How bots and personal assistants can improve customer experiences

By Kerry Topp

Datacomp blog 1 - robot lightbulb

From Iron Man’s Jarvis to Droids like R2D2 and BB8, we’ve always had a vision of personal assistance from artificially intelligent machines that we can talk to – and they understand what we say, how we are feeling, and the context around us.

We are closer to this reality than you might think. Last month at its annual global developer conference in San Francisco, Facebook announced the company was opening up its artificial intelligence-powered platform, M.

M is a bold answer to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. It’s a virtual assistant powered by artificial or cognitive intelligence; however, what makes M different from other offerings is that on top of using artificial intelligence to complete its tasks, M is also powered by a team of Facebook employees, or M Trainers, who make sure personally that every request is met. Over time, through the responses of these real people, the virtual assistant will learn to answer more complex questions and reduce the need for the M Trainers.

The global technology landscape is relentlessly charging forward at an exciting, if not break-neck pace. Those that explore and embrace new technologies gain a decisive competitive advantage in today’s world.

But companies aren’t yet taking full advantage of what virtual personal assistants and bots can offer. Yes, personal assistants allow us to do more with less – they can also help businesses provide better customer experiences. Businesses may be considering mobile strategy, digital transformation and how to stay ahead of the curve, but what they’re not considering is the potential impact of cognitive intelligence technology.

This is much more advanced than the voice recognition technology you encounter when you call your average call centre – we’re talking about artificial intelligence that understands, learns and remembers. Cognitive or artificial intelligence technology includes image/emotion recognition, speech recognition, and natural language processing.

Take, for example, how this technology could change the old-fashioned drive-thru. When you pull into a drive-thru, your license plate is scanned and an app pushes suggestions to your phone, based on what you previously ordered – whether you placed the order at that particular location or another one around the country. You can order on your mobile device while you wait in line, or you can place your order through the speaker.

But there’s no real person behind the speaker – it’s a personal assistant listening to your order – which you can place in any language, speaking in a way that’s natural to you – asking you the right questions, and suggestive selling you your fries.

For customers, buying dinner is more efficient, and they get a more consistent experience. The company saves money on resourcing, and guarantees customers are always being presented with the option to upsize their combos. It’s a win-win.

The fifth annual Datacomp event will be held from the 10th to 12th of June this year and the theme is “to create personal experiences for our customers or your own ideas through the use of cognitive technology”.

Datacomp is an innovation event where teams take an idea through to a working product in 48 hours and compete for coveted top prizes. In the last four years’ competitions we have had over 250 people from across our business trained in new technologies and new ways of working. Last year’s event saw 130 competitors take part from across New Zealand and Australia, which raised the bar for creativity, results and… dance.

Kerry Topp is the General Manager of Transformation & Innovation at Datacom.