Founder and CEO of CH Consulting Group, Christa Heibel, sat down with Humach’s newly appointed President, Randy Feger, to better understand Humach’s Digital Agent strategy and their long-term success associated with the remote agent model.
Christa: I’ll start first by asking – why Humach? What was it about Humach that made you want to work there?
Randy: **laughs** Well, that’s a loaded question, because as you know, I did plan to retire from my last company last December. Some say my wife gently pushed me out of the house…. But seriously, the first reason I’m here, plain and simple, is because of the people and the culture. Our CEO Tim Houlne and our COO Kelly Uhlrich are excellent leaders in this space. But more importantly, they have built a company of seasoned leaders and agents that are focused on taking care of our clients and each other.
When you peel the onion back a bit more, I see our Digital Agent strategy as something that will significantly improve the way our clients interact with their customers, it’s what differentiates us in the marketplace. I’ve always been attracted to Humach’s passion for creating simpler, more innovative, and customer-centric experiences. It’s something I connect with on a personal level, having spent significant time in the BPO space. Humach genuinely cares about growing brands and delighting customers.
Christa: So, for those who might not already be familiar, could you tell me what a Digital Agent is and how this strategy works?
Randy: Absolutely. As you know, chatbots and IVR are typically separate and fully automated solutions in most organizations. They’re designed using a rule-based or decision-tree model that applies “if/then” logic and references a predetermined knowledge base for responses. They can’t comprehend context or understand user intent and have no capacity to learn or get smarter as the interact – which is what makes them so frustrating to use.
Our Digital Agents on the other hand, use AI, machine learning, speech recognition, and Natural Language Processing to understand user intent, interact seamlessly on any channel, and get smarter over time. They provide the perfect first level of engagement on a wide variety of common requests using human-centric language so users can interact naturally, just as they would with a human. In addition, they can securely transact to handle sensitive, time-consuming tasks that have historically needed humans, like bill pay, updating credit card information, identity verification, etc.
Now, I don’t want this interview to turn into a sales pitch, so I’ll do my best to sum it up. The thing that makes our Digital Agents different, is how they’re designed. AI is only as smart as you tell it to be, and that’s where we shine.
Our team of conversational strategists are experts on human language and interaction. They train and maintain Digital Agents for authentic and conversational interactions, and ensure the Digital Agents understand intent and get smarter over time. If there’s something a Digital Agent doesn’t know, it’s escalated to the right human agent with full conversational context (minus any sensitive personal information), and our strategists then train the Digital Agent to understand and handle that query the next time it’s asked. We call it “human-in-the-loop”.
So, with that in mind, Digital Agents can be implemented in a variety of different areas as a self-improving solution that removes friction across the entire customer and agent journey.
Christa: Could you tell us more about why Humach’s Digital Agent strategy is so important for businesses to pay attention to?
Randy: Simply stated, it improves the customer experience and increases revenue while decreasing sales and support costs. Let’s face it, the customer experience in this space needs a face-lift. We can’t continue to think that consumers will accept interacting with the outdated processes and technology; and be limited to hours of operation that do not fit the consumer’s busy lifestyles today.
Well, at the risk of dating myself here, I spent almost 29 years at AT&T and since then I’ve led operational strategies for some of the industry’s leading brands. As a consumer and as someone in the industry, one thing I know for sure is that customers make or break a brand. Loyalty comes down to that one experience…. You get one shot at getting it right.
Christa: So, are you saying that Humach’s product roadmap is going all-digital?
Randy: Contrary to popular belief, AI (machines) will never fully replace humans. The relationship between humans and machines is critical. Hence, our company name, Humach, Humans and Machines. I’m going on record here to say that there will never be a day we won’t need humans to intervene at some point in the customer journey. With that being said, a relationship between humans and machines is so critical because they make processes that have been historically time and resource consuming simpler, faster, and more cost efficient for the business. The benefits of our Digital Agent are endless. Having a symbiotic relationship between humans and machines ensures that agents of any kind (brick/mortar, virtual in the home or a hybrid hub and spoke) can deliver an exceptional experience that’s secure and satisfying to customers with less effort and less risk.
Christa: I completely agree with you on the partnership between humans and AI. I’ve worked with clients who weren’t sure how to strike the right balance between their agents and AI and forge that successful partnership, so it’s great to see your company have such a great strategy laid out. On that same note, Humach has been in the news speaking out about their remote agent model a lot lately. So, the big question is, “will Humach ever go brick-and-mortar again?”
Randy: Our CEO was one of the original pioneers of the remote agent model, which needless to say, has been very valuable to our clients recently – but all of our decisions are based on the needs of our clients. When our clients’ needs change and brick-and-mortar becomes a priority, we’ll do brick and mortar. Humach is incredibly agile and flexible in that way – it’s what we’re known for.
Christa: That’s great. Many of my recent clients and practically every contact center out there has shifted to some sort of remote workforce model due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the remote agent model is hugely important right now. How does Humach maintain the same secure infrastructure remotely?
Randy: It always comes down to being ahead of the curve and having the right processes and people on your team to manage those processes. We have so many incredibly talented individuals working behind the scenes, constantly monitoring and updating solutions and training agents to ensure full compliance and security at all times. But let me point out, prior to the recent surge of virtual workers, due to COVID, Humach has always had security protocols in place for our in-home agents. We are proud to offer our clients a secure environment whether are agents our Digital, remote or in an office.
Christa: As one of the original pioneers of the remote workforce model, what would you say goes into creating a successful remote agent program?
Randy: A lot. Much more than most people realize, which is why most organizations don’t attempt it – they come to us, so they don’t have to worry about that. **laughs**
No, but all jokes aside, a successful remote agent program has tons of tactical and strategic moving parts that I won’t bore you with, but our success in this industry has proven that the key is agility and customization. Our team has implemented programs faster than anyone else I’ve ever seen that are fully customized down to the smallest detail. Everything from agent language and security requirements to technology personas and conversation styles, being able to build a program quickly that’s tailored to the specific needs of the customer is the name of the game.
Christa: I love Humach’s tailored approach. As we both know, one size certainly does not fit all. Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
Randy: Right now, Humach is growing at a very rapid pace, which is something I’m sure you’ve seen. We’ve been very transparent about that to help further our search for talented individuals in this space. We’re looking for the best and the brightest to join our team and are very excited about what the future holds.
About CH Consulting Group: We are a nationwide team of Customer Experience and Contact Center experts in key business areas such as operations, technology, sales, and marketing. If you are looking to improve your customer experience as a whole, you can get in contact with us here.