customer experience applications for ai

How Well Do You Understand AI Applications?

In the last week I spoke about AI at the Argyle Forum webinar and at the ConnectID Conference in Washington, DC. Technology is emerging and we need to find a way to integrate it. In order to get approval for AI initiatives from our CFOs and/or boards and to get AI adopted by our customers, it must meet a specific customer experience need or fill in a journey gap.

As Jessica Groopman summarizes, AI can be broken into 3 major streams: big data, vision and language. These streams come with various applications that have clear business cases that we can learn from.

AI Big Data Application

Ancestry uses big data to explore DNA and compare it to hundreds of thousands of records it already has in its database to provide customers with insight about your genetics origin. Even my genetics specialist suggested last week that my husband and I check our ancestry there. Information is power, and knowing more about who we are and where we come from is a big gap in our journeys as individuals. Ancestry utilizes big data and creates a product and a customer experience that makes sense to the end user.  This is why their product is being adopted by customers.

AI Language Application

At Waverly Labs  Andrew Ochoa and his team are using machine translation to break down language barriers around the world. With an ear piece and an app, users can travel anywhere in the world and hold a real-time conversation with locals without learning the language of the country they are visiting. That is real game changer in communications. Imagine finally having a real conversation with your waiter in a small French bed and breakfast and ordering the best local dish. Or speaking to your mother or father-in-law without having to learn the mother tongue of your spouse (although understanding each other better could deteriorate that in-law relationship :)). These real customer experience gaps drove 22K people to fund Waverly Labs on IndieGogo and helped Andrew Ochoa raise $4.5M.

AI Vision Application

Facial recognition is one of the most common applications of vision AI. Yesterday at the ConnectID Conference we saw a variety of trials that prove the use of facial recognition at the airport to enhance efficiency and security for the customer and his/her journey. Airlines and airports all over the world are working on refining the value proposition of these deployments with the seamless biometrically enabled journey as the end goal.

Last year we wrote about eBay and their big bet to make AI the center of their product design. E-Bay is building the ultimate personalization, making it possible to design an outfit that does not exist!  We are all learning, but one thing is certain, chat bots are not the only application in AI and if you are a competitive customer experience professional, you better learn all the answers AI has to offer before you find yourself with a stupid chat bot in your contact center while  your competitor used AI to reimagine the customer experience, embracing a technology that drives them straight into the future.

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TpysRUs bankruptcy why

Do You Know Why The Iconic Brand Toys ‘R’ Us Closed Doors Despite All Our Memories? #RetailBlues

The year is 2016. You are the CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us. Your brand still controls 13.6% of the toy market although the company is highly leveraged, a strategy of your private equity investors. Amazon has its best ever holiday season and digital commerce is becoming the way customers purchase consumer goods more and more. You also have read about the epic miss of Kodak to move to digital photography. Last but not least, you have observed other retailers invest in their websites and build e-commerce customer experiences in an effort to avoid a “Kodak moment.” What do you do?

Nothing new, is the answer, and bankruptcy is the outcome that we are all reading about this week.

Sometimes, the ROI of the CX business case is survival. Literally. If Toys ‘R’ Us had listened to its customers and had build a digital experience on their website, the historic brand of our childhood would have become part of the childhood of our children. It is not easy for a brick and mortar business to reinvent itself into a digital business. It is not impossible. To survive, companies must evolve with their customers or die. The survival of the fittest in full effect on the business landscape, especially in retail.

Every organization has capital funds to invest in big bets (or not). Disruptive technologies today are redefining our way of life and the way that we consume goods and services. Big brands today need to ensure their boards and executive teams are made of bold, visionary leaders who are not afraid to recognize the future when the future is coming their way, and to invest in righting their ship on time. The leaders of Toys ‘R” Us were not aggressive enough until the end. This navigated the brand into oblivion.

Another 2016 scenario for Toys ‘R’ Us could have been to focus its remaining funding into a digital transformation, to build an interactive website and a user friendly app. The stores could have become places for customers to interact with the toys and order them on apps on their own devices, or on iPads in the store.

Toys ‘R’ Us could have built an interactive loyalty program following the growth cycle of the children who received toys from their stores. I have a Toys ‘R’ Us loyalty card and for the last 5 years I have not received a single communication from the brand about its loyalty program. No coupons, benefits or programming of any sort.

I do not know what Toys ‘R’ Us has invested in, in the past 5 years. One thing is evident. The brand did not have an aggressive digital strategy and vision to stay relevant in today’s world. A better management team would have never let this happen…while they were buying their new smart phones with more and more apps and digital products on them every year.

Autonomous Customers, Traveler Privacy and More Questions for CX Professionals in a Changing World

“As we move toward a more automated culture, most travelers will adapt to a Jetsonian, automated lifestyle.  Every industry we know will be disrupted.  For those of us in aviation, this signals the shift from aviation as a service industry to a transactional one that is potentially devoid of the personal touches that made the romance of flight an event.”

As I am boarding my flight to Denver today to speak at the AAAE Conference on “Autonomous Airports,” I can’t help but question, what does autonomous airport really mean.  The customer experience value of an airport itself is not autonomous.  Rather, the emerging autonomous airport experience aims to give birth to, enable and empower autonomous customers.

That brings about even more questions for CX professionals, particular customer experience professionals in the aviation world.

What is an autonomous customer?

The autonomous customer uses his/her time better and has more of it. Today we have a “holding room” at airport gates. Holding room… even the term itself sounds limiting.

What is a customer supposed to do in a holding room?  Be on hold?

Autonomous airports are open spaces with no physical or process boundaries between the individual customer touch points (check-in, bag drop, etc.).  As a result, there also is no barrier between crewmember and customer. Eliminating barriers in autonomous airports shifts the power from the airport procedures and processes to the traveler. This makes travel more enjoyable.

Because of this customer experience-driven design, the autonomous customer can go through the experience at his/her own pace.  The autonomous customer is not “held” anywhere. The airport becomes a menu of tools and services that the autonomous customer is empowered to choose to use or not. Who would not want to do that?

What about Grandma’s journey?

Autonomous airports enable both customers and crewmembers. A roving crew has access to much more information and tools on the go that enable them to take care of the needs of all customers of all ages, particularly those who do not want to or are unable to do so themselves.

Maybe the first time, Grandma will be intimidated (although not all grandmas are alike!) by the autonomous airport environment, but she will quickly get used to and appreciate the self-driving device that can whisk her and her bags from one gate to another in a few minutes.

What about my privacy? Does autonomy mean my airline knows everything about me?

Autonomy is also about accountability.  On both sides. Customers want information and adequate services at the right times.  It is impossible for any brand to deliver that without access to certain customer information or preferences.

Customers also want seamless journeys across the airport. To design that airlines and airports need access to certain customer history. For example, if you want the airline to wait for the customer one extra minute at the gate, the airline needs to know that the customer is physically at the airport. Even more so, the airline should know whether the customer has passed security already.

In the case of JetBlue’s autonomous airport CX design, Bag Buddy, one of my ideas, was designed to pick up customer bags at their homes and transport them directly to their destinations. That seamless movement of objects and people lays on the foundations of data sharing. More specifically, it rests on good data that is appropriate and useful in delivering the experience customers want.

Questions remain, and as CX experts continue to design autonomous airports and meet the needs of the autonomous customer, new questions will arise.  For now, let me demystify the autonomous airport for you. At the heart of the autonomous airport, from the CX perspective, is the information that will allow the airport as a physical asset to expand its boundaries and reach people’s homes. Data allows physical boundaries to merge and creates one big experience of transporting people and their belongings across space. That is a future we all want, Jetsons fans or not.

CX design brand goals JetBlue Liliana Petrova CX

CX Design – How Do You Want Customers To Feel?

Last week we talked about CX Design in terms of space and function. Today  we continue our CX design journey to talk about the design of feelings. The new look of the JetBlue T5 lobby enabled customer experience interactions in more open air space for both customers and crewmembers.

 

The next part of the design drives the make or break of ROI. It is also the most overlooked.  Meeting the functional needs of customers is only the base of the experience pyramid, but most brands stop there, believing that meeting those basic functional customer needs is enough to deliver great customer experience. In his book Harley Manning revisits the three levels of the CX pyramid  – “meet needs,” “easy,” “enjoyable.”

 

To design great customer experience like we did with the T5 project, we jump right to the top of the pyramid, working on making our customers say “I feel [blank] about this experience.” Who you fill in that blank depends on your brand and culture values.

 

How do you want them to feel?

 

It is important to think through the emotions you are designing, since those emotions will trigger repeat business. As Maya Angelou said “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That memory is both a risk and an opportunity to create a long lasting relationship with your customers. When we were designing the lobbies, the customer experience team wanted our customers to feel efficient, taken care of, empowered and smart enough to do things themselves without help. We knew the goal – create simple, personal and helpful customer experience. All we had to do was think about what that means in terms of emotion.
 
How big is the change you are introducing? Are you adding enough new customer experience elements that compensate for the discomfort of the ones you are removing?
 

Start with the change management.  When we removed the podiums at the lobby, we essentially took away our crewmembers’ comfort zone – their anchor, their place to hold personal items. This change was disruptive to their daily lives. It was important that, as we took away tools, we also needed to give crewmembers new ones to make them feel heard and understood. So we designed the hospitality training – a CX soft training with standards and tips on how to interact with customers and keep the brand promises we have made.

 

With the hospitality training, JetBlue crewmembers had the cultural/brand guidelines of service delivery that perfectly complemented the new space we built. One of the whys informed us that the only thing a “Bag Drop” position should do is check IDs and scan boarding passes and bag tags. Podiums and computers were replaced with Blackberries to do just that and the transaction times at bag drop dopped in half.  Customers spent 30 seconds dropping their bags and continuing on their (CX) journey. The lines disappeared. The negative comments about long lines in our VOC surveys also disappeared. We had a drop of 65% of any mention of “long queues”.

 

 
Does your corporate culture support the internal disruption you are creating?
 
Since we completely disrupted the working place of our crewmembers we needed to think about the soft side of this innovation. At the time, we were the first airline in North America to remove podiums at bag drop. This is where JetBlue’s culture is a true differentiator. The CX design did not stop with the Customer. It included the crewmember. We treated our employees as customers. We spent equal time deliberating how to design (and pay for) the new bag drop positions to minimize the functional changes in the lives our crewmembers. For example, where would they leave their phones, purses, wallets when they worked? We built drawers in the blue arcs above the intake bag belts to meet that need. The thinner design matched better the overall open space approach of the lobbies. Despite that, we built them thicker, making the tradeoff between brand look and function to manage the customer experience of our crewmembers and their acceptance of change.

 

 
The design of exceptional/memorable/unique customer experiences requires empathy. To connect as a brand to your customer, you need to go beyond meeting the functional needs of your customer. Making the experience easy is very hard. No doubt about that. But ease only connects with the rational side of your customers. To generate more ROI through CX, you need to also create a positive emotion that will trigger the irrational decisions to (hopefully) pay for your product or service at a premium next time. Not only because it was seamless, but because they want to relive that feeling again. You will be one of the few brands that is not just offering a product or a service.  You are offering amazing customer experience – you are a well oiled machine for feelings.
 
Image courtesy of JetBlue

Why I Don’t Love Chat Bots

Today, we tackle the value proposition that chat bots are more valuable to companies than customers. I reject this.  The ROI simply is not there, especially since better customer experience is not there. I have experienced both fully automated bots and “augmented” service agents interactions using the chat channel, and neither delivers on the promises of chat bots as the game-changing resource we all need.

For our blog we use a photography subscription service. They push chat support heavily. When I used it, it was slow. The person either did not know English well enough or was multi-tasking several chats, but it felt like he was not present. On occasion, it felt like he was not answering the question I was asking, but rather providing a generic response. The base for effective communication is connection. When I felt unheard by the “support,” my frustration almost led me to drop the service (there are plenty of options for photography sources). Suddenly the chat offering threatens to cause the loss of a customer… and the organization PAID for it, for its integration, monthly support fees etc. I do not like that. It makes no sense.

empathetic response ai photos

AI presentation photo by Liliana Petrova, CCXP

Let’s talk about the fully automated chat bots. Allegedly, this is where companies see the real efficiencies. Again, no real value for customers unless the automated chat function allows them to fully self-serve. The problem is, the fully automated chat bot today is stupid. It can perform only very distinct functions.

The customer faced with a chat immediately tenses up with anxiety. He/she knows that the chances are pretty high he/she will have to channel switch pretty soon. How many bot interactions have you had that allowed you to solve your problem without switching to a human? Chat bot is supposed to deliver customer-centric experience. It is supposed to be customer directed, but the customer feels anxious that the minute the bot gets “stupid,” the customer loses control of the experience. Suddenly, the power is with the bot.

What is the future for chat bots? Disturbing is a word that comes to mind. Soul Machines is the company to check for the preview. They have developed a digital human that has a BRAIN built on a virtual nervous system. Now that is equally exciting and terrifying. It reminds me of the AI empowered female voice that sounds like a human one (the digital human is also female…just saying). It will take some time before the digital human agent becomes the norm, but one thing is for sure, the next version of “stupid bot” will have empathy.

According to Forrester, 60% of us prefer not to use a chat bot at all. I bet you if you ask why, you will also hear that the bots just stupid. So how can chat bots become smarter? We are back to the data conversation. Chat bots are as smart as the power and scope of the underlying data they can pull/learn from. In the case of the JetBlue customer experience team, without an integration to our reservation system, the chat bot cannot change or re-book a passenger’s ticket. Until then. customers will keep reading “please speak to an agent.” That is hardly a way to feel the love.

CX Design Makes Form and Function Beautiful – and Cosmopolitan Magazine Notices

At its core, design means value creation. In the world of Customer Experience design means to empathetically imagine a future customer experience that is easy, fast, and seamless. The actual design can be building a new lobby or changing an existing customer-facing process that takes too long, or simplifying an internal procedure that prevents employees from solving customers’ problems quickly. Due to its importance, CX design is also one of the six disciplines that the CCXP exam covers. Any CX professional must feel accountable and responsible for CX design. It is our job to design and to to prove the ROI of that customer-centric design. All of this can feel overwhelming. How can one person solve all of these structural problems in a creative way? Where do you even begin?
 
What do you want the customer to do?
 
You begin with the process. Current, future – gaps. In the JetBlue lobby case, before we even began building T5 we met with the industrial engineers to go over the mechanics of the space. “We want movement. No queues.” Airports and airlines both share that goal. But that is too generic of a statement to allow for a design solution.
 
The questions you need to ask and answer at this first phase of CX design are “Why is there no movement today? Why are people waiting on line?” and then use the 5 whys technique to really understand what you need to address in your design in order to create movement. In our lobbies we had long lines at the “Bag Drop” position. Often, the express “Bag Drop” line was even longer than the “Full Service” line that offered more services, leaving customers and crewmembers frustrated.
 
Photo: JetBlue
The original plan to address the bad customer experience was to introduce self-tagging kiosks in the lobby. If only customers could print their own bag tags, all the lines would be gone. At first look that sounded logical, until I remembered . The Goal teaches to look for the bottleneck of any operation and to chase it all the way down/out of the system. Instead of building the business case only for kiosks, I kept thinking about the end-to-end journey of the customer. Not surprisingly, when we asked our 5 whys we quickly found out the root cause that we needed to solve with the future CX design.
 
Kiosks were not enough. I had to go farther.
 
We never had bag drop positions. Functionally, there was nothing different between the bag drop position and the full service position. Customers would go to the fast lane and clog it with questions or needs that required our crewmembers to act as a full service desk, holding the line for up to 15 minutes per customer. As CX Designer, I solved that by stripping all the full service functionality from the bag drop position. I removed the computers. Then I removed the podiums.  I gave our crewmembers a completely different environment to operate in, disabling them from ever functioning again as full service desks. Featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine, the new design empowered them to deliver personal, helpful and simple experience by removing the physical barrier between them and the customers thus creating an open environment that ignites conversations.
 
Creative thinking, process mindset and empathy are the key ingredients to building CX journeys (experiences) that will differentiate your business and make your customers come back for more. People do exactly what you design them to do. The good news is you are in charge. There is no such thing as overthinking design. Keep imagining all the things that can go wrong and then amend your design accordingly. Enjoy the art of CX design!
 
Featured Image Courtesy of Cosmopolitan Magazine

Brand Image ROI

Two weeks ago we discussed the power of employee engagement for your brand and the true meaning and ROI of a working corporate culture. Today we will examine the business case of the engaged customer, the powerful brand image and the brand loyalty it generates – loyalty that drives repeat purchases, higher revenues and more engaged customers.
 
An engaged customer requires the investment of the ongoing conversation. The “conversation” dollars go to social media campaigns, closed-loop systems for customer feedback, and a responsive loyalty customer service, among other customer experience levers.
 
Invest in people as much as product
 
Two weeks ago, I received a complaint from a JetBlue customer. In order to keep the conversation going with this customer, I had to relay the information to the teams that were accountable for his experience and get back to him with a comprehensive and empathetic feedback about his experience. CX professionals call this close loop, but close loop is a policy. My taking the effort to connect with people across the organization and CARING to get answers is employee engagement on my part, and that is generated by our corporate culture.
 
This culture is what maintains customer engagement and, which, as a result will create an ancillary purchase in the future. Often, people and service are more important than the product of an organization.  People and service build an organization’s brand image when customers interact with the brand. Customer experience relies more on human interactions with the brand than on the technology that enables those interactions.
 
Empathy and Innovation
 
Magazine Luiza is another great example of impacting ancillary sales and seeing a 35% ROI as a result of deliberate investment in empathy and innovation.  The Brazilian virtual store offers products on credit to the under-served customers in rural areas. Customers can see pictures of their desired products then go home and wait for the delivery in the next 48 hours.
 
To achieve loyalty and repeat business, Magazine Luiza also functions as community centers that offer free internet, literacy, cooking and basic banking classes. This investment contributed to the build out of a strong emotional connection between the brand and its audience, transforming Magazine Luiza into a powerful lifestyle brand to its customers. Even customers apprehensive of taking credit visit a place where a friendly face walks them through the experience of borrowing money while their child learns how to write for free.
 
The brand image of growth and development that come from the education components Magazine Luiza provides is, in a way, transferred to the “product” of buying on credit.  Once customers are empowered to buy on credit initially, they return to buy more things because each of those purchases makes them feel economically empowered.
 
Engaged customers are the blood of every business
 
Without engaged customers, business cannot grow. They provide the steady cashflow and the free cashflow that allow a business to invest in products and customer acquisition. The ROI of engaged customers lies in the growth of the organization and the incremental revenue that ensues. Depending on the growth stage of a particular organization, that ROI also can mean an organization’s survival.
AI

How Smart Do Humans Want AI To Get?

Last month we covered the basics of AI and what it is in theory. Today we will talk more about the existing practical applications of AI and reflect on what that means to us. We will also share some caution about AI, which, similar to IoT does not have existing laws to follow due to the speed of its development. It is a fact that there is no real regulation on IoT products today and there are cases filed against familiar brands like Bose.  Last month I bought my team Google home minis to inspire a culture of innovation. Sometimes I wonder… what exactly did I buy them?
 
Currently, one of the most impressive real expressions of AI is the voice-generating AI that is indistinguishable from humans. Now that is a real capability that can generate significant efficiencies in call centers (given that you have the clean data and the cloud enabled applications to power the “brain” of the AI).
 
The AI voice re-imagines the how of the interactive component of the customer experience. The innovation part is that, to the customer, there is no real change in the emotions they experience during the call. The customer still hears a friendly female voice. This AI application does to the call center what the touch screen did for cell phones in 2007.
 
Keep in mind that as you converse with the friendly female voice, the AI that powers it is learning – it is getting smarter and smarter. The question is how smart can AI get. A better question, how smart do humans want AI to get? We all have heard the story of Frankenstein. If we are not careful, we might build our own replacement.
 
If you think I am exaggerating, listen to Elon Musk who has been cautioning us against AI for years. “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that… I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.” We should most certainly embrace the future. However, we need to make sure we keep the control. With regulation and legal framework speed we might build the guardrails too late. Let’s also not forget that the master computer voice in Terminator, like those used in call centers, was female. I wonder if that is just a coincidence….
 
AI is not capable only of generating voice. It is able to “read” and to analyze human voices in a manner we have never seen. The term for this is “voice profiling.” Apparently, humans cannot detect the data/information in our voices the way AI software can. So the next time your bank asks you if you consent to record your voice for “additional security” on your account, think twice (too late for me… the TD Bank AI already has filed me away). The advancement went as far as creating a face to the voice in December. “Your voice is like your DNA  or your fingerprint.” according to Rita Singh. Thanks to today’s advanced algorithms and the large computing power available, our DNA is out in the digital space, ready to be “profiled.”
 
The reach of AI goes beyond customer service and personal banking. AI is now making hiring decisions today. Companies use AI technologies to shift through the large volume of online resumes they receive. Ostensibly, AI creates a leveled ground for all candidates and alleviates existing biases during interviews. An industry has emerged predicting either candidates’ skills based on online clues in the case of Fama or on their actions through Entelo that “guestimates” who is likely to leave a job. The situation gets creepier when we start talking about companies like HireVue. On the surface, HireVue’s solutions sound innovative  – “databased, unbiased talent decisions.” In reality, HireVue has the potential to read our faces when we speak and determine whether we are not truthful. No more saying at an interview you are leaving your current employer to pursue further development. HireVue will know you did not get along with your boss, or that you hate banking. A world in which we cannot have our internal lives sounds like a scary and lonely place.
 
What is next for the brave new world? According to the cofounder and CEO of Nvidia Huang it is “… the ability for artificial intelligence to write artificial intelligence by itself.” In other words humans will no longer be needed or even capable of running the new technology since it will be beyond our capacity to comprehend or manage. I don’t want to go back to Terminator and the Transformers, but it is hard not to see the resemblance in the plots. On the bright side, one can make a fortune in the next decade investing in those underlying technologies that will be running themselves or us in the future. This is how Huang made his fortune. We can always follow in his footsteps.
the customer experience effect jetblue liliana petrova

Keep The Customer In Focus For 2018

In her latest post for JetBlue’s Into the Blue blog series on customer experience lessons learned in 2017, our own Liliana Petrova explores how to combine innovation and knowledge of human behavior to keep the customer in focus at the same time CX professionals are developing new strategies.

Read more and watch the video.

 

eBay

CX Bold Moves: eBay’s Vibrant Marketplace of the Future

Two years ago RJ Pittman and eBay made a big bet and made AI (artificial intelligence) a core discipline of the company, similar to brand marketing and sales. The organization was able to focus and build upon existing technologies to create a truly personalized experience on eBay. This is the definition of a big bet, and the reason why eBay is part of our CX Bold Moves series.

In the retail world of RJ Pittman, the conversational commerce does more than assist us in buying an outfit, it uses predictive analytics and AI to design the outfit if it does not exist anywhere in the world.  Now that is the ultimate personal relationship any brand can have with a customer. Once eBay is able to consistently deliver this value proposition to the customer and to scale it for the 3Bn online users today, Amazon will finally have a match – and become less ubiquitous.

How did eBay get here?

“Don’t start from the tech, start from the experience and start with transformative experiences that your customers will feel…” is how RJ Pittman summed up his approach at the Forrester conference in San Francisco this fall.  eBay is an excellent case study of a brand that followed the principles for self-service that we laid out last week – the brand will enable the customer of the future to post and sell any item without any effort or friction. Through computer vision, deep science looking at images, real time pricing, conversational commerce with interactions, and a world price guide, eBay is building an AI-enabled ecosystem that will have the power to create many real personalized experiences for all of us.

What about the eBay brand?

“The brand is the product is the brand” are the words of RJ Pittman that sum up the future of marketing. Today marketing is less about ad campaigns and more about a brand’s products and the customer experience that accompanies them. This year JetBlue achieved $33M of ad spend equivalency with its launch of facial recognition technology at the gate. This is much more brand exposure than an ad campaign. Without the existing social media and mobile technologies, that would have been impossible. But in the world in which we live, the brand is more about keeping and living the promises you have made as an organization and less about what those promises are.

This is an important note of caution for all those who have brand marketing and customer experience under two different executives. How are you ensuring that there is a real alignment between those two legs of your customer relationship?

What did eBay really do?

eBay applied technology to build a dream no one has imagined yet. The innovative brand did not merely optimize its responsive website (some of us actually even call responsive design digital revolution:( ), it invested heavily in a conversational commerce that will define how customers purchase in the future.

This disruptive strategy is not a science project. It is the birth/built of a vibrant marketplace of the future. Rik Reppe said on stage in San Francisco that courage, flexibility and imagination will make or break our efforts with AI. Listening to RJ Pittman it felt like he has all three of them. Do you?

the customer experience effect jetblue liliana petrova

What Will CX Look Like in 2018?

The JetBlue blog features Liliana Petrova in a new four-part series on Customer Experience that collects the 2017 customer experience lessons learned and charts the course for customer experience that delivers technology solutions in new and innovative ways in 2018.

Read Part 1 of the series and join us for more, over the next four weeks as we prepare for the new year.

Image courtesy of JetBlue

 

Is AI Really The Answer?

Earlier this week we shared some of the pitfalls of implementing  self-service and highlighted the importance of strategic and empathetic implementation.  AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the self-service tools in the customer service professional toolbox today. It is also one of the new buzzwords, together with blockchain (for the curious ones  – my favorite explanations of blockchain are this video and this article).

The primary current positioning of AI is in call centers. The value proposition is that with AI, companies will empower customer service employees to make better decisions/recommendations, thus increasing employee engagement. Additionally, through AI, organizations will achieve significant ROI by automating the role of the customer agent (in JetBlue’s case, the crewmember) and scaling customer support without incremental headcount.

So what exactly is AI? Do you really understand what this technology can and cannot do? If you do not, keep reading as all working professionals today should understand at least the basics of AI. If you are like me, you probably get 100 sales emails every week telling you that you are running late and must leverage AI in your call centers. But do you really need AI? What problem do YOU need to solve? And is AI the best way to do that for your company?

Last month I was invited by Execs In the Know to join their AI Advisory Committee with the below mandate:

“The final group output will come in the form of a report. The exact nature of the report will be determined and framed by the group, but may include areas such as:

  • A summary of ways AI is enhancing CX channels
  • Best practices on where and how to start
  • Trends and technology in AI to improve service
  • ROI of current AI customer service initiatives
  • Perspectives and predictions about the future of AI and customer service”

This is no small mandate and it is encouraging that we have a group of professionals who are examining these questions before we all get ahead of ourselves with AI and compromise the ROI we all want so much.

The most common use of AI is ML (machine learning).  Basically, this is data mining and predictive learning on steroids that enables a computer to make decisions and interact with a human. With that basic understanding I already have a few questions to all the companies that are calling, emailing, inmailing etc., to offer me AI enabled solutions. Who, or rather what, is enabling those solutions? Is it my company’s data? Because if it is, I have a lot more work to do internally before I respond to those sales pieces.

Erik Brynjolfsson and  Andrew Mcafee provide a comprehensive explanation of what AI is and what it is not in their publication The Business of Artificial Intelligence. In it they state that AI technology is ready for implementation in the business world and that “[t]he bottleneck now is in management, implementation, and business imagination.” I do have the business imagination, but I also am taking my time to know exactly what capability I am buying with AI. It might be cheaper to streamline processes and fix existing software tools or integrations to enable my employees to deliver excellent customer service, instead of paying for yet another software integration that makes decisions based on my bad data (since I would have prioritized the purchase of the expensive AI solution over cleaning my existing data).

Although it is clear that AI will be a solution that needs demonstrated ROI and employee adoption for success while it is learning, it is also clear that we cannot wait too long to get comfortable with this new technology. As Erik and Andrew say, one thing is pretty sure: “[o]ver the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t”.

That is the exact reason I chose to join the AI Advisory Committee. More to come!

Liliana Petrova

From Pain Points to Magical Moments: Transform the Customer Experience

Argyle Journal recently interviewed customer experience professional (and Doing CX Right writer) Liliana Petrova about emerging self service technology and meeting and exceeding customer expectations in airports.

Liliana brings out a point that is integral to all technology-based customer experience solutions, namely that “[w]e want to create something that feels like magic, without breaking any foundational rules.”

Of that magic and the quest to create it as part of customer experience, Liliana explains, “[i]f there is a way to create a seamless and invisible experience, we want to find a way to get there.”

Read more about how she and her team are working to do so.

Play the audio below to hear Liliana speak about the magical customer experience.

CX Bold Moves: Uber Bets On Self-Driving Cars With Big Volvo Purchase

For anyone brave enough to imagine the future it is clear that autonomous vehicles are coming and that the flying cars taxi chase of The Fifth Element will be a reality soon after. The question that remains unanswered is who will be part of the future of transportation. More and more players are claiming a stake in the multibillion market place, but like any innovation the odds of winning are 50%/50% until the industry gets mature enough for us to even see what it will be. So who are you betting on? Uber? Lyft? Yourself?

The Uber bet

Uber is going for the vertical integration – the whole pie. The future industry of urban transportation will be made of players in three different categories: cars, self-driving software, and ride-sharing network. With the #UberVolvo deal Uber made a stake in the cars part of the equation. They already have the ride sharing network and the in house research and development of self-driving software. Every company struggles with the right balance of internal development vs. partnerships. There are pros and cons of either approach. The factors in the final decision are costs of maintaining the technology (capital vs. operating), level of customization available (much harder when the technology is built by a partner) and speed to market (depending on the staffing level of the internal teams the speed can be faster or slower if the R&D is internally driven). Uber is betting on taking all the risk and owning all parts of the autonomous vehicle ecosystem.

The Lyft bet

In contrast, Lyft approaches the future through partnerships. Their vision improving lives with the world’s best transportation inspires the creation of cities for people, not cars. In the last two years they have formed multiple partnerships with various small and big players in the new tech space. The choice of partners: Waymo, nuTonomy, Drive.ai (self-driving software) and the large direct investment by GM (cars), proves that Lyft plans to be an integral part of the autonomous vehicle solution (ride-sharing network), but not the whole technology stack. Their strategy is much more tactical in nature. Lyft does not need to build the whole future of urban transportation. It suffices to be the bolt without which the system will not function. The success of this approach is founded on successful partnerships and is collaborative in nature.

The George Hotz belt

And if you still want to own a car in the future, the self-driving platform Openpilot and the Neo device may be the way to go. The Neo will transform your Honda or Acura into an autonomous vehicle that you can control with Openpilot. George Hotz’s company Comma.ai has activated users to share driving data to perfect the self-driving algorithms for the future by learning from drivers today. In his opinion “Self-driving cars need nothing but engineers in order to solve it.”

The approach to autonomous vehicles of Lyft is more congruent with the sharing nature of the future economy. Sharing is rooted in partnering and collaborating with others. The future generations are less likely to associate themselves with a conglomerate that monopolized the market space. It looks like Lyft, although a smaller player, does have the more sustainable strategy to autonomous vehicles. Then again, we are missing a big piece of the puzzle. We really do not know how the government will play in this space and if it will come up with regulatory obstacles that require a lot of funding to overcome. Smart brands put equal time and energy in building partnerships with the government agencies. So far Uber is behind on that front too. Both Uber and Lyft are making bold moves in the autonomous vehicles space. The question is, who has the winning strategy?

 

 

self-boarding with facial recognition at a JetBlue gate.

CX Bold Moves: JetBlue Paperless And Deviceless Boarding

This year JetBlue entered the ranks of the innovators who disrupt industries and not only imagine the future, but also build it. With our award winning facial recognition boarding technology we were able to provide a preview to our customers of what traveling will be in the future. The fact that JetBlue’s facial recognition trial was named as one of the 100 greatest innovations of 2017 by Popular Science was one of the many signs we received about the excitement of the public about innovation in the airline space. JetBlue realized that our customers are not only ready, but also eager to step into a world of  new experiences that are personal, helpful, and simple.

So why is it so hard to eliminate the friction points on the travel journey and enable repeatable, intuitive, and empathetic experiences when we fly?

Variability is almost impossible to manage

In the book “Uncommon Service” Frances Frei and Anne Morriss lay a whole customer management process for successful brands. They present several examples of Progressive Insurance and Shouldice Hospital where through different processes these organizations are able to select the right customers for the experiences they have built. Airlines cannot do that. We cannot choose who we fly. Since the industry is driven by small margins, every customer flown counts. JetBlue’s mission bring humanity back in the air travel is driving us to welcome on board anybody who would like to fly us. And we consistently design all our product and experiences with that in mind!

Integrated experiences are based on integrated technologies

The future of flying is here only if we are able to integrate virtual reality and other technologies in a meaningful way that adds value. In JetBlue we are collaborating with JetBlue Technology Ventures and Strivr to test VR for training of our maintenance crewmembers.  The technology is more advanced in helping with decision making and not necessarily recreating the feeling of loading bags under the plane. For those immersive experiences the integration, build and scaling of the experiences is much more complex. Integrated and intuitive experiences are not hard to imagine, they are very complex to create and personalize.

Somebody has to pay for it

The moment we begin scaling and implementing customer journeys that use technologies of the future, we have to build the business case and its ROI. CFOs see customer experience design projects as process effectiveness work that increases output of existing infrastructure. Customer experience is much more than that of course, but knowing your audience is half the battle. Regardless if you agree with finance or no, you need the funding they hold. If you list the funding and maintenance requirements for a VR or a biometric solution very quickly you will see that to extract value from future technologies, you also need other future technologies to be cheaper. We all depend on a faster network (5G, 8G, 10G?) and even cheaper storage (cloud that is free to maintain and does not hit your operating expense every year?). Until that happens we probably will trial more and scale less.

We all share the excitement for the possibilities that new technologies like facial recognition and VR bring to us today. Some of us even venture to realize and share those possibilities with our customers. Customers have the power to add and co-design their experiences, which is really exciting too. In JetBlue we  used facial recognition boarding  to lead the industry. Our innovation was embraced by our customers and that is why we all won at the end!

# biometrics #facial recognition #VR #disruption # customer experience # game changer #NY Times #JetBlue