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Why an Integration of Digital + Human Customer Experience is Smart
By Hilary Hahn, VP, Customer Experience Innovation, Sykes Enterprises [NASDAQ:SYKE]
Like the opening of George Orwell’s futuristic novel, 1984: The ‘clocks are striking 13,’ not for military time, but to signal that there is a new event that calls into question everything previously believed. In 2018, we are living in an unprecedented time of accelerating and disruptive, innovation and technology that is part of our brave new world.
As we engage more seamlessly with technology, we must think hand-in-hand about humans.
Fortunately, we have visionary thought leaders at the helm of innovative global brands, including Ford, LYFT, Airbnb, and Amazon, and along with the majority of today’s ‘Unicorns,’ these leaders and brands are passionate about enabling technology to improve human existence.
How humans and technology will continue to co-exist is of immense interest to me in every sense, but especially with my professional lens, to anticipate how customers will continue to experience the brands they love.
With the convergence of machines to support customer’s needs, Gartner analyzed that in 2017, customers experienced an 11 percent increase in interactions with emerging technology, such as machine learning applications, chatbots or mobile messaging; they predict that by 2022, this will amount to 72 percent of interactions for customers. So how do we move from robotic to empathetic when these interactions occur?
Mark Sagar, a brilliant technologist and artist, (academy award winner for Avatar and King Kong), is now building human-like avatars for his company called Soul Machines who support customer interactions with the most realistic, non-humans in a dynamic 1:1 digital:human experience. Human inflection is the differentiator that Sagar has successfully incorporated in his machine, seen via expressive eye contact. Sagar proclaims that the eyes are the reflection of the soul.
AI/ML is being harnessed with outcomes that reduce an overall number of contacts by deflecting human interactions, with sophisticated, data-driven, self-service platforms
So, while we are watching HBO’s Westworld, and questioning the potential for robots, which are almost indistinguishable from humans, to live amongst us, it is probably not that far off.
As billions of investment dollars for artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) are being funneled into customer care, brands want to know how it can be applied today.
From a brand perspective, human support is costly and customer needs keep expanding. AI/ML is being harnessed with outcomes that reduce an overall number of contacts by deflecting human interactions, with sophisticated, data-driven, self-service platforms. For example, think how often you type ‘How do I’ into Google. People want to solve their own problems without waiting in long queues to explain their issues and wait longer. Ideally, one hopes their answer is available at a quick glance, along with one click from there to solve the issue. Yet most self-service platforms involve a giant effort of searching layers of pages on Google and/or a brand’s website, often without accomplishment. AI/ML is driving seamless self-help experiences that anticipate your personal needs and solve most with minimal clicks; the content is quickly delivered and effectively educates you, or actually guides the action to accomplish the task for you. This kind of brand experience generates exponential new customer acquisition and/or can retain existing customers while driving delight in the process. It is an essential strategy.
So, it is true. Artificial Intelligence is displacing humans in customer service. This is not as scary as it sounds; it just means that humans will be handling more complex solutions. Simpler, repetitive tasks, like scheduling payments over the phone can be accomplished with robots providing quick, effortless, successful experiences in any digital channel. AI/ML creates the opportunity to infuse a human persona in chatbots and digital assistants, who can engage and impress even the most reluctant customers.
Another important AI/ML deployment strategy has a distinct advantage to, and ironically a need for, humans.
AI/ML is enabling live customer support agents handling complex issues to be smarter, more efficient, and to perform with the highest capability in a compressed amount of time. Sounds almost robotic! The ironic aspect is that in order for the machine to learn, it observes and records live human behavior. The machine notates large sequences and the output looks akin to a Chuck Close painting, with a pixilated reality of data. Humans then review the “unsupervised” machine learning, and label additional important variances that have a direct impact to positive outcomes. These human annotations are considered “labeled data.” The larger the sets of labeling, (and this requires a lot of humans to accomplish!), the smarter the machine will become. And, ultimately, humans will become the smartest, who are “fueled” by the machine labeled data! In real-time, predictive communication is coherently provided to agents, which supports their ability to offer customers the best options, elevating operational proficiency across a scaled team. With endless applications, and durable strategic advantages, this winning collaboration of machine + human is called…wait for it…a COBOT.
AI + ML + HX (Human Experience) = a quantum leap for Customer Experience.