UK-headquartered multi-national telecommunications company Vodafone is starting to offer B2B customers the ability to run AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms over captured customer conversations as a commercial service.
Characterized as a new Business Intelligence offering from the vendor - named ‘Unified-Cloud-Recording-as-a-Service’ - the idea is to evolve the company’s existing Network Mobile Recording so that it can provide its clients with new business insights.
This is to be done via the mining of archived customer voice data, says the carrier’s Global Product Manager for Unified Communications, Dinos Zachariades. He claims:
This is the next generation of not just call recording, but customer interaction in general.
Offered initially just in the UK and Germany, Vodafone business customers delivering call services across all the provider’s mobile and Unified Communication services, including its third party hosting of Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and RingCentral, will have the option of accessing archives of calls and analyses of what happened in them.
In practical terms, what the customers will see is a new call analysis service via a secure, Vodafone-branded API-driven customer conversation archive storage and playback portal.
A key part of the new Vodafone service is use of a part of its new partner’s tech called ‘Moments’.
A suite of features powered by advanced AI and conversation intelligence, the claim is that the software can identify the context within a voice conversation between a contact center agent and a customer.
‘Moments’ then chain into what the vendor calls 'Insights' - a way of employing data visualization techniques to provide a snapshot of communication patterns and trends.
An example of this is a service in the app called the 'Complaints Moment', which pinpoints customer complaints and related topics within conversations.
Allied to this is an 'Actions Moment' which will detect commitments made during conversations and convert them into tasks or reminders - like automatically scheduling a follow-up meeting for parties on a call and sending email reminders nearer the time, and so on.
A selling point of Moments is that the analysis can be performed during the call, and not later - picking up keywords that can action a response either at once, or to be evidenced later if there is some kind of a dispute as to the contents of an interaction.
New commercial opportunities
The operator is choosing to do this with an Australian specialist in call recording and “conversational intelligence,” Dubber.
Embedded in over 175 service provider networks, this firm has added several features to its established call recording solution, which it delivers at the network level as an API-based service to its clients.
The deal was publicly announced last November, after 12 months of back-stage preparation.
The companies also say they will jointly explore “new commercial opportunities” to deliver additional AI-based conversational intelligence services to Vodafone customers.
The context here is that recording of customer interactions with a commercial entity is a well-established feature of contact center workflows, with sellers of financial services being the heaviest (and heavily regulated) users of such technology.
SCC law requires that at least one party taking part in the call must be notified of the recording, while as part of Europe’s GDPR says both parties must agree, for example. In the UK, call recording in finance is governed by MiFID regulations. Zachariades says:
Out of the 2008 financial crisis, we’ve had more stringent regulations on greater visibility in the financial services space, so you need to record all forms of contact with the customer when closing a deal.
Originally, those were mainly phone calls, and we built a product which records phone calls and text messages between investment bankers or any other profession and the customers.
Over the years we’ve accumulated more forms of communication, like Zoom, and so on that Vodafone also records for customers - but not just in finance, but healthcare, insurance, and really any commercial sector.
But as call recording is evolving to more channels and use cases, it also needs to take advantage of AI, say vendors like Dubber and others.
Ian Whitehouse-Giles, a Global Account Director at the company, says:
We were already archiving and holding on to customer call records, but there's a huge amount of data that's traveling across the network all the time. But as all this data is traveling across the carrier's network, why are other people making revenue out of that rather than the carrier themselves? So, how can we enable the carriers themselves to make use of that data and offer the services direct to their clients?
Large companies are forced to start call recording due to compliance, but with the introduction of AI, we have this new source of all this data that can be analyzed and provide valuable insights to all sorts of organizations.
It’s something of a gray area to say who will benefit from such a service.
In all the marketing material related to the tie-up, for instance, the headline claim is that the move is all about “enhancing customer experience” - but struggle to be more specific about what that actually means.
Perhaps a more honest motivation is in another part of the marketing material: this is all about “delivering exceptional customer experience” but also about a way to “monetize” the value of “the data in the network.”
Zachariades says examples of what that might look like could include managers being able to check for compliance, to support training to check against defined CX metrics like appropriate number of mentions of company name, for training purposes why calls went wrong, and upselling opportunities not embraced, and so on.
It will also be easier to track compliance, say the pair, as all interactions with a customer, be that on mobile, but also Teams, will all end up in the same place.
An example here could be spotting the kind of coded language participants in dubious trading tend to end up using; if you've got a broker mentioning ‘bananas’ eight times in a conversation, either they are obsessed with their health or there is something else being referred to that should be investigated.
Potentially, it could be any B2B Vodafone user using AI to analyze customer calls and contact in-network and in real time, not just larger organizations.
However, the pair expect initial take-up to be in established call recording markets.