Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sparkmag: Bill Cates Presenting at Next Weeks BBG Gala Brea...

 Bill Cates Presenting at Next Weeks BBG Gala Brea...: We are delighted to host Bill Cates at our BBG Gala Breakfast Forum's in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane next Week. There are only a...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Is AI good or bad for business and jobs?

 

I’ve been asked many times recently to comment on how the rise of AI will impact the jobs and the economy, particularly in customer service and contact centers. I’ve seen wildly differing forecasts, from the dire predictions of Elon Musk to the optimistic predictions of Accenture. According to Forrester’s recently released ‘The Future of Jobs’ report, robots will take 24.7 million jobs by 2027, but create 14.9 million new jobs in the same period. There is no doubt that AI will impact jobs globally more than any other technology in our lifetime. The key question is “what should we do about it?”

The answers depend on your point of view and whether you’re a government leader, a business leader or a worker thinking about your own future. Should we tax robots, as Bill Gates suggests? Should we adopt universal basic income as Musk suggests? “Ultimately,” said Musk, “I think there will need to be some sort of improved symbiosis with digital superintelligence, but that’s a pretty involved discussion.”

There are huge societal questions that I won’t attempt to answer here. Instead, I tend to approach the topic of AI and jobs in the same way that I approach the question “how do you eat an elephant?” (Answer: one bite at a time). There are several near-term challenges and opportunities for businesses, and the best thing that business leaders can do is understand what those are.

While some see a bleak future, I see a future where AI and machine learning will create new categories of work, and amplify human intelligence. Computers bring incredible processing power and memory, and can mine vast amounts of information in a short period of time, while humans bring the emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills to handle unexpected or uncommon situations. In the next few years, I see AI becoming integral to the productivity of the workforce. 

Understand and embrace the changes

As leaders think about how AI will impact their businesses in the next few years, there are several key questions they should consider:

  1. How can AI (specifically chatbots) reduce labor costs and improve customer experience? 
  2. What can businesses do to reduce the risk of automation on the workforce?
  3. What new jobs can be created because of automation?
  4. What are the macro-economic global ramifications of further automation?

One of the most obvious areas that AI will impact jobs in the next few years is in customer service and sales, especially in the contact center. Chatbots have the potential to help businesses significantly cut labor costs, which increases profits, but has a human impact. Improvements in AI have enabled chatbots to create effective automated responses that helps businesses generate sales and boost consumer satisfaction. According to a study by Oracle, nearly 80 percent businesses have already implemented, or are planning to adopt, AI as a customer service solution by 2020. 

According to McKinsey, 29 percent of customer service 36 percent of sales representative positions in the US could be automated through chatbots and other tech. BI Intelligence estimates that equates to savings of $23 billion annually in customer service salaries, and $15 billion annually in sales salaries. 

Those are compelling numbers, and it’s clear why so many companies are exploring this. Because of advances in AI, businesses can use artificially intelligent chatbots as virtual agents that replicate the effectiveness of their best human agents. This has the potential to reduce customer frustration and wait times. 

However, it is essential to remember chatbots are still an outward facing extension of the brand, and even though they are not human, consumer expectations around their performance will be high. Moreover, a robot does not have the empathy to handle a frustrated customer, or the creativity to drum up a solution to a particularly unique issue. These uniquely human capabilities shouldn’t be underestimated – they’re essential to the workforce of the future, particularly the customer experience of the future. And if companies are incentivized to invest in the platform development and training to empower humans and machines to work together, automation can be less of a risk, and more an opportunity.

What should businesses think about?

  • Which types of jobs are most easily automated and what level of human involvement will be needed after you do so?
  • What kinds of jobs that are possible when a human has access to incredible processing power? Prepare to develop and train your employees for those jobs.
  • How do chatbots differ, and what are the requirements for business?
  • How can we design conversations using AI? Right now the focus is just on the call, and that’s where it ends. How can we re-think the experience across all touchpoints? 
  • How can we use AI to anticipate what the customer needs and do it on their behalf?

Bots have the power to create, not just destroy jobs. In the near future AI and chatbots will free human workers from many repetitive, mundane tasks. This will cost some jobs but it will also create new positions – some not even invented yet. (Think stables and blacksmiths vs. parking garages and mechanics a hundred years ago.) 

Let’s take a contact center today and consider how it might evolve for tomorrow. Today, there’s little distinction between someone designing conversations vs. handling customer queries, but in the near future, many of the routine activity that agents handle will go away. In the next few years, I believe that 80 percent of contact center operations will be automated. The other 20 percent will be highly paid customer service jobs, including agents with the capability to train machines to become smarter. The agent of future will be more educated, more sophisticated and apply principles of psychology to handle high-value, complex conversations with customers

This will have a greater impact on countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, India and the Philippines, which have a much higher population of contact center agents than the United States. I envision something similar to what happened in the 90s when all the maintenance work started moving there. Over time, those jobs transitioned into actual development, and now many of the largest software companies including Adobe and Microsoft create new products there. 

Automation will affect every industry, but the vital role of humans working behind the veil of AI should not be underestimated. The notion of fully autonomous AI is still a thing of fantasy for now. For the foreseeable future, businesses will need humans to teach machines to work smarter, and bridge the gap where AI falls short – particularly when it comes to the complexities of human emotion.  Human labor remains a key component of the AI loop, and as we’ve seen with just about every other major technological advancement, some jobs will be lost but many more will be created to fit this new reality. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bob Pritchard on Customer Service

We work with companies around the world to help them produce awesome customer service. Most companies are not only not awesome, they are pathetic.
 
There are two aspects to customer care, one is providing awesome service and the second is to ‘add value’ to every interaction with the customer.  The key to the provision of exceptional service lies in the quality of your company’s people management.
 
A recent 10-year study by Sheffield University in England demonstrated that people management is three times as important as research and development in improving productivity and profitability, and six times more important than business strategy.
 
For successful management, a high EQ, (a measure of self-awareness, self-control, motivational ability, empathy and social skills) was more than twice as important as intellectual skills.  These skills are also essential to creating a customer centric culture in a business.
 
The first step in developing an excellent customer service culture is to hire the right people.  Many businesses believe the only people that need to have great customer skills are those on the front line.  However, it is often surprising how many of your team actually deals with customers.  Take our business as an example:
 
Our clients not only speak with me, they also speak with a number of other people in the company throughout the course of a project.  These include receptionists, researchers, graphics people and so on.  All members of our team, irrespective of their role, must project the same enthusiasm for the client that I do.  And they do, because that is part of our company culture.  If you look at your own business, you may be surprised at how many of your team come in contact with the customer.  Do they all share your customer values?  If not, your business is at risk.
 
One of the reasons Amazon.com has achieved exceptional brand equity is because it has empowered its customer service representatives to do anything to satisfy the customer.  They can even buy books at the corner bookstore to satisfy a customer!
 
One of my favorite sayings is that “ it is easier to change people, than it is to change people.”  Don’t employ your team on hard skills, qualifications and experience; hire them for their smile, customer skills and attitude.  You can teach technical skills.  If you have to teach people to smile and be nice to internal and external customers, you have chosen the wrong people.  Hire people who like people, people who are empathetic. 
 
The best customer service is delivered by people who see things as the customer sees it, not how the company sees it.
 
There are two types of customers in any organization, internal and external.  It is important to remember that to maintain a highly cohesive and motivated work force, exceptional service is as important with internal customers it is with external ones. Coupled with a good environment and a shared vision, great internal customer relations in turn influences external customers.  If any of your personnel do not have a great service attitude, replace them before the cancer spreads.
 
A customer centric company culture begins with leadershipIt is important to realize that developing great customer service in your organization is not as simple as holding a seminar and saying this is how it is done.  It is not about rote learning, it is not as simple as step 1. Smile, step 2.  “Would you like fries with that”?  Before you can begin training there must be a culture change. Training without culture change and a genuine example set by the executives will be met with cynicism and distrust.
 
The problem is that most people who go to a training session get hyped for a short period and then immediately revert back to their old ways.  To be effective we must continue training and lead by example.
 
Employers need to set an example by doing whatever needs to be done. Effective leadership cannot be achieved by command or a thick rulebook, only by example and by building core values.  Where these values mirror that of the employees, you will enjoy success. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

5 winning practices that helped Andy Fells achieve the career he wanted

 Andy Fells, General Manager of Westpac Premium Bank, shares his top tips for success . And this is the reason de Ete if Business Builders Group! Www.bbg.business 

P S C L R

Purpose, shadow, coach, learn, relationships 

  • Clarity of purpose

Sir Isaac Newton once said “All I have is clarity.’’ True success in life originates from your purpose or your ‘why’ . It excites, energises and inspires you to take consistent action. Having this clarity of purpose enables you to create goals centred on what really matters to you. The stronger your ‘why’ the more likely you are to overcome obstacles & setbacks and essentially keep moving forward towards the achievement of these goals. Write out & refine your goals, share them publicly (and as often as possible) and constantly revisit them. Clarity enables you to visualize more clearly and to see your ‘desired future state.’ Decide what you want, commit to it and then get going. You achieve nothing without action!

  • Notice your shadow

Leaders cast long shadows. Those shadows need to be positive, “can do” and (in most cases) customer driven. I believe we are role models for our business - we set the tone, the pace and the direction. With the right attitude anything is possible. A great leader can inspire others to take action and to strive to achieve new personal bests. Culture eats strategy for breakfast & lunch…so you need to set the direction, check understanding and then get out of the way. A vibrant, positive, successful culture is an empowering one. Be genuine and true to yourself.

  • Be a great coach

Be the wind beneath people’s wings and help them to soar to new heights. I was once taught that ‘the greatest gift you can give your people is your time.’ This matters. Work out the root cause of success and encourage people to use their strengths on a daily basis. Build confidence and self-belief by finding reasons to praise and celebrate and by catching people doing something right. Again personal bests create confidence as people are focused on their own continuous improvement. 

  • Always keep learning.

In this fast moving world, and we all need to stay relevant. Learning matters. Learn from the champions within your industry, your peers & colleagues and from the world’s best. Balance formal and informal learning. I regularly have ‘appointments with Mozart’ - which is my time for me. This gives me time to focus on my own development. Factor learning into your routines - I regularly listen to an audio download whilst on the Sydney ferry to work. As an aside, I start everyday by saying to myself “I have more than enough time” - this ensures I stay in my ideal performance state, I am relaxed but I also focus and prioritise around my goals, including my learning.

  • Invest in relationships

Relationships are the foundation of everything. My grandfather was an amazing man who taught me that you always do people a good turn. He started life working as a stable boy and then as a servant in a big country house. Service and relationships were ingrained within him. He treated everyone in the same way - gentle, kind and giving. He also passed on the old Indian proverb:

‘I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man with no feet.’

I  follow my grandfather’s example. I wake up everyday and say ‘today will be a fantastic day’. I look for the good in everyone and the opportunity in everything. I have a choice and I am determined to make the most of it.