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AiThority Interview with Lori Anne, Director of Product Development & Management at Verizon

Lori Anne, Director Product Development & Management at Verizon

Hi Lori Anne, please tell us about your role and how you arrived at Verizon.

Hi, and thank you for the interview. I started my career at Verizon 30 years ago in customer service, and I have held roles in Sales, Marketing and my favorite jobs have been Product Management. Product Management touches all parts of the business and keeps me in front of customers, collaborating with partners and exploring technology. Today, I am responsible for developing Verizon’s global VoIP and Customer Experience services portfolio.

How much has Verizon’s products and services evolved in the last 3 years? What impact did the pandemic have on your product roadmap?

The progress and adoption of digital customer experiences is definitely related to the pandemic! Our customers have been using digital technologies like Chat for years, but most were still treating digital interactions as a call deflection and FAQ strategy. Early in the pandemic, we flexed and delivered huge volumes of contact center traffic for retail, public sector and healthcare customers, but higher call volume didn’t deliver a better experience in a market with agent turnover and shortages. (good news! CCaaS helped with work-from-home and agent retention) A few months into the pandemic, we saw a spike in digital and AI customer experience trials as businesses and agencies tried to align with rising consumer expectations. Today, the digital and AI experience capabilities are table stakes in the contact center and customer experience technology stack, and the differentiation is created in the way knowledge is integrated across all interactions.

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Please tell us more about your Virtual Contact Center. How is VCC different from other CX-based CCaaS platforms?

“Verizon’s Virtual Contact Center (VCC) is our lead solution for any organization looking for a global contact center. It provides organizations with the flexibility and innovation to help create personalized digital customer experiences. In the last 3 years we have seen a huge shift in customer/consumer expectations, and a lot of customer interactions are now happening digitally, which has created a gap in what organizations can o**** and what consumers expect. To help address that gap, we launched the new VCC Digital solutions that aim at helping the customers holistically complete their digital journey with a brand.

What sets VCC apart from the other solutions is the technology we use to power VCC. For e.g., our VCC SmartAssist is powered by Amelia which is the leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Conversational AI. The VCC Enlighten XO has over 200+ prebuilt data models to smartly and intelligently build intelligent virtual agents. Today, almost every organization c***** to have a chat bot, but if you interact with them they leave a lot to be desired. But with VCC Enlighten XO, you can harness conversational data across all channels and then create the right self-service interaction, thus taking the guesswork out.

VCC is a powerful combination of technology and network. With Verizon IDA and PIP connectivity, customers have the advantage of network on demand, global reach and unique connectivity models.

Why is human-assisted service still considered a big component in virtual CCaaS platforms?

“Human-assisted services will never fully go away. We live in a world where you have customers that love the digital journey but you also have those that want to speak to a human. Mixing AI and human interaction can go a long way in improving experiences.  that many customers find time consuming and aggravating.  I know we all live in a digital world now, and it’s often easy to forget that the best way to help a human is by connecting to another human.  Most interactions with a brand are emotional, and having a human agent available to assist when needed can provide empathy during that part of the customer journey which may lead to a good customer experience vs a bad one . ”

What is the role of AI and machine learning in your VCC? How do you train your ML models?

VCC was initially launched with multimedia options allowing the customer to choose the media they wanted to utilize and deliver an omnichannel experience. Today, VCC utilizes AI to develop accurate routing models, knowledge management for the end user and agents to improve the customer experience. Our VCC Enlighten XO has over 200+ pre-built data models that help you find and categorize thousands of customer intents and help identify the best automation opportunities. It harnesses the conversational data across all channels and applies purpose built AI to derive insights that optimize chatbots, virtual agents, knowledge engagement and other self service applications.

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Every business is utilizing a contact center and looking to invest in Conversational AI. Could you please mention 4-5 benefits of using Conversational AI in a modern contact center?

“Conversational AI helps improve customer acquisition. With conversational AI, companies are able to provide 24/7 customer support to their customers while giving faster response time. It also allows companies to have a higher rate of customer satisfaction. For the agent, AI-based advanced tools create intelligent summaries of the customer’s issues and journey to date. For the customer, these learnings help to enhance the customer experience by providing a seamless process that knows when and how to reroute a conversation, if needed. “

Your predictions on the future of contact center and role of AI in this industry?

I think we’ll see AI driven customer experiences, or interactions, become ubiquitous and built into the products and services that we use. We should never have to jump from interacting with and using a product or service to seeking old fashioned customer service via a toll free number or web chat.

What kind of IT infrastructure does an organization require to scale its Contact Center Operations? How does Verizon help here?

I think migrating to a cloud contact center is now foundational if you want to implement the innovative new tools that help improve customer experience. And when you implement a cloud contact center solution the infrastructure cost is low as it lies with the solution provider. All you need to do is provide headsets, a PC and internet connection to your agents. Verizon can definitely help – we can provide the network, the cloud contact center solution and the security tools to ensure that your customer interactions and data is secure. And with the network and cloud contact center in place, organizations/customers can scale up or down (add or remove agents) easily, no need to buy for tomorrow, pay for what you need and use today.  IT organizations can help their CMOs and CXOs by redirecting focus from managing boxes and contact center software upgrades,  to making sure the new cloud and digital experience technologies are easy to use and fulfill the ideal customer journey.

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Your take on the increasing number of data leaks and ransomware attacks on contact centers — how should a business safeguard its contact center and database?

“The pandemic fast tracked the adoption of cloud contact centers and with it the ability for agents to w*************. And this model is still being followed today as we have seen great employee retention and productivity. But along with it comes the responsibility of ensuring that the communication tools that the agents use are secure — and ensuring that the security features are not only being purchased, but activated and incorporated into procedures. Monitoring calls is a great example — with agents working remotely it can be more challenging to monitor their conversations and coach them, so quality management solutions have to be a more regimented part of a contact centers arsenal. The security of the contact center is only as good as the level of adherence to policy and procedure.

All the solutions on Verizon’s network are secure as we build the protection into our network, but in addition to that we also provide solutions to protect your voice calls and contact center traffic. Our solution with SecureLogix ensures that a customer’s inbound voice network is protected from fraud, impersonation scams, robocalls and spoofing, including volumetric based attacks like Telephony Denial of Service that are often used in connection to ransomware attacks. In addition to this, we also have a VoIP Inbound Anti-Fraud and Authentication solution that leverages Verizon’s media forking and is focused on identifying inbound fraud and robocalls to the contact center, as well as providing a means to authenticate the callers using multi-factor authentication. These tools allow agents to know not only that they are not talking to a bad-actor, but that they are talking to their actual customer which enables the agent to better adhere to the contact centers procedures while still providing a high level of satisfaction to their customer. ”

Thank you, Lori! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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As Director of Product Management, Lori Anne leads her team to create Contact Center as a Service, Conversational AI and Voice over IP products and services for Verizon’s Global Enterprises and Public Sector customers. Lori Anne joined Verizon 30 years ago and has been successful in her roles in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing and several roles in Product Management.  Lori Anne has a deep knowledge of contact center technology, with a unique experience connecting voice networks with cloud platforms. In addition to creating and delivering Verizon native capabilities, she builds services working with leading technology partners, including NICE, Genesys, fNuance, Microsoft, fMindful, Pindrop, SecureLogix and Google.  Lori Anne resides in Atlanta, GA, where she stays connected to her family, enjoys outdoor recreation, and cooks for a local shelter.

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Verizon Communications Inc. was formed on June 30, 2000 and is one of the world’s leading providers of technology and communications services. Headquartered in New York City and with a presence around the world, Verizon generated revenues of $136.8 b****** in 2022. The company offers data, video and voice services and solutions on its award-w****** networks and platforms, delivering on customers’ demand for mobility, reliable network connectivity, security and control.

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