Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more mainstream in India as the country’s focus on the digital domain is ushering in new waves of efficiency and productivity. Double-digit growth in a trillion-dollar economy with the power of a single emerging technology shows its remarkable impact on not just the ease of brand-customer interactions but also in charting a journey in a world running on automated systems.
With AI and robotic process automation (RPA) set to influence more spheres this year, here are some predictions for how things will progress in 2019:
The focus of AI will shift from cold intelligence to empathy
We’re moving beyond the point where cold analytical intelligence suffices for consumer-facing AI. Customers want to know that they are being viewed as individuals and not just as customer data records. In 2019, vendors will focus more on increasingly humanising AI with emotional intelligence and empathy.
This means better understanding of context and longitudinal conversations, picking up on clues on customer motivation and intent, tone of voice, how people feel in a particular moment, where they are in their lifecycle, how they act in certain situations, and even what is happening around them.
It also means effectively fusing AI systems with human agents, so the wisdom of AI and human crowds are used to deliver intelligent and empathetic customer experiences.
Consumers will push to reclaim control and monetise their data
The tug-of-war for ownership of customer data will heat up between businesses and customers themselves. Ownership of customer data will transition away from businesses and back towards customers themselves.
New services will emerge that empower customers to even monetise their own personal data and rent it back to companies. Data is the fuel that powers AI, and customers will realise they have the power to drive their own AI-based experiences by reclaiming data control.
Real-time interaction management (RTIM) reaches a tipping point
The early adopters of AI in RTIM are driving massive returns on their investments. But most organisations have remained skeptical, and early adopters have kept their cards close to their chest, guarding their competitive advantage. This year, their secrets will escape, and a new wave of firms will become RTIM’s early majority, stoking its growth.
Any business not leveraging this purpose-built AI for customer engagement will feel the pressure to jump in to stay competitive.
The customer value officer will emerge as a key player
Organisations strive to create mutual value through relationships with their customers. But whose responsibility is it to make sure it happens? Say “hello” to the customer value officer, whose responsibilities will only expand as AI proliferates.
Customer value officers will emerge as a key link in balancing a customer’s needs and interests on the one hand, and the company’s business objectives on the other. It’s not the products that create the value; it’s the customers paying for them. Customer value officers will need AI for that balancing act, continuously optimising for value during millions of interactions, across products, channels, and functions such as sales and service.
AI transparency will permeate customer engagement
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) reflects a societal demand for data privacy and decision transparency. For many organisations, this means re-examining how they’re using AI.
On the one hand, AI can be a black box and overflowing with learned biases; on the other, it can drive much smoother, more personalised customer engagement. Organisations can control and regulate AI judgement/decisions and how they tie into the ability to manage bias and ethical issues. Based on increasing customer demands and regulations, the ability to fully explain AI decision-making will become a key factor in how businesses deploy this power in the year ahead.
ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION
The overhyped ‘RPA bubble’ finally bursts
RPA users will enter the trough of disillusionment. They have been told RPA is a cure all for digital transformation and process inefficiencies but are finding it is not right for every situation, doesn’t scale, and is hard to deploy.
RPA 2.0 will sit on the sidelines... for now
True Cognitive RPA – where AI is embedded directly in RPA to add intelligence to processes – is still quite far from being a reality. Though RPA will remain a largely unsophisticated process in 2019, we will see more examples of AI and RPA working side by side next year.
Organisations start to sunset RPA bot for more permanent fixes
Some forward-thinking businesses will start to migrate from temporary bots that mask deep processing problems on the surface to a more permanent solutions – such as Digital Process Automation — that fixes these problems at their core.
Broken bots shine a light on shadow RPA
Bots deployed by rogue players will start to create major IT headaches as they begin to break and cost more to maintain then they are actually worth, forcing organisations to rethink who gets to author bots and how to maintain them.
RPA becomes more than a cost play
Moving beyond the obvious cost benefits, organisations will focus more on using RPA to improve customer experiences by assembling disparate processes together to get closer to end-to-end automation.
The writer is the managing director of software firm Pegasystems India. The views expressed are personal.