Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Digital Innovation with a Soul







By Hilary Hahn

Vice President, Employee Experience, Culture & Client Strategy
Frontier Communications





It has been said recently that “experience is the new brand.” According to a recent study, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.


Our team believes this, and therefore we take the customer approach that “service is the new marketing.” In today’s world, consumers buy products that they expect will simply work, and when they don’t, consumers expect that they will be able to fix the problem by self-help or google; if and when that fails, they reach out to the brand for service and support. This is a defining moment. Sometimes it is the only interaction that occurs between a brand and their consumer. So, service matters.

Our ability to consistently solve complex problems for customers, and to also anticipate their future support needs and solve for these as well, is a highly valuable capability that comes at a relatively high cost. Brands want to engage effortlessly and effectively, yet how do they budget for the high volume of customer needs? One of the best ways is to understand why customers contact them. Looking at these big-bucket trends will most often identify lower-value work that does not require a human being to solve. There is no question that low-value, high-volume, repeat interactions can be accomplished with lower-cost digital solutions. Enter the BOT.

But here is our question: while my email in-box is bombarded every day by companies requesting my time to discuss how their new chat-bots, voice-bots, and messaging-apps are poised to take over the way business interacts and supports customers, there are very few companies who are putting a human experience into the digital ones.

One of our team’s cornerstone values is to be human. We make it our business to bring our humanity and empathy with us every day, because ultimately, we know we are supporting people, not just the products they use. Equally, we believe there is a need to build bots with artificial learning capabilities that are grounded in human empathy.

It was a giddy moment upon checking in at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas recently, when I was handed a second plastic key card and informed that this was “Rose”. The black card read:“I AM THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION YOU NEVER ASKED.”On the back of the card I was invited to text my inquiries to a phone number.

I ran to my room determined to ask ROSE all the questions about Vegas that I always wanted to know but were afraid to ask! While I will not share the answers here, I will share the experience.

Applause to Simon Petigrew and team who are behind this product/service launch, especially because they have created Rose with an appropriately sexy, chatbot-persona. For example,“she” will send you an emoji lip kiss if you have thanked her.

Some of her responses are also sassy, i.e., “it’s been a pleasure to have you push my buttons. xoxo.” They have some quirks to work out as the responses to actual questions seem to come in rapid fire, feeling robotic versus human, but they are working on the delivery, and the AI bot is in its early learning phase. I am definitely looking forward to my next visit to The Cosmopolitan to see how ROSE is evolving.

Regarding new technology for the contact center, we are fortunate to have engaged with someone whom I believe is part genius, part artist, and part mad scientist!

He has put a human face on artificial intelligence injecting emotional intelligence into the equation. Why? Because when humans interact, we want to get "feedback."

There are a slew of companies offering machine-learning bots today, but none that look, learn and respond in a truly human way yet. This company is building an AI model that is different, not only because of how human “he or she” looks, but primarily because of facial expression. This machine infuses the interactions with a wrinkled nose, a concerned look, a raised eyebrow. And at the right moment, a compassionate smile.

As the creator, Mark Sagar, says, “the face is the mirror of the brain.”

We are excited to think about ways that this technology can transform the customer experience. Our aim is to improve customer retention and loyalty, with a goal to reduce the future need for assisted care with every customer interaction. This involves digital innovation with-a-soul, as much as it requires the cognitive skills that humans offer to solve complex interactions. We are focused on both.

The future is already here.

Hilary Hahn excels in building long-term strategic client relationships by operationalizing stakeholder strategy, and uniquely creating customer-experience consultant partnerships. She was brought into Frontier Communications to develop a lean-startup customer experience concept, that grew from greenfield to $100M annual revenue in 3 years. She helped develop a culture of high engagement that is being leveraged across the Frontier customer service organization, building an inside-out employee-centric approach to generate high customer feedback results. She is a strong believer that human-to-human interactions will remain in servicing for high-value cognitive work, and is an AI enthusiast when empathy is attached to the solution.

Hilary has been a speaker at numerous industry conferences and can be found
publishing and posting opinion surrounding Customer Experience. Follow her at
https://www.linkedin.com/in/hilarystrausshahn and on Twitter @HilaryHahnNow


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