For many years organizations, both public and private, have talked about putting the ‘customer first’ but as consumers we continue to experience delays in accessing call centers, navigating complex websites, and processing tedious paperwork. This causes frustration and can challenge brand loyalty.
Senior executives from the retail, financial services, telecom, media, search, and education sectors attended “Power to the People – optimizing the customer experience,” an Infogain-sponsored event addressing possible solutions and ways digital natives are taking full advantage of current shortcomings. Infogain builds innovative solutions improving and simplifying day-to-day customer interactions. Our clients enjoy greater brand loyalty and rapid innovation.
In the Feb. 23 discussion moderated by Roger Camrass, director of research for CIONET International, delegates offered specific questions they’d like to see addressed to guide the discussion. They included:
- How can we address the total experience of the customer through the life cycle?
- Where does product availability feature within the overall customer experience?
- Will 5G and Cloud overcome current technology constraints?
- Can OpenAI provide actionable insights into customer needs?
- If employees are customers, how can we improve their experience?
Vivek Sharma, head of Infogain Europe, and Nishith Mathur, Infogain's chief strategy and solutions officer, see data as a growing source of powerful customer insights. They contend connected machines and supply chains give further information to frontline staff about product availability, with Cloud as a powerful enabler for business transformation, especially at the front end.
With the advent of startup ecosystems and the emergence of unicorns, AI is rapidly transforming consumer experiences, organizations, industries and even the public services, Vivek said. The disruption — in most cases, positive — is enhancing the expectations rapidly. What is key for an organization to survive is their adaptability and how quickly they can integrate the technology.
The growing power of OpenAI
There was wide agreement that OpenAI and associated ChatGPT-type tools will have a dramatic impact on business, especially at the customer interface.
Some delegates see ChatGPT or other generative AI tools as a key way to accelerate automation across end-to-end processes. Current attempts to deploy robotic process automation (RPA) tools have been far too slow and addressed only a select parts of the issue. It is quite conceivable that every person in a large workforce will be able to apply ChatGPT or other generative AI tools this year.
In the case of telecommunications and media, the imperative is to improve profitability and grow revenues by reducing customer churn. One delegate said generative AI could help identify unprofitable customers who can be encouraged to do business elsewhere. Applying generative AI to the entire customer journey could speed up conversions and help retain profitable customers.
The pandemic had a transformational effect in the retail sector. In March 2020, retailers' online sales increased from 20 percent to 100 percent. This taxed systems and staff. Although physical stores are now back in action, consumer preference remains geared to online channels. This preference presents a challenge for process improvement that may be addressable by generative AI beyond just chat bots in call centers.
Mathur empathized with the urgent need to demystify OpenAI and associated ChatGPT tools. His recommendation was to focus on how best to embed such capabilities into existing workflows with minimal disruption. He saw a need to address critical business pathways such as client engagement by sorting out key bottlenecks such as the customer interface (UX) and back-office systems.
The constraints of legacy systems
Legacy systems and processes, and their constraints, were a common issue among delegates. In the case of banks, insurance companies and retailers, the core systems in use today often date back to the 1980s and 1990s. According to one delegate, the past three years have been the best in history for mainframe sales.
Yet few organizations have the resources or risk appetite to undergo modernization of core transaction systems. Delegates discussed two approaches. The first is keeping the legacy systems alive and building around them. The second was adopting a Greenfield Approach to developing separate digital businesses. The majority favored a “surround” strategy that integrates Software As A Service products to core systems. Delegates identified the data that resides in the core systems as the key asset.” Access is more important than ownership,” said one delegate with respect to data assets. Accessing such data and combining it with external sources is the main challenge and opportunity in business today.
One Infogain client, a leading reservation system, is building new cloud-based applications to modernize its core systems. This is speeding up product innovation and transforming customer interfaces, enabling them to compete with digital natives. The opportunity to act as a retailer selling a much larger portfolio of products to its captive customers helped the company decide to move forward, Mathur said.
What should CIOs do next?
Current economic uncertainties provide an environment ripe for business transformation and for making the case to the C Suite for such action. Sales over the Christmas period were strong, but the retailers and media delegates recognized revenues as dipping in the first quarter due to a lack of consumer confidence, probably stemming from mixed predictions about how economies will perform this year.
The silver lining for 2023 is the opportunity to acquire new talent, especially in data sciences and AI, while Big Tech is reducing its own workforce. This is especially true in Silicon Valley, Nishith said, where the next six months will be pivotal as central banks continue to raise rates and inflation begins to decline. There is also likely to be a boom in acquisitions due to the crash in many equity valuations.
The group, with input from Infogain, coalesced around three recommendations for the coming six-to-nine months:
- Run an education campaign on OpenAI and ChatGPT and other generative AI approaches at senior management levels
- Evaluate how generative AI could accelerate Citizen Development / low-code development, and conduct pilots on critical business processes.
- Prepare to surround legacy systems or create new ones. Review plans to upgrade legacy systems in the light of generative AI and decide on an appropriate choice of strategy – surround the legacy or create anew.
For more information, please contact Vivek Sharma at firstname.lastname@example.org, +447500921236 (M)