AiThority Interview Series With Richard McElroy, General Manager at Calabrio Canada & Innovation Center
When it comes to handling digital channels, like online chat and messaging, many businesses do lack the internal structure to effectively introduce these self-service options customers now expect.
Know My Company
Tell us about your journey at Calabrio.
As the General Manager of Calabrio’s Innovation Center, I help our customers achieve their business goals, solve their toughest problems using Calabrio ONE software, and drive internal innovation in order to make Calabrio software and solutions even better. I work with a brilliant team of industry experts who have decades of combined contact center and technology experience.
Together, we share best practices and apply technical expertise to ensure businesses are taking full advantage of Calabrio ONE––a unified workforce optimization (WFO) and employee engagement suite that records, captures and analyzes customer interactions to provide a single view of the customer and improve the overall agent and customer experience.
I am also General Manager of Calabrio Canada, based in Vancouver, where our Center of Excellence for Analytics is based. The center brings data science and business intelligence (BI) solutions to customers through advanced visual reporting and analytics. This allows our customers to take a more comprehensive approach to gather and to share insights by integrating customer and business data from across the organization.
How did you launch your journey into the field of data and analytics?
My very first job (as a co-op university student) was with a fledgling little start-up called Crystal Services, where I was exposed to the formative development years of Crystal Reports – the desktop reporting tool that would eventually bring BI, reporting and data analytics into to the forefront in business and enterprise software. This experience really got me focused on the concept of turning data into usable, actionable information – particularly within the context of the contact center and customer engagement markets. This has been a core theme that has spanned my entire career.
I joined Calabrio via the acquisition of Symmetrics Business Intelligence Solutions Inc. back in April of 2017, where I was a founder and President. There, I focused on channel and vendor partner growth, along with helping set and execute on the company’s overall product, sales, and marketing strategies.
Now at Calabrio, one of my responsibilities is to influence the development direction, and customer adoption of Calabrio Advanced Reporting––a multi-tiered contact center Business Intelligence platform that delivers data integration, orchestration, reporting, analytics, and information management capabilities.
At Calabrio, I’ve been able to lean on my experience while taking an even deeper dive into the world of data and analytics.
How should marketing teams prepare for an AI-driven world?
It’s estimated that by 2025, the technology will support 95 percent of customer interactions. To prepare for this AI-driven world we are approaching, companies must have a concrete understanding of where such technology will benefit the customer experience, and where it might actually make it worse. For instance, offering AI-run digital self-service channels, like chatbots, will be something most consumers expect, but there will be a need to balance the convenience of such technology with the personalization that only humans can contribute.
Without the option to speak to a human, customers will lose trust in a company’s ability to solve their more difficult queries. To be successful with AI technology, companies must find the balance between speed and convenience, and a personalized experience that is driven by human interactions.
How do Automation and Big Data come together at Calabrio?
Companies have more customer data coming into the contact center than ever before. There have been many studies conducted over the years that that show customer related data is stored on a multitude of disparate systems and locations – some studies showing data is stored, on average, in over a dozen different systems. And contact center systems that track and manage these interactions are obviously a BIG part of this equation…ACD platforms, IVR systems, WFM, and QM applications, CRM solutions to name just a few.
All of these have an abundance of data that individually tell us some of the stories but much of the story is missed by these silos of data …by not being able to intertwine the data to get real, holistic insight on aspects like the customer journey; on factors that impact customer satisfaction; or on scenarios that prevent a successful sales transaction and so on.
Moreover, with an increasing number of channels, including social, email, chat and phone, gathering and making sense of all that data can be overwhelming.
Many don’t know how to analyze it, and they don’t know the value of what they’re missing. At Calabrio, automation and big data come together through our advanced reporting solutions that make it easy to extract the right insights to drive business change.
By automating call recording and reporting, contact center agents and managers can spend more time focused on the task at hand––servicing customers and providing a great experience. What’s more, advanced reporting technology makes analysis quicker and easier, helping business leaders cut through the data clutter and pinpoint relevant insights that matter most to the overall health of the company.
What are the foundational tenets of your Workforce Optimization Suite (WFO)?
The Calabrio ONE WFO software suite includes:
- Call Recording
The easiest way to ensure your company is capturing input from every customer across every channel. Call recording gives businesses a single source of the truth when it comes to the customer and allows companies to leverage comprehensive voice-of-the-customer data to drive key business objectives.
- Quality Management (QM)
Provides a highly automated and efficient evaluation of every interaction. With QM, businesses can shorten the feedback loop to better engage and target training for agents, which in turn creates a stronger customer experience.
- Workforce Management (WFM)
WFM allows companies to hone forecasting and streamline scheduling and administrative tasks. For businesses, this means empowering their people to work smarter and deliver a consistent customer experience.
- Calabrio Analytics
A sophisticated speech and text analytics engine that captures the true voice of the customer—as well as easy-to-understand outputs that bring the data to life. Predictive and prescriptive insights deliver value to sales, marketing, IT, product development and business development teams.
- Advanced Reporting
Advanced Reporting offers integrated reporting and analytics tools that weave together customer and business data from across the organization. With Advanced Reporting, companies can break down data silos and see a holistic story of the customer experience.
Could you explain the concept of “Digital Self-Service’ for employees? Which technologies are you working with to support this transformation of the modern workforce?
Digital self-service for contact center agents means access to Business Intelligence (BI) solutions that provide them with the right insights when they need them. BI tools enable contact center stakeholders to quickly incorporate multiple data sources and generate personalized insights that fit their individual goals. When insights from the contact center are aggregated, they reveal a single view of the customer, which can directly impact sales, marketing, and retention strategies.
Through Calabrio Advanced Reporting, managers, and even agents can create, share and manage reports and dashboards, which means increased access to valuable customer insights. In turn, this access allows for more time spent analyzing those insights to improve business outcomes.
Do you think most businesses lack the training and coaching part when it comes to handling automation and digital technologies?
When it comes to handling digital channels, like online chat and messaging, many businesses do lack the internal structure to effectively introduce these self-service options customers now expect. Companies want to provide a strong and seamless customer experience, of course, but their omnichannel strategies have proven ineffective. In fact, while ninety-three percent agree that providing a seamless customer experience is important, only 45 percent of companies think they are very effective at providing that experience.
This tells us that there is a gap in training and coaching when it comes to ensuring customer service agents are equipped to deliver channel-specific experiences. A true omnichannel strategy shouldn’t just mean adding whatever channels customers expect––it requires creating a seamless experience across the entire customer journey. Agents must be highly trained and have the right customer information at their fingertips to meet expectations, no matter the channel.
Elaborate on your playbook for company-workforce interaction. What challenges do traditional systems pose to modern Marketing, Sales and Service teams?
Customer experience is the difference between a good and great company. At the forefront of providing that experience is a company’s customer service representatives. Contact Center agents act as brand ambassadors during the hundreds of customer interactions they have each day. If these employees lack the necessary tools and training to succeed in their roles, it has a direct impact on customer experience.
Sixty percent of agents agree that their company doesn’t always provide the necessary technology to address the challenges they face when helping customers. Calabrio’s mission is to bridge that gap and provide the WFM tools that allow for smarter scheduling and dynamic employee engagement. With these tools, agents can see and understand the value they deliver to the overall business and have access to the feedback they crave.
Traditional legacy systems can create a roadblock for organizations trying to meet the expectations of today’s modern workforce. Upgrading legacy solutions may seem easy, but it often requires additional hardware installation, expert personnel, and software licenses, and can be an overall costly and time-consuming process. At the same time, these legacy technologies are not equipped with features such as smart searching, which makes it difficult to locate specific information. The modern contact center is instead defined by a fully integrated, multi-channel, cloud-enabled infrastructure––one that deploys holistic advanced data analytics to reveal true voice-of-the-customer insights that can improve service and enhance sales and marketing efforts across all channels.
Where do you see Workforce automation market in the next five years? Do you think Robots and Virtual Assistants are the answers to most workforce-related hurdles?
Analytics and advanced reporting solutions give agents the tools they need to better understand their customers, which enhances the overall employee experience. That said, this technology is only as strong as the human using it. Workforce automation, such as robots and virtual assistants, will only be able to do so much on their own. It will be up to contact center stakeholders and agents to apply human logic to make sense of the information that technology provides.
Just like customers place more trust in companies that offer the ability to interact with a human, business leaders will have more trust in the data and insights coming from the contact center when it’s coupled—and optimized—with human employees’ analysis. In a nutshell, advancing the concept of the “augmented workforce” will be a major focus of Calabrio’s in the next number of years.
Tell us about “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” of AI/Machine Learning –
AI and machine learning are paving the way for a new wave of analytics and BI solutions. Advancements, such as sentiment analysis and predictive analytics, provide agents with deeper insights into customers’ wants and needs. On the customer’s end, AI solutions, like chatbots, are making seamless digital self-service a reality. Consumers now expect—and receive—personalized, around-the-clock access to customer support due to such self-service options.
However, even with the growing popularity of these digital channels, consumers still seek the option to speak with a human for those problems that can’t easily be solved via a bot––and this is where businesses struggle. Customer trust declines without the option to speak to a human, and the customer journey can suffer without an effective omnichannel strategy that gives customers access to humans when they need them most. As companies race to innovate and add new self-service options, they must keep this is mind and lay the right internal groundwork to set the business up for omnichannel success.
The Crystal Gaze
What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
Anodot is doing some very cool things around pattern recognition across large and diverse data sets, which has significant applicability in customer experience analysis. Also, spaCy is very cutting edge in the world of industry-grade nature language processing. And of course, the Google Brain Team/Lab is doing some very interesting work across the board in the field of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning.
What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?
Natural language processing is probably the biggest interest for me. The interactions between computers and human (natural) languages has a huge potential impact; not just in how to program computers to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data, but also to enable true data analysis and interaction via the spoken word (versus explicit programmatic queries).
As an AI leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology markets?
Customer Engagement and Contact Center I hope! I also believe the longer-term emerging markets are the smaller ones that today don’t have the resources to devote to AI/ML initiatives. Google, Netflix, Facebook, and other industry giants are doing incredibly advanced things. They will help push the technology “down the ladder” to the smaller scale businesses and markets. My guess is we will see many new/emerging plug-and-play products and solutions being released that will utilize (and likely rely heavily on) AI/ML technology.
As these solutions become mainstream, they will inevitably help the mom and pop shops, small start-ups, and the SMB space (or even the local corner grocery store) be more efficient, increase growth and save money.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
No hacks or shortcuts (I’m no ML coder!)… just staying organized and being prepared.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
A tie between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Thank you, Richard! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Richard McElroy leads Calabrio’s Center of Excellence for Analytics based in Vancouver, BC Canada, as well as Calabrio’s Innovation Center. He brings over 20 years of high tech and Business Intelligence software industry experience. As an experienced, hands-on senior leader, Richard is instrumental in evolving the development and marketing of Calabrio Advanced Reporting – a multi-tiered contact center Business Intelligence platform that delivers data integration, reporting, analytics and information management capabilities.
Calabrio is a customer engagement software company that provides analytic insights to catalyze growth through customer service contact centers. The Calabrio ONE® software suite empowers everyone in an organization, from contact center agents to the CEO, with easy-to-use tools that provide a better understanding of the customer. Every customer interaction yields insights that expand customer-consciousness, which is how leading companies now drive growth and long-term corporate prosperity. Find more at https://www.calabrio.com/ and follow @Calabrio on Twitter.