You must relentlessly ask: Is this harder for the customer to do? Relentlessly. Because, today, in an increasing number of areas, if it’s not easy-to-use, it’s dead in the water. – Gerry McGovern
Re-entry into the world of work after immersion in a completely different culture is always a disorienting experience.
I’ve just returned from a trip to Myanmar – a country with a complex and troubled past and present – and one of the most fascinating examples in the world of technological growth.
After decades of being cut off from the rest of the world, internet users in Myanmar increased by 97% in 1 year. And 70% of those are mobile users.
If you travel to places like Asia – where innovation is running riot due to a lack of legacy systems and thinking – you can see that change takes place in weeks rather than years.
There’s no ‘change management’ or time spent preparing people for change as folk have lived their lives facing one seismic shock after another.
For three weeks I’ve not dealt with any paper, any spreadsheets, and very few emails. I’ve negotiated seven hotels, seven flights, taxi’s and boat trips through a mix of apps, increasingly powered by automation and artificial intelligence.
In some respects coming home seems like arriving in the third world, rather than coming from it.
One of the most interesting developments on this trip is how artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots have broken through to the mainstream. On many occasions, I’ve found myself updating hotel plans through a chat application very aware I’m not actually talking to a human.
When we talk about AI and automation we too often focus on the loss of jobs and of meaningful human contact rather than the value-added to the customer.
I missed two connecting flights but both were rebooked for me before I even got off the plane.
A temporary hotel was arranged for me in Dubai before I knew anything about it.
I didn’t have to send emails to hotels confirming arrival details as a chatbot did it for me.
In the West, it seems more time is spent writing blogs worrying about the threat of AI than implementing AI to introduce better customer experiences.
The big threat to our jobs isn’t actually AI, it’s our inability to move away from existing business models and to explore new ones.
What we are seeing in customer experience now is really interesting and splits us into roughly six camps:
- Those who are disengaging from AI as it’s science fiction or a bit spooky.
- Those who are actively resisting it because it threatens their incumbent position and business model.
- Those who think it will upset their staff or their customers – as if somehow their staff and customers live in a parallel universe where Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google don’t exist.
- Those who see it as an opportunity to cut costs or realise benefits to the organisation.
- Those who are seeing this technology as a way to move to better and more personalised customer experiences.
- Those who see this technology as a way to transition to entirely new business models providing new opportunities for customers.
If your organisation is going to shy away from using technology to streamline its customer experiences, then you’re obviously doomed.
However, the debate is more nuanced than that.
On leaving my delayed flight with my first 24 hours travel plans in tatters I was met by a real-life human being. She handed over my new tickets and explained how to get to the hotel they had given me. She explained that all meals would be paid for and apologised for the inconvenience.
It’s this sweet spot we need to aim for – where technology becomes an enabler to a greater purpose.
People trained in listening and empathy supported by AI that understands and is able to adapt and personalise complex service offerings.
I’d buy that.
I’m chairing an event on 7th February in London that will consider issues around AI and automation in the context of housing sales – you can book for free here