8 out of 10 customer services will soon be AI driven: Interview Special

Posted Dec 9, 2017 by Tim Sandle
Eight out of ten businesses will have implemented artificial intelligence by 2020, yet many consumers are concerned by a perceived invasion of privacy or a robot takeover. The answer is for a businesses to use AI seamlessly.
Life at Google
File photo: An employee on her computer at Google's head office.
Photo courtesy Google
As a customer service solution, artificial intelligence is here to stay. For many consumers this presents no problems but a sizeable group are fearful of machine intelligence. For this constituency, businesses are better investing in making the integration of artificial intelligence seamless, according to the consultancy firm PointSource.
To understand how artificial intelligence is disrupting customer services and for ideas on how businesses can seamlessly adopted new technologies and deliver customer value, Digital Journal spoke with Barry Pellas, CTO and Chief Business Technologist at PointSource, a Globant company.
Digital Journal: What are the main challenges facing customer services?
Barry Pellas: Having a true understanding of the user’s journey and interaction points continues to be challenging. Internally, having a user first culture and having that be ingrained into everyday business is a challenge for many businesses.
DJ: How have consumer expectations shifted in recent years?
Pellas: Customer expectations have continued to increase across all channels and interactions. They expect seamless experiences and each new great experience they have sets the bar for all experiences regardless of the technology or platform.
DJ: How can artificial intelligence help manage customer services?
Pellas: AI’s most practical uses in this space are in those situations where you need more efficiency or better decision making, enhanced ability to process and consume information or with contextual personalization.
So for example, an AI could formulate suggested responses based on past interactions with customers across different channels, or it could more simply be the technology that understands the words spoken through audio with some sentiment analysis attached to it, which can be used to better train the AI to detect patterns for future calls with other individuals in similar situations.
A call centre. Many western organisations had a culture of outsourcing to India to take advantage of...
A call centre. Many western organisations had a culture of outsourcing to India to take advantage of cheap labor
DJ: What are the concerns that have prevented businesses from adopting artificial intelligence?
Pellas: AI is still an emerging technology. There is concern that it is too big of an undertaking to accomplish an outcome, or there is a lack of understanding toward what AI can do. The key is to not ask “how can I use AI?” but rather define the problems you are trying to solve, relate them to your users and then utilize intelligent systems to accomplish those solutions.
DJ: How can artificial intelligence platforms and employees work better together?
Pellas: We like to think of AI as something that augments the human in the equation and thus making people more efficient at achieving business outcomes. For example, a solution that is able to create accurate responses based on historic data or collect information obtained from audio to predict mood can be game changing in helping representatives handle different situations.
A call centre. Some industry experts are touting the centres as the sweat-shops of the 21st century.
A call centre. Some industry experts are touting the centres as the sweat-shops of the 21st century.
DJ: How can organizations like PointSource help?
Pellas: Our company looks at each engagement from a user’s perspective and how efficiencies can be gained. Even with emerging technologies such as AI, we continue that practice because ultimately we are solving a problem. That problem could be plaguing internal users or external users.
DJ: What other services does PointSource offer?
Pellas: PointSource is a full service Digital Transformation company that offers strategic consulting, user experience and visual design, architecture and engineering, analytics and marketing services. Our talent works with that user first mentality when solving business problems and throughout the build process. In addition, we partner with our client to address cultural change around adopting user centric design first thinking.
DJ: Which types of clients do you work with?
Pellas: We work with a wide variety of clients in many different industries from insurance to retail to healthcare among others.
DJ: How important is it that customer services collect and review data?
Pellas: Self-improvement in any organization is key. This is even more important when you consider a technology like Artificial Intelligence. Without data, predictive models cannot be trained properly. The more data provided to the systems while they train, the better. AI has become very good at identifying what we call “dark data”.
This is data that isn’t obvious or could otherwise not be obtained easily. In practical terms, this could be things like sentiment and context of a conversation in text or even the same for an image, video or audio clip.
DJ: In what ways does artificial intelligence need to develop further, so that it offers an even better service?
Pellas: AI needs data and industry presence to better itself. The strides made in recent years have made a number of breakthroughs possible in the industry. From self-driving cars to natural language voice commands, these interactions are constantly improving. In order to continue to evolve, focus should be put on how it can best augment human interactions and problem solving. In addition, the more AI that is placed into the market, the more we learn of its uses and limitations. This will allow us to continue to iterate on our techniques and further the abilities of the technology.