Lever­ag­ing dig­i­tal de­vel­op­ments in all in­dus­tries

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Bruce von Maltitz Bruce von Maltitz is the co-founder and joint chief ex­ec­u­tive of 1Stream.

THE FOURTH in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion is re­shap­ing busi­nesses and the global econ­omy. While pre­vi­ous in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tions moved at a lin­ear pace, the fourth is lever­ag­ing dig­i­tal de­vel­op­ments and dis­rupt­ing all busi­nesses, in all in­dus­tries, at an ex­po­nen­tial rate.

The lines between phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal are be­ing blurred as tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion brings a level of au­to­ma­tion pre­vi­ously con­fined to sci-fi movies.

In the world of re­tail and e-com­merce, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tion with a con­tact cen­tre, the ef­fects – and in­deed, the ben­e­fits – of th­ese de­vel­op­ments are ap­par­ent.

No longer is one re­stricted to phone calls with high call vol­umes and end­less queues: in­for­ma­tion is more eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble through dig­i­tal plat­forms, such as a web­site, e-mail or the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar chat­bot.

Chat­bots have long been used to an­swer sim­ple and fre­quently asked ques­tions. Yet even the chat­bot is evolv­ing, mak­ing way for the more in­tel­li­gent dig­i­tal per­sonal as­sis­tant.

Voice ac­ti­va­tion and text to speech con­ver­sions have be­come in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated, en­abling de­vices to pro­vide use­ful and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion in a for­mat that is most con­ve­nient and quicker: sim­ply ask a ques­tion out loud and Siri, Alexa or Cor­tana will pro­vide the an­swer.

For busi­nesses, and in par­tic­u­lar con­tact cen­tres, this means that the role of the con­tact cen­tre agent can evolve along with the tech­nol­ogy. The need for agents to deal with the more mun­dane, cler­i­cal func­tions is be­ing elim­i­nated, mak­ing space for what is be­ing termed “su­per agents” – skilled and well-trained in­di­vid­u­als who are equipped and ready to deal with the more com­plex queries.

Not only does the tech­nol­ogy free up agents to be more ef­fec­tive, but the pos­si­bil­i­ties for stream­lined pro­cesses through voice bio­met­rics, and im­prov­ing cus­tomer ser­vice through com­pil­ing a greater knowl­edge base, are end­less.

In the South African con­tact cen­tre in­dus­try, we are only now start­ing to see the tip of the ice­berg – the more con­nected we be­come, the greater the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

What makes dig­i­tal per­sonal as­sis­tants tick?

Tech­nol­ogy is the driver that un­leashes the pos­si­bil­ity of this in­no­va­tion, and this is be­ing both adopted and fur­thered by the big­ger play­ers in the mar­ket. IBM’s Wat­son, Ama­zon’s Alexa and Mi­crosoft’s Luis are push­ing the bound­aries of what can be achieved.

Un­der­pin­ning this tech­nol­ogy though, is the com­pre­hen­sive knowl­edge base that en­ables th­ese per­sonal dig­i­tal as­sis­tants to “un­der­stand” the need be­ing pre­sented and to re­spond ac­cord­ingly. Tied to this, is the so­phis­ti­cated ma­chine learn­ing com­po­nent that al­lows for en­hance­ment and re­fine­ment of re­sponses based on user in­put and feed­back, al­low­ing for a bet­ter – more de­tailed, nu­anced and ac­cu­rate – ex­pe­ri­ence.

As the big names in the game con­tinue to ex­plore new pos­si­bil­i­ties, the real­ity for lo­cal busi­nesses and con­tact cen­tres is that we need to grab this op­por­tu­nity. If we don’t, oth­ers will.

The real­ity for lo­cal busi­nesses and con­tact cen­tres is that we need to grab this op­por­tu­nity. If we don’t, oth­ers will.

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