Q&A with Nuance: on Trends in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Telecom

Zenica JoyNov 20, 2017
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In today’s rapidly growing and ever-changing technology-oriented world, automation and “thinking machines” are beginning to change the business landscape and disrupt all organizational levels as well as the employees within them. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) continues to transform how companies operate and communicate, what businesses are often seeking is a platform that delivers a true omnichannel experience where each encounter becomes a meaningful, personalized, and productive engagement.

Nuance Communications, a trusted provider of omnichannel solutions for customer acquisition and customer care,  is dedicated to helping businesses create intelligent and engaging customer experiences while simultaneously reducing operating costs. Powered by AI technology and predictive analytics, Nuance’s omnichannel engagement solutions help businesses improve decision-making, acquire and retain customers, protect company assets, and increase brand trust. 

Voip-Info recently had the chance to connect with Vance Clipson, the Senior Principal of Industry Solutions at Nuance Communications, to discuss the trends in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Telecom and how Nuance’s AI-powered omnichannel engagement solutions such as Nuance Loop (a data analytics platform) and Nuance Nina ( an intelligent, cross-platform virtual assistant) can help businesses capture customer behavior across applications and channels, thus allowing customers to gain an understanding of their customer base to further facilitate meaningful conversations moving forward.

Q: Can you share a brief company background on Nuance as well as the company’s mission, vision, and some current clients?

A: Nuance is the leader in conversational and cognitive solutions with a mission to increase business productivity and amplify intelligence. Headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts, our company has a market cap of $2.5 billion traded on NASDAQ (NUAN) with 45 offices across the world and 13,000+ employees working globally. Our company provides a variety of solutions to many of the world’s leading communication service providers, including AT&T, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Telefonica, TalkTalk, BT, Time Warner Cable, and others.

Q: AI is being touted as one of the next big trends in the telecom and communications industry because it can help to automate processes and remove some of the mundane tasks from employees. What big advantages do you see to AI?

A: Artificial Intelligence (AI) can certainly automate many tasks and functions. But in our view, the underlying goal isn’t about eliminating jobs, it’s about transforming those jobs while at the same time giving consumers a better, more personalized experience.

Vance Clipson of Nuance Communications
Vance Clipson, the Senior Principal of Industry Solutions at Nuance Communications

Consumers today are demanding to engage with their telecom providers the same way they talk to friends – through text messaging, social channels, and even smart speakers like Alexa. Delivering a unified experience across those channels at scale in a way that’s personal and engaging requires AI.

AI-powered virtual assistants can automate basic customer service requests across all channels, enabling faster response time. By freeing up human agents from those mundane tasks, they are able to focus on the emotionally resonant, human-to-human interactions that are so critical to customer satisfaction.

Q: What are (and could be) some popular use cases for artificial intelligence (AI) in the telecom space?

A: Nuance delivers solutions in two areas:

1. Traditional revenue streams for communications service providers (CSPs) are in decline. Revenue and average revenue per user has been eroding as an increasing number of consumers flood to over-the-top applications and streaming services. Moreover, tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are monetizing consumers’ data by selling advertising to deliver many free services and applications to consumers.nuance loop concept on subscriber intelligence

Nuance is helping CSPs compete with Nuance Loop, an innovative AI and data analytics platform that enables true knowledge and understanding of the subscriber and gives service providers the ability to better market and monetize subscriber services — from voice to data — to create new revenue streams and happier, more loyal customers.  Loop, which we provide to CSPs for free, generates revenues by deriving meaningful and actionable insights based from the massive amounts of subscriber data CSPs collect and then providing personalized network services to subscribers at the right time over the right channel – based on the subscriber’s usage history and profile. Leveraging deep analytics, Loop provides smart offers to the subscriber – such as voicemail-to-text, visual voicemail, lock and home screen, balance inquiry, voice and data top-up and zero/low data balance – that can be presented on any device – mobile phone, smart TV, and other IoT devices.

2. AI-powered virtual assistants can help with any type of customer service transaction – whether it’s account enrollment, resolving a billing issue, taking a payment, making account changes, etc. A virtual assistant reduces operating costs, boosts customer satisfaction, and creates upsell opportunities by automating basic service tasks and engaging with customers throughout their purchase journeys to deliver tailored, personalized messages that meet their unique needs and usage patterns.

Q: Smartphones (and mobility in general) have helped to connect people without the hindrance of geographical boundaries or time zones. But what are some of the major challenges that have surfaced due to mobile? How does Nuance approach these? 

We live in an “omnichannel” world – we have mobile phones, tablets, PCs, smart TVs, connected cars, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and a proliferation of mobile apps, chatbots, and messaging services (including Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and others), and some people still have landlines. The challenge for CSPs and all companies is how to best engage with their customers across all of these different devices and services in a way that’s succinct and personalized. We are bringing AI-powered interactions to all of these channels both for inbound and outbound communications to enable more engaging, personalized customer experiences at scale.

Q: How can Nuance’s AI-powered, omnichannel customer engagement solution help businesses improve customer acquisition and customer care?

A: Our AI-powered Nina platform lets businesses understand who the customer is, and what they want, across every channel they engage and throughout their customer journey. From there, service becomes simple, personalized, effective, and engaging, and that leads to loyalty and drives a competitive market advantage. By designing the cognitive brain once and then deploying it across channels, Nina lets businesses evolve their customer service to meet the needs of today’s connected consumer while keeping costs down.

Q: What makes your AI-powered, omnichannel customer engagement platform unique when compared to similar solutions?

A: Nuance’s Nina was introduced in 2012 as the first virtual assistant for customer service, and has since evolved to become a powerful Digital Engagement Platform. The platform combines automated virtual assistants and human-assisted customer service engagements into one unified platform and uses business-rule targeting to ensure companies target the right visitor with the right message at the right time. The platform has a central AI-powered “cognitive brain” that can be developed once and then deployed across virtually any channel consumers use to engage with brands – phone, mobile app, messaging apps (e.g. Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.), Short Message Service (SMS) or text messages, and IoT devices such as those powered by Amazon Alexa (Echo and Dot).

Q: Looking forward in the telecom and communications industries, what technologies or customer desires will shape the workflows and interactions in the near future?  

A: I believe we will see more ambient intelligence – whether it’s your phone, your TV, or your car – consumers will talk to machines and will expect to have intelligent devices around them at all times. This means that virtual assistants will blend into channels, so the lines will become blurred as to when you’re talking, texting, and messaging with humans and virtual assistants. We’ll also see a surge in WebRTC in tomorrow’s contact center, allowing customers to video chat and easily share documents with agents which will improve satisfaction for both parties.

Q: What would you say are three major advantages of the cloud in regards to effective communication across businesses in all industries?

This is certainly true for CSPs, but also for other industries – cloud-based solutions circumvent the need for creating and managing the sort of physical infrastructure that has traditionally been required for applications and services – this accelerates deployment of services, reduces upfront investment, and ongoing maintenance costs. Unlike embedded software, cloud-based software can be instantly updated. When cloud-based solutions are integrated with embedded solutions in a hybrid model, the resulting applications and services provide the best of both worlds – the speed of embedded services and safeguards against connectivity interruptions along with access to a variety of rich cloud-based services and content.

 

About Nuance Communications

Nuance Communications is a trusted multinational computer software technology company that delivers innovative imaging and speech applications. As a leading provider of conversational and cognitive solutions, Nuance believes in the power of intelligent systems and how these technologies can aid businesses in all industries. Headquartered in Burlington, MA, the company specializes in artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), voice biometrics, voice recognition, home automation, speech recognition, call center, machine learning, and more.

About Vance Clipson

Vance Clipson, the Senior Principal of Industry Solutions for Nuance Communications, focuses on vertical-specific marketing and strategy with an emphasis on healthcare. Clipson brings 25 years of experience translating industry needs and data into market strategy and programs for Milliman, PacifiCare Health Systems, and the American Cancer Society.