ERICA Wants to be Your Contact Center Agent, All of Them

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ERICA Wants to be Your Contact Center Agent, All of Them


Automation is indeed sweeping industry after industry - Amazon just ordered 45,000 new robots, the U.S. Military is sending drone swarms from airplanes and AI is helping all companies become more productive and efficient. Recently we wrote about ERICA from Mobilize - an automated contact center solution which minimizes the need for live agents.

We received numerous questions about ERICA so we reached out to Loris Johnson Vice President, Strategy and Business Development at Mobilize to learn more. Here is our interview:

How did you come up with the idea of ERICA?

Mobilize has been a major player in the infomercial industry for 20 years. We started supporting advertisers with contact center services, warehousing, and fulfillment centers. After a few years’ we began to think there must be a better way to take orders and process customer service calls without the massive staffing we had to maintain. We set out to look at IVR technology and what needed to be done to make it a viable tool for inbound order taking and sales calls.

Developing ERICA became a 17-year evolution of learning what works best and repeating it a lot. Recently we looked at other market areas where we could take ERICA’s industrially proven technology. We know most call centers do work to some degree or another that ERICA can do more efficiently, like eliminating call abandons and excessive hold times. These problems are generally due to call spikes, and staffing capacities. It is purely a matter of economics.  We also know the primary reason these call centers don’t use ERICA-like technology is because of the enormous cost and development time required to get it into production.


All we had to repackage our existing high volume IVR into a pricing model that virtually any contact center can afford. We think if we can help contact centers eliminate a lot of customer frustration, improve customer retention, and also add on new business, we might have something the industry can embrace.

How did you develop it?

We developed ERICA the way most technologies are done. We recognized a business problem and solved it. We saw the need for a more effective and cost efficient way to do business over the phone and developed the necessary technology. Having been involved with high volume call centers in the infomercial industry for 20 years, we recognized the difficulty in staffing, training, and having the right technologies to take orders over the phone with the highest levels of efficiency and accuracy. A primary requisite in the infomercial industry is a short project turnaround cycle.  Until now this short cycle could only be accomplished by a live agent in a call center. The main advantage to a live agent contact center in comparison to an IVR, is the shorter training cycle vs. the time and cost required to develop an IVR application.

We started with a basic IVR platform and added speech recognition with other proprietary technology to create an intuitive process that anticipates the answer to questions and simplifies the verbal communication process. We needed to develop a system that would allow for extremely short development cycles and offer a high level of flexibility. In the end, we developed an object based development tool we call Agent Maker that enables us to completely develop integrate and tune IVR functionality to process incoming phone orders with a 90% effective rate without the aid of a live agent from design to deliverable in less than 10 days. We did all this a hosting environment so customers have zero hardware, software costs or maintenance issues to deal with. The cost to develop our hosted IVR through Agent Maker is a total of $1500. That’s about what it costs to train an agent.

We also had to develop an inbound customer service agent with the same levels of efficiency and accuracy.  Both the sales agent and customer service agent share a common CRM application that we developed as well. This allows an order to be taken, processed, and shipping initiated seamlessly in near real time. In as little as four seconds after a customer hangs up the phone for an order, they can call back and have full access to the customer’s order and shipping data through the customer service agent.

Has it met expectations?

ERICA has exceeded our expectations on all levels. As far as we know, her consistent performance level on capturing sales has never been achieved by any other IVR or Live agent call center. Her customer service performance also has unprecedented results of achieving a high level of “save the sale” tasks too basic order status inquires. In the infomercial industry, our goal is to provide the merchant with the highest ROI for inbound sales while preserving customer retention and satisfaction. ERICA is 100% PCI complaint and delivers a perfect pitch on each-and-every-call.


We measure ERICA’s performance with the same metrics of a live agent. It is very easy, because ERICA can sit in a queue like an agent with the same measurements like; availability, calls taken, orders taken, hold time, transfers, call duration, call outcome etc. ERICA has delivered a 100% answer rate and performs at the best live agent levels. Erica saves more sales through it’s intelligence than live agents. This isn’t just a bold statement, it is validated in 20 years of development and historical data. Erica really takes the fight out of the call. We all know that if we are unsatisfied with a product or service and want to cancel and speak to a live agent there will be human to human interaction and possibly tension or frustration, and in some cases and some cases, anger. Erica takes that situation and defuses it by intelligent negotiation with the consumer. Always ending the call with 100% consumer satisfaction result. It is very difficult to argue with a machine that won’t argue back, but again, historical data shows an extremely low transfer rate to live agents for back-up.

Who is the target market for the solution?

We target any call center that wants to eliminate call abandons and calls on hold. This applies to both customer service calls as well as inbound sales calls.  ERICA allows consistent staffing without the need to worry about spike call periods. ERICA will provide a consistent baseline of performance that will allow call center managers to allocate live agents for high value/touch and high hands on situations. Marketing departments use ERICA to handle status calls, product info and prequalification’s allowing the live agents to handle more complicated matters.


How does the ROI calculation actually work?

ERICA does the work of a live agent therefore we opted to price ERICA like a live agent. The first level of ROI is in ERICA’s salary vs. a live agent. ERICA’s monthly cost is $895 per month. Live agents cost almost three times that when you consider fully burdened rates. The next level of ROI is availability. ERICA is available 24x7 all month long which puts ERICA’s monthly amortized cost at $1.24 per hour. Now you have an agent never wanting go home or take a break. Additional ROI is delivered through ERICA’s productivity. ERICA can competently take phone orders with full order processing and handle customer service 24x7. So, why not expand incoming order sales and customer to after hours? It is a formula that equates to better goodwill and customer satisfaction. Virtually any afterhours business obtained is incremental income with better profitability factors.

ERICA has been shown to be twice as productive as a live agent. ERICA can take calls that live agents handle in an average of 7 minutes and does them in 3.5 minutes. ERICA is all business and wont chit chat. When you compare that productivity with her salary in a head-to-head comparison with an agent, she is either twice as productive or about one quarter the cost per transaction. We have graphed ERICA’s costs vs a single live agent, and there is no cross-over point in the graph. ERICA stays 30% to 41% less expensive than a live agent. We even gave the live agent the benefit of the doubt by not including any system costs in their portion of the comparison or accounting for her shorter call durations.

How do you expect it to evolve?

ERICA is in a constant state of evolution. As new technologies and speech enhancements improve, ERICA will be right there on the cutting edge. All without a single dime of investment or development on the part our call center clients.   There are no servers or software to update and maintain. ERICA is a cloud based system that is enhanced and updated without any service interruption. As I mentioned, ERICA also has a number of other integrated technologies. She comes with full real-time CRM, texting capabilities and many other features that we will continue to enhance. Some of these features including on-the-call real-time credit card processing, tax calculations, editable final sale totals and so much more.

What about multilingual needs?

ERICA is multilingual with eight languages. She is deployable in any country without any hardware or software requirements.  All functionality is integrated into the same CRM platform that is used in the USA. ERICA also processes and performs its tasks in multi-currencies.

What’s next for the company?

Mobilize will continue with its role in the infomercial industry with our high-volume IVR that is capable of 50,000 transactions per second. That has been our bread and butter revenue stream. We want to grow ERICA adoption to the point where she will be considered necessary option in virtually any global enterprise or merchant’s contact center. Because of ERICA’s extremely advantageous total deployment cost and her precision efficiency, we want to see her take the position as the standard-of-the-industry for turn-key speech enabled IVRs.

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