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Our strategy revolves around three main pillars: CPaaS, contact centres, and AI: Exotel

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Express Computer recently had the opportunity to interview Angira Agrawal, Global SVP GTM & Strategy, Exotel and Udit Agarwal, VP & Head of Global Marketing, Exotel, where they shed light on Exotel’s recent developments, particularly focusing on their House of AI framework, the integration of AI in customer interactions, and their expansion plans. The discussion delves into the intricacies of Exotel’s AI-driven solutions, addressing challenges, opportunities, and the broader vision for transforming customer service landscapes. With a blend of insightful perspectives and strategic foresight, Angira and Udit offer a glimpse into Exotel’s pioneering efforts in revolutionising customer engagement and scaling operations globally.

Please talk about the recent developments in your organisation.

One of the most exciting developments for us has been what we call the House of AI, and it’s really gained traction wherever we’ve discussed it. Let’s take a familiar example: those SMS alerts reminding you of your credit card payment due date. Why don’t organisations have the context they need? Often, it’s because their systems operate in silos. For instance, I visited a large auto company where different divisions function independently. If I own a commercial vehicle and a car from the same company, shouldn’t they know my preferences? That’s where our approach comes in. We aim to establish relationships with customers akin to friendship, where trust and loyalty exist inherently. Just as with friends, there’s no need to rebuild trust with each interaction. We’re working to ensure that when customers engage with us, it’s like reconnecting with a friend, with all the context readily available. This context revolves around three key aspects: engagement history, customer intent, and conversational tone. By understanding these, we can tailor our interactions more effectively. This is a solution we’ve demonstrated to many customers, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive because it addresses a common challenge across industries.

Our strategy revolves around three main pillars: CPaaS, contact centres, and AI. These areas are converging, blurring the lines between enterprise and operation. Context is central here; approximately 90% of any conversation is context. By integrating these elements and harnessing the context they provide, we can build a comprehensive view of customer interactions. Gen AI acts as a catalyst, enhancing efficiency in contact centres by providing agents with valuable context before they even engage with customers. This increased productivity is transforming customer service, making it more efficient and personalised.

We’re living in an era where Gen AI is revolutionising human-computer interactions. Imagine opening an app and seamlessly conversing with it to accomplish tasks. Verbal communication is innate to humans, and with Gen AI, it’s becoming the norm in digital interactions. This represents a significant shift in how we engage with technology, making it more intuitive and user-friendly than ever before.

How does the bot get trained on data sets?

The approach we take is not about building LLMs from scratch. Instead, we leverage existing solutions like OpenAI LLMs alongside our product, ExoInsights, which aggregates knowledge from various sources including your company’s internal data and industry best practices. This curated knowledge is then made available to offices of CMO/CIO to provide comprehensive solutions. When a customer poses a query, we utilise language models like LLM to formulate responses efficiently.

One significant challenge many enterprises encounter is the repetitive nature of managing large LLMs and SLMs, leading to increased costs. This is where Exomind, the cornerstone of our AI framework, comes into play. Exomind acts as an AI orchestrator, ensuring optimal conversation responses while balancing factors like cost, accuracy, and latency. It intelligently determines whether to query OpenAI LLM, Lama, or retrieve information from cache based on factors like query repetition, cost implications, and response speed.

This orchestrator seamlessly integrates grammar and language from LLM models, streamlining the process and enhancing efficiency. With millions of conversations happening, Exomind harnesses intelligence to deliver timely, accurate responses, offering a sophisticated solution to complex conversational challenges.

Is the deployed model a private LLM within an enterprise, or is it a micro LLM?

Sure, let’s delve into this scenario. Imagine a customer, let’s say they’re interested in opening a fixed deposit (FD) with a certain percentage return and tenure. Now, this might seem like a basic inquiry that one could easily find on a bank’s website. However, consider the process involved if one were to manually navigate through the website, possibly requiring multiple clicks and searches to find the relevant information.

Here’s where AI comes into play as a game-changer. With AI-powered solutions like Semantic Link Management (SLM), we’re essentially tapping into a vast knowledge base that’s meticulously curated and organised. To draw an analogy, think of it as having access to a comprehensive library of legal cases when you’re dealing with a complex legal matter. Instead of frantically searching through volumes of legal texts, you can simply pose your query, and the AI system can swiftly retrieve the precise information or case you need.

What exactly is the House of AI framework? Is it an AI orchestrator?

House of AI technologies offers solutions to enhance customer conversations, making them more intelligent and engaging for enterprises. These solutions comprise four key components. Firstly, there’s the GenAI chatbot, which facilitates automated interactions with customers, whether it’s for customer service or sales purposes. Then, there’s the voicebot, allowing users to engage in spoken conversations, offering versatility in communication channels. The third component is the AI orchestrator, which streamlines conversations with customers, ensuring accuracy and minimising latency. Lastly, ExoInsights serves as a knowledge source, aggregating information from various sources to provide valuable insights without the need for a separate knowledge management system.

While digital transformation is prevalent across industries like banking, retail, and financial services, many organisations still face challenges in implementing such advanced conversational AI technologies. Even those inclined toward digital adoption often encounter hurdles. Demonstrations of these technologies showcase their potential benefits, which is particularly evident when these solutions are integrated comprehensively. Combining the chatbot, voicebot, and contact centre solutions can yield powerful results, offering seamless communication across various platforms and tools within an organisation.

Organisations utilising these integrated solutions, including contact centre software and cloud communications platforms, recognise the substantial value they bring. The advantage lies not only in individual components but in the synergy created when these technologies work together harmoniously. This comprehensive approach enhances customer engagement and satisfaction, setting a new standard in conversational AI for enterprises.

How do you anticipate the synergies between the House of AI and the transforming landscape of customer service unfolding in the broader context?

Balancing quality of service with cost efficiency is a perpetual challenge in customer service. At one end of the spectrum, we have the most economical options like email or one-way SMS, while at the other extreme, live agents on voice calls represent the highest cost. These extremes present organisations with a dilemma: can technology replace live agents for customer engagement? Many believe that as technologies like chatbots advance, standard queries can be efficiently handled without human intervention. This trajectory suggests a future where agentless contact centres become the norm, representing an ideal vision for customer service.

Moving in this direction holds tremendous potential in terms of service quality and productivity. For instance, a Gen AI voice bot can respond much faster than a human agent, revolutionising the efficiency of customer interactions. Today’s younger generation, accustomed to instant gratification, often lacks the patience to wait even a few minutes for assistance. This shift in behaviour underscores the urgency for companies to adapt their customer service strategies to align with evolving preferences.

However, it’s essential to recognise that this transformation isn’t solely about cost reduction. Rather, it’s about enhancing the overall customer experience and modernising customer service practices to resonate with changing expectations. Ultimately, the goal is to provide differentiation in service delivery that resonates with customers in an increasingly digitised world.

How do you perceive the current possibilities in the market, and what trajectory do you anticipate moving forward?

Absolutely, in today’s landscape, every organisation, whether privately held, venture capital-funded, or traditional, is deeply invested in enhancing customer engagement. Digital media firms, particularly, face the added challenge of balancing effectiveness with cost efficiency. Traditional industries, like the automotive sector, are constantly seeking ways to enrich customer interactions and loyalty. Take the example of the auto industry, where the prolonged ownership cycle of vehicles, typically 7-8 years, poses a unique challenge. With vehicles lasting longer due to improved quality, enticing customers to upgrade becomes a strategic focus. Here, superior customer service plays a pivotal role. The goal is to maximise engagement while respecting the customer’s preferences. Hence, organisations aim to accommodate varied communication channels, ensuring customers are contacted through their preferred medium, be it email, WhatsApp, or SMS, without unnecessary disturbance.

This is where the power of AI comes into play. AI seamlessly consolidates communication across channels, summarising interactions for efficient handling. For instance, AI can parse through email threads or voice transcripts and provide concise summaries, empowering sales and service agents with actionable insights. Moreover, organisations are mindful of optimising communication costs by targeting relevant messages effectively.

However, achieving seamless integration across communication channels remains a challenge. While many claim to have omnichannel contact centres, the reality often falls short, with communication fragmented across multiple channels. A truly integrated approach is needed, facilitated by AI-driven solutions.

Privacy concerns are paramount, especially with regulations like GDPR. Implementing responsible communication practices, such as masking contact details during deliveries, demonstrates a commitment to customer privacy. By safeguarding personal information, organisations uphold trust and mitigate risks associated with data breaches.

How do you plan to capitalise on opportunities and scale your operations?

We have been actively involved in raising awareness among our customer base. We’ve been strategically identifying customers who utilise at least two different products from our portfolio, as consolidating value for such customers becomes considerably simpler. However, there’s a need to accelerate this process further. Speaking in terms of market dynamics, within the combined market segment, we observe CPaaS comprising around 24-25% in India. There’s a collective desire to streamline processes and enhance simplicity for our customers.

We’ve projected a substantial 50% revenue growth over the next 18 to 20 months due to this catalytic effect. Moreover, it’s paving the way for extensive geographical expansions, particularly in markets like the Middle East, the US, and Africa. This strategic approach serves as a notable differentiator, attracting significant interest and attention from potential stakeholders.

Do you have service partners or is it done internally?

Our expansion strategy comprises two main approaches: direct engagement in India and international expansion through partnerships. However, in regions like the UAE and Indonesia, we’ve opted for a direct approach to market entry. Alongside this, we’re actively targeting other industry verticals globally, particularly Global Service Management (GSM) providers. We’ve observed that many large enterprises are outsourcing their customer-facing operations, presenting an opportunity for us to collaborate with GSM partners offering a suite of IT infrastructure, CRM, and automation solutions. This is an area we’re focusing on with great vigour.

Additionally, we’re eyeing Global Capability Centers (GCCs) within the IT and ITes verticals. We’ve noticed a significant presence of global GCCs in India, recognising the potential for growth in this sector. However, we’re mindful that not every organisation is ready to embrace omnichannel solutions due to their premium nature. Nonetheless, we’re committed to delivering tangible outcomes rather than merely technological excitement.

A recent alliance with Microsoft has further bolstered our capabilities. With a pan-India virtual network operator licence, we’ve enabled seamless communication through Microsoft Teams. This means Teams users can now make PSTN calls and communicate across various channels effortlessly. This integration extends to CRM systems, eliminating dependencies and offering enhanced flexibility for users. For instance, in the BFSI sector, Teams integration allows relationship managers to connect with clients without exposing personal contact details, thereby enhancing privacy and efficiency.

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