‘Transcom Chats’ is a series of interviews with Transcom staff on things and topics we’re passionate about. The aim is to bring forward, talk to, and highlight the people that make Transcom the brand you know and love.
In this edition, we had the privilege of talking to Transcom's winners of the Google Hackathon in Stockholm. The trio is comprised of Aron Bodin, Domagoj Brnadić, and Andro Miočević.
Aron Bodin: My name is Aron Bodin. I work as a process improvement specialist as part of the CTO office. I am not employed with the Tech Hub but rather with its extension our headquarters in Stockholm. The Tech Hub is the place where most of our great talent works from and contributes from when it comes to various IT, software, and implementation projects across Transcom.
Andro Miočević: My name is Andro. I'm a data engineer at Transcom. Basically, as a data engineer, you are responsible for all the data integration related to all the new clients that we get. My job is to structure and create pipelines for the data flow coming from the source of the client and mapped into our tables that are later on represented in our visualization tool.
My first project was related to the categorization of calls and this is how this entire story started. So briefly, what one of the clients wanted was to reduce the number of calls and that's how they would save money and earn more. And our job was to figure out how to do it. The project was successful and that's how my story with the AI started.
Domagoj Brnadić: Hi, my name is Domagoj. I work at the Transcom Tech Hub in Zagreb as a project manager.
The Tech Hub is a place where all the software engineers at Transcom live and breathe, and where we work and develop our projects. We have many different types of projects. We have classic web development and software development projects, but in the last couple of months, we’re working on AI development projects, where we try to implement and build the tools to help us stay in step with our modern times.
Aron Bodin: So, a hackathon is typically where you group a bunch of people together in one venue or online. You are set to complete a task that typically revolves around programming or prototyping programming within a given time frame. The output is supposed to show value or just to toy around with technology to find new things. All in all, it’s a very short time frame scope of prototyping something.
Andro Miočević: Hackathons are events, which include multiple teams, that compete against each other mainly in programming. So, you have either a specific solution that you need to create - an application or some code that will run something, depending on the use case. It doesn't need to be just software programming, it can be anything. But it's basically a place for tech guys to compete against each other in teams. That is basically what happened in Stockholm.
We had a team of the three of us and we competed against some people that we didn't know, but the only difference here was that it was more of an open topic. We were still bound to use technologies that were predefined but the end result was just to give the best solution that you can think of
Domagoj Brnadić: A hackathon is a social engineering event where engineers come together to work on a specific subject or a specific topic over a relatively short period of time. So this can be in a day or, sometimes, during a couple of days. This specific event that Google organized was one day long. The goal of a hackathon is to create a working software, or working prototype by the end of the allotted time, and to present a solid technical solution.
Domagoj Brnadić: The idea to join the Google hackathon was started by Google themselves. It was an invite-only event, so they extended an invitation to us to join as a team. They reached out to Aaron who reached out to all of us. A big role in this entire story was played by Sandra who recognized this as an opportunity. And even though she was on vacation, she organized for all of us to get together and sent us to Sweden.
Andro Miočević: Basically, we were working on some of the parts of the solution that we actually used on the hackathon when Aaron got the invite from Google to gather a team. That's how the entire story started. I contacted our boss, Sandra, and quickly after that, we agreed on going.
Aron Bodin: The experience of being at Google is always something extra, at least to me. You have a fancy building, very fancy interior, a lot of cool tech. You can really feel that within those walls a lot of innovation takes place. A lot of great people. Great-minded people. Differently-minded people. But that are all there to get something productive or beneficial out of the information shared.
Andro Miočević: The experience was not only there but also before the event because we were doing a lot of preparations. We were catching every minute that we had in between flights and when we landed. We got to the hotel at 1:00. AM. And we were constantly having some issues. So it was really stressful before it even started.
Domagoj Brnadić: The experience was, I would say, unique in a way because when we came to Google and they introduced us, and explained the topic themselves. And there are a lot of teams there. Some of them were wearing big tech company hoodies and had enormous machines and computers. So we were like: “Okay, these guys will probably win this and take it home with them.”
But yeah, we were checking the schedule beforehand and the schedule said that the entire thing would last six-seven hours. So either everybody would come prepared with something because we got the topic a couple of days earlier or everybody is just there to have fun and not really do anything. But we came there to actually do something.
We saw that a lot of teams had already also prepared and those that prepared something were in the competition with us, those that came completely unprepared, either didn't present anything or they just dropped out.
Aron Bodin: We decided to do a project around ADA. Who’s ADA, you might ask. So, ADA is an AI-powered bot that can help our staff to train on outbound phone calls. Essentially what happens is that the agent is able to dial a number, who will then be speaking to ADA that we have programmed to randomly ask questions. To be more or less open to sales opportunities. The agent practices their script and at the end of the call we assess, again using AI, the capabilities of the agent in terms of simple things like opening, closing, making sure you’re polite, but also how successful you were in pitching the product you were supposed to be pitching to ADA. So, essentially it’s a little platform that allows agents to train by themselves and experience something very close to an actual phone call.
Andro Miočević: So our solution was to create a voicebot that will be used to train customer service agents, but what we mainly focused on was to train the agents for sales so that they could become better salespeople. We created a few personas but we presented one that will represent a normal customer. That is, a person interested in buying something, but that’s not that easy to negotiate with and that's where you need to polish your sales skills which is great for a new junior agent who recently joined.
But most importantly, what we added on top of that solution, is the post analytics of that call. So every call is transcribed and when it's finished, comes the part of the analysis, where the agent gets results based on five categories. There they will see if they passed or failed and that's how their lead or their mentor can briefly go over those categories and see how the trainee is progressing.
The agent themselves can also see the feedback immediately. They can see what they did wrong, what they did well, and so on. An important thing to mention here is that the tool has a lot of room for customization. It doesn't need to be just for sales, it can be for any other topic, but this was something that was important to us, so we stuck with presenting that aspect.
Domagoj Brnadić: The facts are that Transcom is a BPO and has a lot of customer service agents and that the turnover rate in the customer service agent industry is enormous. We train 20 thousand plus new agents every year. A lot of the preparation work goes into training new agents. Let’s say the training lasts for four weeks and a part of that is talking on the phone. This is currently being done by the team lead or by another senior agent who knows how the call should go. A lot of the agents are unprepared for real calls with real customers because they are always more stressful.
So, this tool that we came up with, ADA, is named after Ada Lovelace, the first programmer, and how it works is that we create a simulation of a real customer that has a certain issue. This issue can be from any customer service perspective. So they could ask for a refund, it could be a sales call, or they could just call to complain about something.
There are many different personas that we can create here, but this specific persona that we created for the hackathon was a sales call. We made a persona named Riley, who was calling a fictional company called Megaspeed Internet and was asking to change his old internet package and the job of the agent here is to upsell.
The second part of ADA, which is the real business use case, is the analytics part. The agent has to be scored at the end of the call and the trainer needs to see how the training is applied and there are certain types of metrics that track these scores. So we took all of these metrics, we took the transcript of the call, and just measured them up. So this way the trainee can see if they passed, if they failed, what went wrong, and what went right. We also put together a small segmented summary of the transcript where if the agent or the trainer doesn’t have enough time to go through the entire transcript, they just read the summary and that's it.
Aron Bodin: Winning a hackathon like this is of course something that, at least I, personally, am very proud of. There was some tough competition. Some great ideas on how to apply generative AI among them. Going from prototyping ways of building brand material for an online bank to writing new AI generated content for video games. However, I think that what we managed to put together was something that everyone could really appreciate and understand how it would be adding value. Which, I think, also made us fair winners in that sense.
Andro Miočević: It feels great for sure. I felt relieved when we got the results, because I'm still fresh in the company So, when you’re sent to something like that you want to come back with some type of success whether it's a win or a new partner or whatever. So it's all great. What we didn't know is that it will mean so much for the Tech Hub and Transcom since we started getting congratulations from all the people from the Hub up to C-level.
I would say it means a lot to them and for the acknowledgment of our work and expertise. Also for marketing, so more people can hear about the Hub and Transcom and what we can do. So, yeah, I would say it means a lot to the company and to myself.
Domagoj Brnadić: This kind of victory certainly means a lot. It's a big recognition of the work we've done, of everything that led up to this. And of course, a big shout-out goes to the entire team who supported us through the entire process and to our bosses and to their bosses, and to everybody who was involved in this.
I hope this also means a lot to Transcom and to the entire Tech Hub because this way we can show that it's a serious engineering company and there is a serious engineering team at work here. And with the collaboration and the partnership we have with Google and its team of engineers, I hope we can put ourselves on the map as a tech hub and as an engineering company. Because the partnership with Google is deep, we get early access, even earlier than early access to all of their tools and everything that they make. Stuff that's not even available on their sites and that's not even talked about.
Aron Bodin: Within Transcom, of course, the reactions have been great. Right after the announcement we had some colleagues cheering us on on chat and various email threads throughout the weekend. The second you share information like this it’s encouraging because people want to know more, they want to figure out how this can actually be applied, and what are the next steps in terms of turning this from a prototype into something that can actually add value on the ground.
Andro Miočević: The reaction surprised me. I didn't know we were gonna get that much positive feedback. Because we went there to try to do our best but we didn't plan it that much. So it happened on very short notice. So the feedback was really, really positive.
Domagoj Brnadić: The reaction to this was extremely positive and for me, really surprising in a way. So when you work in a corporation with more than 30,000 people, you expect things to go unnoticed. But I think it really says a lot about the company that everybody recognizes this and what we did.
Aron Bodin: My takeaway from this is that when you’re able to put people together in a room with different skill sets and allow them to work together closely with a given timeline a lot of good things come from it. You need to be humble and understand that not everything will be done perfectly the first time around. But having all the different disciplines in that same place is something that I would really encourage to do more of in projects going forward. Large or small. Software or not. But I think it’s something we would all benefit more from doing more.
Andro Miočević: My takeaways are the positive experience that I got in Stockholm but also the motivation to move forward with my work
Domagoj Brnadić: The takeaway that I got from this experience is that work here is really rewarded and I don't know, it motivates me to push even harder because the reaction from this was really positive.
Aron Bodin: I am super grateful that Transcom is giving us this opportunity to explore, to toy around, to play around. I don’t think there were any expectations set on us beforehand in terms of going in and winning or showing off our skills or anything like that. But of course that made the whole experience even more fun, I would say. So, be it a hackathon or not I think what I would like to advise all my colleagues is when you find the time, play around a bit, toy around a bit, tinker a bit because something really cool can come out of it. And don’t be shy of sharing it with others because we’re a lot of people with a lot of great brain power that can together achieve a lot of great stuff.
Andro Miočević: I appreciate Transcom giving us this opportunity and I hope there are many more to come. I look forward to seeing what this win and this project will bring.
Domagoj Brnadić: In the end, I would like to send a big thank you to the Transcom Tech Hub for giving us this remarkable opportunity. And as we continue to develop Ada, we are excited about the potential future impact of our work. I would also like to say that I'm grateful for being able to work as a software engineer on this topic in the hackathon because this is not what my role usually entails. But this was the opportunity that I was given