Picture this: an engineer fixing a plane while wearing Google Glasses; a heart surgeon assessing a patient in theatre from 100 miles away; or a virtual bank employee advising on mortgages via WhatsApp. It might sound a bit far-fetched, but digital technology offers fantastic business opportunities.
‘While consumers can’t wait to see what the future holds, companies are still somewhat hesitant to implement new technologies. But while these establishments are reluctant to take the leap forward, individuals around them are rapidly adopting new tools and technologies,’ explains Geert Batterink, Managing Director at Accenture Digital. ‘When it comes to new technology, individuals expect a high level of quality, pace and user-friendliness. Consumers aren’t the problem, neither is technology.’
The number of companies using robots is increasing. Take Baxter, for instance, who looks like the stereotypical interpretation of a robot, the kind a 4-year-old would draw. When you add Baxter to an assembly production line and show him what to do, he will mimic your actions. After that job is done, just assign it new tasks, but be sure to show it how to execute those jobs. Physical robots are being used in the manufacturing industry more and more, while cognitive robots equipped with social intelligence software are being integrated into the corporate world.
Sending WhatsApps to Robots
If you were to spend any given day at a travel agency’s customer service center, you’ll find that most of the queries revolve around the same topics. The same goes for enquiries at energy supplier call centers and banks’ helpdesks. Hiring expensive manpower to handle these calls would be a waste of money, especially if robots can do the trick. By having a cognitive agent – a software robot – listening in on conversations, it will acquire the information needed to “speak” to customers itself. Furthermore, companies can apply these “futuristic” technologies to various other service channels, too. So while customers still like to interact with an actual human being on the phone, there is also a movement towards preferring to use WhatsApp or Facebook to contact companies.
"Robots are able to work 24 hours a day, speak any language and will never call in sick or care about labor agreements"
Aside from answering practical questions, implementing technology offers a wide range of exciting opportunities. ‘For example, after having booked an airline ticket and checked in for your flight online in just one click, a virtual travel companion puts the cherry on the cake by recommending the best restaurants and must-see museums at your destination – talk about a perfect customer journey! Robots are able to work 24 hours a day, speak any language and will never call in sick or care about agreements,’ Batterink asserts.
How to Benefit From New Technologies
Consumers benefit from new technologies both directly and indirectly. Let’s look at an airline: a company consisting of numerous departments that all greatly value customer service. In the old days, a plane with a mechanical defect would cause chaos. Welcome to the digital era, where instead of using a crackling radio transmitter and flipping through 1000 pages of an outdated instruction manual, the engineer now puts on his smart glasses and fixes the problem in a matter of minutes. Should things get too complicated; a senior mechanic will virtually join the repair center and look over his shoulder, so to speak. Other relevant parties are kept in the loop real-time via tablets and are able to participate at any time. The key is to implement systems in an agile way and build constant loops of feedback. You'll see that, within a few months, a smooth user-adoption is guaranteed. Moreover, you boost one of your most important KPIs: on-time departure.
Use the Knowledge of the Crowd
Organizations don’t necessarily need to bring knowledge in internally. A service app called Directly can do that using so-called crowdsourcing. The app offers on- demand customer care: a customer service center managed by members of your own platform. Let’s say a consumer posts a question about renting a holiday apartment, the answer can be provided by the owner of an apartment who happens to be online. In doing so, the owner makes money. If his/her answer is rated ‘excellent’, the amount increases. Another perfect example of seemingly endless digital opportunities,’ concludes Batterink.
© Het Financieele Dagblad, March 31, 2016