A guide to navigating the digital hype
Digital technologies like AI, IOT, and big data analytics have been creeping into the customer experience for some time now, but only recently have businesses really started to take serious notice. While only 15% of enterprises are using AI as of today, 31% are expected to add it over the coming 12 months.
This uptick is likely because the ROI companies hoped to realise as a result of implementing AI, IOT and big data analytics is starting to become more palpable. Results such as improved efficiency, cost reduction and business process disruption are some of the benefits to digital transformation.
But, what is fact and what is fiction? Navigating the reality of these digital technologies can be difficult, so putting a plan in place that is best suited for your company's objectives can be a challenge.
Where do we draw the line?
As it relates to AI, the reality is that AI, coupled with big data, allows companies to surface more insights, recognise patterns and, in conjunction with qualified consulting, create improved workflows and provide better information to everyone involved in these processes, both customers and companies.
The hype for AI is that it will soon replace humans in all customer interactions. But, the truth is that, right now, AI serves to reduce workloads and make everyone a bit smarter. We're still a long way from completely open-ended conversations handled by an AI that connects every part of a business. But, businesses wanting to be an early adopter of these digital technologies and use it as a competitive differentiator should be doing it for the right business reasons.
Navigating the adoption phase
Once reality is confidently achieved, you'll need to tackle technology adoption. The adoption phase isn't the last step of the process, but it shouldn't be the first step a company takes either.
Phase one must be the recognition that a business transformation is necessary to correct existing issues and then identify process improvements and technologies to support the entire effort. Most companies will find that addressing existing issues internally will net bigger results than trying an approach that involves brand new processes and goals that may cause even more internal disruption.
It's good to remember what happened 10 or so years ago, as smartphones started to become available. Companies rushed to create native apps that were created for the sake of getting in early on a new platform, but not necessarily with well-defined or aligned goals. After researchers started to look into app usage did the ineffectiveness of most apps become apparent? A smartphone user survey by App Annie last year found the average US mobile user has around 100 apps installed on their smartphones, but use just 10 on average a day. In those early days of the smartphone, brands jumped into app development simply because everyone else was, instead of taking advantage of other, more strategic, capabilities of smartphones like SMS and the Web browser.
Digital adoption doesn't guarantee change
Being an early adopter can be great, but it's only great if it truly benefits your customers; after all, they are the ones you are aiming to please. Understanding the needs, issues and preferences of both your internal and external customers and understanding the difference between them is critical, and the only way to truly create positive change.
For example, AI is not something a company should or really can "buy". AI is a feature of a larger solution that will support a specific strategy that a company has determined will suit its need to change for improvement. In the contact centre industry, omni-channel has often been incorrectly talked about as a product or solution, instead of correctly positioned as a strategy where the goal is to have customers enjoying a consistent experience, regardless of which channel they start and finish on.
Technology adoption is nothing new, but doing so in a cloud environment, relatively speaking, is. What's also not new are the fundamental principles of ROI. The pitfalls of evaluating the potential impact of technology investment in a vacuum and not involving the resources of the vendor or your company stakeholders/influencers/users could result in a wrong purchase and one that not only delays success, but could result in adverse outcomes. This means wasted resources and potentially lost customers. Organisations need to have hard performance objectives identified, such as reduced labour expenses or improved customer satisfaction scores, in addition to making sure the experiences are connected to the rest of the customer experience before making a purchase decision, and even more so, before deployment.
The point being, AI has the potential to impact people and processes far beyond the scope of your project at hand. Therefore, the addition of AI should be viewed as a significant part of a true digital transformation and not an interaction in isolation.