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Issue #20, February 9, 2018
The leading newsletter about customer experience and call centers
Market insights, trends and news about customer experience, BPO, and call centers.
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A lot of great information this week on chat and AI. Let’s jump right in!

People Finding Success Taking Equifax to Small-Claims Court – Using a Chatbot

Talk about task-specific chatbots and replacing paid service – this chatbot, Do Not Pay, is helping users fill out legal forms for everything from class actions, parking tickets, immigration applications, and more! This article specifically mentions that there is an option to sue Equifax (we checked it out, and it seems to work, but at the time of writing, it seems to have crashed. Use this link to get there directly). According to the article, so far 2 users have used the chatbot to sue Equifax in small-claims court and both won more than $5,000.

Replacing an intimidating and expensive legal process with a free chatbot that only charges you for application fees? Sounds pretty solid to me. Keeping our fingers crossed that it gets fixed/starts working properly.

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Apple to Take on Messaging Rivals with Launch of Business Chat

It looks like all the major tech companies are trying to diversify across every consumer touchpoint. Apple is preparing to roll-out their Business Chat feature, which allows consumers to chat directly with businesses through Apple’s iMessage platform. The feature will debut this Spring, with partners such as Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. This is similar to efforts by Facebook to takeover web chat, and WhatsApp’s new Business App.

Props to Discover, Hilton, and Wells Fargo, who always seem to be the first on every new business-focused communication platform that gets released. With all the different platforms getting released however, businesses will need to work hard to keep up, so that they can meet customers wherever they are, and however they choose to communicate with a business. The real winner of all this diversification, is probably whatever management software that can consolidate all the channels and provide features that takes advantage of the features on each one. A big part of me does miss having a single channel where everyone is on the same standard, and gets the same features.

I have a dream that one day I will not be judged by the color of my text bubble, but by the contents of my text… (real homages to black history heroes here)

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Automation in Everyday Life

For the data lovers in all of us, this article has a number of very interesting stats, which indicate that while automation has a huge potential to help our lives, there is a lot of concern with problems that can occur as a result as well. Some excerpts of data from the article below:

  • 72% of Americans are more likely to express worry over enthusiasm (33%) about a future in which robots and computers are capable of doing many jobs currently done by humans
  • 67% are likely to express worry about algorithms that can make hiring decisions without any human involvement, compared to 22% who are enthusiastic about it
  • 76% expect economic inequality will become worse with AI taking over existing jobs
  • 75% anticipates that the economy will not create many new, better-paying jobs
  • 64% expect that people will have a hard time finding things to do with their lives if forced to compete with advanced robots and computers for jobs

It all looks like people perceive the future to be very bleak indeed, but there are some more positive numbers out there regarding public opinion on AI:

  • 75% of the public thinks that driverless vehicles will help the elderly and disabled live more independent lives
  • 70% anticipate that robot caregivers would help alleviate the burden of caring for aging relatives

From this article, which provides an analysis of the study (but is unfortunately behind a paywall), an MIT professor, Sandy Pentland, believes that “AI systems are often not used because they are built as black boxes and do not provide transparency into what assumptions and decisions the underlying algorithms are making on the user’s behalf. For humans to effectively team with automation, displays are needed that can explain and visualize what decision criteria the system uses.” This goes back to the explainability issue with AI expressed a couple issues ago. Certainly, it’s not unexpected for people to fear what they don’t understand. That’s why we need to work hard to make AI more understandable, and transparent.

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As AI Meets the Reputation Economy, We’re All Being Silently Judged

This Harvard Business Review article discusses the importance the current “reputation economy” plays in our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s rating Uber drivers, to companies screening employees via their social media accounts, and eligibility to get a mortgage based on the credit ratings of friends (and even the more concerning Chinese social score for every citizen), it’s undeniable that our online reputation is quickly becoming just as important, if not more, than our in-person one. All these scoring systems however, are based on algorithms, which, like any tool developed by humans, can be flawed. There are a few ways where this can go wrong, from having bad data for the AI to develop conclusions from, to bad math where data perpetuates bias or opinion, or ultimately using social pressure as a form of control.

From a call center and customer experience standpoint, it’s naturally very important to have as much data as possible on customers, as it helps us cater each experience towards them. With that said, it is important to be careful with how we’re using the data. Right now, our agents can combine the profile of each customer in the CRM, with what they experience with every interaction, and adjust accordingly, but some of the new tools like chatbots may not be able to.

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How This Founder Realized the Tech Trend He’d Built His Company on Was All Hype

Like many in the tech world, founder of Digit, Ethan Bloch, was excited by the prospects of chatbots. His company, an automated savings service was doing well helping their users save money a little at a time, and had raised more than $26M in capital. Bloch believed that if Digit could adjust the interface so that instead of a standard app with buttons and sub-menus, it would rely on conversations, and would change the way users saved money and viewed their finances. Ultimately, after about 1-2 years of experimenting with chatbots, Bloch has decided to focus on classic app interfaces, after getting tons of negative feedback from users, and pushing for greater usage. Now, Bloch likens chatbots as similar to old DOS command line, and while chat options will be available to users as a channel, it’s no longer the focus of the company.

It’s very interesting to me that companies limit themselves to one channel for communicating with customers. All our usage with chatbots is as an additional channel, or provide scalability to one-on-one conversations with customers, in addition to all regular channels like web and mobile interface. After all, chat is only one component of the omnichannel experience!

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Curated from Sacramento by Tom Coshow and the transcosmos OmniConnect team.


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