Giving Machines a Voice

We are living through a time of almost unparalleled technological change. Not so long ago, ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ would have been the stuff of science fiction: Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things mere flights of fancy. But they’re here as Wes Durrow, Chief Marketing Officer at Mitel explains.


Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What are the implications of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality for unified communications and customer experience?

Wes Durrow (WD): 15 to 20 years ago technology was built for the technology worker but the move to mobile and the cloud changes this and knits together systems in minutes instead of months. Today, when it comes to customer service excellence the customer is still not that impressed. The battleground is how you respond to customers’ needs – it has to be fast but you must also resolve the problem. Then you have to look at how you can pre-empt problems and how do you make the changes needed to do this without throwing everything out that you have now.

In the quest to deliver a more personalised customer experience, businesses have found an unlikely ally in machines. From tiny sensors to artificially intelligent contact centres, machine-based technologies can help businesses better understand, serve and communicate with their customers.

CBM: Should we be surprised by the impact AI is starting to have on the customer experience?

WD: It should come as no surprise to those businesses that have closely watched the digital transformation of the last decade. Customers, particularly millennials, have readily embraced digital technologies in their day-to-day lives, from online shopping to mobile banking.
Today, exceptional customer service isn’t solely determined by face-to-face or voice-to-voice exchanges; it’s a multichannel and, frequently, machine-enhanced process that ties together voice, video, mobile and online channels to deliver a seamless and highly-personalised experience.

CBM: Customer service never goes out of fashion so why the focus on Millennials?

WD: If you want to see the future of customer service, look to the habits of millennials: they are extremely connected to their mobile devices and take them everywhere using their smartphones to text more than talk, and are just as likely to use a social media app as their wireless service provider to communicate.

Millennials value privacy and yet are willing to share personal information in exchange for better service. At the same time they place a high premium on convenience and personalisation and have few qualms about moving to a competitor if they can find a better combination of price and experience elsewhere.

Within this ‘millennial mandate’ for convenience and connectivity lies a challenge and an opportunity for businesses.

The challenge is to deliver a mobile, unified, digitised customer experience in a way that is affordable, sustainable and meaningful. The opportunity is to create a customer experience that fosters loyalty, increases satisfaction and drives revenue for years to come.

CBM: So, is giving machines a voice in the future the solution to service excellence?

WD: We’ve already seen the beginning of this trend toward giving machines a voice with chatbots: software-based programs that ‘converse’ with online customers, using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to move the conversation forward. Millennials, in particular, have displayed a high comfort factor with chatbots. In one UK-based survey, over 60 percent of millennials reported using chatbots, and 71 percent indicated they would welcome chatbot engagement from a recognisable brand.

While machines have the potential to positively transform customer service and contact center experiences, integrating machine-based communications with existing products and services can also have a dramatic impact on customer experience. For example, a professional services company might use machine sensors to diagnose repair issues before a technician arrives, resulting in shorter repairs and higher rates of first-time resolution. An airport might use video-enabled communications with its defibrillator stations to provide live assistance in the event of an emergency. And professional athletes may someday have communications-equipped helmets or wristbands tied to biometric sensors that alert coaches and physicians the moment a player is injured or dehydrated.

With the right technology partners, organisations can give machines a voice in their customer interactions and deliver a richer, more personalised experience

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine