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Meet Volume with Velocity

Meet Volume with Velocity: Support Surging Contact Centers with AI-Enabled Customer Experiences

Amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, businesses are taking on floods of customer requests, armed with understaffed contact centers and information that changes in real-time. Conversational AI-service, chatbot-powered platforms such as Google CCAI are proving irreplaceable solutions for businesses looking to scale their customer service operations with accuracy, empathy, and speed.

Google’s US Customer Engineer, Matthew Di Bari and Ashling Partners Founder Marshall Sied join Kin + Carta’s CTO Ryan Maguire to break down the next-generation capabilities of Google’s Dialogflow and CCAI platforms, the tangible value to be unlocked, and strategies to keep customers engaged and informed from one touchpoint to the next.

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Marshall Sied, Intelligent Automation Enabler l Founder, Ashling Partners
Matt Di Bari, Cloud Customer Engineer, Google
Ryan Maguire, VP of Emerging Capabilities & AI, Kin + Carta


Marshall, do you wanna just give a quick background and intro for yourself, and we'll do the same for Matt?

I'm the Co-Founder of Ashling Partners, and Ashling Partners is really centered on process improvement, consulting, and implementations. We really started the company just because we thought there was a better way to do rapid automations, and so if you kind of look at the emerging tech stack that we represent it's really kind of considered hyper-automation that's made up of a myriad of technologies, kind of a fancy word for that. So anything from process mining, process automation, OCR, machine learning, and predominantly RPA's. Robotic process automation is kind of the hot topic over the last couple of years and that's really kind of brought a spotlight back on this process automation space across customer, employee, and supplier experiences. So, happy to be here to talk about kind of meeting the velocity, meeting the volume needs today with COVID, with velocity, and looking forward to the conversation.

Thanks Marshall. And Matt you wanna give a brief intro for yourself?

I joined Google a bit over two years ago. My career has been any number of combinations of Cloud, automotive, and contact center. I'm a customer engineer who focuses on our large select accounts. You know, helping the enterprises understand how to adopt Google technologies, and in the last year I have really honed down into specializing in our AI and ML solutions, especially around the contact center space.

Connecting Processes for Quick ROI


That's awesome. So, we've got some great subject matter experts, we're gonna get right at it, but, you know, to address some of the couple things upfront, Marshall you talked about RPA, these are the technologies and the tool sets, right? That help organizations stitch together the backend and the front end, you know, without having to kind of rebuild their platforms, bringing those silos together, getting those quick ROIs, right?


And then Matt, you talk about Google, we'll talk a bit today about Dialogflow, Contact Center AI, or CCAI, these are terms that Google uses to talk about their AI framework for chat and voice to deploy AI. So, just as a level set for the audience, we'll be using those terms and those are some of the things that they mean. What I wanna do a little bit here is kind of get into my Delorean and ship myself out to 2025 and look back over the last five years and just think about some of the things that we're seeing. At Kin + Carta alone, and we were talking a little bit about this prior to the start, we've seen a 200% growth in the opportunity space from our customers wanting to get into this convo UX, wanting to meet the volume with velocity. There's this new world right now where customers are not in stores anymore, but they have the same exact needs.

So if we forecast that out, where we're in 2025 and hopefully past this pandemic, and we're into kind of what everybody's talking about, the new normal, we're gonna see a lot of the things that have been trending as just accelerated, right? So, customer success and engagement, what is that gonna look like in 2025? Well, what we forecast is these frictionless, contactless, customer experiences being the norm. So things like chat and voice not being a novelty, or how cute that was, or did that do something, it's from novelty to convenience, so making the customer experience tangible. It's about bringing identity to these AI solutions so that contacts are in place, that I'm able to get through those things with convenience. We'll see more service delivery and curbside options where, again, yet another point of convenience. A hypothesis that we make right now is that brand loyalty is struggling, and the brand loyalty that when we look back on this from 2025 is the reasons that people went to a grocer for, you know, the samples or the free coffee, are now changing to, can I get in at the store hours because I'm an at-risk person due to this pandemic and do you have the delivery options for me to do that? So, brand loyalty's changing, so when we think about 2025, you know, brands are gonna switch, people are gonna be making those moves in those places.

Getting the information that I need at the time. Being able to call into a call center and not be put on a hold for 45 minutes, but be able to activate and get the questions answered that I need to, to move forward on the work that I need as an individual. The other thing that we think when we look back on this, we'll have seen COVID accelerate to specific trends, and we'll talk a little bit about examples, with Matt and Marshall here, are lost revenue, so the storefront businesses, re-imagining how they engage the customer and either generating new lines of business or figuring out how to get their active product into the hands of the customer.

Missed Revenue and Lost Revenue


The second is really missed revenue opportunities. A lot of what has happened now with COVID is accelerated things like, you know, PPE, healthcare equipment, and really forcing companies to think about how to cut down on their time in the market, to manufacture and bring things through. So when we think about this, we're gonna talk today about those businesses that will be in that new norm. What radical transformations are they making? And how have they done that? So, Marshall, maybe we'll start with you. How are you seeing your customers today take some of these characteristics of 2025 and start to apply them today?

Well, I don't know if anybody feels like they can predict 2025 at this point with the way that 2020 has started, so I'll start there, but, you know the reality is that from our point of view it begins and ends with process, right? Whether we're talking about the point of interaction with the customer all the way through fulfillment of a product or a service, so if you kind of take the two buckets you just discussed Ryan, missed revenue and lost revenue, I mean we've got clients that are clearly in both buckets, especially based on kind of what has happened with the pandemic. So if you look at a missed revenue opportunity from our perspective, we work with one of the largest medical supply distribution companies in the world, literally the folks who are getting masks and gowns in the hands of health providers, the health systems that needed it, and, you know, frankly that was a decent business to be in at that point, but there's also a life and death matter at hand there, so they are trying to get the product in the hands of the folks that need it the most. That could've been a missed revenue opportunity, but they already had thought about that process, the order fulfillment, the inventory management processes, communication with suppliers, vendors, 3PLs, logistic providers, and they had automations in place, they had basically digital robots that were gonna help flex with volume spikes. So they were able to get through back orders and supply issues a lot quicker. They wouldn't have been able to do that without that, so that's like a missed revenue category. On the other end, I don't think there's a company on this planet that hasn't been affected with what's going on. A lot of organizations have had to do some form of layoffs, furloughs, and that's lost revenue. There is no way around that. We work with a lot of the big automotive suppliers and OEN's as well, and, you know, when the plants aren't working they're losing revenue, there's no question, but they still have to operate their operations. So, you can use automation in a kind of a flexible capacity, specifically these RPA robots, to kind of plug in temporarily where you need as well.

Well, that's an awesome example and thanks for helping our healthcare workers get through this, so there's good that you guys are doing there.

Increased Customer Engagement with Changing Times


Matt, from your perspective, and I know we've worked a ton together over the last several months through some of this, but, what are some of the observations that you're seeing from customers at Google?

I like everything that you guys have said so far. And for me, you know, the most interesting thing recently has been the visibility to unknown connections throughout the enterprises, from both the customer and other businesses to the front end and to the backend as Marshall was talking about with their process. I mean, for example, we had a large grocery retailer in the Midwest who naturally found themselves underwater, but they discovered a substantial amount of traffic was actually coming from us, right? People looking up on Google Maps and having to, you know, look up where their food order is, when can they pick it up? We ended up having a relationship spawn out of that, and so we demoed Dialogflow on a Friday and within a week had a production deployment with a virtual agent on their main page to help supplement that massive increase in customer engagement. So what used to be white space between two companies was now a partnership that's gonna grow, and so, like this retailer, the ones that I think are most successful are the ones who are leaning into discomfort. And, you know, really what they're doing is they're shedding the hunt for perfection in pursuit of progress, right? So they can bring those solutions to their customers.

And this goes back to kind of the heart of building those agile habits or muscles. And the first step is recognizing that the prevalence, as you mentioned, of AI and ML and digital assistants, has created this demand for an organic and unified experience, regardless of how they interact with your company. So, you know, we think we've met that demand at Google with nine products with a billion active monthly users, but we've taken that knowledge and that corpus of data, externalized it in Google Cloud, and made that like our customers' launchpad. So, you know, those are the ones that are successful. The ones who struggle for me in the different markets that we see, which are really diverse here, especially even in the Midwest, are the ones just trying to accelerate their typical process within the organization. Whether it's planning that upgrade or trying to understand the impact of deploying that new technology. So, while some may say, "That's our core business" and, “We know what works, we can't risk it," I would argue that in the last six months that's made that process, those models, those algorithms, or those known data points about your customer as you talked about in the very beginning, like that loyalty, invalid or in need of some major revisions. So, the biggest takeaway for me is that whatever your situation is, whether it's exponential demand, or I have customers that actually have extremely reduced engagement, the answer is the same. It's that we really see that diverse group of companies trying to, they come to us with the same idea. We have to adopt and implement these technologies.

Yeah, that's amazing. You know, I took note of the term you used of leaning into discomfort, right? Talking about the age of resilience. And resilience is an important thing, but resilience comes from being on edge and being uncomfortable, and identifying these new norms I think.

Reducing Process Bottlenecks


Marshall, back to you. You talked about a client who had thought leadership in, “Hey I need to think about my process flows and my automation, and connecting these things 'cause I see the opportunity,” but how have you seen customers lean into discomfort, or how have you helped customers who aren't there yet lean into that discomfort 'cause that disruption is happening to all of us and if we don't lean into that like Matt said, we're not gonna be a resilient business, we're gonna be the company in 2025 looking back and going oh gosh, I should've taken this opportunity to transform with my customer.

Sure, yeah. And for me, I agree with what you both are saying. I think for me it still begins and ends with process while knowing that we don't live in stagnant world, processes are gonna change, there's dynamics that we can't account for, and so we just need to have a way, a pretty agile way to kind of take inventory of where our processes have bottlenecks. You're never gonna reduce the friction in these interactions with customers, with suppliers, with your own workforce, if you don't smooth some of those processes, right? Disjointed processes don't support the interactions we need to have today basically, right?

You know, I think the example I gave you, a couple examples I gave you at the beginning, the reality is some of those organizations already had a frame of thought. They had a point of view on how they were gonna leverage automation, not as a tool, but as a business capability because volume's not the issue, it's the process that's the issue and getting a hand around that. Volume should be as easy as adding another digital worker potentially, or taking it more upstream in regards to how we're gonna partner with a Google, from like a Google Map example that Matt gave us. So, it's about education upfront, kind of getting started now in regards to process discovery, process redesign, and then trying to figure out automation capabilities, AI, ML capabilities at the point of interaction. Chat bots, Dialogflow, is something we've intersected before, and not viewing it as back office operations, run office operations anymore. We wanna remove the friction between those operations so there's no office. I mean, that is the reality of where we should be going as organizations.

That's great. Yeah, to Matt, same kind of question to you, but maybe we'll just like tune it, you know, we've got a lot of our peers on the call here that obviously feel this pain of the velocity at the customer edge in that volume and wanting to know where to start. Where have you seen customers come to Google and say, "Here's the problem that I have.” "Here's where I wanna start." But, maybe not end up there, right? Or how would you coach them to think about this meeting the customer's volume with velocity? What are the entry points?

Yeah, so that's a fantastic question and I'm gonna get a little Googley on ya. And I think that's really the heart of Google. We talk about the three respects: respect the user, respect the opportunity, and respect each other, and so when we approach it, what's really interesting is you can't ordain innovation, right? A lot of us think of it as like a well architected, amazing new building that's going to get built, right? And it's not useful until it's built and we can actually get inside of it. So, at Google, we're a lot messier than that . And that's by design, right? And part of that is about, some might say, in agile you hear fail fast, for us, and culturally what we think of it as, is there's 10X thinking which says I want to exponentially improve this, and so if I land at five, I am okay with that, that's 50 times, you know, 5 times better. But really it's about enabling that innovation, and so what we actually do with a lot of our customers is it's less about exactly which thing am I gonna light up in the Cloud, and it's more about how do I learn fast? So, it's not a failure. That learning determines your path forward and it drives new architecture. It drives new integrations. It lights up that white space between those processes that people have struggled for the last five years trying to figure out, “How do I optimize those?” And instead of optimization or iteration it becomes that unlocked innovation, right? You hear that word all the time and it's kind of lost its meaning, but it means really, truly disrupting that and providing a lot of value, not just a little bit.

Yeah, that's awesome. You're gonna be my new, like the quotation guy, like you can't ordain innovation. I love that. That speaks volumes of things, you know, that we try to seek out after, being empathetic to the customer. I think the other thing I would add on top of that is, we all as a group of collective partners, think about the outcomes for customers. And Google is a technology-led company and Ashling works with technology-like companies, and what we're seeing is a need, in the technology is fit to that need.

Updating Legacy Framework


So, we talked earlier about kind of the novelties of chat and voice and some of the opportunity space for RPA, but I think what we're seeing now, and I love your guys' perspective on it, is the platforms have actually been mature for some time now, and really this problem that we're seeing in front of us is just allowing that platform that was out ahead of these business issues to be able to be executed with that philosophy. So Kelly talked about deploying a bot in seven days to reduce the call volume four times to the call center because we were able to answer those questions where the customers were. You know, I think it's really interesting that these platforms are out ahead, from a capability perspective, but only now being accessed for their needs, for fit, for purpose. So, Marshall, from the RPA platforms that you use, the AI's that you integrate, are you seeing those trends? Like, you know, these platforms are fit for scale already.

Absolutely. I think we are and I think with kind of like a grain of salt a little bit too, just to be transparent, right? I think organizations struggle with having 30 plus years of legacy core operational systems, right? A lot of the biggest companies in the world, from a manufacturing perspective at least, are still running on mainframes, and so it's hard for them to re-envision this future world with automation and all of that happening around it 'cause they feel like they've heard that before. But, I would challenge those organizations to understand that their customers don't care that their operations are running on an AS400. Right?

Yeah. They do not care. We're not saying you need to modernize everything right away, this is an iterative approach, let's at least have a roadmap, and there's, you know there's stopgaps, there's band-aid solutions we can use, there's more robust solutions and roadmaps we can deploy in kind of a phased approach, right? I think we are seeing that the capabilities have been there, but some organizations just kind of have this monolithic waterfall mentality still and I think it's more of the mentality that needs to change than obviously the tech. I mean, none of us would be in this space if we didn't believe in the tech, right?

Yeah. And I think it goes back to Matt's earlier point about leaning into that discomfort, right? So, the barriers here that we see is being comfortable with that change, right? You know, I guess the point I'm trying to put an exclamation on is that the platforms are ready, you know? We need to be confident as leaders to make those decisions, to make those pivots, to lean into discomfort, right? Because, you know, if we look to that 2025, if we believe that brand loyalty is being challenged by what I get as a consumer, if I am now remote from that physical store location, and if I can't activate the things that I need to do to provide for my family, well brand loyalty's gonna change. I'm gonna go over here to a different customer whether it's retail, banking, distribution, whatever it is, you know, we're all gonna be seeking convenience, versus some of the other things that we had in the past. So Matt, same type of thing to you, right? But maybe slightly different 'cause when we walk into some of these conversations end up being somewhat biased 'cause you and I work on these, we have a view of how we're going to leverage it, and then all of a sudden this technology is in such a way that it can expand really quickly into different experiences. You know, Gartner talks about the everywhere customer where I wanna start a transaction on my mobile app and then go to web and then chat to all be the same. You know, the solution that you were talking about, Google Maps, is backed by Dialogflow, which is the same, you know, solution that's backed by the web chat, which is Dialogflow, which is the same that's backed by the telephony in the contact center, which is Dialogflow. So, you know, maybe talk about how you've seen customers go, make recognition of how this platform can actually scale their business.

Increasing Capabilities


A couple comments 'cause I took notes 'cause there's a lot of good things that you guys said. You know, one is around the loyalty piece, I just wanna address that first. So it's like I've personally experienced this. I mean, we switched where we've done our shopping and not even by really a conscious decision. It was forceful in that we weren't able to get groceries at a certain retailer. And so we ended up switching to another one because the technologies they had adopted had allowed them to say, okay, there is a situation here where we're seeing a massive increase in scale, and it limit tested the system and our limit's higher than that and so some that were being proactive, as Marshall talked about, like that was their mindset ahead of time, those are the ones that are kind of the shining light right now, and it doesn't mean the ones that didn't have that capability, it just means to your point, we quickly have to look at these platforms, you know.

So Dialogflow is one of the hottest areas in Google today for this. I mean the ability to build a human-like conversation and do intent detection, entity extraction, actually pull out, you know, the objects because as I mentioned, like you're on the launchpad of Google. So, when you type a training phrase into the platform, it automatically highlights and annotates and says, oh, that was a monetary value that somebody said, this was the temperature, this was the time, and all of the things that you can imagine people interact with with Google Assistant, whether it's a flavor of ice cream, to their favorite food, that's the power of Google. And so,you can quickly turn that around in hours, where most people are used to the days, weeks, months, or even a year to deploy something like that and then find themselves enabling their consumer experience that they didn't even think of.

So, one click and now they have Google Assistant integrated into this Dialogflow virtual agent which they really intended just for their own channels, right? Whether it's text, or a chat on their website, or through their telephony systems, what we do in the contact center space. So that omnichannel approach of taking out those disparate teams that typically you get that differentiated experience and companies used to pride themselves on, oh, this channel's our best. Well, why aren't all channels our best? And that's the expectation.The last thing I can give ya is things that you wouldn't even think about, the connectivity is capable there. You know, we have an automotive company and you can imagine here in Detroit and the industry, that's been, you know, their manufacturing has been ground to a halt, but the interesting thing we're seeing is whether it's an internal bot to handle all of the questions that 100,000 plus employees, you know, are going to be asking HR and everything else, to well, we are enabling these technologies all the way out to the vehicles, or the dealers, you know, in that virtual space and being able to do that.

I mean it's a fantastic point. So I go back to the point of interaction of this, right? So, omnichannel needs to be more consistent. You have to meet your customer on where they wanna meet you, right? That's part of this customer experience era we're in. And I think what we have seen is that there are styles of ownership at large enterprises and organizations, so even if you had a great customer service NPS rating and you feel like you're doing a good job, you know from a technology enablement and a process perspective in omnichannel, customers are still gonna be disappointed if you don't give them the Domino pizza tracker ETA about when they can receive their product. A follow-up in regards to did you enjoy your product? The Amazon experience, right? And so organizations have had these silos, these like fiefdoms of like a bunch of tasks, not processes, right? And what we're talking about doing is orchestrating end-to-end process, right? Using Dialogflow, using intent detection all the way through fulfillment and lathe rants, repeat into a flywheel, right? So, the point is perfect. I think I go back to the change management aspect of large enterprises. The barriers need to break down and we need people that are bold and agile enough in their thinking to do it, and some organizations are doing it. They're making progress. But I still go back to the people side, you know, it's people, process, technology. The process is there if you know what you're doing, the technology is obviously there, Google's doing fantastic things, Kin + Carta are doing fantastic things. It goes back to the people equation for me a lot of times.

Yeah, and I think to highlight along that line, like this is why together we've talked about our strategic partnership with our 3E Automation, strength force team between Kin + Carta and Ashling, around efficiency, effectiveness, and experience. Everything that we're talking about here is that intersection and our strategic alliance with teams that do that type of work I think is paramount here.

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