News & Views

Opinion / Tailoring Automation

by Contagious Contributor
Thomas Mueller, regional design director at Fjord, on designing automation for and around the people

The rise of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and automation is creating a wave of concern around whether or not we’ll start to see smart machines replacing people and the potential domino effect on society. With so many sectors now ripe for automation, including retail, finance and a range of public services, the tricky question is: how can brands and businesses find the right balance between automation and that cherished human touch?

Get creative with machine learning
For many the word automation equals chatbot. Chatbots offer instantaneous dialogue with brands, but brands need to get creative with this messenger-style customer service. Having a chatbot for the sake of it can risk dehumanizing a brand. Personality, empathy, brand voice and narrative are needed to give this artificial intelligent support system credence.

That said, there is no one way of introducing that personal touch to a bot. One solution could be for brands to use chatbots as conversation starters and then bring in human interaction at the right time and for the right tasks. Alternatively, you could incorporate voice into your chatbot.

Design it to make it
The opportunities are boundless for brands who put design at the heart of their automation.

A report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) predicts that 60% of British retail roles could be taken over by technology by 2030, which calls for a new breed of designers to ensure automation does not render creativity obsolete and limit human jobs.

Designers can ensure every customer feels important by building automated systems for continuous learning, and helping them become more emotionally intelligent. One area automation will play a key part is in our currently over-stretched public services. Here, design can simplify the experience and help to avoid digital exclusion for the less tech savvy population.

We’re already seeing brands using automation to win the public’s affections – online-only bank First Direct was ranked the UK’s best brand for customer experience, after rolling out its automated voice recognition tool. Also in finance, Turkish bank Garanti has introduced MIA – a voice-based chatbot which allows customers to perform currency conversions, transfer money, make payments, check their balance and more.

Data meets delivery
So many of today’s companies and brands want to adapt to the changing world we live in but aren’t sure where to start. The crux of the matter is in combining data access and deep machine learning with human connections to provide the right user experience.

The best advice for brands is, as ever: put the customer first. It isn’t enough to navigate by data alone – brands need to take the time to talk to and observe their prospective users to truly connect with them.

For example, a customer wanting to check their bank balance will be satisfied using a mobile app, but a first-time buyer looking for a mortgage will most likely want to talk to someone about one of their life’s biggest financial decisions. For Garanti, the answer was to use chatbots to service the more routine aspects of online banking while video chats enabled a human agent connection for more personally significant and complex services.

This feature allows customers to have an online face-to-face meeting with an agent entirely within the app, which is convenient for those who can’t escape the office during working hours. So far, it has resonated with users, as Garanti reports a monthly transaction volume of around £1,000,000 on the service.

As this example shows, automation can supply solutions to many different user requirements. The trick is tailoring implementations to give the right level of service.

With automation, we’re seeing a new generation of digital designers emerge to facilitate sleek and engaging artificial intelligence. It’s the brands that fuse digital and design to deliver smarter, more efficient and bespoke services who will lead the way and create room for more talent – not less.