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.