Tag Archive CX Network

Do AI and text analytics bring the death of surveys?

This article was originally published on the CX Network – a leading platform for CX and Marketing senior leaders.

It’s a new world of customer feedback measurement, but is it out with the old and in with the new, or can traditional and futuristic tech work alongside each other to paint a complete picture?

customer feedback

Let’s face it, surveys have lost a lot of their popularities over the years. Decreasing response rates and an ever shorter attention span from customers have announced the age of ‘survey fatigue’. And some doom and gloomers even argue they are a thing of the past. Are they though?

NPS (net promotor score) was launched in 2003 and with it came a push for a growing focus on open-ended questions, generating an ever-greater body of unstructured data through the follow-up question of ’Why?’, or ‘How can we improve?’

A new generation of tech analytics
Text analytics are the effort of structuring the data which is captured unstructured, while keeping the depth of insight.

It attempts to bring the quantitative element back into the picture by associating key words to a category called ‘theme’. It applies rules on the words present in the text string and those surrounding it. Themes are the standardised, quantified approach to this data.

Although the original solutions focused on a data set that was formatted to be digested by the engine, a new generation of text analytics solutions can now digest the information available on social media. This enables businesses to analyse both solicited and unsolicited feedback, which they would otherwise never hear from.

According to Groovv, 96 per cent of unhappy customers will not complain to you but will tell their friends and followers – and now you can access that information too.

AI takes customer feedback to new heights

As artificial intelligence (AI) is dubbed the biggest revolution of 2018, one would be quick to ask whether AI is making this any more accurate or easy.

I caught up with AI thought-leader Lars Hamberg, CEO of Swedish start-up Gavagai. He spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos about the promise of AI, successful corporate AI strategies and some of the most ‘unexpected, implications of language AI, both inside and outside of the business world’.

Hamberg believes the future of feedback is about both open-ended responses and unsolicited social media commentary.

“By leveraging the power of automation – enabled by AI-driven NLP (natural language processing) – much larger data samples of unstructured data can now be analysed in a fraction of the time this used to take. We are now trying to take automation to the extreme, so that anyone – without any prior skills – can get operational and prescriptive insights from raw text data in just one single click.”

“We are now able to predict the NPS score based entirely on what is written in the response, rendering the actual NPS score unnecessary.”

Hamberg explains that with a few exceptions, there will be no need for structured data, beside the metadata, in typical customer feedback. However, he said there will still be a place for structured data and scale questions, as it is what people are familiar with.

“Ultimately, it is the cost and business value of the customer insight that will determine the need for structured data. As soon as the newer approaches reach maturity and become more widely used, the closed-ended approach will be less commonly used,” he concludes.

But what about NPS? Its promoters (forgive the most overused pun in the industry) claim this is the only number one needs to focus on (alongside an open-ended question) – does it still have its place in this new AI-driven offering?

“If you are able to gather enough volume of answers, you will be able to determine with high accuracy what is driving customer satisfaction – on a much more granular level – based solely on unstructured text responses,” continus Hamberg.

As per NPS, “we are now able to predict the NPS score based entirely on what is written in the response, rendering the actual NPS score unnecessary.”

It turns out, there could be even more depth, reliability and rigour in an AI-calculated NPS score according to Hamberg: “Interestingly, responses also contain information about the likely future direction of the implied NPS, on an individual respondent level.  The most direct way to find out what people think is simply to ask them, without going through some intermediate step of introspective gauging.

“It turns out that people are very inconsistent when numerically assessing their own opinions or beliefs.”

Should we all give up on surveys then?

Although many businesses are adopting text-analytics driven-approaches, and Hamberg sees its days counted, there are still many businesses needing structured data to measure customer experience.

Take a business that is very data-driven and only swears by numbers, or another that wants to ensure they will fairly reward performance on the back of customer experience metrics. An open-ended approach will generate worry, uncertainty and probably discomfort, which would be prevented by a set of scale questions.

Surveys might have been there for much longer than text analytics, but that doesn’t make them outdated. Like any new approach, some businesses will adopt it with great success and others with incredible frustration – novelty doesn’t mean it is a fit.

When designing your voice of the customer programme, focus on what would work for your business, your operational colleagues and your corporate culture; whether that be AI-powered text analytics or close-ended questions. Understand what your business truly needs and adopt it.

Ultimately, remember the greatest truth in customer experience measurement “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” (Albert Einstein).

Surveys might have been there for much longer than text analytics, but that doesn’t make them outdated.

Whichever approach you decide to adopt, make sure that you focus on what really counts, measuring and re-designing what your customers think and feel about engaging with you. Have the right tool for your business, instead of trying to fit your business to a fancy new tool.

It’s not the fancy, but the right tool which will enable you, like Lars Hamberg, to create Next Practice in the Making.

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Customer experience in the era of 3.0 FinTech

This article on FinTech was oringinally published on the CX Network. If you want to read another article on FinTech, you can read my take on the future of the ATM.
Credit: CX Network

Credit: CX Network

The 3rd generation of FinTech is fantastic news for customer experience in niche segments, says CX expert Gustavo Imhof.

The surge of technology-savvy and customer-centric entrants in the financial services industry has caused great disruption in the market, forcing the industry as a whole to enhance experiences delivered to customers – putting them in the driving seat, like almost every other industry has. However, for financial services the FinTEch transformation did not happen as swiftly as in other industries. As it happened over two decades, we can distinguish three very distinct dynamics within the industry.

David and Goliath, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, symbiosis; they perfectly illustrate the dynamics and the relationships we witnessed between FinTech up-spring and traditional financial services players since the early days of the dotcom craze.

In the early days, PayPal was the David to the banks’ Goliath, the small start-up that was there to upset the deep-routed balance in the current account landscape. Soon enough, international money transfer would be disrupted by new entrants like TransferWise, Azimo with lower fees and greater ease of use.

With traditional players reacting and trying to protect their established standing in the market, the dynamic changed towards one closer to the classic 1950s Looney Tunes cartoon Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.

It might sound far-fetched, at first, but consider this for a moment:

  • Road Runner is constantly going much faster, iterating routes with incredible ease and pivoting when critical for success and survival
  • The Coyote is very, very smart and resourceful and devises great strategies to reach his goals
  • Much of Coyote’s plans are based around the exact same sort of paradigm (Acme products) and it appears incredibly complicated to move away from established practices
  • It does happen that Coyote catches Road Runner, but even then, the rewards are not perceived to be as massive a success as hoped.

If you were to replace Road Runner by FinTech and Coyote by traditional players, we find striking similarities with recent events in the industry, such as longer established institutions trying to copy new market entrants, creating and running incubators, hackathons, and taking interest in or outright buying-out the more agile and disruptive FinTech actors.

In the early days, PayPal was the David to the banks’ Goliath, the small start-up that was there to upset the deep-routed balance in the current account landscape.

There is however a new dynamic which surfaced recently. This dynamic has actually existed in nature long before the written word but was first described in the late 1800s: symbiosis. A symbiosis is the phenomenon of unlikely organism (FinTech and traditional organisations, in this case) living together in harmony in a mutually beneficial agreement.

Express Current Account for your front-line

You’ve probably heard the case for businesses empowering their front-line staff to delight customers and provide spectacular service recoveries (maybe your business even does it too). In many cases, these staff members have a budget they can spend on these individual interactions with customers. This can leads to burdensome processes to record, book keep and budget.

Tide is a current account platform which gives you a sort code and account number in five minutes, has no monthly fee (but a small transaction charge) and a credit card. And to put the cherry on top of the cake, they provide smart tools to streamline bookkeeping, admin and invoicing directly on a smartphone – accountant-free, which makes it incredibly easy to maintain afloat.

The above scenario would be significantly streamlined if a business was to open a current account for each of their locations, where they would deposit their ‘recovery allowance’ and harness the power of the automated reporting which allows tracking the expenses whenever required (i.e. as a source of insight alongside Voice of the Customer data or localised performance management).

A bank might well want to enter this space, and so they could. But with current accounts not being the most profitable products they can offer (it tends to be more of a step towards more profitable products such as mortgages), most banks would be better off allocating valuable resources into enhancing experiences delivered through critical journeys more in line with their leading products.

(Very) short-term ad-hoc car insurance

Remember the last time you had to borrow someone else’s car? It’s a conundrum where someone must choose between breaking the law and getting a hefty fine, or much paper work and headaches involved for a journey that could be as short as an hour.

Cuvva understands this is a broken journey many consumers are facing which is why they build an entire subscription-based business around this. Their offering is simple: drive any car by the hour, only pay for what you use and be insured in a matter of minutes rather than days whenever you need to drive a new car. Their product enables you to protect the car owner and yourself without even affecting their policy and their no-claims bonus.

In short, it’s a pay-as-you-go service for your car insurance. Obviously, as many services of this type, the minimum unit (here the hour) costs significantly more than if it was part of a tariff, but it does enable a quick, headache-free resolution to a pain point that is all too familiar to car insurance policyholders all over the UK.

This service could be easily mimicked by leading insurers but would signify a complete change in their business model should they want to follow a more pay-as-you-go approach. And people who are always on the road will probably prefer a tariff, which would represent a better deal for them.

How does this make a FinTech symbiosis?

A symbiosis is the phenomenon of unlikely organism (FinTech and traditional organisations, in this case) living together in harmony in a mutually beneficial agreement.

The offerings of tide and Cuvva are very niche and cater to an audience that is thus far inadequately catered to by the more established players. Yes, they are probably taking some business away from them, but it does not represent the core segment in their customer base (with traditional players investing heavily in CX, the journeys were simply too broken for these to be a priority).

On the other hand, it would be an extremely resource-intensive and herculean task for Cuvva to take on the leading insurers or for tide to become a full-service bank. With Cuvva and tide catering to these niche needs and the rest of the industry providing services to the greater population, FinTech finally found its place in the consumer landscape – not in antagonism but, on the contrary, co-habiting harmoniously. This new-found symbiosis is what I call: ‘next practice in the making’.

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Defining the new normal with AI: How the Nordics are transforming CX

This article was first published on the CX Network. It was later re-published on the AI Intelligent Automation Network.

What can global organisations learn from the AI-road being paved by Nordea and Nordic Choice Hotels?

Every now and then, I find myself discussing with acquaintances a phenomenon I usually describe as “The Nordic Innovation Paradox”.

Ask anyone in the streets, at the office or at home, what is the first thing that comes to their mind when they think about one of the Nordic countries? The overwhelmingly majority is certainly going to be faced with answers such as “IKEA, their flat packs and meatballs”, “LEGO is my whole childhood” or “I had a Nokia 3310, it used to last forever” – and yes, every single living soul at that time had a 3310 or a very similar looking phone.

The paradox is, these five countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden), gave us so many innovations that are fully embedded in our lives. Yet, somehow the public opinion seems to only remember these three brands.

To name just a few of the most impactful inventions, we have the Finnish-born heart rate monitor (yes, the feature that allowed you to rationalise buying your fitness tracker or smartwatch), the Norwegian paperclip (yes, they are behind the seeming feeling of structure and organisation in paperwork) and the Swedish seatbelt (something you use every time you hit the road… or so you should).

Fortunately for us, although they don’t always get all the credit and recognition they deserve, our Nordic friends did not give up on innovating for everyone’s benefit.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on top of everyone’s mind and it isn’t surprising that some Nordic companies are party to it. And it’s time to discuss two examples of how these unsung heroes intend to enhance customer experiences in the very near future.

Putting customers’ time first at Nordea

Imagine a bank on a crusade to fit with customers’ schedules and that goes as far as operating around the clock, all year long. This is Nordea. And they decided to take it a step further by engaging in artificial intelligence.

It first started back in March, when they announced the hiring of Liv. What is so special about Liv? She’s a virtual colleague, performing repetitive tasks faster and more efficiently than their human colleagues, freeing them up to focus on more value-add tasks and thus providing enhanced experiences to their customers. Liv is not only a fast learner, she is also very easily empowered to make the right decisions through rule-based robotics initiatives.

And making colleagues more available to dedicate more time towards great experiences isn’t the only way Nordea is harnessing the power of AI for the benefit of their customers.

Back in July, they announced a partnership with a start-up called Feelingstream with the vision of tackling response times customers face when dealing with customer service. The AI-based text-analytics solution can interpret inbound customer communications (reportedly hundreds a second) and intelligently forward them to the right recipients within the business, cutting away the agent-based sorting (or excess of handoffs) as witnessed in so many businesses around the world.

The solution is being trialled in Finland now and is expected to provide much shorter wait times before a customer can be put in touch with an agent. Should synergies between Feelingstream and Liv be explored, Nordea might well be on a winner and on the verge of reinventing customer services!

A digital-first hotel strategy at Nordic Choice Hotels

Experience in hospitality often leads to extreme emotional responses. One might be far from their family for business purposes and see it as a stressful burden, while on the other hand someone else could be on their honeymoon, at their dream destination. Many businesses have been distinguishing themselves over the years, delivering stand-out, unique and memorable experiences.

Nordic Choice Hotels has committed $29 million to invest in their digital strategy, enabling their Clarion, Comfort and Quality hotels to stand out from the competition with a distinctive blend of physical and digital experiences. The architect making this transformation happen is NCH’s Chief Digital Officer, Lisa Farrar.

SEE ALSO: Nordic Choice Hotels’ Digital Retention Strategy

In August 2016, one of the hotels (Clarion Hotel Amaranten in Stockholm) within the estate reportedly became the first in the world to offer suites with a smart assistant to support them. The Amazon Echo found in the rooms is being enhanced with functions that are tailored to the hospitality universe.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg and NHC is only at the start of making their vision happen. Among the elements that have been revealed to the public, Nordic Choice wants your phone to be your hotel key (already released by Starwood Hotels and Hilton), to provide you a reception-free experience (like the Hotel Buddy in Germany), a voice-controlled room environment and room service, notably thanks to their own iteration of the Amazon Echo.

Farrar also believes technology should facilitate an increasingly more personal experience, with the room having your personal pictures and clothes of your size awaiting you. Obviously, a personal experience is already made possible through services such as Cachet World (a platform offering, among other features, the ability for guest to personalise their hotel rooms by purchasing add-ons such as designer bedding or beauty essentials) in high-end hotels, but the customer is still required to contribute and tell the hotel what they want.

There is little doubt that the latest technologies, such as AI, present the potential to deliver all the above in a seamless and delightful way – and that’s exactly what Nordic Choice seems to be aiming towards; they clearly are investing the required resources to make this vision happen.

Keep in mind that Farrar only started her journey last year, but it clearly is a journey to follow and keep up with, as it has the potential to inspire customer experience professionals across industries.

The verdict?

One thing seems clear, Nordic companies such as Nordic Choice Hotels and Nordea are prime examples of paving the way in harnessing AI for differentiated and enhanced customer experience. This simply is customer experience next practice in the making.

 

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