Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Holidays from noHold


As the year is coming to an end, everyone here at noHold wishes you and your family Season's Greetings and a prosperous New Year. Cheers!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trusted Retailers Innovate the Traditional Customer Service Approach by Adding Robots as Staff

Photo Credit: newsroom.cisco.com
Over the past few years, online sales have increased tremendously and are expected to continue to rise to 10% of all US retail sales (Fitting Room Robots and Smart Mirrors: Can Retail Tech Save Stores?) Brick and mortar stores are trying to pull shoppers into the store, and are using advanced technologies to entice them to do so. 

As everyone is in the middle of holiday shopping, companies have been incorporating new technologies to accommodate the increased volume of shoppers, while still being able to provide excellent customer service. Orchard Supply Hardware is one of the companies focusing on customer service and innovation, and plans to appeal to customers by integrating OSHbots with staff. OSHbots are robotic customer assistants that help customers locate products in the store and provide them with information on the product and current promotions. Not only can they find products, but they can connect with employees from other Orchard stores when human intervention is needed. Check out this video to see OSHbots in action: 




Amazon is also utilizing robots to make sure packages get delivered on time this holiday season. Kiva's [company Amazon purchased in 2012] robots bring shelves of goods out of storage and carry them to employees, allowing Amazon to retrieve more items for more customers simultaneously. Amazon began using these robots in July of this year, and there are now more than 15,000 of them in 10 of the company's warehouses." (Robots Shipping Your Order this Holiday Season)

Artificial Intelligence and robotics are working together to revolutionize how we look at customer service. Do you think other retailers are going to adopt robotic sales associates? If so, how do you think customers will react?
www.nohold.com

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Artificial Intelligence to Help Improve Communication Skills in Autistic Children – How Siri Did It

In the spirit of the holidays and being grateful for all we have, I wanted to share this heartwarming story I read titled, “To Siri, With Love – how one boy with autism became BFFs with Apple’sSiri.” It was written in the form of a letter from a mother whose son was born autistic. She took the time to write a thank you letter to Siri for being a friend to her son and teaching him many things that he might not have understood before; for example, showing him the essence of companionship.

Technology has been proven to be one of the most effective ways for children with autism to improve communication and social skills, and enhance learning abilities. The technology is advancing as well. According to experts in this field, next generation virtual assistants are going to be able to do more than just retrieve information – they'll be able to have a more complex conversation within that persons area of interest. "Your son will be able to proactively get information about whatever he’s interested in without asking for it, because the assistant will anticipate what he likes," said William Mark, Vice President for Information and Computing Sciences of a leading independent research center. Relating this back to the story above, this boy could actually have an intuitive, fluid conversation with a virtual assistant about topics that interest him; in this case, the weather.

Virtual Assistants and self-service are a trending option in today’s market but as you can see, their benefits can go far beyond the scope of support or sales. People want to be able to do things their own way, on their own time, and that includes socially. Some people are just more comfortable chatting with Artificial Intelligence than others. And in this particular case, that allowed this autistic boy to feel comfortable but still get that social interaction that human beings desire.

Here is a video from ABCNews.com describing just how Siri helped this teenage boy.


What is your opinion on children with disabilities and technology? Is it pushing them away from human interaction or better preparing them? Should children in school classrooms have access to a virtual assistant to facilitate learning? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How Self-Service Can Increase Revenue and Customer Satisfaction this Holiday Season

Photo Credit: newyork.cbslocal,com
While the holidays are a time filled with love and joy, they can also be one of the most hectic times of the year. Yes, I am talking about the infamous holiday shopping experiences. No parking, long lines, and crazy crowds are something everyone can agree does not put cheer into the holiday season.

While shopping for consumers is hectic on its own, the companies are feeling the holiday pressure as well. Large and small businesses alike must strengthen customer service options to prepare for the increased volume of sales. Not just for the initial sale, but also for the customer service, care, support and overall customer engagement that follows.
According to an article from salesforce.com, one tip for your company’s customer service to conquer the holiday rush is to “improve self-service support.” Since companies can already predict the high volume of customer interactions (and the short fuses they have by the end of a long day), implementing a web-based, Virtual Customer Assistant (VCA) for consumers to find the answers to questions on their own terms will take some of the load off, while making consumers happy they didn't have to spend even more time waiting on hold or getting passed around to different representatives.

VCA’s aren't just useful for support questions though. For example, many electronics require product registration. The VCA can quickly offer guidance through the process, while answering any questions that may arise, and/or cross-sell other products/services when appropriate.

Mobile shopping is another major factor effecting companies this year. “If it wasn't official last year, it will be this year – holiday shoppers are eager to shop online for gifts and other needs. According to a survey, 56 percent plan to shop online, up from 51.5 percent last year and the most in the survey’s 13- year history. Additionally, the average person plans to do 44.4 percent of their shopping online, the most since NRF first asked to 2006.” (National Retail Federation) Providing customers with the tools they need to make the holiday shopping experience easier is key to increasing sales, but moreover, increasing loyalty.

How is your company enhancing self-service and engagement options this year? Does your strategy incorporate usability for mobile shoppers?

We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy!

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: vocalcom.com
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 http://thenetwork.cisco.com.

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 www.nohold.com.

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