re becoming an ever-more-important part of machine learning, as evinced by the fact that there are now a multitude of different vector databases on offer.

The chances are pretty good that you’ll eventually want to leverage a vector database to store or search over customer interactions, and you’ll want a vendor that makes this easy.

Finally, see if the vendor has any case studies you can look at. Quiq has published a case study on how our language services were utilized by LOOP, a car insurance company, to make a far superior customer-service chatbot. The result was that customers were able to get much more personalization in their answers and were able to resolve their problems fully half of the time, without help. This led to a corresponding 55% reduction in tickets, and a customer satisfaction rating of 75% (!) when interacting with the Quiq-powered AI assistant.

See if the vendors you’re looking at have anything similar you can examine. This is especially helpful if the case studies are focused on companies that are similar to yours.

4. How Does Prompt Engineering and Fine-Tuning Work for Your Model?

For many tasks, large language models work perfectly fine on their own, without much special effort. But there are two methods you should know about to really get the most out of them: prompt engineering and fine-tuning.

As you know, prompts are the basic method for interacting with language models. You’ll give a model a prompt like “What is generative AI?”, and it’ll generate a response. Well, it turns out that models are really sensitive to the wording and structure of prompts, and prompt engineers are those who explore the best way to craft prompts to get useful output from a model.

It’s worth asking potential vendors about this because they handle prompts differently. Quiq’s AI Studio encourages atomic prompting, where a single prompt has a clear purpose and intended completion, and we support running prompts in parallel and sequentially. You can’t assume everyone will do this, however, so be sure to check.

Then, there’s fine-tuning, which refers to training a model on a bespoke dataset such that its output is heavily geared towards the patterns found in that dataset. It’s becoming more common to fine-tune a foundational model for specific use cases, especially when those use cases involve a lot of specialized vocabulary such as is found in medicine or law.

Setting up a fine-tuning pipeline can be cumbersome or relatively straightforward depending on the vendor, so see what each vendor offers in this regard. It’s also worth asking whether they offer technical support for this aspect of working with the models.

5. Can Your Models Support Reasoning and Acting?

One of the current frontiers in generative AI is building more robust, “agentic” models that can execute strings of tasks on their way to completing a broader goal. This goes by a few different names, but one that has been popping up in the research literature is “ReAct”, which stands for “reasoning and acting”.

You can get ReAct functionality out of existing language models through chain-of-thought prompting, or by using systems like AutoGPT; to help you concretize this a bit, let’s walk through how ReAct works in Quiq.

With Quiq’s AI Studio, a conversational data model is used to classify and store both custom and standard data elements, and these data elements can be set within and across “user turns”. A single user turn is the time between when a user offers an input to the time at which the AI responds and waits for the next user input.

Our AI can set and reason about the state of the data model, applying rules to take the next best action. Common actions include things like fetching data, running another prompt, delivering a message, or offering to escalate to a human.

Though these efforts are still early, this is absolutely the direction the field is taking. If you want to be prepared for what’s coming without the need to overhaul your generative AI stack later on, ask about how different vendors support ReAct.

6. What’s your Pricing Structure Like?

Finally, you’ll need to talk to vendors about how their prices work, including any available details on licensing types, subscriptions, and costs associated with the integration, use, and maintenance of their solution.

To take one example, Quiq’s licensing is based on usage. We establish a usage pool wherein our customers pre-pay Quiq for a 12-month contract; then, as the customer uses our software money is deducted from that pool. We also have an annual AI Assistant Maintenance fee along with a one-time implementation fee.

Vendors can vary considerably in how their prices work, so if you don’t want to overpay then make sure you have a clear understanding of their approach.

Picking the Right Generative AI Vendor

Language models and related technologies are taking the world by storm, transforming many industries, including customer service and contact center management.

Making use of these systems means choosing a good vendor, and that requires you to understand each vendor’s model, how those models integrate with other tools, and what you’re ultimately going to end up paying.

If you want to see how Quiq stacks up and what we can do for you, schedule a demo with us today!

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Your Guide to Trust and Transparency in the Age of AI

Over the last few years, AI has really come into its own. ChatGPT and similar large language models have made serious inroads in a wide variety of natural language tasks, generative approaches have been tested in domains like music and protein discovery, researchers have leveraged techniques like chain-of-thought prompting to extend the capabilities of the underlying models, and much else besides.

People working in domains like customer service, content marketing, and software engineering are mostly convinced that this technology will significantly impact their day-to-day lives, but many questions remain.

Given the fact that these models are enormous artifacts whose inner workings are poorly understood, one of the main questions centers around trust and transparency. In this article, we’re going to address these questions head-on. We’ll discuss why transparency is important when advanced algorithms are making ever more impactful decisions, and turn our attention to how you can build a more transparent business.

Why is Transparency Important?

First, let’s take a look at why transparency is important in the first place. The next few sections will focus on the trust issues that stem from AI becoming a ubiquitous technology that few understand at a deep level.

AI is Becoming More Integrated

AI has been advancing steadily for decades, and this has led to a concomitant increase in its use. It’s now commonplace for us to pick entertainment based on algorithmic recommendations, for our loan and job applications to pass through AI filters, and for more and more professionals to turn to ChatGPT before Google when trying to answer a question.

We personally know of multiple software engineers who claim to feel as though they’re at a significant disadvantage if their preferred LLM is offline for even a few hours.

Even if you knew nothing about AI except the fact that it seems to be everywhere now, that should be sufficient incentive to want more context on how it makes decisions and how those decisions are impacting the world.

AI is Poorly Understood

But, it turns out there is another compelling reason to care about transparency in AI: almost no one knows how LLMs and neural networks more broadly can do what they do.

To be sure, very simple techniques like decision trees and linear regression models pose little analytical challenge, and we’ve written a great deal over the past year about how language models are trained. But if you were to ask for a detailed account of how ChatGPT manages to create a poem with a consistent rhyme scheme, we couldn’t tell you.

And – as far as we know – neither could anyone else.

This is troubling; as we noted above, AI has become steadily more integrated into our private and public lives, and that trend will surely only accelerate now that we’ve seen what generative AI can do. But if we don’t have a granular understanding of the inner workings of advanced machine-learning systems, how can we hope to train bias out of them, double-check their decisions, or fine-tune them to behave productively and safely?

These precise concerns are what have given rise to the field of explainable AI. Mathematical techniques like LIME and SHAP can offer some intuition for why a given algorithm generated the output it did, but they accomplish this by crudely approximating the algorithm instead of actually explaining it. Mechanistic interpretability is the only approach we know of that confronts the task directly, but it has only just gotten started.

This leaves us in the discomfiting situation of relying on technologies that almost no one groks deeply, including the people creating them.

People Have Many Questions About AI

Finally, people have a lot of questions about AI, where it’s heading, and what its ultimate consequences will be. These questions can be laid out on a spectrum, with one end corresponding to relatively prosaic concerns about technological unemployment and deepfakes influencing elections, and the other corresponding to more exotic fears around superintelligent agents actively fighting with human beings for control of the planet’s future.

Obviously, we’re not going to sort all this out today. But as a contact center manager who cares about building trust and transparency, it would behoove you to understand something about these questions and have at least cursory answers prepared for them.

How do I Increase Transparency and Trust when Using AI Systems?

Now that you know why you should take trust and transparency around AI seriously, let’s talk about ways you can foster these traits in your contact center. The following sections will offer advice on crafting policies around AI use, communicating the role AI will play in your contact center, and more.

Get Clear on How You’ll Use AI

The journey to transparency begins with having a clear idea of what you’ll be using AI to accomplish. This will look different for different kinds of organizations – a contact center, for example, will probably want to use generative AI to answer questions and boost the efficiency of its agents, while a hotel might instead attempt to automate the check-in process with an AI assistant.

Each use case has different requirements and different approaches that are better suited for addressing it; crafting an AI strategy in advance will go a long to helping you figure out how you should allocate resources and prioritize different tasks.

Once you do that, you should then create documentation and a communication policy to support this effort. The documentation will make sure that current and future agents know how to use the AI platform you decide to work with, and it should address the strengths and weaknesses of AI, as well as information about when its answers should be fact-checked. It should also be kept up-to-date, reflecting any changes you make along the way.

The communication policy will help you know what to say if someone (like a customer) asks you what role AI plays in your organization.

Know Your Data

Another important thing you should keep in mind is what kind of data your model has been trained on, and how it was gathered. Remember that LLMs consume huge amounts of textual data and then learn patterns in that data they can use to create their responses. If that data contains biased information – if it tends to describe women as “nurses” and men as “doctors”, for example – that will likely end up being reflected in its final output. Reinforcement learning from human feedback and other approaches to fine-tuning can go part of the way to addressing this problem, but the best thing to do is ensure that the training data has been curated to reflect reality, not stereotypes.

For similar reasons, it’s worth knowing where the data came from. Many LLMs are trained somewhat indiscriminately, and might have even been shown corpora of pirated books or other material protected by copyright. This has only recently come to the forefront of the discussion, and OpenAI is currently being sued by several different groups for copyright infringement.

If AI ends up being an important part of the way your organization functions, the chances are good that, eventually, someone will want answers about data provenance.

Monitor Your AI Systems Continuously

Even if you take all the precautions described above, however, there is simply no substitute for creating a robust monitoring platform for your AI systems. LLMs are stochastic systems, meaning that it’s usually difficult to know for sure how they’ll respond to a given prompt. And since these models are prone to fabricating information, you’ll need to have humans at various points making sure the output is accurate and helpful.

What’s more, many machine learning algorithms are known to be affected by a phenomenon known as “model degradation”, in which their performance steadily declines over time. The only way you can check to see if this is occurring is to have a process in place to benchmark the quality of your AI’s responses.

Be Familiar with Standards and Regulations

Finally, it’s always helpful to know a little bit about the various rules and regulations that could impact the way you use AI. These tend to focus on what kind of data you can gather about clients, how you can use it, and in what form you have to disclose these facts.

The following list is not comprehensive, but it does cover some of the more important laws:

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive regulatory framework established by the European Union to dictate data handling practices. It is applicable not only to businesses based in Europe but also to any entity that processes data from EU citizens.
  • The California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) was introduced by California to enhance individual control over personal data. It mandates clearer data collection practices by companies, requires privacy disclosures, and allows California residents to opt-out of data collection.
  • Soc II, developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts, focuses on the principles of confidentiality, privacy, and security in the handling and processing of consumer data.
  • In the United Kingdom, contact centers must be aware of the Financial Conduct Authority’s new “Consumer Duty” regulations. These regulations emphasize that firms should act with integrity toward customers, avoid causing them foreseeable harm, and support customers in achieving their financial objectives. As the integration of generative AI into this regulatory landscape is still being explored, it’s an area that stakeholders need to keep an eye on.

Fostering Trust in a Changing World of AI

An important part of utilizing AI effectively is making sure you do so in a way that enhances the customer experience and works to build your brand. There’s no point in rolling out a state-of-the-art generative AI system if it undermines the trust your users have in your company, so be sure to track your data, acquaint yourself with the appropriate laws, and communicate clearly.

Another important step you can take is to work with an AI vendor who enjoys a sterling reputation for excellence and propriety. Quiq is just such a vendor, and our Conversational AI platform can bring AI to your contact center in a way that won’t come back to bite you later. Schedule a demo to see what we can do for you, today!

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Getting the Most Out of Your Customer Insights with AI

The phrase “Knowledge is power” is usually believed to have originated with 16th- and 17th-century English philosopher Francis Bacon, in his Meditationes Sacræ. Because many people recognize something profoundly right about this sentiment, it has become received wisdom in the centuries since.

Now, data isn’t exactly the same thing as knowledge, but it is tremendously powerful. Armed with enough of the right kind of data, contact center managers can make better decisions about how to deploy resources, resolve customer issues, and run their business.

As is usually the case, the data contact center managers are looking for will be unique to their field. This article will discuss these data, why they matter, and how AI can transform how you gather, analyze, and act on data.

Let’s get going!

What are Customer Insights in Contact Centers?

As a contact center, your primary focus is on helping people work through issues related to a software product or something similar. But you might find yourself wondering who these people are, what parts of the customer experience they’re stumbling over, which issues are being escalated to human agents and which are resolved by bots, etc.

If you knew these things, you would be able to notice patterns and start proactively fixing problems before they even arise. This is what customer insights is all about, and it can allow you to finetune your procedures, write clearer technical documentation, figure out the best place to use generative AI in your contact center, and much more.

What are the Major Types of Customer Insights?

Before we turn to a discussion of the specifics of customer insights, we’ll deal with the major kinds of customer insights there are. This will provide you with an overarching framework for thinking about this topic and where different approaches might fit in.

Speech and Text Data

Customer service and customer experience both tend to be language-heavy fields. When an agent works with a customer over the phone or via chat, a lot of natural language is generated, and that language can be analyzed. You might use a technique like sentiment analysis, for example, to gauge how frustrated customers are when they contact an agent. This will allow you to form a fuller picture of the people you’re helping, and discover ways of doing so more effectively.

Data on Customer Satisfaction

Contact centers exist to make customers happy as they try to use a product, and for this reason, it’s common practice to send out surveys when a customer interaction is done. When done correctly, the information contained in these surveys is incredibly valuable, and can let you know whether or not you’re improving over time, whether a specific approach to training or a new large language model is helping or hurting customer satisfaction, and more.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is a huge field, but it mostly boils down to using machine learning or something similar to predict the future based on what’s happened in the past. You might try to forecast average handle time (AHT) based on the time of the year, on the premise that when an issue arises has something to do with how long it will take to get it resolved.

To do this effectively you would need a fair amount of AHT data, along with the corresponding data about when the complaints were raised, and then you could fit a linear regression model on these two data streams. If you find that AHT reliably climbs during certain periods, you can have more agents on hand when required.

Data on Agent Performance

Like employees in any other kind of business, agents perform at different levels. Junior agents will likely take much longer to work through a thorny customer issue than more senior ones, of course, and the same could be said for agents with an extensive technical background versus those without the knowledge this background confers. Or, the same agent might excel at certain kinds of tasks but perform much worse on others.

Regardless, by gathering these data on how agents are performing you, as the manager, can figure out where weaknesses lie across all your teams. With this information, you’ll be able to strategize about how to address those weaknesses with coaching, additional education, a refresh of the standard operating procedures, or what have you.

Channel Analytics

These days, there are usually multiple ways for a customer to get in touch with your contact center, and they all have different dynamics. Sending a long email isn’t the same thing as talking on the phone, and both are distinct from reaching out on social media or talking to a bot. If you have analytics on specific channels, how customers use them, and what their experience was like, you can make decisions about what channels to prioritize.

What’s more, customers will often have interacted with your brand in the past through one or more of these channels. If you’ve been tracking those interactions, you can incorporate this context to personalize responses when they reach out to resolve an issue in the future, which can help boost customer satisfaction.

What Specific Metrics are Tracked for Customer Insights?

Now that we have a handle on what kind of customer insights there are, let’s talk about specific metrics that come up in contact centers!

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

The first contact resolution is the fraction of issues a contact center is able to resolve on the first try, i.e. the first time the customer reaches out. It’s sometimes also known as Right First Time (RFT), for this reason. Note that first contact resolution can apply to any channel, whereas first call resolution applies only when the customer contacts you over the phone. They have the same acronym but refer to two different metrics.

Average Handle Time (AHT)

The average handle time is one of the more important metrics contact centers track, and it refers to the mean length of time an agent spends on a task. This is not the same thing as how long the agent spends talking to a customer, and instead encompasses any work that goes on afterward as well.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

The customer satisfaction score attempts to gauge how customers feel about your product and service. It’s common practice, to collect this information from many customers, then averaging them to get a broader picture of how your customers feel. The CSAT can give you a sense of whether customers are getting happier over time, whether certain products, issues, or agents make them happier than others, etc.

Call Abandon Rate (CAR)

The call abandon rate is the fraction of customers who end a call with an agent before their question has been answered. It can be affected by many things, including how long the customers have to wait on hold, whether they like the “hold” music you play, and similar sorts of factors. You should be aware that CAR doesn’t account for missed calls, lost calls, or dropped calls.

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Data-driven contact centers track a lot of metrics, and these are just a sample. Nevertheless, they should convey a sense of what kinds of numbers a manager might want to examine.

How Can AI Help with Customer Insights?

And now, we come to the “main” event, a discussion of how artificial intelligence can help contact center managers gather and better utilize customer insights.

Natural Language Processing and Sentiment Analysis

An obvious place to begin is with natural language processing (NLP), which refers to a subfield in machine learning that uses various algorithms to parse (or generate) language.

There are many ways in which NLP can aid in finding customer insights. We’ve already mentioned sentiment analysis, which detects the overall emotional tenor of a piece of language. If you track sentiment over time, you’ll be able to see if you’re delivering more or less customer satisfaction.

You could even get slightly more sophisticated and pair sentiment analysis with something like named entity recognition, which extracts information about entities from language. This would allow you to e.g. know that a given customer is upset, and also that the name of a particular product kept coming up.

Classifying Different Kinds of Communication

For various reasons, contact centers keep transcripts and recordings of all the interactions they have with a customer. This means that they have access to a vast amount of textual information, but since it’s unstructured and messy it’s hard to know what to do with it.

Using any of several different ML-based classification techniques, a contact center manager could begin to tame this complexity. Suppose, for example, she wanted to have a high-level overview of why people are reaching out for support. With a good classification pipeline, she could start automating the processing of sorting communications into different categories, like “help logging in” or “canceling a subscription”.

With enough of this kind of information, she could start to spot trends and make decisions on that basis.

Statistical Analysis and A/B Testing

Finally, we’ll turn to statistical analysis. Above, we talked a lot about natural language processing and similar endeavors, but more than likely when people say “customer insights” they mean something like “statistical analysis”.

This is a huge field, so we’re going to illustrate its importance with an example focusing on churn. If you have a subscription-based business, you’ll have some customers who eventually leave, and this is known as “churn”. Churn analysis has sprung up to apply data science to understanding these customer decisions, in the hopes that you can resolve any underlying issues and positively impact the bottom line.

What kinds of questions would be addressed by churn analysis? Things like what kinds of customers are canceling (i.e. are they young or old, do they belong to a particular demographic, etc.), figuring out their reasons for doing so, using that to predict which similar questions might be in danger of churning soon, and thinking analytically about how to reduce churn.

And how does AI help? There now exist any number of AI tools that substantially automate the process of gathering and cleaning the relevant data, applying standard tests, making simple charts, and making your job of extracting customer insights much easier.

What AI Tools Can Be Used for Customer Insights?

By now you’re probably eager to try using AI for customer insights, but before you do that, let’s spend some talking about what you’d look for in a customer insights tool.

Performant and Reliable

Ideally, you want something that you can depend upon and that won’t drive you crazy with performance issues. A good customer insights tool will have many optimizations under the hood that make crunching numbers easy, and shouldn’t require you to have a computer science degree to set up.

Straightforward Integration Process

Modern contact centers work across a wide variety of channels, including emails, chat, social media, phone calls, and even more. Whatever AI-powered customer insights platform you go with should be able to seamlessly integrate with all of them.

Simple to Use

Finally, your preferred solution should be relatively easy to use. Quiq Insights, for example, makes it a breeze to create customizable funnels, do advanced filtering, see the surrounding context for different conversations, and much more.

Getting the Most Out of AI-Powered Customer Insights

Data is extremely important to the success or failure of modern businesses, and it’s getting more important all the time. Contact centers have long been forward-looking and eager to adopt new technologies, and the same must be true in our brave new data-powered world.

If you’d like a demo of Quiq Insights, reach out to see how we can help you streamline your operation while boosting customer satisfaction!

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Security and Compliance in Next-Gen Contact Centers

Along with almost everyone else, we’ve been singing the praises of large language models like ChatGPT for a while now. We’ve noted how they can be used in retail, how they’re already supercharging contact center agents, and have even put out some content on how researchers are pushing the frontiers of what this technology is capable of.

But none of this is to say that generative AI doesn’t come with serious concerns for security and compliance. In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into these issues. We’ll first provide some context on how advanced AI is being deployed in contact centers, before turning our attention to subjects like data leaks, lack of transparency, and overreliance. Finally, we’ll close with a treatment of the best practices contact center managers can use to alleviate these problems.

What is a “Next-Gen” Contact Center?

First, what are some ways in which a next-generation contact center might actually be using AI? Understanding this will be valuable background for the rest of the discussion about security and compliance, because knowing what generative AI is doing is a crucial first step in protecting ourselves from its potential downsides.

Businesses like contact centers tend to engage in a lot of textual communication, such as when resolving customer issues or responding to inquiries. Due to their proficiency in understanding and generating natural language, LLMs are an obvious tool to reach for when trying to automate or streamline these tasks; for this reason, they have become increasingly popular in enhancing productivity within contact centers.

To give specific examples, there are several key areas where contact center managers can effectively utilize LLMs:

Responding to Customer Queries – High-quality documentation is crucial, yet there will always be customers needing assistance with specific problems. While LLMs like ChatGPT may not have all the answers, they can address many common inquiries, particularly when they’ve been fine-tuned on your company’s documentation.

Facilitating New Employee Training – Similarly, a language model can significantly streamline the onboarding process for new staff members. As they familiarize themselves with your technology and procedures, they may encounter confusion, where AI can provide quick and relevant information.

Condensing Information – While it may be possible to keep abreast of everyone’s activities on a small team, this becomes much more challenging as the team grows. Generative AI can assist by summarizing emails, articles, support tickets, or Slack threads, allowing team members to stay informed without spending every moment of the day reading.

Sorting and Prioritizing Issues – Not all customer inquiries or issues carry the same level of urgency or importance. Efficiently categorizing and prioritizing these for contact center agents is another area where a language model can be highly beneficial. This is especially so when it’s integrated into a broader machine-learning framework, such as one that’s designed to adroitly handle classification tasks.

Language Translation – If your business has a global reach, you’re eventually going to encounter non-English-speaking users. While tools like Google Translate are effective, a well-trained language model such as ChatGPT can often provide superior translation services, enhancing communication with a diverse customer base.

What are the Security and Compliance Concerns for AI?

The preceding section provided valuable context on the ways generative AI is powering the future of contact centers. With that in mind, let’s turn to a specific treatment of the security and compliance concerns this technology brings with it.

Data Leaks and PII

First, it’s no secret that language models are trained on truly enormous amounts of data. And with that, there’s a growing worry about potentially exposing “Personally Identifiable Information” (PII) to generative AI models. PII encompasses details like your actual name, residential address, and also encompasses sensitive information like health records. It’s important to note that even if these records don’t directly mention your name, they could still be used to deduce your identity.

While our understanding of the exact data seen by language models during their training remains incomplete, it’s reasonable to assume they’ve encountered some sensitive data, considering how much of that kind of data exists on the internet. What’s more, even if a specific piece of PII hasn’t been directly shown to an LLM, there are numerous ways it might still come across such data. Someone might input customer data into an LLM to generate customized content, for instance, not recognizing that the model often permanently integrates this information into its framework.

Currently, there’s no effective method to extract data from a language model, and no finetuning technique that ensures it never reveals that data again has yet been found.

Over-Reliance on Models

Are you familiar with the term “ultracrepidarianism”? It’s a fancy SAT word that refers to a person who consistently gives advice or expresses opinions on things that they simply have no expertise in.

A similar sort of situation can arise when people rely too much on language models, or use them for tasks that they’re not well-suited for. These models, for example, are well known to hallucinate (i.e. completely invent plausible-sounding information that is false). If you were to ask ChatGPT for a list of 10 scientific publications related to a particular scientific discipline, you could well end up with nine real papers and one that’s fabricated outright.
From a compliance and security perspective, this matters because you should have qualified humans fact-checking a model’s output – especially if it’s technical or scientific.

To concretize this a bit, imagine you’ve finetuned a model on your technical documentation and used it to produce a series of steps that a customer can use to debug your software. This is precisely the sort of thing that should be fact-checked by one of your agents before being sent.

Not Enough Transparency

Large language models are essentially gigantic statistical artifacts that result from feeding an algorithm huge amounts of textual data and having it learn to predict how sentences will end based on the words that came before.

The good news is that this works much better than most of us thought it would. The bad news is that the resulting structure is almost completely inscrutable. While a machine learning engineer might be able to give you a high-level explanation of how the training process works or how a language model generates an output, no one in the world really has a good handle on the details of what these models are doing on the inside. That’s why there’s so much effort being poured into various approaches to interpretability and explainability.

As AI has become more ubiquitous, numerous industries have drawn fire for their reliance on technologies they simply don’t understand. It’s not a good look if a bank loan officer can only shrug and say “The machine told me to” when asked why one loan applicant was approved and another wasn’t.

Depending on exactly how you’re using generative AI, this may not be a huge concern for you. But it’s worth knowing that if you are using language models to make recommendations or as part of a decision process, someone, somewhere may eventually ask you to explain what’s going on. And it’d be wise for you to have an answer ready beforehand.

Compliance Standards Contact Center Managers Should be Familiar With

To wrap this section up, we’ll briefly cover some of the more common compliance standards that might impact how you run your contact center. This material is only a sketch, and should not be taken to be any kind of comprehensive breakdown.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – The famous GDPR is a set of regulations put out by the European Union that establishes guidelines around how data must be handled. This applies to any business that interacts with data from a citizen of the EU, not just to companies physically located on the European continent.

The California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) – In a bid to give individuals more sovereignty over what happens to their personal data, California created the CCPA. It stipulates that companies have to be clearer about how they gather data, that they have to include privacy disclosures, and that Californians must be given the choice to opt out of data collection.

Soc II – Soc II is a set of standards created by the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts that stresses confidentiality, privacy, and security with respect to how consumer data is handled and processed.

Consumer Duty – Contact centers operating in the U.K. should know about The Financial Conduct Authority’s new “Consumer Duty” regulations. The regulations’ key themes are that firms must act in good faith when dealing with customers, prevent any foreseeable harm to them, and do whatever they can to further the customer’s pursuit of their own financial goals. Lawmakers are still figuring out how generative AI will fit into this framework, but it’s something affected parties need to monitor.

Best Practices for Security and Compliance when Using AI

Now that we’ve discussed the myriad security and compliance concerns facing contact centers that use generative AI, we’ll close by offering advice on how you can deploy this amazing technology without running afoul of rules and regulations.

Have Consistent Policies Around Using AI

First, you should have a clear and robust framework that addresses who can use generative AI, under what circumstances, and for what purposes. This way, your agents know the rules, and your contact center managers know what they need to monitor and look out for.

As part of crafting this framework, you must carefully study the rules and regulations that apply to you, and you have to ensure that this is reflected in your procedures.

Train Your Employees to Use AI Responsibly

Generative AI might seem like magic, but it’s not. It doesn’t function on its own, it has to be steered by a human being. But since it’s so new, you can’t treat it like something everyone will already know how to use, like a keyboard or Microsoft Word. Your employees should understand the policy that you’ve created around AI’s use, should understand which situations require human fact-checking, and should be aware of the basic failure modes, such as hallucination.

Be Sure to Encrypt Your Data

If you’re worried about PII or data leakages, a simple solution is to encrypt your data before you even roll out a generative AI tool. If you anonymize data correctly, there’s little concern that a model will accidentally disclose something it’s not supposed to down the line.

Roll Your Own Model (Or Use a Vendor You Trust)

The best way to ensure that you have total control over the model pipeline – including the data it’s trained on and how it’s finetuned – is to simply build your own. That being said, many teams will simply not be able to afford to hire the kinds of engineers who are equal to this task. In such case, you should utilize a model built by a third party with a sterling reputation and many examples of prior success, like the Quiq platform.

Engage in Regular Auditing

As we mentioned earlier, AI isn’t magic – it can sometimes perform in unexpected ways, and its performance can also simply degrade over time. You need to establish a practice of regularly auditing any models you have in production to make sure they’re still behaving appropriately. If they’re not, you may need to do another training run, examine the data they’re being fed, or try to finetune them.

Futureproofing Your Contact Center Security

The next generation of contact centers is almost certainly going to be one that makes heavy use of generative AI. There are just too many advantages, from lower average handling time to reduced burnout and turnover, to forego it.

But doing this correctly is a major task, and if you want to skip the engineering hassle and headache, give the Quiq conversational AI platform a try! We have the expertise required to help you integrate a robust, powerful generative AI tool into your contact center, without the need to write a hundred thousand lines of code.

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LLM-Powered AI Assistants for Hotels – Ultimate Guide

New technologies have always been disruptive, supercharging those firms that embrace it and requiring the others to adapt or be left behind.

With the rise of new approaches to AI, such as large language models, we can see this dynamic playing out again. One place where AI assistants could have a major impact is in the hotel industry.

In this piece, we’ll explore the various ways AI assistants can be used in hotels, and what that means for the hoteliers that keep these establishments running.

Let’s get going!

What is an AI Assistant?

The term “AI assistant” refers to any use of an algorithmic or machine-learning system to automate a part of your workflow. A relatively simple example would be the autocomplete found in almost all text-editing software today, while a much more complex example might involve stringing together multiple chain-of-thought prompts into an agent capable of managing your calendar.

There are a few major types of AI assistants. Near and dear to our hearts, of course, are chatbots that function in places like contact centers. These can be agent-facing or customer-facing, and can help with answering common questions, helping draft replies to customer inquiries, and automatically translating between many different natural languages.

Chatbots (and large language models more generally) can also be augmented to produce speech, giving rise to so-called “voice assistants”. These tend to work like other kinds of chatbots but have the added ability to actually vocalize their text, creating a much more authentic customer experience.

In a famous 2018 demo, Google Duplex was able to complete a phone call to a local hair salon to make a reservation. One remarkable thing about the AI assistant was how human it sounded – its speech even included “uh”s and “mm-hmm”s that made it almost indistinguishable from an actual person, at least over the phone and for short interactions.

Then, there are 3D avatars. These digital entities are crafted to look as human as possible, and are perfect for basic presentations, websites, games, and similar applications. Graphics technology has gotten astonishingly good over the past few decades and, in conjunction with the emergence of technologies like virtual reality and the metaverse, means that 3D avatars could play a major role in the contact centers of the future.

One thing to think about if you’re considering using AI assistants in a hotel or hospitality service is how specialized you want them to be. Although there is a significant effort underway to build general-purpose assistants that are able to do most of what a human assistant does, it remains true that your agents will do better if they’re fine-tuned on a particular domain. For the time being, you may want to focus on building an AI assistant that is targeted at providing excellent email replies, for example, or answering detailed questions about your product or service.

That being said, we recommend you check the Quiq blog often for updates on AI assistants; when there’s a breakthrough, we’ll deliver actionable news as soon as possible.

How Will AI Assistants Change Hotels?

Though the audience we speak to is largely comprised of people working in or managing contact centers, the truth is that there are many overlaps with those in the hospitality space. Since these are both customer-service and customer-oriented domains, insights around AI assistants almost always transfer over.

With that in mind, let’s dive in now to talk about how AI is poised to transform the way hotels function!

AI for Hotel Operations

Like most jobs, operating a hotel involves many tasks that require innovative thinking and improvisation, and many others that are repetitive, rote, and quotidian. Booking a guest, checking them in, making small changes to their itinerary, and so forth are in the latter category, and are precisely the sorts of things that AI assistants can help with.

In an earlier example, we saw that chatbots were already able to handle appointment booking five years ago, so it requires no great leap in imagination to see how slightly more powerful systems would be able to do this on a grander scale. If it soon becomes possible to offload much of the day-to-day of getting guests into their rooms to the machines, that will free up a great deal of human time and attention to go towards more valuable work.

It’s possible, of course, that this will lead to a dramatic reduction in the workforce needed to keep hotels running, but so far, the evidence points the other way; when large language models have been used in contact centers, the result has been more productivity (especially among junior agents), less burnout, and reduced turnover. We can’t say definitively that this will apply in hotel operations, but we also don’t see any reason to think that it wouldn’t.

AI for Managing Hotel Revenues

Another place that AI assistants can change hotels is in forecasting and boosting revenues. We think this will function mainly by making it possible to do far more fine-grained analyses of consumption patterns, inventory needs, etc.

Everyone knows that there are particular times of the year when vacation bookings surge, and others in which there are a relatively small number of bookings. But with the power of big data and sophisticated AI assistants, analysts will be able to do a much better job of predicting surges and declines. This means prices for rooms or other accommodations will be more fluid and dynamic, changing in near real-time in response to changes in demand and the personal preferences of guests. The ultimate effect will be an increase in revenue for hotels.

AI in Marketing and Customer Service

A similar line of argument holds for using AI assistants in marketing and customer service. Just as both hotels and guests are better served when we can build models that allow for predicting future bookings, everyone is better served when it becomes possible to create more bespoke, targeted marketing.

By utilizing data sources like past vacations, Google searches, and browser history, AI assistants will be able to meet potential clients where they’re at, offering them packages tailored to exactly what they want and need. This will not only mean increased revenue for the hotel, but far more satisfaction for the customers (who, after all, might have gotten an offer that they themselves didn’t realize they were looking for.)

If we were trying to find a common theme between this section and the last one, we might settle on “flexibility”. AI assistants will make it possible to flexibly adjust prices (raising them during peak demand and lowering them when bookings level off), flexibly tailor advertising to serve different kinds of customers, and flexibly respond to complaints, changes, etc.

Smart Buildings in Hotels

One particularly exciting area of research in AI centers around so-called “smart buildings”. By now, most of us have seen relatively “smart” thermostats that are able to learn your daily patterns and do things like turn the temperature up when you leave to save on the cooling bill while turning it down to your preferred setting as you’re heading home from work.

These are certainly worthwhile, but they barely even scratch the surface of what will be possible in the future. Imagine a room where every device is part of an internet-of-things, all wired up over a network to communicate with each other and gather data about how to serve your needs.

Your refrigerator would know when you’re running low on a few essentials and automatically place an order, a smart stove might be able to take verbal commands (“cook this chicken to 180 degrees, then power down and wait”) to make sure dinner is ready on time, a smoothie machine might be able to take in data about your blood glucose levels and make you a pre-workout drink specifically tailored to your requirements on that day, and so on.

Pretty much all of this would carry over to the hotel industry as well. As is usually the case there are real privacy concerns here, but assuming those challenges can be met, hotel guests may one day enjoy a level of service that is simply not possible with a staff comprised only of human beings.

Virtual Tours and Guest Experience

Earlier, we mentioned virtual reality in the context of 3D avatars that will enhance customer experience, but it can also be used to provide virtual tours. We’re already seeing applications of this technology in places like real estate, but there’s no reason at all that it couldn’t also be used to entice potential guests to visit different vacation spots.

When combined with flexible and intelligent AI assistants, this too could boost hotel revenues and better meet customer needs.

Using AI Assistants in Hotels

As part of the service industry, hoteliers work constantly to best meet their customers’ needs and, for this reason, they would do well to keep an eye on emerging technologies. Though many advances will have little to do with their core mission, others, like those related to AI assistants, will absolutely help them forecast future demands, provide personalized service, and automate routine parts of their daily jobs.

If all of this sounds fascinating to you, consider checking out the Quiq conversational CX platform. Our sophisticated offering utilizes large language models to help with tasks like question answering, following up with customers, and perfecting your marketing.

Schedule a demo with us to see how we can bring your hotel into the future!

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Explainability vs. Interpretability in Machine Learning Models

In recent months, we’ve produced a tremendous amount of content about generative AI – from high-level primers on what large language models are and how they work, to discussions of how they’re transforming contact centers, to deep dives on the cutting edge of generative technologies.

This amounts to thousands of words, much of it describing how models like ChatGPT were trained by having them e.g. iteratively predict what the final sentence of a paragraph will be given the previous sentences.

But for all that, there’s still a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the inner workings of advanced machine-learning systems. Even the people who build them generally don’t understand how particular functions emerge or what a particular circuit is doing.

It would be more accurate to describe these systems as having been grown, like an inconceivably complex garden. And just as you might have questions if your tomatoes started spitting out math proofs, it’s natural to wonder why generative models are behaving in the way that they are.

These questions are only going to become more important as these technologies are further integrated into contact centers, schools, law firms, medical clinics, and the economy in general.

If we use machine learning to decide who gets a loan, who is likely to have committed a crime, or to have open-ended conversations with our customers, it really matters that we know how all this works.

The two big approaches to this task are explainability and interpretability.

Comparing Explainability and Interpretability

Under normal conditions, this section would come at the very end of the article, after we’d gone through definitions of both these terms and illustrated how they work with copious examples.

We’re electing to include it at the beginning for a reason; while the machine-learning community does broadly agree on what these two terms mean, there’s a lot of confusion about which bucket different techniques go into.

Below, for example, we’ll discuss Shapley Additive Explanations (SHAP). Some sources file this as an approach to explainability, while others consider it a way of making a model more interpretable.

A major contributing factor to this overlap is the simple fact that the two concepts are very closely related. Once you can explain a fact you can probably interpret it, and a big part of interpretation is explanation.

Below, we’ve tried our best to make sense of these important research areas, and have tried to lay everything out in a way that will help you understand what’s going on.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s define explainability and interpretability.

Broadly, explainability means analyzing the behavior of a model to understand why a given course of action was taken. If you want to know why data point “a” was sorted into one category while data point “b” was sorted into another, you’d probably turn to one of the explainability techniques described below.

Interpretability means making features of a model, such as its weights or coefficients, comprehensible to humans. Linear regression models, for example, calculate sums of weighted input features, and interpretability would help you understand what exactly that means.

Here’s an analogy that might help: you probably know at least a little about how a train works. Understanding that it needs fuel to move, has to have tracks constructed a certain way to avoid crashing, and needs brakes in order to stop would all contribute to the interpretability of the train system.

But knowing which kind of fuel it requires and for what reason, why the tracks must be made out of a certain kind of material, and how exactly pulling a brake switch actually gets the train to stop are all facets of the explainability of the train system.

What is Explainability in Machine Learning?

In machine learning, explainability refers to any set of techniques that allow you to reason about the nuts and bolts of the underlying model. If you can at least vaguely follow how data are processed and how they impact the final model output, the system is explainable to that degree.

Before we turn to the techniques utilized in machine learning explainability, let’s talk at a philosophical level about the different types of explanations you might be looking for.

Different Types of Explanations

There are many approaches you might take to explain an opaque machine-learning model. Here are a few:

  • Explanations by text: One of the simplest ways of explaining a model is by reasoning about it with natural language. The better sorts of natural-language explanations will, of course, draw on some of the explainability techniques described below. You can also try to talk about a system logically, by i.e. describing it as calculating logical AND, OR, and NOT operations.
  • Explanations by visualization: For many kinds of models, visualization will help tremendously in increasing explainability. Support vector machines, for example, use a decision boundary to sort data points and this boundary can sometimes be visualized. For extremely complex datasets this may not be appropriate, but it’s usually worth at least trying.
  • Local explanations: There are whole classes of explanation techniques, like LIME, that operate by illustrating how a black-box model works in some particular region. In other words, rather than trying to parse the whole structure of a neural network, we zoom in on one part of it and say “This is what it’s doing right here.”

Approaches to Explainability in Machine Learning

Now that we’ve discussed the varieties of explanation, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how explainability in machine learning works. There are a number of different explainability techniques, but we’re going to focus on two of the biggest: SHAP and LIME.

Shapley Additive Explanations (SHAP) are derived from game theory and are a commonly-used way of making models more explainable. The basic idea is that you’re trying to parcel out “credit” for the model’s outputs among its input features. In game theory, potential players can choose to enter a game, or not, and this is the first idea that is ported over to SHAP.

SHAP “values” are generally calculated by looking at how a model’s output changes based on different combinations of features. If a model has, say, 10 input features, you could look at the output of four of them, then see how that changes when you add a fifth.

By running this procedure for many different feature sets, you can understand how any given feature contributes to the model’s overall predictions.

Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanation (LIME) is based on the idea that our best bet in understanding a complex model is to first narrow our focus to one part of it, then study a simpler model that captures its local behavior.

Let’s work through an example. Imagine that you’ve taken an enormous amount of housing data and fit a complex random forest model that’s able to predict the price of a house based on features like how old it is, how close it is to neighbors, etc.

LIME lets you figure out what the random forest is doing in a particular region, so you’d start by selecting one row of the data frame, which would contain both the input features for a house and its price. Then, you would “perturb” this sample, which means that for each of its features and its price, you’d sample from a distribution around that data point to create a new, perturbed dataset.

You would feed this perturbed dataset into your random forest model and get a new set of perturbed predictions. On this complete dataset, you’d then train a simple model, like a linear regression.

Linear regression is almost never as flexible and powerful as a random forest, but it does have one advantage: it comes with a bunch of coefficients that are fairly easy to interpret.

This LIME approach won’t tell you what the model is doing everywhere, but it will give you an idea of how the model is behaving in one particular place. If you do a few LIME runs, you can form a picture of how the model is functioning overall.

What is Interpretability in Machine Learning?

In machine learning, interpretability refers to a set of approaches that shed light on a model’s internal workings.

SHAP, LIME, and other explainability techniques can also be used for interpretability work. Rather than go over territory we’ve already covered, we’re going to spend this section focusing on an exciting new field of interpretability, called “mechanistic” interpretability.

Mechanistic Interpretability: A New Frontier

Mechanistic interpretability is defined as “the study of reverse-engineering neural networks”. Rather than examining subsets of input features to see how they impact a model’s output (as we do with SHAP) or training a more interpretable local model (as we do with LIME), mechanistic interpretability involves going directly for the goal of understanding what a trained neural network is really, truly doing.

It’s a very young field that so far has only tackled networks like GPT-2 – no one has yet figured out how GPT-4 functions – but already its results are remarkable. It will allow us to discover the actual algorithms being learned by large language models, which will give us a way to check them for bias and deceit, understand what they’re really capable of, and how to make them even better.

Why are Interpretability and Explainability Important?

Interpretability and explainability are both very important areas of ongoing research. Not so long ago (less than twenty years), neural networks were interesting systems that weren’t able to do a whole lot.

Today, they are feeding us recommendations for news, entertainment, driving cars, trading stocks, generating reams of content, and making decisions that affect people’s lives, forever.

This technology is having a huge and growing impact, and it’s no longer enough for us to have a fuzzy, high-level idea of what they’re doing.

We now know that they work, and with techniques like SHAP, LIME, mechanistic interpretability, etc., we can start to figure out why they work.

Final Thoughts on Interpretability vs. Explainability

In contact centers and elsewhere, large language models are changing the game. But though their power is evident, they remain a predominately empirical triumph.

The inner workings of large language models remain a mystery, one that has only recently begun to be unraveled through techniques like the ones we’ve discussed in this article.

Though it’s probably asking too much to expect contact center managers to become experts in machine learning interpretability or explainability, hopefully, this information will help you make good decisions about how you want to utilize generative AI.

And speaking of good decisions, if you do decide to move forward with deploying a large language model in your contact center, consider doing it through one of the most trusted names in conversational AI. In recent weeks, the Quiq platform has added several tools aimed at making your agents more efficient and your customers happier.

Set up a demo today to see how we can help you!

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AI Translation for Global Brands

AI is already having a dramatic impact on various kinds of work, in places like contact centers, marketing agencies, research outfits, etc.

In this piece, we’re going to take a closer look at one specific arena where people are trying things (and always learning), and that’s AI translation. We’re going to look at how AI systems can help in translation tasks, and how that is helping companies build their global brands.

What is AI Translation?

AI translation, or “machine” translation as it’s also known, is more or less what it sounds like: the use of algorithms, computers, or software to translate from one natural language to another.

The chances are pretty good you’ve used AI translation in one form or another already. If you’ve ever relied on Google Translate to double-check your conjugation of a Spanish verb or to read the lyrics of the latest K-pop sensation in English, you know what it can accomplish.

But the mechanics and history of this technology are equally fascinating, and we’ll cover those now.

How Does AI Translation Work?

There are a few different approaches to AI translation, which broadly fall into three categories.

The first is known as rule-based machine translation, and it works by drawing on the linguistic structure that scaffolds all language. If you have any bad memories of trying to memorize Latin inflections or French grammatical rules, you’ll be more than familiar with these structures, but you may not know that they can also be used to build powerful, flexible AI translation systems.

Three ingredients are required to make rule-based machine translation function: a set of rules describing how the input language works, a set of rules describing how the output language works, and dictionaries translating words between the input and output languages.

It’s probably not hard to puzzle out the major difficulty with rule-based machine translation: it demands a great deal of human time and attention and is therefore very difficult to scale.

The second approach is known as statistical machine translation. Unlike rule-based machine translation, statistical machine translation tends to focus on higher-level groupings, known as “phrases”. Statistical models of the relevant languages are built through an analysis of two kinds of data: bilingual corpora containing both the input and output language, and monolingual corpora in the output language. Once these models have been developed, they can be used to automatically translate between the language pairs.

Finally, there’s neural machine translation. This is the most recently developed AI translation method, and it relies on deep neural networks trained to predict sequences of tokens. Neural machine translation rapidly supplanted statistical methods owing to its remarkable performance, but there can be edge cases where statistical translations do better. As is usually the case, of course, there are also hybrid systems that use both neural and statistical machine translation.

Building a Global Brand with AI

There are many ways in which the emerging technology of artificial intelligence can be used to build a global brand. In this section, we’ll walk through a few examples.

How can AI Translation Be Used to Build a Global Brand?

The first way AI translation can be used for building a global brand is that it helps with internal communications. If you have an international workforce – programmers in Eastern Europe, for example, or support staff in the Phillippines – keeping them all on the same page is even more important than usual. Coordinating your internal teams is hard enough when they’re all in the same building, to say nothing of when they’re spread out across the globe, over multiple time zones and multiple cultures.

The last thing you need is mistakes occurring because of a bad translation from English into their native languages, so getting high-quality AI translations is crucial for the internal cohesion required for building your global brand.

Of course, more or less the exact same case can be made for external communication. It would be awfully difficult to build a global brand that doesn’t routinely communicate with the public, through advertisements, various kinds of content or media, etc. And if the brand is global, most, or perhaps all, of this content will need to be translated somewhere along the way.

There are human beings who can handle this work, but with the rising sophistication of AI translators, it’s becoming possible to automate substantial parts of it. Besides the obvious cost savings, there are other benefits to AI translation. For one thing, AI is increasingly able to translate into what are called “low-resource” languages, i.e. languages for which there isn’t much training material and only small populations of native speakers. If AI is eventually able to translate for these populations, it could open up whole new markets that weren’t reachable before.

For another, it may soon be possible to do dynamic, on-the-fly translations of brand material. We’re not aware of any system that can 1) identify a person’s native language from snippets of their speech or other identifying features, and 2) instantly produce a translation of i.e. a billboard or poster in real-time, but it’s not at all beyond our imagination. If no one has built something that can do this yet, they surely will before too long.

Prompt Engineering for Building a Global Brand

One thing we haven’t touched on much so far is how generative AI will impact marketing. Generative AI is already being used to create drafts of web copy, mockups of new designs for buildings, products, and clothing, translating between languages, and much else besides.

This leads naturally to a discussion of prompt engineering, which refers to the careful sculpting of the linguistic instructions that are given to large generative AI models. These models are enormously complex artifacts whose inner workings are largely mysterious and whose outputs are hard to predict in advance. Skilled prompt engineers have put in the time required to develop a sense for how to phrase instructions just so, and they’re able to get remarkably high-quality output with much less effort than the rest of us.

If you’re thinking about using generative AI in building your global brand you’ll almost certainly need to be thinking prompt engineering, so be sure to check out Quiq’s blog for more in-depth discussions of this and related subjects.

How can AI Translation Benefit the Economy?

Throughout this piece, we’ve discussed various means by which AI translation can help build global brands. But you might still want to see some hard evidence of the economic benefits of machine translation.

Economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Xiang Hui, and Meng Liu conducted a study of how AI translation has actually impacted trade on an e-commerce platform. They found that “… the introduction of a machine translation system…had a significant effect on international trade on this platform, increasing export quantity by 17.5%.”

More specifically, they found evidence of “…a substantial reduction in buyers’ translation-related search costs due to the introduction of this system.” On the whole, their efforts support the conclusion that “… language barriers significantly hinder trade and that AI has already substantially improved overall economic efficiency.”

Though this is only one particular study on one particular mechanism, it’s not hard to see how it can apply more broadly. If more people can read your marketing material, it stands to reason that more people will buy your product, for example.

AI Translation and Global Brands

Global brands face many unique challenges: complex supply chains, distributed workforces, and the bewildering diversity of human language.

This last challenge is something that AI language translation can help with, as it’s already proving useful in boosting trade and exchange by reducing the friction involved in translation.

If you want to build a global brand and are keen to use conversational AI to do it, check out the Quiq platform. Our services include a variety of agent-facing and customer-facing tools, and make it easy to automate question-answering tasks, follow-ups with clients, and many other kinds of work involved in running a contact center. Schedule a demo with us today to see how we can help you build your brand!

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What is Automated Customer Service? – Ultimate Guide

From graph databases to automated machine learning pipelines and beyond, a lot of attention gets paid to new technologies. But the truth is, none of it matters if users aren’t able to handle the more mundane tasks of managing permissions, resolving mysterious errors, and getting the tools installed and working on their native systems.

This is where customer service comes in. Though they don’t often get the credit they deserve, customer service agents are the ones who are responsible for showing up every day to help countless others actually use the latest and greatest technology.

Like every job since the beginning of jobs, there are large components of customer service that have been automated, are currently being automated, or will be automated at some point soon.

That’s our focus for today. We want to explore customer service as a discipline, and then talk about some of how generative AI can automate substantial parts of the standard workflow.

What is Customer Service?

To begin with, we’ll try to clarify what customer service is and why it matters. This will inform our later discussion of automated customer service, and help us think through the value that can be added through automation.

Customer service is more or less what it sounds like: serving your customers – your users, or clients – as they go about the process of utilizing your product. A software company might employ customer service agents to help onboard new users and troubleshoot failures in their product, while a services’ company might use them for canceling appointments and rescheduling.

Over the prior few decades, customer service has evolved alongside many other industries. As mobile phones have become firmly ensconced in everyone’s life, for example, it has become more common for businesses to supplement the traditional avenues of phone calls and emails by adding text messaging and chatbot customer support to their customer service toolkit. This is part of what is known as an omni-channel strategy, in which more effort is made to meet customers where they’re at rather than expecting them to conform to the communication pathways a business already has in place.

Naturally, many of these kinds of interactions can be automated, especially with the rise of tools like large language models. We’ll have more to say about that shortly.

Why is Customer Service Important?

It may be tempting for those writing the code to think that customer service is a “nice to have”, but that’s not the case at all. However good a product’s documentation is, there will simply always be weird behaviors and edge cases in which a skilled customer service agent (perhaps helped along with AI) needs to step in and aid a user in getting everything running properly.

But there are other advantages as well. Besides simply getting a product to function, customer service agents contribute to a company’s overall brand, and the general emotional response users have to the company and its offerings.

High-quality customer service agents can do a lot to contribute to the impression that a company is considerate, and genuinely cares about its users.

What Are Examples of Good Customer Service?

There are many ways in which customer service agents can do this. For example, it helps a lot when customer service agents try to transmit a kind of warmth over the line.

Because so many people spend their days interacting with others through screens, it can be easy to forget what that’s like, as tone of voice and facial expression are hard to digitally convey. But when customer service agents greet a person enthusiastically and go beyond “How may I help you” by exchanging some opening pleasantries, they feel more valued and more at ease. This matters a lot when they’ve been banging their head against a software problem for half a day.

Customer service agents have also adapted to the digital age by utilizing emojis, exclamation points, and various other kinds of internet-speak. We live in a more casual age, and under most circumstances, it’s appropriate to drop the stiffness and formalities when helping someone with a product issue.

That said, you should also remember that you’re talking to customers, and you should be polite. Use words like “please” when asking for something, and don’t forget to add a “thank you.” It can be difficult to remember this when you’re dealing with a customer who is simply being rude, especially when you’ve had several such customers in a row. Nevertheless, it’s part of the job.

Finally, always remember that a customer gets in touch with you when they’re having a problem, and above all else, your job is to get them what they need. From the perspective of contact center managers, this means you need periodic testing or retraining to make sure your agents know the product thoroughly.

It’s reasonable to expect that agents will sometimes need to look up the answer to a question, but if they’re doing that constantly it will not only increase the time it takes to resolve an issue, it will also contribute to customer frustration and a general sense that you don’t have things well in hand.

Automation in Customer Service

Now that we’ve covered what customer service is, why it matters, and how to do it well, we have the context we need to turn to the topic of automated customer service.

For all intents and purposes, “automation” simply refers to outsourcing all or some of a task to a machine. In industries like manufacturing and agriculture, automation has been steadily increasing for hundreds of years.

Until fairly recently, however, the technology didn’t yet exist to automate substantial portions of customer service worth. With the rise of machine learning, and especially large language models like ChatGPT, that’s begun to change dramatically.

Let’s dive into this in more detail.

Examples of Automated Customer Service

There are many ways in which customer service is being automated. Here are a few examples:

  • Automated questions answering – Many questions are fairly prosaic (“How do I reset my password”), and can effectively be outsourced to a properly finetuned large language model. When such a model is trained on a company’s documentation, it’s often powerful enough to handle these kinds of low-level requests.
  • Summarization – There have long been models that could do an adequate job of summarization, but large language models have kicked this functionality into high gear. With an endless stream of new emails, Slack messages, etc. constantly being generated, having an agent that can summarize their contents and keep agents in the loop will do a lot to boost their productivity.
  • Classifying incoming messages – Classification is another thing that models have been able to do for a while, and it’s also something that helps a lot. Having an agent manually sort through different messages to figure out how to prioritize them and where they should go is no longer a good use of time, as algorithms are now good enough to do a major chunk of this kind of work.
  • Translation – One of the first useful things anyone attempted to do with machine learning was translating between different natural languages (i.e. from Russian into English). Once squarely in the purview of human beings, this is now a task that machines can do almost as well, at least for customer service work.

Should We Automate Customer Service?

All this having been said, you may still have questions about the wisdom of automating customer service work. Sure, no one wants to spend hours every day looking up words in Mandarin to answer a question or prioritizing tickets by hand, but aren’t we in danger of losing something important as customer service agents? Might we not automate ourselves out of a job?

No one can predict the future, of course, but the early evidence is quite to the contrary. Economists have conducted studies of how contact centers have changed with the introduction of generative AI, and their findings are very encouraging.

Because these models are (usually) finetuned on conversations from more experienced agents, they’re able to capture a lot of how those agents handle issues. Typical response patterns, politeness, etc. become “baked into” the models. Junior agents using these models are able to climb the learning curve more quickly and, feeling less strained in their new roles, are less likely to quit. This, in turn, puts less of a burden on managers and makes the organization overall more stable. Everyone ends up happier and more productive.

So far, it’s looking like AI-based automation in contact centers will be like automation almost everywhere else: machines will gradually remove the need for human attention in tedious or otherwise low-value tasks, freeing them up to focus on places where they have more of an advantage.

If agents don’t have to sort tickets anymore or resolve routine issues, they can spend more time working on the really thorny problems, and do so with more care.

Moving Quiq-ly into the Future!

Where the rubber of technology meets the road of real-world use cases, customer service agents are extremely important. They not only make sure customers can use a company’s tools, but they also contribute to the company brand in their tone, mannerisms, and helpfulness.

Like most other professions, customer service agents are being impacted by automation. So far, this impact has been overwhelmingly positive and is likely to prove a competitive advantage in the decades ahead.

If you’re intrigued by this possibility, Quiq has created a suite of industry-leading conversational AI tools, both for customer-facing applications and agent-facing applications. Check them out or schedule a demo with us to see what all the fuss is about.

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Top 5 Benefits of AI for Hospitality

As an industry, hospitality is aimed squarely at meeting customer needs. Whether it’s a businesswoman staying in 5-star resorts or a mother of three getting a quiet weekend to herself, the job of the hospitality professionals they interact with is to anticipate what they want and make sure they get it.

As technologies like artificial intelligence become more powerful and pervasive, customer expectations will change. When that businesswoman books a hotel room, she’ll expect there to be a capable virtual assistant talking to her about a vacation spot; when that mother navigates the process of buying a ticket, she’ll expect to be interacting with a very high-quality chatbot, perhaps one that’s indistinguishable from an actual human being.

All of this means that the hospitality industry needs to be thinking about how it will be impacted by AI. It needs to consider what the benefits of AI for hospitality are, what limitations are faced by AI, and how it can be utilized effectively. That’s what we’re here to do today, so let’s get started.

Why is AI Important for Hospitality?

AI is important in hospitality for the same reason it’s important everywhere else: it’s poised to become a transformative technology, and just about every industry – especially those that involve a lot of time interacting through text – could be up-ended by it.

The businesses that emerge the strongest from this ongoing revolution will be those that successfully anticipate how large language models and similar tools change workflows, company setups, cost and pricing structures, etc.

With that in mind, let’s work through some of the ways in which AI is (or will) be used in hospitality.

How is AI Used in Hospitality?

There are many ways in which AI is used in hospitality, and in the sections that follow we’ll walk through a number of the most important ones.

Chatbots and Customer Service

Perhaps the most obvious place to begin is with chatbots and customer service more broadly. Customer-facing chatbots were an early application of natural language processing, and have gotten much better in the decades since. With ChatGPT and similar LLMs, they’re currently in the process of taking another major leap forward.

Now that we have models that can be fine-tuned to answer questions, summarize texts, and carry out open-ended interactions with human users, we expect to see them becoming more and more common in hospitality. Someday soon, it may be the case that most of the steps involved in booking a room or changing a flight happens entirely without human assistance of any kind.

This is especially compelling because we’ve gotten so good at making chatbots that are very deferential and polite (though as we make clear in the final section on “limitations”, this is not always the case.)

Virtual Assistants

AI virtual assistants are a generalization of the idea behind chatbots. Whereas chatbots can be trained to offload many parts of hospitality work, powerful virtual assistants will take this dynamic to the next level. Once we have better agents – systems able to take strings of actions in pursuit of a goal – many more parts of hospitality work will be outsourced to the machines.

What might this look like?

Well, we’ve already seen some tools that can do relatively simple tasks like “book a flight to Indonesia”, but they’re still not all that flexible. Imagine an AI virtual assistant able to handle all the subtleties and details involved in a task like “book a flight for ten executives to Indonesia, and book lodging near the conference center and near the water, too, then make reservations for a meal each night of the week, taking into account the following dietary restrictions.”

Work into building generative agents like this is still in its infancy, but it is nevertheless an active area of research. It’s hard to predict when we’ll have agents who can be trusted to do advanced work with minimal oversight, but once we do, it’ll really begin to change how the hospitality industry runs.

Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analysis refers to an automated, algorithmic approach to classifying the overall vibe of a piece of text. “The food was great” is obviously positive sentiment, “the food was awful” is obviously negative sentiment, and then there are many subtler cases involving e.g. sarcasm.

The hospitality industry desperately needs tools able to perform sentiment analysis at scale. It helps them understand what clients like and dislike about particular services or locations, and can even help in predicting future demand. If, for example, there’s a bunch of positive sentiment around a concert being given in Indonesia, that indicates that there will probably be a spike in bookings there.

Boosting Revenues for Hospitality

People have long been interested in using AI to make money, whether that be from trading strategies generated by ChatGPT or from using AI to create ultra-targeted marketing campaigns.

All of this presents an enormous opportunity for the hospitality industry. Through a combination of predictive modeling, customer segmentation, sentiment analysis, and related techniques, it’ll become easier to forecast changes in demand, create much more responsive pricing models, and intelligently track inventory.

What this will ultimately mean is better revenues for hotels, event centers, and similar venues. You’ll be able to cross-sell or upsell based on a given client’s unique purchase history and interests, you’ll have fewer rooms go unoccupied, and you’ll be less likely to have clients who are dissatisfied by the fact tha you ran out of something.

Sustainability and Waste Management

An underappreciated way in which AI will benefit hospitality is by making sustainability easier. There are a few ways this could manifest.

One is by increasing energy efficiency. Most of you will already be familiar with currently-existing smart room technology, like thermostats that learn when you’re leaving and turn themselves up, thus lowering your power bill.

But there’s room for this to become much more far-ranging and powerful. If AI is put in charge of managing the HVAC system for an entire building, for example, it could lead to savings on the order of millions of dollars, while simultaneously making customers more comfortable during their stay.

And the same holds true for waste management. AI systems smart enough to discover when a trash can is full means that your cleaning staff won’t have to spend nearly as much time patrolling. They’ll be able to wait until they get a notification to handle the problem, gaining back many hours in their day that can be put towards higher-value work.

What are the Limitations of AI in Hospitality?

None of this is to suggest that there won’t also be drawbacks to using AI in hospitality. To prepare you for these challenges, we’ll spend the next few sections discussing how AI can fail, allowing you to be proactive in mitigating these downsides.

Impersonality in Customer Service

By properly fine-tuning a large language model, it’s possible to get text output that is remarkably polite and conversational. Still, throughout repeated or sustained interactions, the model can come to feel vaguely sterile.

Though it might in principle be hard to tell when you’re interacting with AI v.s. a human, the fact remains that models don’t actually have any empathy. They may say “I’m sorry that you had to deal with that…”, but they won’t truly know what frustration is like, and over time, a human is likely to begin picking up on that.

We can’t say for certain when models will be capable of expressing sympathy in a fully convincing way, but for the time being, you should probably incorporate systems that can flag conversations that are going off the rails so that a human customer service professional can intervene.

Toxic Output, Bias, and Abuse

As in the previous section, a lot of work has gone into finetuning models so that they don’t produce toxic, biased, or abusive language. Still, not all the kinks have been ironed out, and if a question is phrased in just the right way, it’s often possible to get past these safeguards. That means your models might unpredictably become insulting or snarky, which is a problem for a hospitality company.

As we’ve argued elsewhere, careful monitoring is one of the prices that have to be paid when managing an AI assistant. Since this technology is so new, we have at best a very vague idea of what kinds of prompts lead to what kinds of responses. So, you’ll simply have to diligently keep your eyes peeled for examples of model responses that are inappropriate, having a human take over if and when things are going poorly.

(Or, you can work with Quiq – our guardrails ensure none of this is a problem for enterprise hospitality businesses).

AI in Hospitality

New technologies have always changed the way industries operate, and that’s true for hospitality as well. From virtual assistants to chatbots to ultra-efficient waste management, AI offers many benefits (and many challenges) for hospitality.

If you want to explore using these tools in your hospitality enterprise but don’t know the first thing about hiring AI engineers, check out the Quiq conversational CX platform. We’ve built a proprietary large language model offering that makes it easy to incorporate chatbots and other technologies, without having to worry about what’s going on under the hood.

Schedule a demo with us today to find out how you can catch the AI wave!

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