Skeptic to Believer in Conversational AI The Choice Hotels Story
Choice Hotels, one of the largest hotel franchises in the world with over 7,000 hotels, had a bumpy experience with their original provider of conversational AI that didn’t feel very “conversational.” After being disillusioned with what they were sold, Choice Hotels didn’t give up chasing the experience they wanted for their customers.
For the first time, Choice Hotels is speaking out on their journey with conversational AI that finally moved them from skeptics to believers and what it meant for their business.
What You Will Learn:
- What changed that turned Choice into a believer in conversational AI
- The most important lessons learned after working with multiple vendors
- How to avoid the biggest mistakes with AI-powered virtual agents
- What Choice Hotels wished they knew before they started
Sr Director, Customer Care Strategy,
Pauline M. Aponte
Senior Manager, Analytics & WFM,
Chief Marketing Officer,
Skeptic to Believer in Conversational AI – The Choice Hotels Story
Brian Morin: Well, good afternoon, everybody. My name is Brian Morin with SmartAction. I’m the Head of Marketing over here at SmartAction. We do AI powered virtual agents as a service, and this is our June customer spotlight webinar. Every month, we like to highlight a different customer of ours and talk about their customer journey with conversational AI as that journey is different for every single customer. I know that a number of those that are joining in typically are those who are at the precipice or looking at going beyond press one experience and stepping into the world of an AI powered CX. And so we know these webinars are especially helpful just to talk about the nuts and bolts of that journey, talking about the overarching strategies of what different customers in different verticals are doing, and some of the tactics that are driving them to be successful.
Now with us today is Choice Hotels and happy to have you with us today, both Jason Coats, who is a Senior Director of Customer Care Strategy at Choice Hotels. And then also working closely with him is Pauline, Workforce Manager there at Choice Hotels. Good to have you both with us today. They are speaking out for the very first time publicly about their experience with conversational AI, how that impacts Choice, what that has done for them, both from a CX standpoint, a cost saving standpoint, a business continuity standpoint, which we’ll be getting into. And Jason, I can’t say I know for sure, I believe that you’ve been a customer of ours for is it about a year, a little under a year, where are we at?
Jason Coats: Yeah, well, we’ve been a customer for a while. We actually went live with the voice channel bot in late October last year.
Brian Morin: Gotcha. So a lot of times, whenever those are listening in to a customer of ours talking about their journey, it’s pretty common for us to bring in a customer after we’ve had an implementation with them for six months or one year and they can kind of give that before and after contrast. But just so that the audience knows, what’s different about this conversation with Choice Hotels is they have used multiple vendors, they have tried different conversational AI solutions. And so their arc and their journey is a little different. They’re not, by any means, new kids on the block when it does come to trying voice automation in particular. And so have a little bit different vantage point that they can share, at least in seeing how technology and solutions have changed and evolved in the marketplace.
So today’s webinar is intended to be just a little bit more podcast style, more or less, just kind of a Q and A conversation between Jason, I, and Pauline. But we do love it to be audience driven as much as possible. So this is not so much a set presentation as much as it is just going through a Q and A that Jason and Pauline and I have done before. But what we would love is for this to be audience driven as much as possible. So please, if you can, just chime your question or your comment in to the Q and A box or chat box. I’ll make sure and get those open on my screen right now so I can see them as they come through. So as you have any comments or questions yourselves, please jump in with those, be part of this conversation. I’ll get it kickstarted with Jason and Pauline, but we love for the audience to jump in and drive it with your own questions as well.
So in case you’re joining and this is your very first time hearing about SmartAction, this webinar is not intended to be about SmartAction. It’s about Choice Hotels and, more broadly, what conversational AI is doing for them, how it’s impacting their business. But just to give you the only need to knows about us on screen, we do AI Powered Virtual Agents as a service. And what that means is that we deliver the full conversational AI technology stack, and we bundle it with end to end CX services. And that means everything, the design, the build, the ongoing operation.
So rather than just being a … Instead of us being a technology provider just trying to sell software licenses, what’s makes us different is we do step in more as a partner who is responsible for the bottom line savings and CX that is promised. And of course, we’ll talk a little bit about partnership here at Choice Hotels. And we’d like to think that this approach has been winning for us. We are currently the top rated solution on Gartner Peer Insights, and we manage the CX for more than 100 brands, and just seeing a few of those on screen.
So Jason, Pauline, I think before we even get into this, let’s go ahead and just set the table a little bit about Choice Hotels. Choice Hotels is one of the largest franchisors in the world, and then certainly among the largest hotel franchisors in the world. Over 7,000 different hotels under your brand. I know Choice Hotels is the umbrella company for many global brands that sit within it. So Jason Pauline, maybe just tell us a little bit about Choice and your role, and just a little bit about facts and figures there that you want to share.
Jason Coats: Sure, absolutely. So as you mentioned, we’re a very large franchisor. In fact, we’re 100% franchised. So as such, our primary objective is to drive success for those hotel owners. Many of our hotel owners are owner operators. So these are family businesses that we’re supporting most of the time here. So we handle, in our contact center operation, somewhere in the neighborhood of about 8 million customer contacts annually. About two thirds of that volume is on the voice channel. And that’s spread all around the world amongst multiple level call centers. And I’ll let Pauline speak to kind of more of the details there as well.
Pauline Aponte: And so, like you said, we’re a global organization. We have about 1400 agents during peak season with our multiple call centers that are globally. We have about seven different call center vendors.
Brian Morin: Great.
Jason Coats: That’s another important thing to note as we are 100% outsourced.
Brian Morin: Right. So before I jump in really kind of getting into the first question, which is more or less the origin story of kind of why and why you started? What were those initial challenges? Just so the audience understands what we are talking about here is the type of technology that’s being deployed at Choice Hotels, you can see on screen the core capabilities of conversational AI. Now the conversation we’re having today, we’re keeping it to the voice channel. That’s what we’re currently automating with Choice. However, this is an omni-channel solution where you can build an application, either in voice or in digital, and then you can scale that to other channels. A virtual agent is going to be connected to the same data as live agents. That means the same ability to read that data, to write that data, and also speak that dynamically in a way that sounds very human sounding so you don’t get that kind of robotic appeal.
And lots of other capabilities. Since you are being data dipped, it’s predicting why customers might be calling, being able to personalize. And most importantly, you can see the recognition and cognition piece. That’s the two different AI technologies or engines that are stacked one on top of the other. One is the ability to recognize what somebody is saying. And then it’s the backend cognitive ability to extrapolate intent from a sentence so you are getting that natural language feel. Essentially all the tools to mimic live agent behavior. And I think that just so that we can begin to pull the audience into this conversation, Jason and Pauline, it might make sense just to start, first, very simply with what is Choice Hotels automating today with AI powered virtual agents?
Jason Coats: Yeah. I’ll let Pauline speak to this first and then I’ll go second.
Pauline Aponte: Sure. So we’re doing a few things. The first one is we’re being proactive and we’re offering the caller’s information based on data that we previously drove call volume. For example, when they call in right away, we notice they’re a loyalty member and we go ahead and give them their points without even asking for the points. We’re also doing simple account changes and inquiries. We’re offering cancellations of booking details and self-service for reservation options.
Jason Coats: Yeah. So we really wanted to start off with what are the big rocks, right? So as we look at the caller’s disposition, the caller’s intents, what are the things that we can automate quickly and easily? We’re very much of the philosophy that we wanted to partner with an organization that was aligned with us in such a way that we were constantly seeking better, we’re constantly fine tuning, we’re constantly in development. This is not something that we ever walked into thinking that, okay, we’re going to have this big bang solution, it’ll all be done, and when the release happens, it’ll all be perfect. That’s absolutely not the case here, but we know that’s not the case from experience with prior relationship, prior vendor.
And we knew that we wanted to iterate off of this. And that’s where we’re at today is we’ve been working through multiple releases every month, every couple of weeks, where we’re fine tuning things, we’re releasing new functionality. So we have a very long roadmap for this thing too.
Brian Morin: Yep. Good. And if you can rewind in time, both you, Jason, Pauline, I know that it’s not, I kind of mentioned on the front end, it’s not by any means that you are early adopters and this is your first six months or one year with voice automation. This has really been an arc for you, a journey. Maybe you can even rewind this back to the beginning, if you can. Why were you an early adopter in voice automation? What challenges were you facing that made you consider, yes, we do need to start trying to implement some type of voice automation into Choice Hotels?
Jason Coats: Well, considering that the team got into this space before I arrived at Choice two years ago, I’ll let Pauline talk about kind of what started this, and then I can speak to why we changed course a bit.
Brian Morin: Sure.
Pauline Aponte: We’ve noticed through reporting, especially in our loyalty program, that we kept getting over and over again, customers calling in for the same issue or the same questions. And the cost to answer these questions over and over again was costly. We knew it was just time to step up into that automation stage and then we got started.
Brian Morin: So then Jason, because that really kind of segues here to there was a certain tipping point that came along for Choice where you had different vendors, you had tried different solutions. Of course, here, we don’t want to name those here. But I know those that are on the outside looking in, here’s where they’re able to glean a lot of the experience that you’ve gone through on your own bumpy road. And I get some of that is just realizing not all conversational AI solutions are the same. So Jason, maybe you can just talk just a little bit about really kind of what was your tipping point for change realizing that you needed to … It wasn’t meeting expectations, and either from a technology standpoint or relationship standpoint.
Jason Coats: Yeah, Brian. I don’t know if this is funny or sad, but I’ll tell you the story either way. I was at Choice for just a few months. And a couple of times a year, we bring the leaders from our contact centers around the world to one of our corporate offices and we have a week long summit where we go through all kinds of exercises in alignment and strategy sessions, et cetera. One of the things that we were doing at that time was walking through what the true customer experience was. And we had 40 or so people in a large conference room and we wanted to walk through the customer’s experience from start to finish. So our intent was to go through the existing IVR at the time, talk to an agent with a real world request, and then get the leaders aligned with what kind of experience are we trying to drive here?
The unfortunate thing is we didn’t have conversational AI at the time, we had some natural language recognition. But when we were going through the IVR flow, the old technology could not recognize certain things we were saying that were basic things it should have recognized immediately. After multiple attempts, the darn thing hung up on us. So we knew that we immediately had a horrible, broken experience. So we immediately leapt into action. And then we said, “Okay, how can we fix this thing?” We put in a couple of kind of gap fixes. But fundamentally, the team already knew that the solution we had in place was not the right one. Not saying that that was necessarily a bad vendor, it just was a misalignment between two organizations. For me, a true partnership is, one where you’ve got a cultural alignment and everybody’s marching toward the same goal. And that, in this case, is an experience that has the least amount of friction in it.
Brian Morin: Right. Right. And then ultimately, kind of going through that process of perpetual improvement, continue to chase that effortless experience.
Jason Coats: Exactly right.
Brian Morin: So here you are, you’re … I think, Pauline, you did a good job describing you knew that you needed automation in place, the cost of those conversations for live agents to handle them just didn’t make any sense, you’re hurting on the CX front because as much as you are gleaning, some of those cost savings, you’re hurting on the CX front, you’re at the drawing board. For you, going out in marketplace and looking at solutions and baking on vendors, how important of a consideration was CX for you when you’re looking for the fit into your organization?
Pauline Aponte: Yeah. For Choice, I mean, loyalty drives business and that drives … The customer experience drives loyalty. So we knew for us, it was very important. Our goal is to avoid that friction and that frustration, and we had to improve that customer experience.
Jason Coats: Yeah. And I mean, obviously it’s no secret, loyalty in the hospitality industry is pretty darn important. So for us, a customer can hop to another brand very, very easily. And the more frustration we put in the process, the more likely they are to disengage from us. And that’s cross channel. Obviously, we’re talking about the voice channel here today. But we look at how do, like many companies, how do we make this as easy as possible for the customer? And I think in our old solution, we just over-engineered everything. We made things so complex. We were gathering so much information from the customer. And then we’re delivering it to the agent desktop and overwhelming the agent with all of this information. And it tweaked their conversation to the point where they couldn’t have a natural conversation flow.
So we were really not only messing up the experience in using the technology, but we were messing up the experience with the agent as well. And so, when we sat down with the SmartAction team to start kind of anew with all of this, they were very forthright in sharing their opinions of how we over-engineered it. They were very helpful in that process and helping us know what we didn’t already know.
Brian Morin: Right. Right. Well, Jason, since both you and Pauline, kind of as an early adopter of voice automation, you certainly have had a front row seat, at least in seeing how technologies or solutions … How technology is changing and evolving, how the services and solutions wrapped around that are changing and evolving. Since you are kind of here speaking up for the first time, having gone through this journey on screen, I don’t know if you can even put your finger on any particular takeaways that you’ve seen on how the technology and solutions have changed over time, that, at least for you, have turned you into a believer.
Jason Coats: Yeah, I can speak to it from a prior role. I understand I think last month you were talking to my former colleagues over at AAA. So that’s where I came from. And so I had some exposure to SmartAction, as well as a number of other providers in this space. And we really walked into this with my knowledge from prior role, the team’s experience with the last solution that we had. And we knew we wanted to handle this, kind of pivot point a little bit differently. So one of the key things that we did through our RFP process, through our assessment process that we did last year about this time, was really kind of getting into the weeds and understanding what the capabilities were. And with any partnership, any vendor selection process, you have to get past the sales function, you have to talk to current clients, you have to actually call in to companies that use their solution. And understanding what’s in place today? What’s their maturity level with the solution? Ours is probably not going to be as great as somebody that you guys have been partnering with for years.
Brian Morin: Yeah. That have been through that experience for awhile. Yeah.
Jason Coats: Right. And so, Pauline and her team really did a ton of just test calls to different organizations to see what’s the experience of if I’m in a customer’s shoes? And it was very, very telling.
Brian Morin: Right. Well, so right now, we’re all living through this right now, this pandemic that just hit us all out of nowhere. We’re kind of now at the point everybody has already implemented their business continuity plans and made those adjustments. But Jason and Pauline, I mean, just like it hit you, it just hit everybody at once out of nowhere, and for a lot of organizations, left them scrambling. For those that didn’t have any AI in place, that would cause business continuity to suffer. And some did. In your case, obviously you had already finished and completed your AI powered virtual agent implementation. How much did that help Choice during the pandemic?
Jason Coats: Yeah. I will tell you, certainly, we did not provide wonderful service as I don’t think any call center around the world did during this time. But I will say it would have been much, much worse without the AI. So with seven contacts in our locations around the world, we were dealing with everything from spikes in call volume to drops in other kinds of call volumes. So trying to move agents from group A to group B and do cross training on the fly and things like that, to all of a sudden, these contact centers are in foreign countries as well. And so we’re not just worried about what’s going on here in the US, it’s what’s this other government going to do next? And in some cases, they were pretty unpredictable. We had our largest contact center close with one hour notice on us. So we were challenged quite a bit, and in an environment that we thought we had wonderful business continuity plans. And then, Pauline, what was our spike in cancellation volume, was the big problem?
Pauline Aponte: 400%. Yeah. Number one call driver was cancellations. And definitely having the IVA, that self-help option for cancellations, definitely lessened the impact. So we were lucky to have that.
Brian Morin: Because certainly if that wasn’t in place, then I guess that would mean you’re already overwhelmed and reduced FTEs, who are scrambling for their own work from home situations, that just would’ve just compounded the problem.
Jason Coats: Exactly right. So moving forward, we’re looking at what many, many organizations are looking at. How do we ensure that we have business continuity plans that are even more robust than they are today? And getting folks to a home environment successfully, often on a moment’s notice. But also, how can we leverage the technology we have? How can we build it out for those scenarios? That it may only handle a handful of interactions daily now, but let’s anticipate what customers are going to be calling for in a pandemic type situation and start to build those out so that they can do the heavy lifting for us should that occur again.
Brian Morin: Yeah. No, that’s good. So Jason, Pauline, one of the conversations that we had earlier, leading up this, is one of the conversations I really appreciated. Which is I put this on screen, conversational AI is not a product. A lot of folks can look at conversational AI the same way they might a simple IVR and think, “Hey, this is just a product you can buy off the shelf. You design, build, and poof, you’re done forever.” And that simply isn’t the case, is it?
Jason Coats: Absolutely not. No.
Pauline Aponte: Absolutely not.
Jason Coats: Yeah. I would say that, so, the way that we walked into this, obviously having the experience that we had with a prior relationship, is it’s just that, it’s not a product, it’s a relationship that you’re seeking out. You’re seeking out expertise. Yes, there’s technology involved, but we, in our prior vendor relationship, we were left to do a lot of the QA, a lot of the things that we just, frankly, weren’t experts in. And we knew that we had to have a different relationship and that we needed to partner with experts that brought expertise to the table, along with the technology. So that’s how I view this is this is much more of a relationship than it is a product.
Brian Morin: Right. Because, and Pauline, I know that you’re on the frontline, working with us. There’s a lot that goes into the solution, even from a week by week basis, just on the ongoing care and feeding that’s required.
Pauline Aponte: Yeah. There’s tweaking going on. We continue to optimize based on data that we get from you guys. Just want you to know, from the beginning, we sat down with SmartAction and we created a whole new call flow from the ground up based on what we had on our previous vendor. It was needed. Like I said, we took your knowledge and expertise and used that to grow and create this new call flow. And it does continuously, we optimize it on a weekly basis.
Brian Morin: Right. Well, and that’s just it, it’s the ongoing chasing of that constant process of perpetual improvement. So I mean, I think that that’s just a good segue, Jason, Pauline, just tall about kind of any high level results or observations that you can speak of on how this has helped Choice Hotels. I know sometimes this ends up being just a pure bottom line savings conversation, which obviously that’s an important point. But a lot of it too is just from a CX standpoint, delivering the type of customer experience that meets your heightened customer’s expectations.
Jason Coats: Yeah. I mean, similar to, I think, what many others experience in this space, using the AI in a smart way, you can get cost savings of about two thirds versus a live agent. So a third the cost of a live agent, that’s a pretty compelling argument to explore this. The crux of it, though, is you’ve got to do it in the right way. They have to be interactions with customers that they want to self-serve on. I don’t want to talk to somebody just to cancel a hotel room. If I can just press a button, all the better. Right? So those are the kind of things that we’re looking at. And what do the customers really, truly want to self-serve on? And let’s start from there. And then as we evolve and as our customers’ expectations evolve, we’ll evolve the platform with it. So I think that was kind of one of our key philosophies going into this. Pauline?
Pauline Aponte: Yeah. I’d want to say that 20%, right away, we saw a difference between conversation AI versus natural language. Natural language is still, even though, still say reservation, say services. And those conversation isn’t conversation. We actually got that intent and we got the right intent. And it went to the right agent to service that customer. And we saw a significant drop in transfers just based on that conversation AI versus the natural language AI.
Brian Morin: So we’re-
Brian Morin: Go ahead, Jason.
Jason Coats: Yeah. I will just say, obviously we’re in an environment where we’re using VPL contact centers, every call costs money. And as you direct a customer to the wrong place, you just pay for that call. And then when you transfer them, you’re paying for that call too. So that dropped directly to the bottom line for us.
Brian Morin: Yeah. That’s a great point. We are nearing the bottom of the hour. So I have just one more question that I’m going to tee up and then we will turn it over to the audience, on their Q and A, to chime in with some questions. I’m seeing some of them come in already. Just letting you know, we are going to get to it. And if you haven’t, just chime in to the chat box or the Q and A box. And we’ll tackle here in just a couple more minutes.
Jason and Pauline, this is one of the questions that I like to ask, almost for anybody who’s has kind of reached a point of maturity in their journey. And it’s the question if you could travel back in time, there’s so many of these and solutions that we’ve all deployed for different reasons and purposes, the things that we have learned and where we’ve arrived, we’re like, “Boy, I sure wish I knew that when we had started.” I don’t know if you’re able to look at this through that same lens and say is there anything that you wish that you know now that you wish you knew when you started? Because a lot of that is what helps our audience as they’re listening in. And of course for them, this could be a little bit of a black box unless you’ve spent time on that journey.
Pauline Aponte: Yes, there’s a few things. I guess I’ll get started on one of them. One of them is when we first started looking into an IU vendor, we went out and looked at the whole package. And we purchased the whole package, but we only used 25% of it. Based on getting the approval from management, having those resources, technology resources, for those API connections, I would just want to make sure that when you look at it, make sure you know exactly what you guys are looking for. Don’t fall in the trap of what’s possible, the big package. Make sure you look at that your goals will be met and then grow from there, which is what we’re doing today with SmartAction.
Jason Coats: Yeah. I mean, I couldn’t underscore that any better. Long before me, the team decided to buy a full suite of omni-channel kind of solutions and just never got it fully off the ground. And so we were in there paying for something that we were barely using. So that was a big lesson learned.
Brian Morin: Right. And then go ahead, Pauline.
Pauline Aponte: Yeah. So this is also a key point is the information that he already mentioned. Make sure when going back, we actually did, we collected way too much information, which was confusion to the customer and the agent. To keep that in mind as well.
Brian Morin: Right. Right. So for those that are listening in, just to let you know, you have next steps on engagement. If you are looking for next steps, it’s usually one of two places where we start by either requesting a demo, we can share experiences of what we’re providing in whatever vertical that you’re in. No matter what industry you serve, we’re likely already supporting somebody adjacent to you. Our solutions are used across nine different verticals, and tackling some of those most common call types or chat types. And so we can at least illustrate what we’re doing. Or on the other hand, what we do is a free AI readiness assessment, where we start with any customer on their journey, which is just simply sitting down with you, pulling back the layer of your interactions, and finding out how applicable they are to AI.
And usually in just even the course of a short one or two hour session, can even come up with a rough behind the napkin ROI. And once we see if there is a fit for conversational AI, thresholds on the right types of volumes are there, the right characteristics are in place, that can go a long way to finding out is there a fit in your organization or not? As soon as this webinar’s over, you will get a copy of the deck and we’ll make sure that as soon as the on demand is rendered, somebody will reach out to you and provide that likely tomorrow morning. But with that, we’ll jump over into Q and A. And let’s see, I had a couple of questions here. One is, I think you answered this earlier, the question is how many calls does Choice handle monthly? I think that you gave a yearly member, Jason, I can’t remember what it was. I know it was in the millions.
Jason Coats: Yeah. Pauline is a lot closer to this. It fluctuates, obviously. We have seasonality to our business and it fluctuates. But I think it pans out to an average of about half a million calls a month. Does that sound about right, Pauline?
Pauline Aponte: That sounds about right. Yeah. I was going to say between 500,000 and 600,000 calls a month for context.
Brian Morin: And the question here, and this is wanting to understand, how much is the voice AI, how much is that deflecting from going to live agents? I know, Jason and Pauline, that the AI that you have for every interaction, it’s not necessarily containing the entire interaction from end to end in some cases. It’s doing some upfront data gathering or gathering or doing the authentication, identification, and then routing to the appropriate agent. I don’t know if you have that data to frame that.
Pauline Aponte: That’s correct. We mostly use the AI for that information of collecting that data and passing it to the agents so they don’t have to ask for the city and state. So you save money on handle time for that reason, so the less transfers. The containment rate, it depends on how we look at it. If you look at it as certain sections, if you’re just looking at loyalty, I would estimate around 20%. And then if you just look at it as a whole package of the whole 8,000, I would say between 5% to 10%. But again, we’d look at it in a different way to look at it more on just the ease of the customer getting through and passing on that information.
Brian Morin: Now this question came in, it looks like this more directly for SmartAction. What are the omni-channels that SmartAction supports? This conversation is about voice and that we’re currently just doing the voice channel with Choice. But we do handle digital channels with other brands beyond voice. For us, most customers start in voice simply because that’s where you do get the biggest ROI. And then once we build out that experience and choice, and we can move that over to chat, SMS, whatever channel is needed there. So this question, Jason or Pauline, I’m not sure who would be the best for you to address this, but the question is how often does the AI application need to be tuned?
Jason Coats: Constantly.
Pauline Aponte: Yeah, constantly. It’s ongoing. So what’s great about SmartAction is as soon as something comes in, they can trigger it if something is … If they caught a confusion, if they think the customer’s confused, that automatically goes to a ticket and gets looked into. So I would say daily, we’re tracking it. Because people ask for different things different days. And then weekly, I believe the tuning gets done, gets implemented.
Brian Morin: Right. I think that the biggest thing to understand there is that the gap between a press one IVR experience and conversational AI, I mean, we’re not just talking about a gap. They’re almost light years apart. You’re actually trying to have conversations with machines. And so, conversations with machines aren’t easy. There’s nothing easy that’s about it. We do have a methodology that we use to rinse and repeat. One is, as Pauline mentioned, we’re looking into data points to identify is there any point that we see friction that might be occurring? Are we seeing any hang ups? Are we seeing any live agent routes where somebody is wanting out and speak to a live agent? Allows us to identify that there’s friction, listen to those calls from a QA standpoint, and then identify what we need to do.
Sometimes that’s adding more data points, but sometimes it’s changing the conversation flow, adding intents. But the biggest piece of the methodology is there’s always a reason or way and opportunity to tune the application that’s identifying what’s the number one reason why any one particular interaction might not be being contained? What’s that number one reason for a live agent transfer hang up? And then finding a way to address and then rinse and repeat. So I guess, Pauline and Jason, for you, this is a week by week ongoing journey where it just continues to get better over time.
Jason Coats: That’s exactly right.
Brian Morin: So a question about the implementation. How difficult was it, the integrating with data and in going through the build process?
Pauline Aponte: I can start with that one. I would say SmartAction made it easier. A lot of the coding was done on the SmartAction side. Majority of what we had to get done was set up the API between Choice’s data into the SmartAction platform. And I think we did it within a couple of months, two to three months, I think it was implemented.
Brian Morin: Gotcha. Now this from Leroy is what contact center platform are you using?
Pauline Aponte: Today, we use the … telephony, we use Cisco. And SmartAction connects into the Cisco. And Finesse, which is what pops up the screen with the information is through a Cisco tool called Finesse. I don’t know it that …
Brian Morin: I have this from Billy. Wants to know if we have a sample of conversational AI in action at Choice. We didn’t bring any of that with us today, but we’ll see what we can do for you other than you calling in at Choice yourself and seeing that experience. I think that Choice Hotel’s would be more than happy to book a room for you.
Jason Coats: In today’s world, we welcome any business we can get.
Brian Morin: Right. Well, so I don’t see any other questions coming in at this time. Jason, Pauline, just let me ask you, any final remarks on your end before we sign off?
Jason Coats: No. I mean, I’m happy to share our experience. This is an ongoing journey. As long as, that’s my advice, as long as you look at it like you’re entering into a long term journey here and constantly making the experience better for customers while taking the easiest pieces of work away from the human beings, who frankly, are error prone anyway, I encourage you to do a lot of research, look at a lot of different companies. There are some great companies out there in addition to SmartAction. We just happened to find the right partner for us. So do your due diligence and make a bunch of phone calls and test out some of these things to expose yourself to them. So, yeah.
Brian Morin: Yep. No, I think that’s very well stated. And Jason, Pauline, we can’t be more appreciative just for you taking your time from your busy schedules and days and speaking out about your journey. And it’s enormously helpful for colleagues that are listening in that are looking at doing the same. And again, just a reminder for those that have signed in, as soon as this is over, we will be following up with the deck and the on demand. And if there’s any question that we didn’t get to, just make sure that you get that back over to us and reply, and we’re happy to continue that conversation with you. So Jason, Pauline, thank you so much. This has been super helpful. And I look forward for us having the conversation again soon.
Jason Coats: Excellent. Thank you.
Pauline Aponte: Yeah.
Brian Morin: Thanks, everyone.