In the lead up to Acquia Engage Asia Pacific, we’ll be taking time out with some of our conference speakers to discover what they’ll be discussing at the event, why it’s important, and what attendees will take away from their sessions.
This week we sat down with Llew Jury, founder and the chair of Reload, as well as the entrepreneur in residence of River City Labs’ (RCL) accelerator program, working closely with startup teams building apps and systems using artificial intelligence (AI). Jury gave us a taste of what he’ll be discussing at this year’s Acquia Engage APAC, as well as his thoughts on handling the hype around AI.
AI is a big focus for you at the moment, both with Reload and your work with RCL. Which aspects of AI will you be discussing during your session?
There’s a lot of hype around AI at the moment and, in my own experience as an entrepreneur, I’m seeing people throwing money at things that aren’t actually AI. I wanted to focus on the first toe in the water; so, for companies using systems such as Drupal, what does a sensible approach to AI look like? I want to remind attendees about being customer-led, not technology-led when it comes to AI. I also want to debunk the misnomer “chatbot,” more accurately called service assistants.
How do service assistants differ from voice assistants?
I’m going to be going into a lot of detail about this during my presentation because that’s a question that I get asked a lot. Voice assistants are basically Alexa and Google Assist; they use the same type of machine learning and AI to go away and learn things about you. We’re at the tip of the iceberg with voice, not too dissimilar to the dial-up modem stage of the internet; thinking about it in that way, it’s easy to see that voice is going to change things very, very quickly. Twenty years ago we were desktop, around five years ago we were mobile – the next crossover will be to voice. It’s already started in a big way in 2018, with a big uptake of people using voice assistants in their homes, but in 2019 it’ll be ubiquitous and we’ll see it in retail and many other uses.
Chatbots (or service assistants) are the cousins of voice. Voice is a customer delivery tool for consumers in the home, but when we talk about service assistants, we’re looking at small to mid-sized businesses using them with their customers.
Acquia recently released its 2019 Customer Experience Trends report, and one of the findings highlighted a concern around consumers wanting the human touch when interacting with businesses, and always having an option of speaking to a real person. Do you think this concern will disappear in future, as AI becomes more sophisticated?
Yes. We’re already at the stage where people are willing to share very personal information on Facebook, despite the recent issues. I believe in as little as five years’ time, people will be speaking to bots and not even realising it’s a bot. There’s even a company in Brisbane called Popgun Labs that’s developing AI that can produce pop music. As long as the level of service delivery is what customers consider to be exceptional, the pros will outweigh the cons and they’ll become advocates of the brand rather than feeling concerned or suspicious about the company’s application of AI.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about "digital detoxing," and a general unease about how much time we’re spending looking at screens. Do you feel that AI might help to overcome this concern?
I think that that’s actually where the biggest value lies for voice. Apple and Google have even released digital tools recently to help people to manage the amount of screen time they’re taking throughout the day, so I think voice will be a great way to help people feel like they’re still getting things done while stepping away from the screen.
What are the best examples you’ve seen of AI?
There’s a tool called Divvito which is an AI bot that helps separated parents to communicate better. When someone is in a highly emotional state discussing separating their children, if that person starts using swearing or aggressive language in their messages, Divvito pops up a funny message to try to calm them down and encourage them to use a different tone. That’s a wonderful use of AI – to help overcome the communication challenges of co-parenting.
Do you feel that AI is something every business should be adopting into their customer experience tech stack?
That’s the number one reason we’re focused on this area at the moment – because of the hype-cycle. Ten to 15 years ago, there was a lot of hype around ecommerce and the message was that every business should have an online shop. Then the hype was that every business needed an app. AI is in the same bubble and, like all new technologies, should be business and customer led. I see lots of businesses investing a lot of money in chatbots and projects being driven by IT departments, which is completely the wrong approach. First you need to consider what value the bot will bring, which processes will it change or improve and who will be using it. Once those questions have been answered you may find that you don’t need a bot or that there’s another part of the customer experience that is a greater priority. It’s also better to start small and then build bigger if it’s working – don’t jump in and hire a data scientist or machine learning specialist when you could potentially implement a very cost-efficient (or even free) chatbot to test the water. You can use tools such as IBM Watson, via a WordPress plugin, Dialogflow, which is Google’s product, or Chatfuel for Facebook, to enable customers to chat after hours. At the most, you may need someone on your team who is a Java Programmer, but these are all very simple (and cost-efficient) solutions to help you to ascertain if a chatbot is something that would improve your customer experience … which should be the main driver when considering AI.
To find out more information about the Acquia Engage APAC conference, or to register, visit apacengage.acquia.com.