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AI unlocks a new path to business sustainability

How to get people to follow the right procedures and reach the best outcomes every time are questions every business asks. An approach that combines artificial intelligence with the best of humanity could be the answer.

Imagine having the best technician or most successful salesperson by your side every day, the whole day, while doing your job. He or she quietly points you in the right direction while you interact with a potential customer or resolve a troubleshooting callout. You simply refer to the expert for guidance while you concentrate on engaging with your customer.

This scenario is no longer just a dream. It is a reality that Clevva, a Bytes People Solutions (BPS) partner, has created with its decision navigators. “The only difference is that you don’t have a human by your side, but a software programme that runs on your desktop or mobile device,” says Mark Meikle-Braes, Manager: Learning Technologies at BPS.

Ryan Falkenberg, joint CEO of Clevva, compares the person-navigator interface to using a GPS while driving. The GPS takes the context of the journey into account – traffic, road conditions, and so on – and tells the driver where to go. Freed from having to worry about where to turn next, the driver focuses on operating the vehicle safely.

But the concept of the navigator has implications more far reaching than any GPS.

Employment and job creation in a country like South Africa face the dual challenge of people with inappropriate skills, and information that changes constantly. “With Clevva, we’re able to facilitate the quick transfer of information, allowing people to make complex decisions in contexts that change with each interaction.”

The issue at hand is how to scale expertise.  “One way to do this is to let technology do the thinking,” says Ryan. “Many forms of AI, such as cognitive computing, comb through massive quantities of data to work out the logic relevant to a situation and by doing so, solve problems. However, it is only useful when your company has sufficient big data.”

Ryan and his business partner – whose careers started in e-learning and technology respectively – decided there had to be a better way. Their solution was to find pockets of deep expertise in organisations, and to use that IP to build decision navigators that give people access to a virtual expert in real time. “For instance, you capture the expertise of the top sales person into a navigator and give that to hundreds of sales people. Immediately they can focus on the human interaction, instead of worrying about the knowledge needed to answer a question,” explains Ryan.

To return to the GPS analogy: the person only follows the voice prompts, instead of trying to drive safely while also reading a map and searching for street names.

A powerful impact such a system could possibly make, would be, for example, in a medical scheme contact centre that issues pre-authorisations for hospital procedures.  Instead of having highly training ICU nurses dealing with member’s calls, with the introduction of the navigator platform, people who used to be unemployed and had no medical training at all, could fill the contact centre positions. The nurses return to the hospitals where they were most needed.

“The example illustrates that a decision-making navigator turns inexperienced, even uneducated, people into valuable resources very quickly – a philosophy that resonates with the BPS approach to people development.” says Dr Madelise Grobler: MD at BPS. “A company now recruits people based on their ability to connect and engage with customers. The human factor is what makes people relevant.”

Decision navigators furthermore make organisations more flexible. Instead of replacing people when products or technology change, navigators are used to rewire old skills sets into new ones, allowing them to become valuable in another job.

A significant advantage of the system is integration with other platforms. In a contact centre environment, for instance, Clevva integrates with the existing CRM system. It uses the CRM information to enhance its decision-making logic, and feeds the learning from every interaction back into the CRM system, thus continuously enhancing the data available.

“Another advantage of Clevva,” says Mauritz Oberholzer: Business Unit Executive at BPS “is the intuitive, user-friendly interface that makes it easy for authors to import data and build the navigators using step-by-step wizards as well as drag-and-drop functionality. No coding experience is required which allows customers to be self-sufficient much faster”.

The navigator solution is already proving successful in sales, contact centres, technical problem solving in the field, operations and software support environments.

Clevva and Bytes People Solutions

Bytes People Solutions (BPS) became an official Clevva partner, specifically to help build the navigators.

“Our technology can be used by any business,” says Ryan, “but we realised companies needed help to capture their IP and build the navigators as rapidly as possible.”

The search for such a service provider led Clevva to BPS’ door. “Our experienced data solution authors work with Clevva’s customers to assist with initial enablement and accelerate the building of the solution where required.” says Mark. “In future, we will also upskill internal teams to carry out ongoing development work. It is exciting for BPS to be involved with technologies that ensure job security and workforce flexibility.”