How Cognitive Platforms are Reshaping the CEM Landscape

By: Dinesh Pandurangan

Customer experience management (CEM) is undergoing a major transformation in the digital economy. There is no industry domain that is untouched by this transformation and the winners will be the ones that deploy technology in the direct front lines of customer interaction. Enterprises that manage the digital transformation through a combination of strategy, leadership, production and consumption of the generated data, are best positioned to lead their respective industries. The office of the CDO (Chief Data Officer) is going to perform a critical role in CEM focusing mainly on the consumption of data to derive insights and personalized user experiences. The rapid proliferation of “cognitive” application platforms from being a specialized functionality to widespread adoption in the enterprise accelerates the shift to an analytics driven culture.

Cognitive systems are those computer applications that “learn” from sets of interrelated data and generate computational models. The vast strides in machine learning, data science and the increased adoption of tools and techniques are significantly improving the quality of human computer interaction in ways that were unimaginable half a decade ago. Cognitive systems allow companies to derive valuable insights about their customers and help them deliver the best-personalized experience. In every customer interaction, the key to providing the best customer service is to understand “intent.” Technologies that listened only to what the customer is saying or typing have negatively impacted customer satisfaction. Those systems of the past did not derive context and focused only on the present.

Today, we are surrounded with cognitive systems in various forms, product recommendations on, vacation recommendations that flood our inboxes from travel sites, coupons and flyers in our mailboxes, movie recommendations on social media sites, the airline call center bots, kiosks at the fast food chains – there is technology deployed at every turn that is tracking our behaviors and learning something about us every single day. A major disruption is already underway with smart assistant technologies like the Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices now invading our homes and eliminating the need to pick up our phone or boot our computer to do certain things. We can now just ask what the weather is, track our shipments, order a cab or a pizza, search and listen to music, stream videos to our TVs, manage to-do lists and calendars, turn on/off lights and applications (and the list is endless) all with just our voice. These assistants are constantly learning an individual’s accent, word patterns and personal attributes so they can understand the “intent” accurately and provide the best responses. Gartner predicts, “By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse,” that “30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen”, and more significantly, “20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps.”

Understanding and treating a customer as an individual is the future of customer experience and, to provide that individualized experience, technology is going to play a significant role. There are some enterprises that take this approach too far and completely eliminate the human element in all of the customer touch points to their own detriment and poor customer experience. The key is in striking the right balance by “augmenting” the human-human interaction with intelligent systems. A recent Stanford study, “One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100)” says, “AI will likely replace tasks rather than jobs in the short term” among other social impacts of cognitive computer applications.

Customers still want to interact with a human but the quality of that interaction is now enhanced by the cognitive systems put in the hands of the customer service representative presenting relevant insights and suggested actions. The customer demand for better, convenient, and responsive service is growing exponentially and, given the fact that customers have limitless choices today to explore and acquire what they want – puts a lot of pressure on companies to retain customers and revenue.

Customer Service has evolved over the years from primarily call centers to what are now called contact centers that handle a variety of customer interactions through different channels like computer chats, smart phone apps, phones, email, social media, SMS, and this list is only growing. This presents a unique challenge to provide a consistent and seamless user experience irrespective of the channel. Cognitive platforms help deliver this Omni channel user experience at large enterprises around the world. Let’s consider a scenario of a customer calling in about their internet service disruption.


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