2015: A Customer Experience Odyssey

//David Hirsch//

A few months ago I wrote a post on CNBC about how smart, smartphones will become in the near future. One of the key things I talked about was how artificial intelligence will be used in a variety of situations to create more efficient conversations with the world around us.

Artificial Intelligence and NLP (natural language processing) allows us as users to more efficiently access information and communicate with another party, removing a need for another human element. The average person’s view of AI is typically in robotic form, learning new tasks, adapting to changes and essentially acting like a human in all situations (like the Hugh Jackman movie Chappie that came out in March). Other think about a system like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This isn’t where AI is most useful today (nor is the technology there yet), however we’ve seen an explosion in AI companies doing different services that deliver value. There’s X.AI (personal assistant), Context Relevant (predictive analytics), Kensho (financial analysis), Gradberry (hiring) and many more. These forms of “narrow AI” can be effective because they can sift through the data to pull together and expose what is relevant and valuable to the individual user and their “need” state.

When you think situations in which not only is the human element not necessary, but feels like a bug, customer service tends to come to mind. Everybody has a story about being put on hold by the bank or the cable company for hours on end only to end up in the exact same place they started. It’s a huge pain point and in today’s day and age where the smartphone is our magic wand, and the world is at our fingertips it’s quite ripe for disruption.

This is why I’m excited to announce today that we’re investing in Digital Genius. The Digital Genius team set out to solve a fairly obvious problem, allowing companies to replicate human-like conversations at scale to dramatically reduce labor costs and more importantly increase customer satisfaction. By reducing the number of call centers, and routing customers to the right information instantly, the age old problem of sitting on hold for hours on end becomes obsolete.

They’ve built a system that allows their customers to leverage AI and NLP technology in order to replicate human-like conversations at scale. The technology they’ve built is extremely complex and allows companies to perfect the system to understand specific questions and perform actions based on these questions.

The system doesn’t just answer simple questions like store location, hours, etc. but rather incorporates a question classification system based on neural networks and deep learning that provides a tailored, unique experience for each user. An example of this is, by texting the Digital Genius system “I’m going to London for a week, please make sure my phone works”, the system will know that the user wants to make sure his global roaming is activated. This takes all of a few seconds, and the user doesn’t need to sit on hold with the phone company for the next 30+ minutes. Imagine a world where the cable company actually offers a pleasant experience, now that’s innovation.

 Check out their pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt last month to see the technology in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oOMkRstLoE