How Intelligence Augmented changes customer experience

The collaboration between man and machine has been providing benefits for society for many years. For example, by automating many elements in the manufacturing of cars, they have become much...

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April 23, 2018

The scaling-up of human skills

Every company dreams of being able to make the difference with its human component. The human touch is fantastic. However, it would be a shame not to support your humans by adding smart technology to their day to day practice. You can't expect every person to have a perfect memory. You can't expect every person to immediately know what a customer is talking about when he/she asks a question. This is where intelligence augmented comes in. Intelligence augmented makes it possible to apply the human interface on a greater scale.

In recent years, our company Nexxworks has organized several events in great hotels all over the world. The service on each occasion was fantastic. In total, we have booked something like 2.000 nights for our different events. In other words, we are a good and loyal customer of these hotels. About a month after one of our last events, I was back in to give a keynote presentation to a group of managers. When I wanted to check in, I was greeted with the words: “Good morning, Mr. Van Belleghem. Is this your first stay in the our Hotel?” When you are a good customer, that's not really what you want to hear. What you want to hear is: “Steven, it's wonderful to see you back again, and so soon!” Is this the fault of the receptionist? Not at all! Perhaps he had only been working there for a week. Even if he had been working there longer, you see thousands of guests pass through a hotel and you can't be expected to remember them all, can you? No, not as an individual employee you can't. But the hotel can - and should. Guest recognition software has been available for years and it's up to the management of hotels to make sure that their staff have it at their disposal. With the right tech-support, hotels can make it easier for their staff to give loyal customers a special welcome. The loyal customer feels valued and thinks: “Wow! What a great hotel!”

It is a useful exercise to think about what constitutes 'ideal' staff behaviour towards customers in your business. In particular, ask yourself how smart technology can help to make it possible for your people to achieve that ideal behaviour.

The starting point: customer service

Intelligence augmented will first make itself felt in customer service. In the chapter on new interfaces, we have already looked at the role for bots in customer service. If a computer programme is able to answer customers' routine questions, this frees up time for the human staff to deal with more complex matters. As a result, the overall quality of output for the customer is enhanced. Intelligence augmented will quickly become a reality in customer service, because this is a part of the overall business processes for which lots of data exists as most companies already use software programmes to record all their customer interactions. This data is the required raw material for the computer/bot to do its work.

One of my favourite companies in this field is Digital Genius. It was started in 2014 and already has a number of top brand names as customers. During the preparation for my book, I had a conversation with their Chief Strategy Officer and founder, Mikhail Naumov.

The Digital Genius philosophy perfectly matches the idea of intelligence augmented. They use software to maximize the performance of customer service agents. The companies that become their customers give Digital Genius their customer service data for the past two years. The Digital Genius software 'eats' this data and translates it into algebra. This makes the software language independent. The input can be in different languages, but the final output is a mathematical model. If a customer (of the customer company) asks a question, this is also translated into a mathematical model. It makes no difference in which language the question is asked. The mathematical formulas are compared with each other, and on the basis of this analysis, the Digital Genius software suggests an answer to the customer question. The computer-generated answer is accompanied by a probability score. This score is the computer's estimate about the likely accuracy of the answer. If the score is higher than 95%, the answer is sent automatically to the customer. If the score is lower than 95%, the suggested answer is first sent to a human customer service agent. This operative then decides whether or not to use all or part of the suggested answer in the final answer to the customer, and also has the option to personalize it.

This has a double effect. The customer gets an answer to his/her question more quickly and the answer is also personalized. For the customer and for rival competitors, this is invisible technology. KLM is one of Digital Genius's customers. KLM's own customers therefore receive quick and personal responses to their questions. As a result, their natural reaction is to think: 'KLM has really good staff, better than any other airline.' KLM does indeed have very good staff, but so do many other airlines. The difference is that KLM also has smart software that allows the performance of its staff to be taken to a higher level. Or to put it another way, the intelligence of their staff is taken to a higher level. Intelligence augmented in action. This kind of 'behind-the-scenes' software will make the difference in customer service provision in the years ahead.

Intelligence augmented in all phases of the customer experience

Thanks to intelligence augmented, staff will be able to provide a better service in all phases of the customer experience. The way in which Apple uses Apple ID in their stores is a good example. Once a member of the sales team enters an Apple ID into his/her smartphone, he/she can see the entire Apple history of that customer. In other words, the Apple sellers know what products you have, when you bought them, where you bought them, etc. In other words, their service levels are immediately personalized.

In pre-sales, staff can also benefit from technological assistance to better help customers during the purchasing process. If you want to buy a new car, you are likely to have done extensive research on the car manufacturer's website before you visit a showroom. Wouldn't it be interesting for the sales team in the showroom to know which models and options you have already looked at? This would save time and allow the sales conversation to carry on from where your website visit left off. Similarly, during a return visit to a restaurant, it would be useful if the restaurant could call up details of any allergens you may have mentioned during your first visit. In this way, you don't need to repeat yourself and the restaurant can offer you allergen-free menu options that it knows you will be able to eat.

Intelligence augmented can be applied in all business situations where data is available about the customer, and where the customer interacts with a human member of staff. As soon as data is stored about a particular aspect of the customer experience, that data can be used to improve staff performance.

For policemen and policewomen intelligence augmented can mean the difference between life and death. It can mean the difference between preventing a terrorist attack and counting the number of casualties afterwards. International security services make extensive use of software and data to support their people in the field. A professor at the Carnegie Mellon University has recently developed a piece of technology that makes it possible to identify suspects at distance using an iris scan. In concrete terms, this means, for example, that police travelling behind a suspect car can establish the driver's identity from the moment he glances in his rear-view mirror. This gives them time to assess the situation in safety and decide what resources are needed to deal with it.

To win the heart and the business of customers, intelligence augmented becomes a vital part of your customer strategy. Keeping up with customer expectations will be hard without using these possibilities.

Steven Van Belleghem
Steven Van Belleghem
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April 23, 2018