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How to Interview a Five9 IVA for a Role in Your Digital Workforce

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Richard Dumas VP of AI Product Strategy

Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) have the skills to automate a wide range of customer service tasks. From booking appointments to taking payments, they take care of many routine and repetitive tasks that typically burden live contact center agents. One of the most common uses for IVAs is to have them answer frequently asked questions, enabling live agents to focus on more difficult problems or revenue generating activities.    

So, in the same way Kramer from a famous Seinfeld episode created a coffee table book about coffee tables, Five9 Solutions Designer, Andrew Scheel and I created an IVA that answers questions about IVAs.   

We call it our “New Hire IVA” because you can interview it to see if it should become a new member of your digital workforce. Simply call 915-Five9AI and ask it things like, “Why should I hire you?” or, “What are your qualifications?” 

We built the New Hire IVA not only to give people an easy way to learn about IVAs but also to showcase some of the powerful things they can do.   

The Voice 

To make our New Hire IVA more conversational and engaging, we used a custom synthetic voice that we cloned from a voice actor named Vaughn Joseph. The synthetic voice speaks to a caller and answers questions with audio that is almost indistinguishable from Vaughn’s actual voice. To learn how we made Vaughn’s custom voice avatar, check out this documentary-style film called “Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Custom Voice Avatar”.  We also released a new capability in Five9 Inference Studio 7 called Five9 Virtual Voiceover that enables organizations to use high-fidelity, synthetic audio to develop IVAs.  

Making it conversational  

To showcase some of the things that FAQ-style IVAs can do, we included some thought-provoking functionality into the new hire IVA, including: 

  • Having answers to more than 100 types of questions 

When you develop an FAQ-style IVA, you need to determine what questions are asked most frequently. You can do this by reviewing call recordings, call dispositions and by simply speaking to your agents. For the new hire IVA, we spoke to our sales team to understand which questions are most frequent. We then broke them into categories for things like “benefits”, “features”, “industries,” and “return on investment”. This enabled us to create a series of “intents” in our NLP engine. No, our IVA can’t answer every question. But it can answer many of the most common ones.  

  • Friendly prompts & personality 

An IVA that uses natural language processing (NLP), can respond to open-ended questions like “How can I help you?”. This gives the caller a lot of options but can sometimes confuse a caller who might not know what to ask. We addressed this problem by having the IVA offer examples of things the callers can ask (“You can ask me about my qualifications”). Also, after each response, the new hire IVA prompts the caller with coaching questions to keep the conversation going (“I could also tell you how IVAs are built). The caller can always ask for help by saying, “what are my options” or “I need some help” and can hear the information again by saying “can you please repeat that.” And to add some personality, our IVA can also tell a pretty good Dad joke. 

  • Using SMS to provide more in-depth information 

Often, callers will want to learn more about a particular topic. However, with a voice user interface, the IVA can only reply with a relatively short, spoken answer. The IVA can send SMS messages with links to datasheets, demonstration videos, whitepapers, and more to provide more in-depth information. The IVA can send an SMS to the phone number that the caller is using, or an alternate number provided by the caller. 

  • Persistence  

Callers need time to review the information that’s sent to them via SMS. To give them some extra time we made the IVA persistent – it asks if the caller would like for it to wait while they review the information. The caller can then use a “wake” word to let the IVA know that they’re back and ready to continue the conversation. The IVA suggests, “Just say, ‘I’m back’ when you’re ready to continue.” 

  • Failing gracefully 

Just like their human counterparts, IVAs can’t understand everything a caller says. Sometimes the caller will mumble or slur words. On other occasions, the IVA just won’t have an answer to the question. To handle these cases, we designed the IVA to first explain that it didn’t understand but is still learning.  It asks the caller to repeat themselves to see if it transcribed the utterance incorrectly. If the IVA still can’t match the utterance to an intent, it explains that it has noted the question so that it can be trained to respond in the future. Finally, it offers the caller the option to have someone call them back. In a production deployment, your IVA would be likely be designed to offer the caller the option to be connected to a live agent as soon as it can’t answer the question. The live agent would then receive the call and a transcript of the conversation with the IVA. 

  • Training & Optimization 

IVAs learn in several ways. First, you define a set of Intents that cover the types of questions your caller is likely to ask; for example “Cost” might be one intent. You then provide the NLP engine with a set of training phrases. These are examples for how a caller might ask the question – for example, “How much do you cost?” You don’t have to provide every question because the NLP’s machine learning engine expands your list, automatically training your IVA. IVAs are also trained using a process called supervised learning. For our new hire IVA, we created a report that logs every time the IVA didn’t have an answer for a question. That way, we can find new commonly asked questions and update the IVA to provide an answer the next time around. Additionally, we added a post-call survey (“Just say ‘survey’”) so that we could collect feedback from callers to tune the IVA continually.  

Wrapping it all up  

As consumers turn to self-service options to learn about your products and services, one way IVAs can help is by providing quick and easy answers to common questions. And it’s now easier than ever to build, train, and deploy IVAs that offer an engaging and conversational service experience. I encourage you to test drive our New Hire IVA today – just give it a call at 925-335-6191  

You can also check out the New Hire IVA at our upcoming webinar on Jan. 27. Join us to see the full range of tasks a Five9 Intelligent Virtual Agent can execute and learn the best practices for building conversational IVAs. Register today for: Demo Webinar: New Hire Intelligent Virtual Agent and Virtual Voiceover. 

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Richard Dumas VP of AI Product Strategy

Call 1-800-553-8159 to learn more about Five9