By Erin Romeo

Most of us understand why our shoes get conveyed through a tunnel of love at the airport.  Belts off, laptops out, and anything over three ounces of fluid disappears.  Those TSA agents are usually a heavily perfumed lot, but the “why” is in place, so the “how” doesn’t get us too agitated.  The same is true of Big Data, our bored tone only slightly conveys indignance when we recite our zip codes at cash registers, but we get it.  We notice when “street view” vehicles drive by, and we connect the dots on what trunk mounted license plate scanners are possibly doing.  We work to build an identity and fret over it being stolen.  In the dark alleyways off the information highway, we imagine, lie in wait all sorts of villains with malfeasance at heart, and, worse to some, the heartless logic and global reach of artificial intelligence.  Where is business intelligence headed, and on the landscape of interactions between consumers and producers, where is technology aiding compliance and balance between liberty and safety?

Skynet is not, currently, self-aware.  At present, practical AI is a complex machine of workflows from “yes”, “no”, and “directive”, the latest yes bot spin of these three is “contextual reference.”  At Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner conference this year there was much discussion about a new tool called Delve.  Originally named Project Oslo, the tool utilizes associations in the office graph to produce and present a list of most likely needed resources based upon current activity.  What’s an office graph?  Good question, this is an expanse of stored historical data which includes your interactions with productivity tools like MS Office, Outlook Calendar, Explorer searches, unified communication, etc.  Let’s say I’m working on an article submission and I type the words “you can dance if you want to,” Delve will offer to connect me to folks I have danced with, met with about dancing, worked on Dance Projects with, and articles on Men Without Hats.  Yes, it works best when you live and work religiously within an operating system, go figure.  Yes, it’s much better than I describe for those using interconnected social media, Consumer Resource Management, ticketing, and Enterprise Resource Planning tools.  No, it’s not that much different from Google reading your emails to offer you products mentioned therein.  Delve is the Cortana for your computer, which these days, is not on your desk anymore, it’s networked, backed up, and clouded.  This delivery and confluence of information further exasperates the fear of data exposure.   AI, at its root is, a collection capacities from information systems which includes Decision Support Systems, Process Automation, and Knowledge Management Systems.  This all should sound suspiciously close to “yes”, “no”, “directive” and pattern detection. 

You’re quite a way, through several multisyllabic words, for me to now mention that I believe that the contact center is the undisputed champion in technology adoption.  I also believe you may be a contact center in denial.  Call centers full of chain smoking cube farm inhabitants no longer exist.  Our kids demand service across a range of media types, and those market expectations are driving a democratization of cont@ct center table stakes for companies of all sizes.  Historically contact centers have driven outsourcing, e-commerce, globalization, unified communication, presence, VOIP, SIP, etc. and done so with a heavy focus on return of investment and measured deliverables in time on hold, or cost per call, to name a few basic metrics.  These organizations specialize in efficacy in collaboration, collaboration drives innovation, and you do both.  Contact Centers have been using intelligence for decades to be better.  The agent, with proper tool sets, knows who you are before they pick up, knows what your account number is or what choices you made, or said, in the Interactive Voice Response System.  They know what’s in your shopping cart when you opted to escalate up to a web chat to ask questions before purchasing online, and they have been empowered with the appropriate scripts based upon your balance, your payment history, or your rank.  Contextual reference in real-time, before the call is connected, and then the fun begins.  From this backdrop, let’s look at two examples on different sides of the intelligence and security question.

In 1986 in a small town called Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a tragedy occurred on a campus.  It was deemed that the victim was failed not only by the moral code of the assailant, but more terrible, by the lack of information of reported crimes on campus which attributed to the student’s vulnerability.  At question was whether or not the University should be liable for informing its students about known unsolved offenses.  It was not hard fought.  Now a federal statute, The Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act was passed four years later, and was renamed the Jeanne Clery Act to memorialize the victim.  The tenants of the act call for public reporting of annual security, crime statistics and logs, and, “timely warnings” to the faculty and student body in emergency situations. At heart, institutions wish to inform, the struggle is in the gap, the valley between the information and how we deliver it out.  Originally, colleges resorted to emergency call boxes and broadcast speakers for ineffective air raid type broadcasts.  Enter contact center technology.  Many schools had outbound dialing platforms for Alumni Drive campaigns or weather notification calls.  What if that resource was repurposed, in time of need, and connected to a curriculum and registration database?  Then an automated, even remote, process could be triggered to dial all the phone numbers of the people who were scheduled to be on campus to provide said timely warning.  Because this was proven so effective, and because crimes took a more horrific, mass, and widespread impact as the years rolled by, uncompliant campuses were now more obvious.  Between 2008 and 2012 fourteen higher education, brand name Universities, were fined for non-compliance, but this is trending away.  Now, more and more education institutions, including kindergarten through twelfth grade schools, have adopted the Cleary Act plan as an extension of their communication and information systems.  What’s left is a clear connection, for the public good, of timely information and delivery.

We want information aggregation for public safety, outside of that, we pretty much want full lock down. What’s in your wallet comes with some known consumer protection.  The foundation of your feeling of security comes from your credit card company’s constant communication that there is a dispute process, and this stems from a set of security performance conditions they put on vendors.  The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is an information security standard for organizations that handle cardholder information.  Organizations that take credit card payments are becoming so skittish that gas station attendants won’t touch my card, fine by me, but now I have to watch a video tutorial on a self-service POS systems at Chili’s.  What about our hyper performing contact center group?   Mixing payment acceptance with known quality assurance recording poses an interesting automation challenge.  For an agent to use a PCI compliant system, communications must meet some guidelines, like they must be on a secure network, it must be encrypted, and they must be able to pause the recordings to protect cardholder data.  The key is the pause and whether or not the contact center automates it.  If the quality management system is also screen capturing what the agent is doing on their PC, then the pause has to bridge both screen capture and call recording.  All of this can be easily triggered automatically by opening the payment processing screen, if the tool has an open API, or the manufacturer offers advanced service packages for tailoring to the myriad of infrastructure realities across organizations.  Not storing credit card information does not guarantee that an agent won’t go on a suspicious shopping spree, but, clearly, there would be a trail of data bread crumbs that would be discoverable exposing the culprit.  The information still exists, and this conversation then shifts to one about who has access.  In the end, PCI compliance works to limit the storage of sensitive information which could be harvested by bored 13 year old Czechoslovakian kids who prefer Walmart over Target.

We live in an open information world.  Some would argue that it’s a mile wide and an inch deep, some are better at click through.  Roles, presence, and access are our navigation tools.  As a consumer you want the ability to gather as much information around features and benefits of a product before coming to a decision, but as a citizen you wish to keep your research close to the vest.  Sounds like an opportunity for a Contextual Automated Decision Effort, let’s call it C.A.D.E.  We’ll have Scarlett Johansson do the voice over and build in witty banter, but, we still have to provide the directive.