Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Big Hero 6": Predicting the Future of Robots as Healthcare Professionals

Photo Credit: Disney
Just a few weeks ago, Disney released their newest movie, "Big Hero 6." Just as you would expect from a Disney movie, it is full of laughter, action, and a heart-warming plot, but instead of the typical princess movie, it is about a robotics prodigy, Hiro, and his best friend Baymax, a robot designed to help people.  As the plot thickens, Hiro, Baymax, and friends band together to become a group of high-tech superheroes. 

To make the personal health care robot as accurate as possible, creators of "Big Hero 6" went straight to the experts themselves to do research, including a professor at the Robotics Institute and Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Chris Atkeson. The concept of a 'soft' robot came from Atkeson and his colleagues. Disney was intrigued by this type of robot because it is one that most people have never seen before in a movie. It is distinct from the rigid transformer-looking robots, and the soft edges give Baymax more of a warm, caring appearance. 

In an recent interview with Atkeson, he stated that he doesn't think this sort of technology (personal health care robots) is too far off. "I think it's very soon. We haven't gone for a complete system. But we have gone for parts of it. The design that we could do very soon, like a carbon fiber skeleton and pneumatic actuators internally, is possible. It's not clear, though, that making a big balloon and putting stuff inside of it is the right way to go. Do you know what water wings are? They're like a sleeve. That's probably a much better way to do the inflatable part –essentially putting sleeves on all the limbs and torsos. Space suits are already inflatable robots, so the armored Baymax exists. The space suits rely on the human inside to actually guide it. They have to deal with micrometeorite damage and things like that, so these are serious, robust systems." 

Here is a short clip of the inflatable arm that inspired the design of Baymax.

We are already seeing artificial intelligence/robots become more accepted in the medical field. For example, earlier this year, industry analysts talked about the day if/when computers will replace doctor. They found that the majority of people actually preferred interacting with the artificial intelligence compared to a human doctor. Similarly, kiosks are making their way to more and more doctor's offices; used as a Virtual nurse for patients to get quick answers to non-emergency questions. 

Another example is a company in the medical industry using Virtual Customer Assistants(VCAs) to provide their partners with a quick and easy way to answer questions about products and solutions. View the slideshare below to learn more about how they offered their VCA to their Partners.


We've posed this question at the beginning of the year, but it would be interesting to see how opinions might have changed in the span of a year. Where do you think the future of medicine and technology will take us? Will robots replace nurses and doctors? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Virtual Customer Assistants and Self-Service Used to Enhance CRM Platforms

Photo Credit:
Last week, ComputerWorld published an article on Microsoft’s newest CRM suite, fully equipped with their Personal Virtual Assistant, Cortana. “Tasks available via Cortana voice commands will include setting up meetings and reminders, searching for contacts, accounts and activities, calling up customer lists and creating new records” (Cortana to Give Voice and Ears to Dynamics CRM).

It seems like Microsoft is making the right moves, at the right time by enhancing their Dynamics CRM platform. Research from trusted analyst firms in the industry are advocating for a shift to omni-channel CRM systems; that is, moving from a Contact Center to a Customer Engagement Center (CEC). According to one of the leading analyst firms, it is imperative for companies to include multiple business applications and technologies that will coexist and work cohesively. Some examples of functions that incorporate to create the full CEC ecosystem are: knowledge management solutions, social media channels for customer to receive support (including blogs, communities, and forums), providing mobile support options, and more.

Other CRM vendors are further validating the need for omni-channel CRM platforms. Recently, the customer service and engagement vendor, [24]7, acquired Virtual Assistant company, Intelliresponse. Another example is Nuance’s acquisition of VirtuOz a while back. These CRM vendors are realizing the value of adding Virtual Customer Assistants as another channel to enhance their CECs. Since self-service is becoming one of the most preferred means for communicating with a company, it is going to be key for CRM vendors to incorporate a way for customers to self-serve if they are on the web, social media, forums, mobile, or at kiosks.  

Do you think other vendors will follow suit with Microsoft? How do you think these acquisitions of Virtual Assistant companies will change the way we use CRM?      

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cisco Small Business Adopts Mobile Support By Providing Customers with a Mobile-Friendly Virtual Customer Assistant

Screenshot of cisco's link to mobile Virtual AssistantMilpitas California, November 6, 2014  – noHold, Inc. is pleased to formally announce Cisco Small Business’ first mobile-friendly Virtual Customer Assistant. This mobile Virtual Assistant was launched in December of 2013 and has received positive feedback ever since.

Cisco Small Business (SB) is an extension of Cisco, providing small businesses with trusted Cisco products and services. Cisco has been a longtime customer of noHold, circa 2006, working collaboratively to bring innovation and smarter self-service together. noHold provides Cisco SB with the self-service support option appropriately named ‘Guide Me.’ Since its implementation, Guide Me has produced great results for Cisco SB. With the success of their web-based Virtual Assistant, noHold suggested developing a mobile-friendly version of Guide Me, to make support accessible for users on any device. 

“As of 2013, worldwide mobile phone internet user penetration was 73.4 percent. In 2017, figures suggest that more than 90 percent of internet users will access online content through their phones.” (Statistics and Facts on Mobile Internet Usage). Smartphones and mobile devices (i.e. tablets, wearable devices, etc.) are becoming users’ preferred mode of staying connected. For Cisco SB, it is important to make self-support available across all devices because most of Cisco SB’s customers are not always near a desktop when they need support resolving an issue. Becoming mobile-friendly is proving to be the most efficient way for Cisco SB to provide the answer their users need, while on the go.

Shawn Price, Sr. Manager of End-User & Collaboration Applications at Cisco says, “Our Virtual Agent helps us in two very important ways: One, it helps achieve our goal to make self-support easier for our customers to discover exactly what they need as quickly and easily as possible; and two, our Virtual Agent also gives all of our customers the opportunity to give us critical feedback on our content with every article.  Having the voice of our customers helps us improve our content, which is a tremendous value to us all.” As an acknowledged leader in providing excellent web support for their customers, Cisco prides themselves on giving great customer service. Cisco has won multiple awards for excellence in web-based self-service for the support site. Now, Cisco is carrying on the experience of outstanding web-based support, and using it to revolutionize support for the mobile generation.

“Making the Virtual Assistant work on a mobile device is important, but detecting in real time that a query is coming from a mobile device, so that the content can be automatically rendered to fit that type of environment is imperative and makes the solution very scalable, “ said Diego Ventura, Founder and CEO of noHold.

About Cisco
Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the previously unconnected. For ongoing news, please go to

About noHold Inc.
noHold is a privately held company established in 1999 and is headquartered in Milpitas, CA, USA (Silicon Valley). noHold is the acknowledged leader in Web based Self-service solutions with a mission to deliver real answers to real questions - real fast. Simple to use, easy to implement and as close to human as you can get, noHold turns automated customer support into cognitive customer interaction. noHold customers include Toshiba, Lenovo, Cisco and a host of industry leaders. More information can be found at

Press Contacts
Sarah Ramoz
Marketing Operations Manager
408.946.9200 ext. 305

Veronica Cech
Social Media Assistant
408.946.9200 ext. 356

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to Increase Revenue With Support Services

In a customer-centric world, creating an excellent customer experience is key to making your brand stand out from the rest. Statistics show that improving the customer experience is actually cost effective; “A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%” (15 Statistics That Should Change the Business World- But Haven’t). One noHold customer discovered how an existing Virtual Assistant could help generate revenue by promoting new products/services in the right context. Here’s the story…
  • The brand in reference is in the consumer electronics industry.
  • The company implemented a Virtual Assistant that primarily answers post-sales questions about products.
  • On average, the Virtual Assistant handles 75,000 interactions per month, while significantly decreasing support costs.
  • The company began promoting a new service on the web site, a Premium Support Service.
  • They used typical marketing strategies: banners, colorful buttons, etc. Very little leads came from this type of advertising, though. 
  • noHold proposed to let the Virtual Assistant offer the Premium Service in the right context. For example, when an end user describes a problem, the Virtual Assistant provides an answer, but if appropriate, it also suggests to sign up for the Premium Service. No flashy buttons or gimmicks, just let the Virtual Assistant play the role of an expert advisor. 
  • It worked! Of the 75,000 interactions per month, 10,000 resulted in leads, and 1,200 converted into sales. After doing the calculations (each sale being about $110), this company was generating an average of $132,000 per month via the new revenue stream.
From this, we learned a couple invaluable lessons. First being, the Virtual Assistant is a great resource to generate leads that might have been lost otherwise. The same service that was not getting attention while flashing in the middle of the Website, is now reaching record sales due to the Virtual Assistant’s ability to understand the context of the conversation and present an offer only when it makes sense. 

Secondly, the Virtual Assistant is able to provide a better customer experience than most other solutions. Take this as an example; a customer is lamenting that the battery life on his or her laptop is degrading. The Virtual Assistant can provide both simple suggestions to increase battery life, and present a one-click link to buy a new battery. In the end, the customer receives excellent customer service and the company effectively cross-sells in the appropriate context. 

“In today’s society, humans are programmed to reject typical forms of advertisements, but everyone still appreciates a helping hand when they are trying to solve a problem.” –Diego Ventura, CEO of noHold. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Most Disruptive Technology Trend in IT History... The Smart Machine Era

Earlier in the month, one of the top analyst firms in the industry posted their predictions of the top 10 strategic technology trends for the coming year. For example, being able to compute everywhere on mobile devices, embracing the Internet of Things, and 3D printing are just a few of the kinds of disruptive technologies we will be further immersed in as 2015 approaches. 

The smart machine era is another trend that is considered to be the most disruptive in IT history thus far. In this era of smart machines, they now have the capability to analyze the environment around them, learn from it, and make educated decisions on their own. Leading analysts agree that prototype self-driving cars, intelligent robots, and Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) will continue to develop at a fast pace. 

Similarly, Virtual Customer Assistants (VCA) are evolving rapidly. Using this type of disruptive technology will not only decrease support costs, but also improve the customer experience and increase revenue. According to a distinguished magazine publication, when consumers start a support interaction, they are 4x more likely to leave that interaction unsatisfied and stop shopping with your brand. The presence of a VCA allows users to find the answers to their own questions, on their own time – quickly.    

Companies that want to stay competitive need to start thinking about incorporating these strategic trends into their organization. Is your company already adopting some of these trends? If so, which ones and how? Does your eServices strategy emphasize the importance of self-service?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

noHold Kicks Off Virtual Volunteers With its First Charitable Virtual Assistant Awarded to Family Giving Tree

Photo Credit:
October 16, 2014, MILPITAS, CA – noHold is proud to announce its charitable initiative called “Virtual Volunteers,” with its first Virtual Assistant donation given to Family Giving Tree of California. The goal of noHold’s Virtual Volunteers is to provide charities, non-profits and foundations with a Virtual Assistant that interacts with website visitors to get real answers to questions real fast. Virtual Volunteers work similar to live chat; however, instead of interacting with a live person, end users interact with an Artificial Intelligence (AI). These Virtual Assistants are available 24/7 and allow supporters to find answers without human intervention. Virtual Volunteers improve customer satisfaction, help the recipient get closer to its audience, and increases donation/volunteer rates. 

Family Giving Tree is one of the first recipients, and has recently launched a Virtual Assistant. The Virtual Elf is ever-present as visitors to the website navigate through various pages, and provides a wealth of knowledge for hosts, volunteers, agencies, and offers additional information about how to donate. With successful programs focused on back to school as well as the holidays, Family Giving Tree accepted the donation to keep up with the growing popularity of giving back. In its 23rd year, the total number of gifts and backpacks donated had grown to over 900,000, making the Family Giving Tree the largest gift and backpack donation program in California.

By donating a Virtual Assistant, noHold will empower the organization to focus on its charitable mission and spend less time answering calls. Since Family Giving Tree has frequent changes in volunteer locations, donation centers, etc., the “Virtual Elf” can be updated as necessary based on the needs of the organization and its audience. In addition, the Virtual Elf will capture actionable feedback from its users, which provides a unique way for Family Giving Tree to get closer to supporters. For example, a visitor to the site might have questions about leading a drive, volunteering, donating or he/she may even be part of an agency. The Elf will first determine which of these groups the visitor belongs to, then answer specific questions automatically.  To interact with the Virtual Elf, visit, and click on “Ask the Elf!” on the lower right corner. 

“I have been a longtime fan of Family Giving Tree, so I was thrilled when they were selected to receive the same great Virtual Assistant technology we provide to our for-profit customers.  By having a Virtual “Elf” to answer common questions, the fabulous folks at Family Giving Tree can focus even more of their time on fulfilling families’ wishes.  And volunteers, agencies and hosts can get answers from the Virtual Assistant right away, even when Family Giving Tree offices are closed,” said Andrea Sahli, Member of Virtual Volunteers Committee, and Implementation Manager at noHold. 

“In order to give back to our community, noHold has recently launched Virtual Volunteers. Working with trusted brands over the past 15 years has proven that Virtual Assistants can significantly reduce costs while increasing customer satisfaction. noHold looks forward to working with The Family Giving Tree as they achieve the same success as our customers,” said Diego Ventura, CEO and Founder of noHold. 

“We are extremely grateful to noHold, Inc. for donating their time, energy and support in providing our organization with a fantastic Virtual Assistant.  The quality of service, commitment and expertise from the entire noHold staff has been incredible. We feel very privileged to work beside them on this endeavor, and highly recommend their expertise and product to both for-profit and non-profit agencies alike,” said Ashley Gilmer, Communications Specialist Elf. 

noHold plans to donate two Virtual Assistants each year to organizations selected by the Virtual Volunteers committee. More information and submission criteria can be found at:, or you can "Ask Vint" about noHold's charitable initiative.

About Family Giving Tree
The Family Giving Tree began in 1990 as a San Jose State University MBA class project. Jennifer Cullenbine and Todd Yoshida were asked to "create a program that adds value to someone else's life." They created the Family Giving Tree with the hope of providing holiday gifts to 300 children in East Palo Alto. Encouraged by the success of the first year, Jennifer decided to continue and expand the organization. In the 23rd year of the program's existence, the total number of gifts and backpacks donated had grown to over 900,000, making the Family Giving Tree the largest gift and backpack donation program in California.

About noHold Inc.
noHold is a privately held company established in 1999 and is headquartered in Milpitas, CA, USA (Silicon Valley). noHold is the acknowledged leader in Web based self-service solutions with a mission to deliver real answers to real questions - real fast. Simple to use, easy to implement and as close to human as you can get, noHold turns automated customer experience into cognitive customer interaction. noHold customers include Toshiba, Lenovo, Cisco and a host of industry leaders. More information can be found at

Press Contacts
Sarah Ramoz
Marketing Operations Manager
408.946.9200 ext. 305

Veronica Cech
Social Media Assistant
408.946.9200 ext. 356
Copyright © 2014 noHold Inc. All other product and service names are the property of their respective owners.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

3 Reasons Why Smartphone Brands Need a Virtual Customer Assistant (like Siri) for Customer Support

Photo Credit:
Happy Wednesday all! I wanted to first start off with a side note. noHold has decided to write a weekly blog (as opposed to daily), to make sure we are providing our audience with the most relevant and compelling content. Thanks for your continued support! 

In light of customer service week, I wanted to share some thoughts on why one of the World's most recognized consumer electronics companies, Apple, and brands alike, could benefit from having a Virtual Customer Assistant (VCA) for support. 

Siri, Google Now, and Cortana are some of the most well known Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA) used today. Smartphone users typically ask their VPA for directions, reviews, funny questions, and a host of other things. While these companies utilizes VPAs for users to answer personal questions, it's about time they used a VCA (similar to Siri or Cortana) for customer support. Here are three reasons why.  

#1: Apple's melt down after the release of their first update to iOS 8 is not a secret. According to an article from Computer World, "Apple today [Sept. 24] released, then quickly pulled, its first update for iOS 8 after customers flooded its support forum with reports that their iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Smartphones could no longer connect to a cellular network." Increase in customer support and service questions surrounding new software updates, and new versions are a common challenge for many companies. While it may not have been able to fix the problem in this instance, it would be able to give assurance to users that the problem is being addressed and maybe even offer some sort of condolence for the inconvenience, such as a coupon, or free song download. This way, customer satisfaction is never compromised, even in the face of technical difficulties. 

Photo Credit:
#2: What about the U2 debacle that occurred at the end of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus announcement? Many iPhone users were upset that the U2 album automatically downloaded into their iTunes, and wanted to figure out how to delete it. With the bad backlash from their marketing tactic, a VCA could have provided a solution to tens of thousands of users without costing the company big bucks to answer the phones/ emails. 

#3: Lastly, one of the leading analyst firms is predicting that companies need to start leveraging digital technologies to create a more engaging customer experience. They believe that more enterprises are exploring self-service through a VCA to reduce the volume of calls to the contact center, thus reducing support costs. Not only will a VCA reduce support costs, it can also help improve customer satisfaction in the process. 

In this age of technology, it is apparent that self-service is quickly becoming the users' preferred channel for support. Top brands, and small businesses alike need to adapt their strategies accordingly before they get left behind. 

How are you celebrating your customers this week...and daily? Is your company using digital technology to improve the customer experience? Do you agree that Smartphone vendors should leverage a VCA for customer support? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.