Author – Debra Maxwell, CEO, CRM Solutions, Arvato UK & Ireland
Disruptive technologies continuously provide society with the opportunity to unlock new potential. Cognitive systems that can autonomously collect, analyse and action data will be at the forefront of the next wave of change, transforming the way brands do business and speak to their customers.
The technology is already revolutionising the transport industry through the development of driverless cars and transforming the way the financial services sector processes payments. As autonomous systems become more and more sophisticated, they will soon have a major impact on customer services too.
Consumers increasingly expect a consistent, personalised customer journey across a wide range of contact channels. And artificial intelligence (AI) will play a central role in helping businesses go beyond meeting this expectation, through systems that will answer enquiries autonomously and provide agents with personal recommendations in real-time while they are speaking to each customer.
This may seem futuristic, but such systems are already here. Our work with IBM Watson, for example, has proven that the technology can reply to prompts and questions by interpreting natural speech. Given its potential, these cognitive systems will eventually become ubiquitous across the customer journey as organisations compete to differentiate themselves by delivering increasingly better consumer experiences. The impact of this cannot be ignored and business leaders need to start reviewing their current operations and look at how they can bring this technology on board.
Clearly the advent of AI will create questions around the workforce, but it’s clear from our 2015 ‘Omnichannel Monitor’ research – a survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by Arvato CRM Solutions and CSC – that customers still want to continue interacting with a real person. As such, we can expect to see human and machine working together, with cognitive technology playing an important supporting role.
This will still mean change and it’s now crucial for brands to start planning for this transition. Contact centres will need to be reorganised as more of the simple tasks are taken on by cognitive technologies. Staff will need to be prepared for a new focus on handling more complex customer enquiries that warrant a more human touch, alongside working with and maintaining the software.
Firms that champion cognitive systems from an early stage will be perfectly positioned to set the standards of customer service that all businesses will soon be measured against. Preparing early to make the most of this opportunity will be key.