Category: Technology

Click below for a short story on how customer experience can be vastly improved with Conversational AI.

You know the drill.

Call a Customer Support number. Wait in a telephone queue. Build up patience to spend a lot of time explaining your situation to an agent. With some luck, you will get your questions answered and your problem solved.

Nobody enjoys this experience.

I had a simple task for my travel insurance provider: to add a destination to my annual policy.

Consumers Want to Chat – Conversation is The New User Interface (UI)

I decided to go to their website and use the chat functionality instead.

After all, we spend 5x longer messaging each other than calling. Also, messaging has surpassed social media in terms of active use and mindshare with consumers. It clearly makes a lot of sense for businesses to address this trend.

A conversation via a messaging platform is the user interface of the modern world!

But I did not have a good experience. And I know I was chatting to a human. Why?

Because the conversation was too robotic! ??

  • The agent said his name was George
  • I could sense that George was a very bored person sitting at a desk behind a computer
  • He asked me some very cold questions, clearly following a script
  • He would then copy-and-paste some pre-defined (and very long!) text of info that I had already seen in their website

I know I was chatting to a human because the conversation was too robotic.

After some messages back and forth, George’s recommendation was… that I must call their Contact Centre to resolve my query! Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

It wasn’t a helpful exchange. And now I have to take time off my busy diary to do exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place!

Chatbots to the rescue – Conversational AI platforms

If the travel insurance company had implemented a well-designed bot, powered by Artificial Intelligence, the customer experience would have been much better.

I know, I know. You have also had bad experiences with automated systems and chatbots.

Although they look simple on the outside, businesses should not underestimate the importance of planning, design and development of bots. Engaging with experts in this field is crucial to ensure you get it right.

Here are five ingredients needed in a modern chatbot, built for success:

1) It has a Persona, Integrated with Messaging Platforms

Quite simply, your business must be where your customers are. And the bot will be one of your Sales and Customer representatives. Since 2015, the big four messaging apps (Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber) have had more monthly active users than the top four social media apps.

We also tend not to call each other and end up messaging people more often than not.

The takeaway message here is clear: if people are using messaging apps, it should be a no-brainer that brands and services should be present where their customers are.

If your customers don’t want to call their parents, friends and significant other, why would anyone think they want to call your business?

It is also critical that your chatbot must have a personality. It is key for customer retention and simple “wow factor”. It may be surprising, but people actually want to use chatbots to interact with brands. However, they do not want to feel like they are talking to a robot.

2) Understanding of Context

This is both in terms of the conversation itself and on my history as a customer. 

A bot built on a modern Conversational AI Platform must understand that, if I start talking about travel insurance to Belgium but then ask “what about to Australia”, that I am still talking about travel insurance.

It must also allow businesses to personalise the experience. For example, maybe it knows I am from London and can joke about the weather.

It may even know that I was born in Brazil and that the football team has just been kicked out of the World Cup. It may have an effect in my mood. 🙂 

3) It Learns With Every Conversation

The more people use it, the more it understands nuances of the subjects it handles. If you are assessing a Conversational platform, Machine Learning is a required functionality.

But don’t assume this is just a feature to switch on and leave it there: “learning” is continuous and needs guidance. It is the case for humans and therefore also for machines.

The platform must provide reports and the team behind the chatbot must be knowledgeable to evaluate changes and provide further training to the bot.

4) It is aligned to Business Processes and Systems

You wouldn’t hire customer services employees and just leave them with no access to your customer database and to the critical data they need to perform their work.

Equally, a well-design bot is integrated with your business processes and tools through APIs.

Don’t just create a “decision-tree chatbot” that then points customers to a contact centre most of the time. Otherwise, you are just creating an annoying text-based “press 1 for sales, 2 for support, etc…”.

Businesses need to create Conversational experiences that are pleasant and natural. Don’t just define a static “decision tree”.

5) It Increases Overall Productivity, But Keeps Humans in The Loop

It just liberates humans to do more fulfilling and productive jobs.

Would you do your accounting with an abacus and pieces of paper? Probably not. And that’s because it is more productive to use calculators, spreadsheet and accountancy software instead.

In the very near future, no-one will have to do boring, repetitive and low-productivity computer-based tasks. Automation will be everywhere.

But fear not, AI is complementary to humans, not a replacement. A good chatbot also knows its own limitations and can connect the customer to a person to take care of more complex requests. 

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a remarkable experience with customer service support? Is your business assessing the implementation of AI and bots?

That the digital universe is expanding, we all already know. But a question can be asked in a business context: who should lead this agenda?

In a 2019 study, were analyzed the scope of the role of CDO – Chief Digital Officer – in the 2,500 largest companies listed on the stock exchange. The survey  found that the rate of creation of CDO positions decreased sharply compared to the previous survey, conducted in 2016. Only 54 companies surveyed (2.2%) had created a new and distinct CDO position in 2018, compared to 124 that did so in 2017 and 160 in 2016. As such, the consultancy claims that “2016 was the highest point in hiring CDOs”.

The explanation? “Leaders of many companies now believe that putting a single person in charge of digital transformation may not be the best approach, because it’s a strategic priority intrinsic to the entire business. Agility becomes critical for survival,” the report stated. Another study, this one done by the World Economic Forum, shows that the average term of a CDO is 31 months — the shortest of all “C-Level” positions — and that number is falling. In addition, more than three-quarters of them leave the company immediately after their term as CDO.

That the digital universe is expanding, we all already know. But a question can be asked in a business context: who should lead this agenda within companies? As digital and traditional businesses become just one, will companies need a single leader for the role? If a leader taking responsibility for the digital transformation is an existing executive, do we need to have a centralized name?

There are leaders of companies that think of the true digital opportunity as one that is focused on revenue. That is, the biggest opportunity is to sell existing or new products and services through digital channels, such as the company’s website or mobile app. If that’s the case, it might seem logical to have a company’s customer-centric sales or marketing leader lead the role. But what if we take into account aspects such as tools that include the governance infrastructure and applications responsible for managing data used in digital initiatives?

Customer-centric role leaders may not have the experience or knowledge in the areas needed to influence each one. Analytics areas for this leadership are soon thought of. In another perspective, there are also structures related to traditional technology, with the role of CTOs or CIOs. In contrast, similarly, these roles do not have customer service responsibilities, and this puts them at a disadvantage in suggesting and leading opportunities that should benefit customers.

Could it be that, once the first waves of transformation are effectively introduced, with established programs, the title may not be necessary? Can an investment framework for change help ensure that the innovation portfolio (with a focus on revenue/customers or cost savings) is managed more effectively?

Expanding further on what the research at the beginning of this publication says, I extend the “agility” agenda. Focused on skills in roles that make change happen in the tactical and operational layers, receiving directions from the company’s strategic layer. And what are they? These are skills associated with agile development.

Digital transformation requires agile development that focuses on developing projects iteratively. Agile Coachs, Scrum Masters, Product Owners. User Experience are the roles that drive this transformation. Agile Coachs formulate a transformation path based on the so-called “value stream”; Scrum Masters emphasize agendas, reports, and frequent team-wide meetings to map out phases of developments and projects.

Product Owners are responsible for the product being developed. They define the product vision in the short, medium and long term, tracing the development path for delivering value. Finally, User Experience teams act on customer experiences and employees’ experiences, depending on who a particular product or project is aimed.

The digital revolution is coming, and while it may seem like the pace of change is fast now, it’s only going to get faster. And we can all (need) be digital leaders. For this, it is necessary to discuss skills along with traditional roles and positions. These skills combine business disciplines and technical knowledge. And they demand the direction the company wants to follow.

You have probably heard a lot about blockchain. But maybe you are still unsure about what it is?

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoins, but it is having an impact that goes way beyond the realm of cryptocurrency. It is important to understand it, but if you are still confused about what it actually is, don’t worry… you are not alone!

This infographic provides you with a summary of how it works.

Every headline on business and news websites. It is the fact that the Brazilian government has adjusted the GNP forecast during 2020 from 2.1% to zero

There is a curious expression in popular journalism: ‘No news is good news’, which essentially means that no news is a good sign. This saying has never been so relevant as it is today. Here is the bad news; every headline on business and news websites. It is the fact that the Brazilian government has adjusted the GNP forecast during 2020 from 2.1% to zero. Furthermore, the World Bank forecasts a 5% retraction for our economy. This is due to the Coronavirus’ impact on the productive sector, wealth, employment and income generating center.

It is expected that the Ministry of the Economy will ascertain the right reaction. Macro and micro economy challenges will be considerable and the Brazilian businessman, the one with reserves acquired through time, will be asked to participate in this recovery effort. Meanwhile we should, as strategy and management professionals, pave the way for private sector leadership in this crisis. 

Unlike other crises, the current situation means private companies must be ready to trigger economic growth. Some facts support this statement. If the government knows how to provide incentives accurately to businessmen, employment will recover quicker and companies will be able to invest efficiently and to scale provided that things get better. More capable companies – the ones who are prepared to find solutions during this time – will seize this moment more effectively.

Therefore, one of the essential tools in our recovery will be information technology, which creates incredibly potential for the transformation of companies whether by revitalizing legacy systems or by offering disruptive solutions that provide efficiency, sales and a better experience to the customer. The last few years were very demanding on the IT sector.    

Understanding consumers’ behavior, which has proven to be increasingly dynamic and demanding, requires digitalization and an eagerness for agile solutions. The companies that provide products and services in a proper channel and with fair prices will stand out when this crisis ends. It might be the after-crisis survival kit.

However, there is a powerful bottleneck in this process. The IT market faces a historical lack of talent. In Brazil, for instance, ten lawyers graduate for each engineer each year. At this point, even the quarantine can provide opportunities. Institutions, S System and technical schools are providing free online qualification courses that can better prepare current applicants or qualify new applicants in this field.

In summary, the equation is complex. In addition to courage and faith, we will need government measures, scarcity management and planning. After all, as the legendary jazz musician and pianist Duke Ellington said, “Problems are opportunities to show what one knows.”