Computer Instruments Releases New Product with SkySwitch: Virtual Concierge

IVR Interactive Voice Response. Call Center Business Concept.

Learn how conversational IVR could be beneficial to your business

In this interview from Vectors 2019, TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Chris Herring, President of Computer Instruments, about their new product Virtual Concierge. They talk about how it works and how businesses should incorporate it into their ecosystem.

 Virtual Concierge is a software package that resides on a conversational IVR that has integration to Google Voice services and Google AI. So essentially, it’s a personal digital device for a company, much like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. 

Chris Herring talks Virtual Concierge working with Google integrations with Erik Linask at Vectors 2019.

Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #ComputerInstruments  

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  

We’re here in Orlando, Florida at Vectors 2019. We’re here on the second day of the show. And joining me is Chris Herring from Computer Instruments. Chris, thanks for joining me. 

Chris Herring  0:16  

Thank you very much Erik, appreciate it. 

Erik Linask  0:18  

So second day, what have you seen? You know, what are your thoughts on the first almost two days?

Chris Herring  0:23  

Oh, well, this was a very impressive event. I’ve met a lot of people and certainly, the product that we’re talking about today, Virtual Concierge, is really something that’s going to fit in here. So we’re very excited, we’re going to be on the stage here shortly, and we’ll be anxious to talk about it.

Erik Linask  0:41  

So this is something that you actually just announced yesterday morning, along with SkySwitch. Tell me about that.

Chris Herring  0:49  

Well, that came to us about 60 days ago, we announced our product Virtual Concierge. They came to us said, “Hey, we’d like to take a look at your product.” We gave them a demonstration. We did essentially a proof of concept with them. They said this is something that their team and their channel would be interested in. So we signed an agreement. Actually, we just signed the agreement last week and so here we are.

Erik Linask  1:12  

And when you say Virtual Concierge, what do you mean by that? What does your Virtual Concierge do?

Chris Herring  1:17  

Okay, well, first off, it’s a software package that resides on a conversational IVR that has integration to Google Voice services and Google AI. So essentially, it’s what we call Virtual Concierge. It’s a personal digital device for a company.

Erik Linask  1:34  

So you’re taking a Siri or something like that and throwing it into the business world.

Chris Herring  1:38  

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Erik Linask  1:40  

Is that something that customers or that businesses, I should say, are demanding or where’s the need or the demand coming from?

Chris Herring  1:49  

Well, that’s a great question. But you know, today, most of the people, let me say that not most, but 41% of the population or homes in the United States have a Siri or Alexa or Google Home. So there are acquainted with this technology. Furthermore, there’s even more people that use a smartphone or use “Hey, Google” to do searches, things like that. So it only makes sense that as that technology takes hold, and people obviously are using it and like it. They’re going to ask companies that they do business with if they have the same kind of technology and essentially, that’s what Virtual Concierge does. It provides the bridge between a caller through their communication platform PBX to Google AI, and back.

Erik Linask  2:29  

So how does an AI-based system like this differ from the IVR systems that people have really come to dislike over the years?

Chris Herring  2:40  

Well, you’re right. IVRs in the past have been primarily a presser say, type environment, you know, and it’s also, particularly with speech recognition, been difficult, particularly if you’re in a noisy area and so forth. But when you bring AI into the picture, and you bring a good communication platform, then you have the proper mix really to be able to have a very intelligent conversation interrogated by an artificial system to understand what you say, and provide a better and enhanced environment and enhanced experience for sure. 

Erik Linask  3:16  

Do people trust artificial intelligence?

Chris Herring 3:20  

Well, interesting, too. There’s been a study here recently that people are more truthful with an IVR and with a spoken conventional, conversational IVR than they are speaking to a human and so the answer is more so.

Erik Linask  3:34  

Interesting. And is there a difference in terms of usage, or enjoyment, or value, or however you want to characterize it, using a male voice versus a female voice?

Chris Herring  3:48  

That’s a good question. You know, we find depending on the industry, for instance, banking, people like to speak to females. More involved with like transportation, leisure and so forth, male voices have been really the most popular. I’m not really sure that I’m an expert on which voice works best but in our experience, that seems to be the trend.

Erik Linask  4:13  

How much has conversational AI evolved over the past year or two? And where do you see it headed going forward?

Chris Herring  4:22  

Oh, well, that’s a good question to, the best way I can really probably explain it is the cost of doing it. You know, just 12-14 months ago, for instance, we did a natural, what we call a natural language standard way of doing it, and using the technology that was present and it’s in the 300 to $500,000. Well, now when we look at the same opportunity, if we were going to use Virtual Concierge today, we’d be under $50,000 to get it accomplished. So from a perspective, it’s cost-effective. Also too conversations are everywhere. People again are going to are taking hold of this technology, they’re taking hold of using their personal devices, and we’re just going to see that from conversation that’s going to evolve the business and working with tools that provide the ability to understand conversations and use it further. 

I would say too, conversation is eventually going to be really the currency for business strategies. People want to know what people are saying when they come to your company, they’re going to want more than just what press one or press two says, they want to know why somebody called your company. They’re going to want to know what the emotions are of that caller, and they’re going to look at that, and be able to route and do business logic to understand what’s the best way to enhance the experience of that caller.

Erik Linask  5:40  

So I’ve had similar experiences, but I’ve heard from others as well, you know, we tried to use this natural language understanding and it just, you know, these automated assistance just aren’t understanding what I’m saying. Sounds to me like that technology has evolved to the point where it really is starting to understand very easily and very accurately what people are speaking.

Chris Herring  6:02  

Well, when you’re talking about, for instance, integrating to Google, you’re already working with a technology that already does well with handheld cell phones. Ok, and so as you can expect the quality of this being I guess, as good as if you being on a cell phone and driving in your car with a window down. With the addition of Google AI using that technology that’s filtering out and looking at the conversation. So it’s a measurable improvement over the standard speech recognition that people have used in the past.

Erik Linask  6:37  

Are there particular industries, particular use cases that you’re targeting or that you expect to be earlier adopters?

Chris Herring  6:45  

Well, certainly healthcare, insurance. We’ve had a number, in our client base, of trucking firms that are interested in working with us. So really, it’s people or companies who have issues with conversations that they need more information than just what an IVR or necessarily what they can get from an email or something like that. So this technology is going to make it more workable. It’s going to be able to be more applied to pretty much any place where you need a conversation to understand what you need.

Erik Linask  7:20  

Do you think this technology now can flip the sentiments around IVR back towards positive?

Chris Herring  7:28  

Oh, absolutely. Well, look at it this way. If you were upset, and you called into a company, you would want somebody who had the skill set to work with you. Now you wouldn’t want to necessarily go through an Auto Attendant presser say and then get routed to who knows what. Really what you want is you want the company to understand that you are calling and what you’re calling about and that you’re not necessarily emotionally happy about the whole experience. Well, companies normally would want to take that call and route it to somebody with a better skill set, or somebody who can better handle that kind of a situation, and particularly if you are a good client, so we’d know who you called in, who you are, prioritize your situation, prioritize your emotion, that all can be done with AI.

Erik Linask  8:17  

So if I’m not getting the resolution that I’m looking for, I’m not getting the answers that I need. How easy is it for me as the caller to get out of that IVR system and in touch with a live person?

Chris Herring  8:29  

It’s as easy as saying, “Hey, I want to talk to somebody.”

Erik Linask  8:34  

It’s a whole lot easier than trying to figure out what number or number of combinations to push. 

Chris Herring  8:37  

I agree. 

Erik Linask  8:39  

Excellent. Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining us today.

Chris Herring 8:40 

Appreciate it.