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SmartAction’s IVA Offers Innovative Voice Self-Service Inspired By AI

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SmartAction provides voice self-service using Intelligent Voice Automation (IVA®), a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform that uses 100% natural language to complete complex requests without the use of a Live Agent. They align with their clients to help provide an effortless customer experience while also reducing operating costs. SmartAction’s CEO, Tom Lewis spent some time answering our questions about the company, its proprietary technology, and the artificial intelligence behind it.


Q: Tom, what’s the best thing about SmartAction that people might not know about?

A: The best thing about SmartAction that people might not know is that we’re as focused on service as our clients. Our technology is cutting edge, but we really hang our hat on providing excellent consultative and ongoing service in the form of application tuning, weekly meetings, and suggestions for improving business processes. Best of all: we provide this service for free – forever.

Q: Could you explain the function and advantages of Intelligent Voice Automation?

A: Intelligent Voice Automation (IVA®) is our voice self-service solution that is based in artificial intelligence. IVA® handles complex customer experience calls across 12 verticals, providing assistance with numerous call types such as appointment scheduling and rescheduling, delivery status, order placements, and a variety of outbound calls. With IVA®, we make a phone call effortless. The technology features advanced speech recognition as well as cognition, so the system understands what a caller says and the meaning of what was said. For example, on a scheduling call, IVA® can understand, “next Tuesday,” and be able to continue assisting without asking additional, contextual questions. Because all of the applications are built on the AI brain, we can deploy extremely quickly; where many of our competitors require months, we typically can launch an application in a matter of 4-6 weeks. Furthermore, as great as the system is initially, we tune every application for the life of the project, not just for the first few weeks. In doing so, I mentioned previously that we meet with our clients weekly to discuss ways to make the application more effective. There are no change orders; as long as it is within the scope of the call type, we will enhance and tweak an application as often as needed. And as enhancements are made to the core Brain, they are reflected across all applications, providing a universal benefit to our clients and the customer experience they provide.

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Q: Could you tell us something more about your solutions?

A: We’ve actually seen that people have begun to self-serve more and more – and prefer to do so as well. As a matter of fact, IVA® scores about the same as live agents in most customer satisfaction surveys we have performed. But as other channels, like web or chat, are used more often, IVA® can hook into them and provide seamless service throughout. One of the great things about IVA® is that it is flexible with regards to business processes and “plays nice” with other vendor solutions – including other IVRs. It’s also important to mention the ROI benefits of IVA®. We do not see IVA® as “IVR replacement” as much as “agent replacement” – not in the sense that we are replacing jobs, but that we are replacing expensive agent minutes with cheaper IVA® minutes. Because IVA® can handle complex calls, a company’s live agents are able to focus on the most complex, highest value-add calls – ones that require persuasion or empathy.

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Q: More generally, how do you see the Artificial Intelligence landscape developing?

A: 2015 was a huge year for artificial intelligence. As computing power in the cloud continues to expand, so too will AI capabilities and applications. But a graph of tech growth over 40 years generally shows an ebb and flow. So despite all the recent buzz, it’s possible that expectations for AI are unrealistic and there will be some disappointment in the near future. Nonetheless, education about AI is what we think is most important. It is so common that people’s only concept of AI is what they see in movies, so there’s this stigma that eventually AI will take over the world or become so human-like that it is creepy. But in reality, that is what’s known as AGI – artificial general intelligence. Meanwhile, businesses are capitalizing on AI in a different way: we are creating programmed machines for specific tasks. We need to continue to educate people about how artificial intelligence works and why it is important to our advancing as a society.

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Q: What are your plans for 2016?

A: SmartAction has an exciting roadmap for 2016. We will be releasing a set of Small-Medium Business (SMB) solutions, known as IVA® For SMB, which will be pre-built natural language solutions that are configured in a few short days for companies with a smaller call volume. IVA® will also become multilingual, and we will be making enhancements to the AI “brain,” including highly advanced speech recognition capabilities.

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