Sharath Keshava was heading the Southeast Asia region for Practo, working out of Manila, Philippines, the business process outsourcing (BPO) capital of the world. He realised that one of the problems in BPO was delay and latency, which acted as a roadblock in driving faster and better customer experience. 

Sharath roped in his friends Akash Singh, who was in InMobi, and Swapnil Jai, who was heading engineering at Twitter, and the trio ended up starting Observe.AI in the San Francisco’s Bay Area in May 2017. The startup launched operations in Bengaluru in 2019. 

Observe.AI is a voice AI platform which provides the agent with real-time feedback on customer sentiment and guides them on the next best action during a customer call.

Product Roadmap - Observe.AI

The Observe.AI team

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The AI platform listens to the call stream in real time, uses deep learning and natural language processing (NLP) to understand the context and generates suggestions and guidance for the agent. Explaining how the product works, Jitender Vepa, Head of India, and Chief Scientist says, 

“Our voice AI technology helps contact centres keep teams productive and empathetic from home so they can provide the best possible customer experience – even while working remotely. To do this we use AI and natural language processing to analyse 100 percent of a support team’s calls for opportunities to improve the customer experience, mitigate compliance/legal risks, and coach agents. Without voice AI, contact centres typically analyse only one percent or fewer calls, and they have a team of quality analysts who do that manually.”How does voice AI help?

Jitender says it can take an hour to review just a single call. They have no real insight into what’s happening on the other 99 percent of calls, or how agents are truly performing. 

Teams for quality, compliance, operators, and people managers use multiple platforms and spreadsheets to uncover insights from calls, and to evaluate/coach agents. This process is especially difficult to scale for contact centres who have recently sent all their agents to remote work overnight due to the coronavirus crisis. 

With voice AI, these remote teams can work on a 30-minute call in five minutes. They can evaluate 10x more calls and provide agents with more targetted coaching. They can also ensure that they never miss a compliance gap or fraud risk on calls to stay safe. Using one platform helps contact centre teams collaborate and remain connected when they are no longer able to hear and see what’s happening on the call centre floor. 

“Currently, we lead the industry in the best speech-to-text transcription accuracy for support calls. We are even more accurate than Google and Amazon, particularly at detecting strong emotions, such as positive or negative sentiment, from calls,” claims Jitender. Also Read[Product Roadmap] How apartment management app MyGate is tapping tech to ensure security and safety Building the first product 

The first prototype focussed on providing the most accurate transcription of contact centre’s support calls.

The team then continued to enhance features that would detect strong emotions, such as sentiment or tonality, from calls to provide better insights and coaching opportunities. They also built features to detect periods of long silences on calls, which help highlight time management inefficiencies and identify a lack of agent confidence in how to respond to a customer interaction. 

“This is called ‘Dead Air’ and drives up the talk time on calls, which can become very expensive for contact centres who need to run at the utmost efficiency to keep costs down for customers,” says Jitender. 

One of the early ‘Eureka’ moments for the team was when they visited Manila, Philippines, that houses some of the largest contact centres in the world. When they toured some of these contact centres and showed them the prototype, the executives were blown away, and within two weeks the team had set up more than ten meetings with companies who employ tens of thousands of agents. 

“We knew we were on to something and started with tackling the call monitoring and compliance. We then added features to evaluate and coach and will soon offer real-time to complete our offerings for the voice channel before expanding it beyond voice,” says Jitender. Evolution of the product 

The team soon realised that building a best-in-class speech recognition engine for support teams was just a means to an end where they could start to help them automate tedious processes and eventually augment agents on live calls. 

“At the end of the day, everything we do is geared towards improving the customer experience and the agent experience. The feedback we got from our customers on how to prioritise future advancements for our platform made it clear that real-time agent augmentation would be most valuable to them and something we could uniquely offer, given the higher accuracy of our voice AI platform, which is critical to these future capabilities,” says Jitender. 

The team then continued to add new quality management features to their voice AI engine so that contact centre teams could do more with the insights from their calls, including surface the best calls to review, efficiently evaluate and score more calls, provide feedback and coach agents right within Observe.AI in near real-time. 

“We continued to improve our ability to auto-suggest the interactions and keywords that contact centres should monitor on their calls to make it easier for them to run their contact centre with efficiency and get meaningful insights from calls,” says Jitender. 

The team also started generic integrations as they onboarded more and more customers and realised that there is a need for generic APIs so that they can do integrations faster. 

They next focussed on Redaction, which is masking critical/sensitive information to comply with data regulatory guidelines like PCI-DSS, GDPR. The sensitive information includes financial details like card numbers, bank account numbers, and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as social security number, addresses, and contact number.  

“At Observe.AI, we solved this problem by using named entity extraction of pre-defined entities or categories, which covers both financial and PII information mentioned earlier. First, we identify entities present in a call, such as social security or credit card numbers, and then we redact them from the audio calls and their corresponding transcript,” says Jitender. 

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Observe.AI is currently building a team dedicated to real-time features that will help teams coach agents on how to personalise the customer experience live on calls and are hiring for multiple product and engineering roles. 

This will include features like suggesting a next-best action, alerting a supervisor when an agent might need help, and automating tedious processes, such as data-entry, so that agents can focus on providing a better customer experience on the call. 

The team is also adding Spanish language and omni-channel capabilities, such as the ability to evaluate text, email, or chat interactions. 

“It’s taken us about a year and a half since we launched our US office to land our first 110 customers and several strategic partnerships. Middle of last year, we started onboarding one of our largest customers and calls coming to our platform increased suddenly by five-fold, which sped up our need to scale our infrastructure. We adopted AWS fargate for some of our services, and introduced data retention in our DBs so that recent data can be accessed fast,” says Jitender. 

The global outsourced customer services market is believed to reach $84.7 billion by the end of this year. And yet companies are said to be losing more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. 

Some of Observe.AI’s competitors include – Neva.ai and DigitalGenius, among others. Observe.AI follows a standard pricing model for its customers, which is on a per-agent per-month basis. 

It also gives out bulk discounts for enterprises that look at large volumes and basis size of the deals. Last year, the team had eight enterprise customers and now has over 100. Some of its clients are – TripAdvisor, Talkdesk, itelBPO, Microsoft, Root Insurance, ClearMe, and ERCBPO to name a few. 

Speaking about future plans, Jitender says, “We will increasingly integrate our platform with others, such as CRMs or workforce management platforms to provide updates and alerts, to bring insights from voice calls into those platforms and automate processes.” 

(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)

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Original Source: yourstory.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on working environments, particularly the possibilities of working remotely. According to a GetAbstract survey, almost 43% of full-time employees in America want to work remotely even once this crisis has passed, and the economy reopens. But, is this beneficial for companies? Can working from home save companies money?

The pandemic accelerates the shift to remote work

As most people are aware, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the economy has been on hold. Lockdowns went into effect in March, and businesses were encouraged to have employees working remotely from home to maintain social distancing. 

While this was not possible in all industries, the economy’s closure forced many companies to consider the ways that employees could work remotely. Although this took some logistical planning, the abundance of technology that we now have has made it feasible.

There have also been some unexpected effects of employees working from home. According to an IQAir report, the slowdown of economic activity during the pandemic has the potential to reduce fine particulate air pollution by as much as 60%.

In a Gartner survey, 3 out of 4 finance executives asked are considering moving at least 5% of onsite workers to a remote position permanently after the current pandemic crisis ends.

However, what many companies want to know is if having remote workers will save them money and what other benefits it could provide.

Cost savings of allowing employees to work from home

There are lots of ways that remote working can offer businesses cost savings. Many established businesses have already enjoyed savings due to telecommuting. Sun Microsystems identified savings of $68 million a year in its real estate costs, while Dow Chemical and Nortel have saved over 30% on non-real estate costs.

According to Global WorkplaceAnalytics, almost 6 out of 10 employers identify cost savings as a major benefit of telecommuting.

Rent and utilities: If most of your team is working from home, you won’t need to pay for larger premises, saving money on rent and utilities.

Cleaning services: With minimal staff onsite, your cleaning services bill is likely to significantly decline.

Food: Whether it is providing a cafeteria service or serving refreshments during meetings, if you have remote employees, you will eliminate this cost.

Taxes: There are three factors that determine a company’s tax burden: payroll, sales and property. Making changes to accommodate remote workers could also impact your tax burden.

Other potential benefits of a remote workforce

While direct money savings are important, there are other benefits associated with telecommuting that can save money in the long term.

Improved employee retention

Recruitment can be one of the biggest headaches for businesses, and it can be even more frustrating when those carefully sought-out team members decide to leave.

Working from home can provide parents with childcare responsibilities flexibility, while other workers can enjoy an enhanced work-life balance that will help your business to see an improvement in employee retention.

Increased productivity

While it requires a certain degree of trust to allow employees to work from home, your business could benefit from increased productivity. A Stanford study found that remote workers are 13% more productive when compared to their in-office counterparts. 

Remote workers are not in a loud environment and are not distracted by their co-workers. Additionally, remote workers don’t have the stress of commuting, which means that they can focus on the task ahead rather than needing time to calm down after tackling the morning rush hour.

Reduced payroll costs

While you’re not likely to have happy employees if you want to cut their salaries in exchange for a more flexible workplace, research shows that almost one-third of employees would choose to work from home over a pay raise.

This means that you can reward your employees for their good performance with the flexibility of working remotely rather than a pay increase. You can keep your payroll costs down without compromising productivity.

Reduction in absenteeism

Flexible scheduling allows your team members to fit their work around any personal obligations that would otherwise have, resulting in taking a day or two off.

However, studies have shown that a flexible work schedule also leads to healthier employees. Remote workers tend to be able to bounce back more quickly from illness, and there is no risk of one cough or cold traveling through your entire workforce, should someone fall ill.

Eliminate unnecessary meetings

Most business owners appreciate that meetings can be a time suck and waste precious resources. Even with the most stringent of agendas, it is still difficult to keep everyone on track and organized.

There are also delays that result from trying to coordinate people from multiple departments into one venue. With current technology, you can still collaborate, but your meetings are likely to be better planned and remain on message.

The costs of employees working from home

Teleworkers will need access to software, data and your computer systems. You may need to make some infrastructure changes to support remote workers and prepare for any remote technical support issues.

Fortunately, there are lots of solutions on the market, but you will need to factor this into your costs. You will need to think about what software and other tools your team will need to work efficiently from home. For example, you may need to pay for video conference software or other collaboration tools.

The potential drawbacks

No solution is 100% perfect, so you need to be aware of the potential drawbacks before you commit to adopting a teleworker team. These include:

It isn’t a good fit for everyone. Teleworkers need to be self-directed and comfortable working with remote technology. Additionally, your employee needs to understand that working from home is not a replacement for day care, unless work can be scheduled around their child’s needs. They need to have a defined space for their home office and be able to work without distractions.

Employee fears for career progression. Some employees may fear telecommuting may impact their career progression. They may feel frustrated that they may be overlooked and not have a chance to adequately showcase their skills since they are out of sight. These employees may require regular communications via email, instant chat, phone or even face-to-face meetings to reassure them.

Data security. Security issues can be easy to solve, but they do need to be addressed and could be a potential drawback for your company. Security training will need to be provided for all employees, which will impact cost savings.

Collaboration concerns. Some businesses require energy in the room to fuel effective collaboration. If your company works in this way, distance could inhibit your collaborative processes.

OSHA and employment law concerns. There have been accidents in teleworker’s homes that have raised employer liability concerns. OSHA has several directives for work-from-home employees, and you will still have a responsibility to ensure there is a safe, healthful workplace. There could be issues if you are aware of dangerous conditions in your workers’ homes. An example of this is if your employee works in their basement and the stairs leading to this space are unsafe. This can create legal issues that will need to be fully explored.

Local issues. Some homeowner associations and communities prohibit home offices. There are also clauses in home insurance policies that do not permit working from home. You will need to ensure that your employees are fully aware of these potential issues before you agree to a remote working arrangement.

Tax implications. Finally, while you may be able to cut your costs, there are some potential tax implications associated with having remote workers. For example, there are some cities, such as New York, that impose taxes on remote workers whether they are working in the city or not. This means that if a worker lives in Connecticut, the business may owe taxes to both states.

Conclusion

In the past, working from home was unfeasible for many companies, but today’s technology has made it easier to make this transition. Having remote workers offers businesses a number of benefits, including saving money, but some potential drawbacks need to be explored. Although working from home can save companies money, there are hidden costs that will need to be assessed.

Every business is unique, and so you will need to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks as they apply to your specific business before you make a decision. However, it is worth considering that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought remote working to the forefront of employee’s interest, so it is a good idea to start laying the groundwork to determine if it is feasible for your business after the current crisis has ended.

Original Source: business.com

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