Artificial Intelligence and Customer Relationship: moving towards a positive collaboration

by Hub Institute | 22/08/2017



Whereas Big Data has already significantly impacted the practices and perimeters of our industry, we still have a hard time imagining the phenomenal impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) will doubtlessly have on customer experience management. This technological field is opening up countless exciting possibilities – so long as we anticipate them and adapt accordingly.

The future is already in motion – a fact proven by Salesforce’s State of Marketing 2017 study which reports that one in every two marketers actively use AI and 25% of them plan to implement an AI strategy within the next two years. From natural-language processing to chatbots and from machine learning to automation, innovations are rolling out at accelerating speed. So how do we keep up with and keep track of all these emergent technologies?

We met with Arnaud de Lacoste, Acticall Sitel Group’s founding partner and Chief Marketing Officer, to take stock of the key trends that will define the years ahead.

1. Be wary of buzzwords
We’ve just quoted a number of tantalizing terms that keep cropping up in every article dedicated to innovation. And yet, we’re really only at the dawn of the AI revolution, foreseen over 60 years ago by Alan Turing who wondered at the time whether machines could think, and if that would mean that they would eventually control human beings.

This topic remained stuck at its experimental stage for a long time. Recently however, it’s returned in full force due to the combined effects of lower computer storage costs, the exponential growth of available data, and the massive processing power we’ve reached today (and which will keep expanding).

And yet we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what we can do with AI.

2. Transitioning towards complementary technologies
One of the great myths surrounding AI is that it will destroy customer experience management career opportunities. Our industry relies on powerful human relationships and no robot or machine could ever perfectly conduct a conversation. Not only would the robot need to have a complete understanding of what the customer says (in spite of accents, speech rate, etc.), but it would have to take into account such parameters as voice and tone through which we express 38% of what we mean.

Therefore, what we can expect is a close collaboration between men and machines. Depending on the situation, the interactions may be processed or automated, semi-automated or entirely human. This will mean redefining the roles and responsibilities of customer advisors – some of whom will surely become “bot managers.” Rather than a wholesale automation of the relationship, a synergy of human skills and technology will be at work… in order to ultimately deliver the best possible customer experience.

3. Fewer screens, more interactions
In a just a few years, we went from navigating over our desktop screens to surfing on our mobile phones. But after the “mobile first” age comes the age of new interfaces. With AI, you’ll no longer have to line up dozens of apps – each one answering to a specific purpose. Interactions will instead happen over one single platform that hosts and manages all our conversations – with our friends as well as will brands.

This rationalization of all exchanges will soon bypass screens altogether – and as such will subvert the rules of advertising as we know it. As with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, the conversation will occur even more naturally, as your voice will command actions.

4. Increasingly refined data analysis
The sheer amount of available data and the increasing volume of flows in real-time – that are directly connected to AI – will shift the Customer Relationship from a contact-based approach, to a conversational logic which will contextualize the exchange much more accurately. Brands will have enough information to engage in proactive campaigns that offer the right content at the right time, much like providing a service.

5. The Trust Economy
This innovative concept is also decisively tied to AI, as it is key to earning customer trust. Throughout all these ultra-connected interactions, the customer must constantly be reassured regarding three foundational values that are the cornerstone of the Trust Economy: respect of personal data, transparency and reciprocity. These guarantee a brand’s reliability and responsibility towards its customers.

“Technology on its own is devoid of meaning,” said Arnaud de Lacoste. “We believe in the positive collaboration as well as complementariness of human beings and technology. The art of conversation will be at the heart of Customer Relationships and will build the trust that binds consumers and their favourite brands,” he concluded.

An optimistic and realistic vision of the near-future that we need to get ready for...