Telephony just got a whole lot better

Telephones icons device vector

We have a new wave of technology upon us that will make phone calls very powerful for contact centers. This major change is the convergence of the Internet and how technology like WebRTC and Biometrics will shore up some of the pitfalls of telephonic transactions, both from the business side needs and demands, but also delivery of a better experience for the consumer. First, let us take a look at the major “problem” of telephony; knowing who you are talking to is just plain difficult if not impossible. Just like the implosion of password security across the Internet, telephony has also suffered, in terms of ease of use and prevention of fraud, ironically phone calls to call centers suffer from similar methods of prevention techniques that the Internet has imposed upon us. Without Biometrics or some form of multi-factor based authentication system in place, you really never know who you are speaking to. Great example I love to give, is that my girlfriend often makes calls “in my name” to contact centers, because she speaks much better French than me. Hum, that means anyone can impersonate another; with the right information at hand. Kind of like having the password cracker for a web app, no?

So what does a contact center do to make things more safe and reduce fraud? Add layers and layers of questions to the identity session, that really in the end are doing little on the security side, as I point out in my example that with access to the “personal information” one can override all these efforts. But what is more damaging to the brand is the resulting frustration from these mitigation techniques and time “on the call” is ballooning. One major bank in the USA told me recently that shaving 30 seconds from a call can save millions. Hum, and if they are adding “minutes” to the call to ask what cake and ice cream I eat on my birthday, what does that cost? Add to this pain, whenever there is a transaction (purchase or payment) we are often reading off a multitude of digits and codes and billing address information that amplifies all the QoS metrics further.

Businessman unlocked phone fingerprint

Is there some silver bullet we can glean from the Internet lessons we have suffered over the past decade? Perhaps not just silver, but I dare say there is some gold to be dug. Many of us have experienced the ability to gain access to our phone or a website or pay for something using Biometrics. But what if that same concept was moved over to telephony? Now when I call into my bank, I can identify myself, or approve a transaction. That same technique not only provides a smooth and nearly “fun” experience to the customer, it also puts a nail into the basis of fraud, and collusion. Our Biometric system for telephony is built into our contact center and can be extended to yours or to nearly any application that leverages telephony. Meaning IVR systems, self care websites and cognitive alert systems banks use to prevent fraud.

Lets now look at the other part of the wave of Internet technology that we need to jump upon to stay afloat and ahead of the sharks, as it pertains to the world of telephony; that being WebRTC. There has been tons of activity in this emergent “gem of goodies”, that is more of an API specification than any sort of application or protocol. For contact center systems, we perhaps stand to gain one of the most significant benefits of the specification collectively because we base our core functions around the telephonic media. Why? simply put WebRTC will allow us and the caller to be anyplace there is an Internet connection and web browser. That means agents can be placed or pooled virtually, but consumers can also use the website to change from clicking to talking in a split second. Mix that with biometric identify capabilities, and you have some tangible change that will benefit all sides of the equation like never before.

WebRTC not only provides “virtualization” capabilities to the contact center agents, but also the ability to provision agents within seconds. No longer will dedicated equipment and software packages be rolled out, but rather permissions and accounts on a Cloud system that scales to the needs of the organization with fluidity. Telephony will remain in our view the core  medium of communications for some time to come in the contact center environment. Yes, this will be enhanced, and complimented with chat, file or desktop sharing and video sessions. But the telephonic agent call will not go away soon; with WebRTC and Biometric identity new life has not just been breathed into voice, but these technologies have re-positioned a telephone call into a trusted business tool with confidence and reliability.

24 hours of darkness on the Côte d’Azur

 

France flag with black ribbon vector

It has not been fully 24 hours since one of the worse attacks on our freedom was unleashed on children, citizens and tourists alike. We have received 100’s of messages from our partners, clients and friends. We geeks have a few things in common; we shy away from politics, any form of hate and aggressive controversy in general. OK, except when talking about which operating system is better. Then you might see us get a bit testy. But, as a general policy we tend to never respond to political matters or the like and that position will remain in that stance as it has no place in our business as an Internet technology company. A company that crosses every border and strives to break down barriers with open standards communications driven by a belief that sharing thru common communication tools opens not only the mind but the understanding between disparate cultures.

We felt that it would be good to share with the over 20,000 businesses that we call “partners” (not customers); how this attack last night affected all of us geeks. Those of us that live here in Nice and beyond. Last night like many thousands of people, we were on the Promenade des Anglais watching the fireworks at the beach. When the show was over the winds picked up and there was a spattering of rain, which drove us to move away from the park verdun and head back towards “le Port” when we heard a rush of sound over the music and began to see the crowds move like a swarm. All we heard and felt was like a “giant buzzing wave” of movement, when the police began shouting “cachez vous, cachez vous” (hide yourself). “Surreal like”; we were crammed into buildings and forced up stair wells by dozens of police; guns drawn. Apartment doors were pelted with dozens of people asking to be let in, and panic was widespread. Children were everywhere, crying, bewildered, and in physically apparent shock; this was a once in the year “family event” with kids being the norm, not the exception.

We do not want to move more into the details of that experience, and will leave it here to say, nothing like that can be planned or experienced or wished upon. It was horrific. By some sort of miracle the residents of the lavish bourgeois building we were in, opened the doors, and the apartments quickly filled. Nobody had an idea what was happening. Nothing was on the TV for 20 minutes, and all the info was coming to us over WhatsAPP, iMessage, Facebook or Twitter. Everyone was gripping their mobile for news, and contacting their friends and family. Including the police.

We want to relay some of the unexpected outcomes of this horror in some sort of hope that it can be “paid forward” and benefits can arise from the ashes of hate. Something that I have to admit that I never considered deeply is the police or pompiers (fire and ambulance people) and the way they put their lives in front of ours. In the building stairwells and flats a constant chatter was spoken to those kids among us; an assurance, an attempt at comfort, that the police were are at the doors protecting us. Many looked over the terrace to verify that they were indeed below, and did it often to be sure the police did not leave us.

What struck “and stuck to me” was that I could hear and see the police confirming to their family that they were ok and they also like us were being overwhelmed with text msg’s asking them about their well being. This made me think how tragic it must be each day for a family to see a police officer, a father, a mother, a husband or wife, leave the house, knowing they might not come home; that perhaps some idiot drunk might injure them along the daily beat. We must think, even when it sucks to get a parking ticket, or to be asked for your ID on the beach, these guys are extraordinarily courageous to do what they do. But even more compelling to me is what their families have to deal with; “the unknown” each day, and that my friends is something we must pay our respect to.

Most of the night and what is left of today was spent looking for and confirming people are alive, those that we “know”.  I went to the University this morning at 8h and those of us that did arrive spent all morning looking thru our phones and Facebook contacts to find our colleagues one by one. We have 400+ students in the summer program. I have non-stop texts asking pretty much the same thing, “are you and your friends OK”? I have thankfully said yes a hundred times, to people from all over the globe and thank you for thinking of us. However, what stopped me to write to you all just now in this blog post was that I realized something, that I somehow actually did “know those people” we lost last night too. Those that came to the Prom Party, Niçois or tourist. I know them….

After living here for nearly 5 years, I know what it is like to go to the Castel plage, or the Cours Saleya in the morning flower market. I know where the good socca is sold, and I know how we are supposed to eat oysters around christmas time, and I know what is means to double park in the Port or how shopping is a “experience vraiment Niçoise” on any given Saturday. I also know what it is like as a tourist, to arrive and see the color of the sea when you are landing in the plane, or walking along the promenade and not just see but smell the Mediterranean sea, each and every time, just breathtaking. I can remember clearly how it felt the first time when I ate warm pain chocolat in the morning in the old town as a tourist and thinking about what it must be like living in such a beautiful and magical place like Nice. So yes, I knew those Niçois that are not here this day, and I know those tourists that were taken last night, because somehow I know they, just like me love the same things here in Nice and we cannot forget that was taken from them “randomly” thru hate.

I have never met all of the people in my building in all the years that I have lived here in Nice. Last night when I came home at 4h I met everyone; French, Russian, Israeli, Italian… and this morning when I woke to go down to the school 4 hours later, the neighbors were still awake and I realized finally I know the Niçoise. We will never forget, and we stand together today like never before.

Experiencing the transition

Eleven years ago I was getting on a plane from São Paulo to Romania. Many hours later, me and my also 17 years old girl friends were dropping our bags at the hostel and looking for a computer to let our parents know we got therIMG_6961e ok. No sight of a computer or internet. My poor parents worried sick for 3 days until we went to Austria and found a cyber cafe.

Today I live in Europe and call my parents, and even text my grandparents, whenever I want from anywhere on my phone.

The way we commuIMG_6959nicate changed so much in the last decade that today people like me are called “digital nomads”, which means that my job lets me move to a different continent without losing any work or changing my contract. I have never even met my boss in person! I know that she is blond with blue eyes because we are Facebook friends.

IMG_6960I had the opportunity to transition from a beautiful electric typing machine to a bulky white computer that allowed me not only to write my scary stories but also to play pinball and solitaire. The cool kids in school were starting to trade their walkman for diskman, but the real shock was when I came to class with my father’s – gigantic – cellphone. My dad loves technology and aways tried to keep up with the trends. I remember our first digital camera was big enough to carry a floppy disk that could storage up to three photos!!!

Kids nowadays are born touching screens and pressing buttons. Teenagers share every second of their days with the world and my grandma gets new recipes from the Web. Even though, communication skills are decreasing, at least the face-to-face type. With endless resources to express yourself on the keyboard, we are getting used to looking down at our devices to connect to people.

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Everything is made available for us and is within reach. Controlling and screening the information we absorb is getting more and more difficult. Everything we have today is stored – from bank information to your medical history, from important transactions to a picture of your last meal. It is imperative to keep all this data secured and technology is advancing quickly to ensure that.

Communication is life

From the minute we are born we start communicating. A look, a gesture, a sound and, eventually, words. Communication is a process of “life” exchange dated back to prehistoric times. Year after year the communication tools and technologies change and this evolution is rapidly transforming the actual social behavior of humans.

No need to go as far as cave paintings but the evolution from pen and paper to smartphones in the last 4 decades has divided generations into distinct nomenclature. Baby boomers had buttons on their desk to call secretaries to take notes; but for Millennially notes became voice recordings activated by calling Siri and pressing nothing.  It does not matter if  it was photos using dyes or charcoal, images describe feelings and are obviously much more powerful today and can be broadcast to millions in a New York minute.

Our social fabric today can be extremely accurate with photos, animated gifs and videos, plus you don’t need to wait weeks to receive a letter from your loved one; you can see if your message was sent, read and answered in seconds. Virtual Reality is here, and actually began with individual media types over the Internet many years ago. Reading emails made me feel closer to those I connected with 10 years ago, and this came more personal with video, and joining smell, test and touch will enable us to communicate in ways our grand parents could not imagine and might fear. Today we strive to be more connected, more understanding, and tolerant, each based step still on the age old communications link from one to another, but perhaps this time with feeling.

What is next? Built-in  (to our bodies) devices  that allow hands-free activity, writing texts with simple hand gestures in the air or reading shopping lists displayed in the corner of your eyes while walking around the supermarket? Most of these things are possible and most are being pushed thru R&D labs today. But, no matter what path technology takes, communication is a human feature and we will change faster thru more powerful communications.

Social change happens most effectively with education of kids not us old dogs

Like many companies in San Francisco we are pretty involved individually and collectively as a company to do “green stuff” related to helping improve our environment. Yes, geeks can be green too! Most of us grew up influenced by our peers and became more and more conscious of the things we need to fix to make our air cleaner and use energy more sensibly. As a company we try to push these social responsibilities further by acting and focusing on the things we can do locally. Interestingly it often means very unique things as we are a global team with some of us driving EVs in France, other biking to work in Berlin and some of us in Moscow skipping cars for the metro.

Recently one of the topics around the water cooler was the mobile app “Plume Report” . This cool app is increasingly popular not just in our SF office but also Berlin and for some of our staff in France where its origins begin. The app is pretty simple, yet powerfully educational in that is demonstrates visually how cars affect the air we breathe in the daily commute cycles. For some of our staff it was very frustrating to see how Nice is more polluted in the summer months than Paris which is notoriously filled with chronic air pollution from congested streets filled with cars and scooters.

An interesting tangent to our Plume Air chat was whether anything we are doing is going to make people wake up a bit more and realize the air and cars in our cities are a bit out of control. Some of us said that when some friends see the Plume report information for the first time they are shocked. But one of the subsequent “results’ is that people see no way “out of it” for themselves and accept the way things are; albeit a capitulation of defeatism.

This actually is perhaps more dangerous than the fact most people are not aware of the toxicity of the air. Meaning, it is quite probable that the vast majority of the population is simply blind, and Plume is doing great things to combat that problem on that battlefront. But what is more concerning is what will people do “after the fact”; or what is the expected behavior “modification” after learning? If that modification is “nil” or acquiescence to facts that are not “controllable” or the person does not see any feasible way to contribute constructively, then we have more work on our hands then thought.

Vector Vintage Style Characters School Children Set Isolated White Background
Showing kids what behaviors are good, cool and expected by example…..deliver change over time.

After hashing out the issues we came to a conclusion that education is the single most powerful tools we have to effect social change, whether that is environmental issues, or otherwise. One example we discussed was how California has chopped down smoking by teens nearly 75% in the last 2 decades. Where other countries like the south of EU have higher rates of teen smoking. Why? The efforts that were poured into education, and demonstrating the the behavior was not cool. Even to the point of demonizing smokers to the extent nobody wanted to be in that crowd.

Growing up in California most of us recalled how recycling back when we were kids was literally a real war to get everyone to participate. Now, if you do not recycled it is viewed as “weird” by the .com generation and perhaps borderline illegal by Millennials. Just ask our colleagues in Berlin to imagine they have a new neighbor that throws rubble into the recycling bin and says it does not matter…..

Taking these examples into todays’ context, for those of us that drive electric cars, we should remember that each kid that comes to my EV and says “wow, is that an electric car?” is a opportunity. Take it to explain why it is not just cool, but if they believe it is better than what us old school folks did to be cool with plumes of smoke and sounds for our exhaust pipes; then we have planted seeds of change that collectively become more powerful than what we do individually. The fastest way to cleaning the air is to change the behaviors, and that will only become significant in numbers if the kids today believe it is the norm for their generation tomorrow.

Customer Experience – exasperation amplified because of fraud mitigation at the Contact Center

CCO of the Contact Center operations asks……. “How are we supposed to know who is “really” on phone with a degree of certainty, while not making them pissed answering 99 questions?

Juxtaposition – friendly but  secure Contact Center identity management in the year 2016

 

Angry business woman screaming in rage when she being on the phone. Business concept in communication.
How many times to I have to say what type of ice cream I ate at my first birthday party??!!! Did you never hear about rocky road??? We are sliding down that now madam, I want to speak to your supervisor!!!!!! Now!!!

 

When banks are implementing new layers of security into the call center identity process these days, they are discovering the rates of dissatisfaction from the customer side are spiking in correlation to the very measure intended to “help protect” the client. Alas, across all sectors of the market, the phenomenon appears. Nevertheless, in the financial technology marketplace it is very much a epidemic  because of the very nature of dealing with money….simply put. Additionally, there are commonly added pain to the injuries; augmented by compliance and confidentiality regulations, not just the self imposed internal security decisions. The sheer amount of “hops around Contact Center authentication” we are faced with would make anyones head spin today.

The root of the issue with identity of a person on a telephonic call session is that most of the information provided verbally can be spoofed or impersonated. Instead of just saying our account number or social security number, we are asked about our first car or favorite dessert. Why is it not simple? Financial institutions and many other industries are inundated with all sorts of fraud, especially via hijacked personal information or collusion. The answer then is you must have a Biometric multi-factor identity challenge session that is very simple or non-intrusive to the client.

Fortunately most large banks we have spoken to agree that the best place for this is in the mobile loyalty applications, and 2nd to that is the ability to integrate into the self service web applications for things like transactions or conformation of fraud alerts that are either IVR or push message based.

 

Businessman unlocked phone fingerprint

 

One of the holy grail metrics to achieve for any large contact center is to reduce time on the phone. Since most all banks and financial institutions have mobile loyalty applications, the platform is there to be extended to the Contact Center. This has made the task of accurately identifying the caller on the phone super simple, while also providing new capabilities such as cognitive processing without live CCTR agents thanks to technology like IBM’s Watson.

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Multi-Tenant Contact Center

Providing a SaaS solution at scale is more about change management than what sort of redundancy or virtualization you choose. In the CCTR (Contact Center) spectrum of the market a Cloud solution has to be highly flexible and adapt to ever changing environments. While some enterprise CCTR deployments might appear on the “face of it” to be similar, likewise CRM or telecom, each will have unique IVR structures, agent topologies, and skills based routing that differ. This of course means if you want to provide a Cloud based CCTR offering the reality is each and every instance or customer will have unique configurations that demand a multi-tenant platform.

datacenter-01-01Often times we find in the data center many “solution applications” which are intended for a single “domain” or company because the architecture is simply not a platform with multi-tenancy capabilities. Problems begin for managed services for even single enterprises as the grow and demand solutions that can segment yet provide a system image of the organization. Good example of that is expansion internationally, or mergers with new requirements. With that in mind, the work around it deploying an instance of a server for each domain. Many if not all major VoIP backends are like that, making complex VoIP applications with any significant IVR or web logic more difficult to support as a Cloud system for 1,000’s of clients.

A true hosting platform would have the ability to define realms (domains) each of which having their own administrators and users as a core function. Further, a hosting platform will also have an architecture that can mange multi-telcos with parallel billing and redundancy. At CommuniGate Systems we take it even a step further and enable each container to have its own brand and applications that run independently of other domain realms, yet run on that same “CGatePro system image”. That way fully white label, yet manageable at extreme scale with thousands of domains on a single Dynamic Cluster image.

CommuniGate Pro was built for hosting and has a full programming environment that delivers capabilities at scale no other Contact Center solution for application hosting providers can match. What this means is that you can have applications built for HealthCare running while also servicing FinTech needs with completely different applications all running on one Dynamic Cluster as a Cloud platform. Now, as change management comes into play, machines and applications can be changed with no downtime. Yeah, zero downtime is really how a Cloud solution should perform. Users do not want hear about “being offline on the weekend for maintenance”. Unfortunately many of the large Cloud based systems out there today simply do not provide uptime that a hosting platform must have.

Have a read about how this all works in our PDF

 

CGate Multi-tenant platform

Reducing fraud one finger at a time

The top security issue banks and financial departments have today is prevention of fraud at the contact center. Conversely, for us consumers calling into get support or discuss payments with a billing center is painful. The IVR hell and hoops agents make us go thru is time consuming and frustration galore. With all the tricks of fraud today, we are asked to say not just ever more complex passphrase info, but we are now asked to reveal personal info too. Like what we like or not.

Our mobile loyalty app framework is a turn key solution that reduces pain in identity or transaction approval challenges, while delivering a robust anti-fraud system. It works like this. When you call into the Contact Center and identify yourself with traditional means or by the caller ID of the phone you are using the agent can send a push notification to your Biometric enabled device. This device is registered to you, and will be promoted to scan your finger. Upon a successful Biometric conformation on the mobile device the Agent is informed that you are indeed whom you claim to be.

The same mechanism can be used for transactions or alerts. Couple examples of that are stuff we see more and ore of these days. Like your credit card being blocked because of suspicious activity and having to either call into the bank, or click things off an email or SMS. But also just like you can make purchases in the Apple iTunes store, imagine now you can also approve transactions while on a call with billing department or bank teller.

 

Biometrics poster ainimated faster

Partner News! – IVR Technology builds HealthIT results with Biometrics

Our recent partnership with IVR Technology has produced some amazing results in such a short time. These guys are experts are building telephony applications and have a broad experiences with Contact Center platforms in the Health care market. After a few whiteboard chats we decided we needed a simple demo that would show how Biometrics approvals can be integrated into a common use case scenario while being very simple to use.

Normally when you go to get a blood test you are sent to a lab the tight be outside your doctors office. These means that critical “patient information” is in the hands of somebody that might not have all the information about you to make identity checks. There have been incidents when “results” from a test were “pick up” form somebody impersonating the intended recipient. To make matters worse for the health care provider, there are many rigid compliance regulations to conform with. As always, the more regulations, there is often less flexibility to use technology that is simple and quick to use.

With the IVR Technology results one application we show how a Biometric scan can be used to identify the caller, and then launch a telephonic application to play results of the tests.

Have a look and let us know what you think!

https://activeauth.ivrtechnology.com

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