Monday, September 22, 2014

Virtual Agents Help Fight The Flu Season

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a great weekend.

I wanted to start off this week by addressing all the coughing, sniffling, and sneezing you have been hearing around lately. School started back up, seasons changed... and the dreaded flu season sneaks up on us again. Here is a short video from CNN's YouTube channel with some Do's and Don'ts for the flu season. 

During these peak seasons, an influx in call volume pours into the call center; including companies in the health care industry. "Should I get a flu shot?" "Where can I get a flu shot nearest to me?" "My young child has the flu, what should I do?" These are all typical questions that get asked during these times that can cause a lot of congestion in the call centers. Utilizing automated self-service, such as a Virtual Agent, allows patients to get answers to their questions quick and easy. Not only is it easier for patients, but it also benefits call center agents, who now have more time to answer complex questions that require human intervention.    

noHold has customers that come from a wide array of industries: from consumer electronics, health care, telecommunications, financial, security software, and more. The ability for companies to customize Virtual Agent content, as well as the style of the conversation makes these self-service applications the perfect solution for any business in any industry, especially during peak seasons.  

In the future, will Virtual Agents be able to interpret symptoms and make a diagnosis? Can a Virtual Agent act as an advice nurse during hours when a human is unavailable? Tell us what you think.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Look Back at noHold's Top Stories of the Week: Sept. 15th-19th

Cheers to another great week, but before we leave the office for the weekend, here's a chance to look back at some of the interesting news posted this week. 

1. noHold recently celebrated its 15th birthday! Thanks to everyone for the kind wishes! 

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2. Virtual Agent Tips and Tricks: Google Now Features Better than Siri? Better than Cortana?
There has been some heavy competition between Virtual Assistants in the news lately. Here, we talked about some of the lesser-known features of Google Now, and how it stacks up to Siri and Cortana.

3. "Outsourcing is not a new paradigm; in fact, many well-known and trusted brands leverage BPO vendors to successfully manage customer support, service, sales and more.

In order to drive productivity and efficiency, companies turn to BPOs. According to the infographic from INFINIT-O on the right, companies are increasing the amount they spend on outsourcing, while in-house spending is remaining relatively constant." 
Click on infographic to enlarge.

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Click the title 'The Benefits of a Virtual Agent for BPOs' to read the full blog.

Mobile phone user interfaces have been changing ever since the inception of the first cell phone. Mobile phones went from large, chunky devices, to tiny, basic devices. Now, smartphones are moving back toward larger screens, but with sleeker designs. Virtual Agent user interfaces have been adapting since their inception as well. From simple text on a DOS screen, to fully integrative, multi-pane U.I.'s with avatars and promotions. Check out this blog for more information on the progression of U.I.'s

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Thanks for taking the time to read about what has been going on with noHold within the last week.

I'll leave you with this truly innovative picture, and hope you have an enjoyable weekend! 

Future Payphones
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: From Large Mobile Phones to Small Mobile Phones...and Back to Large?

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Happy Throwback Thursday!

With all the buzz around the announcement of the new iPhone 6, and the competition releasing their new smartphones on the market, it seems fitting to look back at the beginning designs of mobile phones. 

To the left you can see the progression of mobile phones. When Motorola first put out their cell phone, it was almost bigger than a house phone, but as time went on, they recognized the demand for smaller phones. Likewise, other major cell phone manufacturers followed suit and kept trying to make mobile phones smaller and smaller. 

As you can see in today's generation, mobile phones are turning into smartphones, and those smartphones are reverting back to the 'bigger is better' motto. Apple typically remained the same size, but with their latest iPhone, the screen is much larger than previous models. It is comparable to Samsung's Galaxy Note smartphones. With all the features and capabilities, developers needed to adapt the user interface to better fit all of the functionality. 

Similar to smartphones, the User Interfaces (UI) of Virtual Agents have progressively changed over the course of time to better accommodate users. In the past, Virtual Agent interfaces were text on a DOS screen, and eventually evolved to look very similar to AOL instant messenger. Now, Virtual Agents have become more sleek, can include multi-pane U.I.'s, avatars and promotions, the potential for speech capabilities, predictive text, and much more. In the past, Virtual Agents found their home on a website, and were best accessed from a laptop or computer; however, today, Virtual Agents make so much sense for the mobile customer experience (right, Siri?).

The user interface is not the only thing that is constantly updated; the administrative tools have also come a long way. For example, Virtual Agents can now integrate with third-party platforms, provide custom reporting, and with the Internet of Everything now in play, the capabilities are endless.  

What do you think the future of user interfaces will look like? How do you think the Internet of Everything will play a role in device designs? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Benefits of a Virtual Agent for BPOs

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Outsourcing is not a new paradigm; in fact, many well-known and trusted brands leverage BPO vendors to successfully manage customer support, service, sales and more. 

In order to drive productivity and efficiency, companies turn to BPOs. According to the infographic from INFINIT-O on the left, companies are increasing the amount they spend on outsourcing, while in-house spending is remaining relatively constant. 

Leading analyst firms agree that Virtual Agents play an important role in a successful customer interaction, which bleeds into integration in the services that BPOs provide. Automation, profitability, and scalability are just a few of the challenges that Business Process Outsourcers face. And in a new era of smart machines, Virtual Agents offer a competitive advantage. 

Here are just a few use cases for adding a Virtual Agent to the BPO's existing portfolio of services:

1. Increase revenue by adding disruptive new offerings. 
BPO companies can offer their customers the Virtual Agent to provide a scalable solution that will continue to work as the company grows. The Virtual Agent can also be used to increase conversion rates and generate more leads by suggesting products or services in the appropriate context. BPO companies can also offer the Virtual Agent during peak seasons such as seasonal demand, new product offerings, or even natural calamities. 
By offering the Virtual Agent, BPO companies increase revenue, while providing their customers with the best services for their needs, when they need it.     

2. Increase efficiency at Call Center (lower AHT and training time).
By implementing a Virtual Agent, Contact Center Agents can ask the VA questions while on the phone with customers, follow business guidelines and procedures easily, and can rely on a single repository of information for correct and consistent answers.

3. Provide a competitive strategic advantage.
Leading analyst firm predicts that BPOs must adopt 'automation' to achieve non-linear growth. 

Whether a company adds a Virtual Agent to the existing in-house Contact Center, positions it on the Website as a self-service option, or your BPO vendor provides one for Contact Center Agents, it is a a cost-effective way to provide the end user with the new standard for customer service. 

What do you think about the future of the Contact Center? Do you see Virtual Agents empowering the Contact Center (either outsourced or in-house)?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Virtual Agent Tips and Tricks: Google Now Features Better Than Siri? Better than Cortana?

When we talk about Personal Virtual Assistant, Siri usually is the first name that comes to mind. Although, Siri might be one of the better-known virtual assistants, it certainly is not the only one. 

In the past we have talked a lot about some of the cool features most people didn't know about Siri. For this week's Virtual Agent tips and tricks blog, I wanted to share with you some lesser known features, about Google Now. Here are "9 Things You May Not Have Known About Google Now." (2014, Daniel Bean, Yahoo! Tech)

1. You can ask specific question to bring up information cards.
2. You can say, "Hey, Google" to launch the app.
3. Google can learn your relationships to contacts.
4. There are plenty of fun tricks and Easter eggs.
5. You can make Google Now smarter through a survey.
6. Android Wear watches can run Google Now, too. 
7. It features a handy tip calculator.
8. Google Now is available on your PC.
9. It can identify music and TV programs just by listening. 

As you can tell, some of these features definitely overlap with Siri features such as learning contact relationships, but others are unique to Google Now like being available on wearable devices and using information cards to answer specific questions.  

There is always heated debates about which Personal Virtual Assistant is the best: Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Watson, etc. Just check out the commercial Microsoft put out emphasizing the rivalry between Siri and Cortana. 

What is your opinion on the virtual rivalries? Which virtual assistant do you use, or would you use? Why?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy 15th Birthday, noHold!

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Last Friday, September 12, we celebrated noHold’s 15th birthday. We have always prided ourselves on being one of the longest standing virtual agent vendors to date. In an interview with Connected World Magazine, Diego Ventura, the CEO of noHold, talks briefly about how the concept of noHold all started.

CW (Connected World): It is said that the past is prologue, and in that spirit, can I ask you to describe how you came to start noHold 15-years ago?

DV (Diego Ventura): noHold is my second company; my first company was STEFRA Corp. We created a product called Video Control that was bundled with most of the Web cameras of the time. It was a very successful enterprise for us, but it also meant that millions of new customers had questions about our software. I have always been passionate about AI (artificial intelligence), so we thought about creating an Expert System that could answer customers’ questions automatically. The idea caught on and I realized there was the opportunity to create a separate company. I raised $15 million from VCs (venture capitalists) and started noHold.”
To read the full interview, please follow this link.

Throughout the years, we have continued to watch and contribute to the growth of this industry. noHold has acquired great experience over the 15 years of developing Expert Systems and we've determined best practices that help our clients enhance the customer experience, but our technology is also flexible and continuously adapting to keep up with the rapid growth of technology. As the acknowledged leader in Web based self-service solutions, we are very happy that in the past few years, Virtual Agents and artificial intelligence have grown to become household names. More and more people are feeling comfortable interacting and having a conversation with their technologies (artificial intelligence) than ever before. We predict great growth in Virtual Agent adoption, especially within the Internet of Everything (IoE). Nevertheless, we are looking forward to what the next 15 years will bring. Cheers!  

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Look Back at noHold's Top Stories of the Week: Sept. 8th-12th

As another week comes to an end, lets take a look back at some of the exciting news that happened this week. 

noHold's Product and Engineering Manager, Dario De Santis, had the opportunity to be involved in a case study with one of our partners, Rackspace, leaders in the managed cloud computing space. Here is a video of Dario explaining how Rackspace is an essential component for noHold products. 

On Sept. 9, 2014, Apple announced what they have been working so hard to keep a secret: the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay. With all these new devices there wasn't much talk about Siri. While Microsoft and Google further develop their personal virtual assistants for their smartphones, is Apple falling behind in this space? 

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"I think Siri has proven to us that people want to relate to their phone in a different way. Yes it can be broader and so forth, but we see unbelievable potential here. I think you're going to be happy with where it's going. We're doubling down on it." (

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Almost a quarter of a century ago, the first Internet search engine, Archie, was launched. Ever since then we have progressed to making searching more interactive and intuitive. Check out this blog to find out more about how search has improved over time. 

Thanks for another great week all, we'll see you here next week! Have a great weekend.