“AI will change everything, and a lot of companies are not ready”
A conversation with marketing and innovation thought leader Steven Van Belleghem about "AI first", branding and customer experience.
Like Hello Customer, Steven is also a big believer in how AI can be used for the benefit of employees: “The very same AI characteristics that are relevant for improving the customer experience will have a big impact on the employee experience: I’m talking about faster than real time response, hyper-personalization and convenience. I often hear stories of frustrated employees in big large corporates because the latter focus on sales and processes instead of making their own people happy (so that they, in their turn can help make their customers happy). Customer happiness is just a chain of events that starts and ends with employee happiness: both are irrevocably linked, and driven by the same 3 AI-driven forces: faster than real time response, hyper-personalization and convenience.“
If you don’t think about your data strategy now, you might never catch up again
“So where do companies start?”, I asked Steven. “What are the first steps towards an AI first strategy?” “You absolutely need a data plan”, he answered. “That might sound underwhelming, but data, and lots of it, is the foundation of every AI strategy. In fact, if you only have a data history of 6 months, you will end up with a very stupid AI. The more data, the smarter the solution, so it is absolutely crucial that companies start to gather and analyse their data right away. If not, they will lag so much behind that it will be impossible to ever catch up again. The second crucial step in an AI strategy is uncovering which of your processes create the most friction for your customers and figure out how AI could help solve that. Always start with the customer, and then automate the processes that cause unnecessary friction. Never work the other way around: never start with the technology but create value for your customers. These are the two very basic, but essential steps towards success in AI.”
The conversation ended on a slightly darker note, when we talked about the issues of privacy and ethics. “Will some of us build machines that will lie to us?”, he asked. “Of course. That already happened. Just think of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, or about fake news.” But Steven would not be Steven if he did not irrevocably believe in the ability of humans to solve their problems. “I believe that board of directors will need to guard the ethical behaviour of companies. And, even though I’m not the biggest fan of the current GDPR solution, I also believe that governments will play an essential role. They could for instance demand complete data usage transparency from companies: so that the consumer knows exactly what it is doing with his or her data, and why. Blind fear is never the solution. I believe that we can, and will use AI to better our lives in the long run. And that is probably why I am taking local companies with me on a tour to those pioneers who are already doing just that.”