AI-fueled Verizon Digital CX targets virtual contact centers

Telecom giant Verizon is boosting its software business with an AI-based CX system for contact centers, with tools for virtual and live agents, authoring and social engagement.

Verizon, one of the leading telecommunications vendors, entered the customer experience software space with Verizon Digital CX, a new suite of products aimed at enterprise and SMB contact centers.

The New York-based telecom vendor unveiled Verizon Digital CX at the National Retail Federation's NRF 2019 conference on Jan. 14, and it said customers can license the product immediately.

The set of CX tools includes Virtual Agent, Knowledge Assist, Live Agent and Social Engagement applications. They're all designed with mobile-first interfaces for customer service representatives and are based on AI and machine learning in the Virtual Agent and Knowledge Assist components.

The telecom giant sees Verizon Digital CX as an advance beyond traditional contact center software and into a more modern contact center paradigm that has agents scattered in a large array of physical locations, rather than in a single office, monitoring many channels and not only field phone calls.

"Today, organizations have virtual contact centers," said Ray Wang, a tech analyst and founder of Constellation Research. "Verizon is using what they have to build digital CX capabilities. They have some of the technology to make this happen."

Customers use more than one channel

While Verizon has substantial experience with software for traditional contact centers, entering a crowded CX software market will be a challenge, according to Wang. Verizon has name recognition, but market leaders like Cisco and Genesys have long been in the omnichannel contact center business.

Verizon is adding AI-powered CX software tools
called Verizon Digital CX to its software platform.

"When you're set up as a telecom or utility company, the way you invest in innovation is different than software," Wang said. "Verizon needs to help investors and stakeholders understand this product's lifecycle. How much innovation can they fund to make sure this product has longevity?"

Verizon's focus on omnichannel customer service and CX appears to be in line with the way consumers want to interact with organizations.

According to a 2017 Forrester report, 95% of consumers use at least three channels in a single customer service interaction, with more than 60% of those interactions involving more than one device. The modern contact center infrastructure can't be a static office with hundreds of phones. It needs its reps to be able to communicate via phone, text and social and also to be able do so while on the move.

"A lot of customers have challenges because their channels aren't blended," Wang said. "Verizon is trying to help them streamline the modern contact center."

Verizon has more than 40,000 contact center agents around the world using its contact-center-as-a-service product. By expanding the capabilities of its contact center software to include multichannel and mobile-first functionality, Verizon appears to be giving users reason to expand their license to these new features.

"About two years ago, we had enterprise customers tell us they were thinking about enabling AI with multichannel interactions and asked for help," said Alla Reznik, director of customer experience for Verizon. "And when it comes to AI implementation, most enterprises struggle. We know how to scale and build a solution that can help enterprises."

Verizon Digital CX features

Verizon is using what they have to build digital CX capabilities. They have some of the technology to make this happen.
Ray Wanganalyst and founder of Constellation Research

The four components of Verizon Digital CX are designed to help contact center agents connect with customers through multiple channels via mobile devices. The AI-enabled Virtual Agent tool is for dealing with customers with relatively minor problems, freeing up agents for more complex inquiries. The Virtual Agent moves complex problems to live agents, with the promise of not losing any situational context, so the customer doesn't have to start over or repeat information to the live agent.

The Live Agent feature brings the agent and customer together on whichever channel the customer chose, with text, voice and video all options. Knowledge Assist provides agents with next-best-action recommendations, using machine learning based on past customer interactions.

The Social Engagement tool allows agents to monitor and analyze social interactions with customers and makes it easier to engage with customers or mitigate complaints.

"When we looked at best practices in the industry and how to use AI for customer care, these are the components that are most important, and it's where you start," Reznik said.

Verizon Digital CX integration and pricing

Verizon said it is selling a built-in system of record for customer data that comes through the Digital CX products, and the virtual contact center software also integrates into systems from CRM leaders such as Salesforce and Microsoft.

Pricing for Verizon Digital CX varies based on usage, Reznik said, and users can bundle the products together or license them individually. Current Verizon contact center customers also must license the Digital CX suite, as the products are not included in the core contact-center-as-a-service product.

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