Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and “will transform experiences around the world.” This is according to Dan Horan, chief digital officer and chief marketing officer for Asia-Pacific of Amdocs, as he stressed that “increasing industry spend in AI is at risk through wrong investment choices and – surprisingly – the lack of humans, not robots.”
Research firm Forrester earlier estimated that AI (for businesses) will grow by 300% from 2016 to 2017. It is therefore “not surprising that a lot of companies are already exploring this (space),” Horan said, “including the likes of Facebook, Amazon, (and) Waze.”
AI will, therefore, “only just improve.”
Already, AI is embedded in day-to-day tech use.
In the Philippines, for instance, communications and media service providers use AI for customer care and commerce. Ninety percent of Filipino consumers actually interact with virtual agents monthly, more than a quarter (26%) of them on a weekly basis.
In study commissioned by Amdocs (involving 7,200 respondents; 521 of them from the Philippines), Filipino consumers claimed that the use of AI make transactions more convenient (43%) and quicker (46%). However, it is not all rosy, since almost half of the respondents (48%) said they only use AI because they had no other option. Also, if offered a choice, 87% would prefer to speak to a human since human agents better understand their needs (83%) and can address multiple questions at once (63%). Bots, said consumers, cannot deal with complex requests (their biggest problem), understand human emotions (second biggest problem) or deliver personalized offers as well as humans (third biggest problem).
Unfortunately, Horan noted, AI spending at some of Asia’s largest communications and media companies revealed how plans for a rise of the robots for frontline customer interactions could be hampered by wrong investment choices and a lack of human talent.
For Horan, “service provider investments need to focus on what’s bothering consumers.”
Amdocs’ survey highlighted the strong views of consumers on how they want bots to look like and behave. More than half (51%) prefer their bot to look like a human, as opposed to 17% who want to see an avatar. Although 46% don’t care either way, 44% prefer them to be female, rather than male (10%). The bots are also preferred to: sound polite, be intelligent, and be caring.
“Service providers in Asia are not investing in the right areas in terms of their AI investments,” Horan noted.
As it is, 38%are prioritizing AI investment in increasing information security and privacy and 33% in speed of response. But customers rank as top areas for improvement bots delivering better personalization or more comprehensive information – two areas that are lower on service providers’ priority lists.
For Horan, AI “is already here today,” he said. “It is not something fictional anymore.”
The challenge now is for service providers to “close the gap between customer experience and expectations. It won’t happen overnight. But companies need to align core virtual agents by using cases on what consumers want; they need to invest on areas where consumers (actually) use AI,” Horan ended.