In the last couple of years, we’ve witnessed a heavy boost in smart technology use. Some people are more thrilled than others, but we’re all talking about digitalization and wondering what the future will bring.

Today we have with us Barry Cooper, President of Workforce & Customer Experience Division at NICE, to comment on the situation. As an experienced leader, Barry gave truly insightful answers to burning questions around AI, RPA, and Machine Learning.

A headshot of an interviewee Barry Cooper, President at NICE, who talks about smart technology.

To set the scene for our readers, could you tell us more about yourself and your role at NICE?

For over 25 years, I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat in the global customer service industry, a pioneering industry that spearheads innovation. The last 10 years of this time have been with NICE. In my current role as President of our Workforce & Customer Experience Division, I lead a global team passionate about delivering industry-defining innovation – from our unrivalled R&D and product strategy to providing exceptional customer and employee experiences.

The CXM team knows you as a true advocate of smart technology as well as an everyday user. How do you feel AI, RPA, and Machine Learning shape your daily routines?

It’s true that I am a pretty hardcore everyday user of smart technology in all aspects of my life. I prefer products and services from organisations that are able to use my data to create personalised experiences for me while keeping it safe.

Whether it’s AI-recommended online streaming entertainment leveraging my viewing and listening history, recommended shopping choices or even software-based guidance on how to train effectively for bike races, I am a strong advocate of enabling those organisations I trust to use my data to deliver greater value to me.

At NICE, you are helping brands improve customer service with the support of smart technologies. How does this play out in real-time? Could you give us an example of fully digitalised customer service?

The smart technology abstract represents the business process when using digitalisation.

Rather than focussing on single interactions, fully digitalised customer service combines self-service and attended service into one integrated framework that manages the end-to-end customer journey. It addresses questions and solves issues in the moments that matter. This journey begins before the customer even speaks to an agent, with smart conversational AI surfacing relevant content that helps customers resolve their own queries.

If issues do need to be escalated to a human agent, the employee will automatically have all the information the customer has already provided to the bot – no repetition required. Thanks to AI-powered technology, the agent will also receive ‘in the moment’ guidance based on the customer’s past interactions and current sentiment.

Furthermore, smart technologies enable brands to provide a personalised service that makes customers feel understood and valued. With fierce competition for share of mind and wallet, brands that are capable of engaging in this meaningful, customer-centric way maximise the effectiveness of their interactions and reduce the risk of losing customers to the competition.

What do you think are the biggest benefits of RPA/AI/ML for businesses?

Technologies like AI, RPA and Machine Learning in CX fundamentally change the nature of customer engagement. They help brands shift away from transactional interactions and towards hyper-personalised experiences, and they achieve this at scale. If an organisation is leveraging predictive AI and automation technology across every engagement, on every CX channel, it can understand preferences and anticipate needs – sometimes even before the customer is aware or knows it themselves. This type of service is important for any brand that wants to create lifelong customers and empower employee success.

Effective AI and automation can significantly reduce costs for businesses as well. For example, by effectively handling more interactions with intelligent self-service bots, organisations can reduce the cost per interaction while increasing customer satisfaction. We now have AI models that identify the most effective self-service opportunities to train bots based on agent interactions. Bots are guided to use the fastest agent responses that create the highest sentiment, which increases the service effectiveness more than ever.

Following the above stated, how do you see smart technologies transforming the lives of employees and customers? Given everyone is talking about digital solutions making things easier for users, we’re curious about what they bring to the people.

We know there is a new generation of consumers who have grown up in a digital world and are confident navigating it independently. They have rapidly evolving expectations and seek familiarity, personalisation, and efficiency when they interact with a brand. That means brands must shift focus towards managing the end-to-end customer journey – from the moment the customers first search for information until their issue is resolved.

The employee wears 3D glasses to enjoy smooth work with smart technology.

With journeys starting before the traditional contact centre engagement, AI-enabled self-service options have become a new CX frontier. Brands are now putting the power into their customers’ hands by giving them access to the knowledge to solve their own queries. This greatly increases the chances of successful engagement with today’s digital native customer base.

AI, RPA and Machine Learning are also empowering agents in the contact centre with the data needed to deliver better service in real-time. These technologies put information at the agents’ fingertips in real-time, guide them on next-best actions, lighten the load of repetitive manual processes and allow them to focus on value-additive customer service. That’s a great motivation for talented individuals and sets them up for success.

With the recent boost in digital trends all over the world, where do you see smart technologies in the future? Are we to witness faster adaption of RPA and AI across daily channels?

We have already witnessed a huge shift in the CX space towards greater adoption of automation, data analytics and other intelligent AI-based technologies. In today’s post-virtual decade, we expect this to accelerate even further across all channels.

The future lies in expanding hyper-personalisation – customers want to feel as valued and understood by the brands they engage with, as they do when talking with friends and family. Technologies like AI, RPA and Machine Learning on a Cloud-native platform will continue to make this a reality for businesses of all sizes.

Lastly, the uprise of digital transformation during the pandemic also brought a massive concern regarding user privacy. Do you think there’s a way for us to rely on technology while still protecting valuable data and preventing its abuse?

As consumers engage in increasingly digitalised environments, the issue of trust has renewed significance. At NICE, we anticipate a shift from the idea of data privacy to the concept of data as a currency of trust. We are seeing a re-negotiated contract of trust between consumers and organisations.

Brands are responsible for ensuring that user data is treated securely and with respect. In return, consumers consider their personal information as a new type of currency. They are happy to exchange it for hyper-personalised experiences from brands they trust and are sceptical and withholding with anyone they do not trust to treat their data with care.

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