Is it the Rise of the Machines?


I was due in Charleston last week to spend some time with my favorite people, Executives in The Know (EITK), for their Customer Response Summit. The reason I adore this conference is because it is truly all about sharing customer successes, helping each other, learning from failure and being willing to collaborate openly to change the customer care industry for the betterment of all customers. The conversations are open, honest, and everyone has a willingness to learn. I always feel a little extra push because as a service provider to companies evolving customer care, I worry about and want to help not only our customers but also all of my EITK family who are focused on helping their customers. It is always a pleasure to attend and participate. We appreciate being able to learn directly from customer care leaders about what drives them, what keeps them awake at night, and what are their aspirations. Our goal is to help them do exciting things that will create a richer customer experience for their customers. Every time I leave this conference, I eagerly await the next one.

This is the year of the bot in customer care, there’s no mistaking it. And, because I’m a child of the 80s, I am all too familiar with SkyNet and the Rise of The Machines…heck, when I tell people what I do for work, occasionally I get asked if I am helping to bring on the rise of the machines. Yes. Yes, I am, but I digress. A few weeks before the EITK conference, I attended a conference on AI. I left with little doubt I may have been the dumbest person in the room. This was a technologist’s dream conference, but, for me, that old nagging fear of “are we forgetting the human behind the technology” was whispering in my ear. It was further reinforced when I arrived an hour late for my flight to EITK and because I bypassed the self-service kiosks and opted for human-based curbside check-in, I managed to avoid lines that would have made me miss my flight. I even thought to myself, sometimes automation can’t beat a good old human. I was worried that all I’d hear at EITK was bots this, bots that and not as much about humans. I could feel the red eye of The Terminator fixing itself on me, so I walked into the conference worried that my industry is getting too caught up in bright shiny objects that we sometimes forget that there’s got to be heart behind the technology.

Well, I wasted a ton of time worrying for nothing. Absolutely nothing. The powers that be, those Executives in The Know were talking about people empowerment through technology. They discussed how we can use technology to help people do their jobs better, how we can work more efficiently by using AI to handle mundane tasks so humans can focus on high-value projects and using bots to enhance service levels whether that be on the phone, social media, or chat. While I was there I was able to see some of these ideas put into action, like one company that was using AI to allow consumers to take a screenshot of an item that you want on social media and a bot will go find and confirm if it is in the store inventory then it will schedule a time for you to come in or see if it can be found at other locations. Very cool stuff. Another company let us use a “magic mirror,” we could take pictures, write on it with our fingers and then save and print the experience. I now have photographic proof that I can apparently rock the Captain’s Hat and Sunglasses with a bunch of boa wearing colleagues. The Aspect team showed off Margot, the Wine Bot we built for Lidl UK (see Lidl UK’s wine bot for yourself on their Facebook page and get some terrific recommendations just in time for dinner).”

To close out the EITK event, I was lucky enough to tour a call center that marries technology and their employees to create a truly unique environment where employees are treated like business owners and given as much access to information that they need (not to mention great perks). This unique environment has been fostered because of the advances in technology, and the ability to make sure we are keeping the heart in mind for excellent service, delivery and customer enjoyment.

The Machines have absolutely risen kids, but we will always control the heart especially when we keep the customer in mind with everything we do. And, if my fellow Execs in The Know are any indication, we need not have any fear. I have seldom seen so much heart behind the technology of what we do. It’s all good folks…it’s all good.

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