Customer engagement and AI: Why our entire relationship with tech needs to change

In the transition from the information age to the automation age, people need to change their relationship with technology, says Pommie Lutchman, CEO at Ocular Technologies.

Johannesburg, 28 Feb 2019
Read time 5min 20sec

It happened seamlessly, as it should. That is, the transition from the information age to the automation age.

And, here we are. Now what?

"As with any change, it is important not to lose your footing and focus. Don't scramble for fear of missing out, but be determined in your strategy and end goal, because the automation age puts how you operate in the spotlight, for all to see and experience. But, breathe, help and innovative technology is out there for you to achieve your purpose," states Pommie Lutchman, CEO at Ocular Technologies, a company that has solidified its business path by staying ahead of the innovation curve.

Operating and branding itself as an innovative customer engagement solution provider for the automation age, Lutchman says Ocular's own experience with transition has given it great insight and understanding of how to both effect and affect change in the businesses it services.

"Whereas the focus previously has been heavily on only digital, the breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), and how this technology is positively and profitably used in a business, have given technology an astronomical spin," continues Lutchman. "It's no wonder that, at times, just thinking about the possibilities and what needs to happen and change, can make decision-makers dizzy. Yet, this need not be, if you keep a focal point at all times."

He highlights that to fully embrace this transition, means people need to fundamentally change their entire relationship with technology.

"AI is the new user interface (UI)," he states. "And this requires us to change how we interacted with technology in the past to how we relate to it now. It is all much more conversational and natural. It's not static, but joining forces to achieve the best results. It's about finding not only your customer's voice, but that of your brand, and then finding a language that brings utmost comprehension of any issue."

To achieve this, he points to solutions such as intelligent interaction management, which uses customer-specific information, intelligent routing and cognitive interfaces to enhance the overall customer experience.

"Very important are conversational user interfaces. Built on a foundation of containerised micro-services and connecting to back-end systems, chatbots give us the privilege of interacting with a computer system on human terms," he explains. "In addition, robotic process automation is an emerging form of business process automation technology based on the notion of software robots or AI workers."

Furthermore, he highlights technology such as ambient computing, that allows for the development of interfaces in which people would interact with computers not constrained to a desktop, but anywhere at any time, on a host of different devices; and natural language processing, an area of computer science and AI concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages.

Vital, too, is cognitive analysis and design, which essentially means transforming customer experiences using enhanced personalisation and cognitive capabilities, AI and machine learning.

"Although it may seem ironic, it's not all about the bots," says Lutchman. "It's also very much about a culture transforming and a job role changing by means of a hand-in-hand collaboration between person and technology. Only in this way can the whole point of the contact centre makeover to innovative customer engagement centre be achieved. That is, seamless and improved ways of offering customers the best solution, to quickly and efficiently resolve their matters."

In short, he stresses, at the heart of the contact centre change is the happy customer (always). The contact centre change is only a means to achieve the end goal.

"At the beginning, I mentioned that a focal point is needed so as not to become overwhelmed. Thus, by keeping an eye on the hypothetical ball, the customer, the strategies, technologies, innovations, needs, people and all the other components necessary for the contact centre of the future, fall into place and make common sense."

Such as (and these are only a few components):

* Consumer wants self-service? Check
* Consumer wants a quick answer? Check
* Consumer wants to speak and be answered in natural language? Check
* Consumer has a complex and unique matter to resolve? Check
* Bonus info? Personalisation? Any platform? Check, check, check

"It's about practically deconstructing the consumer's needs, wants and, importantly, behaviours, and then reassembling a solution that plays to his/her every whim with all the innovative solutions available. First listen, and then respond."

Luckily, best practice software is quickly evolving and coming to the fore; notably, IBM Watson Assistant as well as Google's 'Contact Center AI' solution, which uses collaboration and intelligence as its golden thread. As Barry Levine on explains: "In contact center AI, a virtual agent first answers the call and handles it if possible. If not, it passes the call to a human representative, who is helped by an agent assist system that continues to monitor the call and provide supporting info as needed. There is also a conversational topic modeller to analyse topics from audio recordings and chat logs."

What this solution is doing right is that it addresses its purpose first and foremost (the customer) and harmonises the roles both human and machine play in achieving excellent customer service.

"The bottom line is, don't get so caught up in your bot that everything else falls by the wayside. Your contact centre AI solution is not the centre of attention, but only an important component of your actual focal point: the customer, who remains human after all. Get that right, and it's a giant leap to developing a conversational user interface that will drastically change not only the lives of customers, but also the lifeblood of your business," says Lutchman.

Ocular Technologies

Ocular Technologies is a specialist customer engagement and digital experience solutions provider. Ocular Technologies employs a unique set of individuals who are experts in understanding, managing, and ultimately ensuring an optimal customer experience. With a vision of being regarded as an internationally respected leader in the customer engagement market, Ocular Technologies strives to have its customers appear as heroes in the eyes of their clients.

Ocular Technologies holds more than 15 years' experience in the customer contact life cycle space, and create a quantifiable business impact through intelligent interaction management, robotic process automation, ambient computing, natural language processing, and cognitive analysis and design.

Drawing from a focused selection of best-of-breed technologies and methodologies, Ocular Technologies is outstandingly positioned to offer a holistic solution, including strategy and planning, implementation and delivery, as well as enablement and operations. As a 100% black-owned, level 1 B-BBEE contributor, Ocular Technologies has the added advantage of offering a preferential procurement level of 135%.

Editorial contacts
icomm Nicola Read (083) 269 2227
Ocular Technologies Pommie Lutchman (011) 589 3200
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