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AI: the new customer service champion

Yehia El Amine

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AI

With artificial intelligence (AI) on the rise, reaching higher levels of sophistication and faster response rates, many companies are looking to deploy it within their customer service branches to primarily reduce costs and enhance customer experience. 

Currently, the tech is not fully able to take over the tasks carried out by human customer service agents. However, the majority of consumer requests are considered very mundane and simple which could pave the way for AI to replace human input. 

AI-powered applications have already started popping up in healthcare diagnostics, transportation, entertainment, and the education industry so far; thus, it is natural that the technology would be an ideal fit for the customer service industry seeing its potential in meeting the growing demand for better customer experience at lower costs. 

According to a survey conducted by India-based Tata Consultancy Service, almost 32 percent of major companies around the world are currently using AI customer service technologies, the second most common use of AI after IT. 

Investments in AI have skyrocketed due to its immense potential. 

According to a report by U.S.-based IDC, the two fields that were predicted to attract the most AI investment this year were automated AI-powered customer service agents, at $4.5 billion, and sales process recommendation and automation, at $2.7 billion.

“AI is the game changer in a highly competitive environment, especially across customer-facing industries such as retail and finance, where AI has the power to push customer experience to the next level with virtual assistants, product recommendations, or visual searches,” the report highlighted. 

This potential has caught the eye of forward-thinking companies that are likely to turn to AI-powered customer service solutions to optimize and streamline back office operations and cost efficiency. 

These solutions are able to conduct a plethora of tasks that make customer experience seamless and easy to maneuver, including:

Lightning fast replies

If there’s something the digital age has trained us to hate, its waiting; especially if the question or answer is simpler than one might expect. 

AI has the ability to instantly handle commonly asked questions through a 24/7 live chat experience, while presenting relevant self-service articles to customers to help solve issues that may arise.

Shorter research time

Customer services agents and support take a lot of time to research answers, which irritates both them – which lowers agent availability for other customers – and the client. 

AI offers rapid search results due to its integrated algorithm, which provides agents a list of answers to be directly inserted based on the inquiry made.

Enhancing customer engagement

As customer service has moved more overtly to the digital world, companies, businesses and brands are looking for ways to engage their customers on a deeper, lengthier, and more engaging manner. 

AI can take the wheel here, by leveraging information found on customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, the tech can seamlessly access and share key customer information with agents to develop more intricate conversations. 

Predictive insights

As data is quickly becoming electronic gold for corporations around the world, it comes as no surprise that companies are attempting to enhance customer relations using relevant data to increase transparency and communication. 

Using AI, organizations are attempting to use predictive insights to enhance their work, by quickly scanning previous products and inventory to recommend similar items a customer may like.

As technological advancements seem to be paving the way for a better and more sustainable way of life, AI is found at the heart of technological convergence across a multitude of sectors and industries, capitalizing on a seamless cooperation between customer-facing and behind-the-scenes AI-powered solutions. 

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Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

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UAE’s ICT regulator adds ‘digital government’ among duties as it rebrands

Inside Telecom Staff

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digital government

The UAE’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) announced on Monday a new brand identity that reflects its organization of the telecoms sector.

The announcement – which was made in a virtual press conference – is in line with a decree published in September 2020 including the addition of the “digital government” to its responsibilities and changed its name, which was voted upon by the regulator’s board back in December of the same year.

“Today we launch the new identity of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority, which expresses the Authority’s aspirations for the next 50 years. It is embodied in the investment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and 5G potential for enabling digital government and achieving digital transformation,” Hamad Obaid, Director General of the authority said in a statement.

According to a statement by the regulator, the new identity reflects the central role of TDRA in line with the orientation of the UAE over the next fifty years – which includes accelerating the pace of digital transformation in the country and shaping a future based on advanced technology supported by artificial intelligence, smart cities, and a knowledge-based society and economy.

“Digital transformation is now a strategic social and economic program aimed at facilitating people’s lives and providing them with quick solutions and services around the clock,” Al Mansoori added.

During the virtual conference, TDRA’s head highlighted that the added responsibility of “digital government” is a completely different concept, as it goes beyond providing services. “It seeks to enhance the quality of life … employ digital data and technologies supported by artificial intelligence in people’s transactions, relationships and lives,” Al Mansoori explained.

“We are witnessing a full digital transformation […] electronic government was started before 2000, mobile government was started in 2013 and today we are talking about a digital government supported by data and [the] Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Al Mansoori, told reporters on Monday.

The effects of the novel COVID-19 pandemic have skyrocketed the use of digital services within the UAE and the world due companies adopting a remote working policy to keep businesses going. In parallel, the country had temporary lifted a ban on voice-over-Internet protocol applications and other video conferencing software to boost the new working norm.

“We think digitally, interact digitally, design digitally, work digitally and present our products digitally. This becomes an integral part of the daily life of individuals in the government or in the private sector as they are working more remotely due to the pandemic,” Al Mansoori added.

According to numbers provided by the regulator, the total number of Internet subscriptions in the UAE totaled nearly 3 million in December, almost the same as in November; TDRA also reported that there are almost 33 broadband Internet connections per 100 residents within the country.

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Late president’s book outlines vision for Japan’s Nintendo

Associated Press

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Late president's book outlines vision for Japan's Nintendo

Nintendo’s late president Satoru Iwata oversaw the video-game maker’s global growth as Super Mario and Pokemon became household names.

“Ask Iwata” was published after his death from cancer in 2015 at age 55. This month, VIZ Media is publishing the English translation of the book, which came out in Japanese in 2019.

“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer,” Iwata once said, one of many quotes that stand out in the book.

Throughout the book, Iwata outlines his vision for Nintendo Co., which was to offer entertainment that everyone in the family could enjoy, regardless of age, gender and game playing skills. The company culture he fostered encouraged individual game creators, showing he was one of them at heart.

Iwata was of a younger generation than the vanguard of Japanese manufacturing leaders who have grabbed global attention: Soichiro Honda, founder of the automaker that carries his name; Momofuku Ando, inventor of the instant noodle; Akio Morita, who started Sony in a repair shop amid bombed out rubble.

Kyoto-based Nintendo started out making traditional Japanese playing cards. Iwata took over in 2002, and presided over video game offerings like the Wii console and the Nintendo DS handheld, as well as games played on cell phones.

The company’s performance has had ups and downs like a Super Mario roller-coaster ride, but has done well lately as people stuck at home due to the pandemic turned to games. Profits for the nine months through December doubled from a year earlier to nearly 377 billion yen ($3.4 billion).

That good fortune might not last as normal activities resume with vaccine rollouts, a change likely to crimp sales to the casual game users who make up Nintendo players, rather than the core gamers rival consoles tend to attract.

The hoped-for end to the pandemic is likely to coincide, analysts say, with a peak in the so-called “life cycle,” or duration of consumer appeal, of Nintendo’s console offerings like the Switch. Questions also remain about Nintendo’s ability to monetize on the growing sector of mobile games.

Consoles could continue to evolve, such as those with virtual reality, analysts say. Nintendo also has intellectual property, driving lucrative businesses such as merchandizing and theme parks.

All those businesses thrived under Iwata’s presidency.

Kenshu Kikuzawa, professor of business administration at Keio University, believes that Japanese companies’ strengths come from its traditional practices like lifetime employment and pay raises by seniority, which still characterize major Japanese companies including Nintendo.

That in turns, breeds employee loyalty, which Kikuzawa believes is important in the creative work that drives Nintendo.

Japanese companies should stick to being Japanese, doing what they do best, craftsmanship-like manufacturing, Kikuzawa said, exactly as Iwata led Nintendo.

“Nintendo is in many ways a very old-fashioned Japanese company,” he said. “Ultimately, Nintendo employees just really love Nintendo. Loyalty to the company is fierce.”

That kind of emotional commitment allows a company to overcome difficulties, even during periods of financial losses, as employees hang on and work hard for a turnaround, he said.

Iwata showed talent for programming as a youngster. He was working part-time at Japan’s HAL Laboratory, known for the “Kirby” games and collaborating with Nintendo, before he graduated from the prestigious Tokyo Institute of Technology. He first made games for Nintendo Famicom machines, which came out in the 1980’s.

Iwata was promoted to head HAL before taking the helm at Nintendo. His colleagues say he was a good listener, interviewing everyone at the company twice a year, trying to be fair and respectful.

“My plan was to be a sounding board and to get a sense of what was happening, but when I sat down with each person individually, I was blown away by how much I was learning,” Iwata wrote.

Shigesato Itoi, a writer, actor and creator of Nintendo’s “EarthBound” game series, featured comments from Iwata’s book on his personal website, and deeply admired him.

“I have never seen him blame anyone or speak ill of anyone,” said Itoi, who knew Iwata for 25 years, and says he loved him like a younger brother.

Instead of Hollywood-style grand battles, Japan excels at more peaceful blockbusters, like Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing,” Itoi said. He likened the game, which simulates living in a village, to children playing house.

“It wasn’t exactly something that many experts in the game industry expected the world to find fun,” he said. “What Japan has to offer still has great potential.”

Iwata sought to appeal to people who’d never played games before and to those who used to play but quit, said Kensuke Yabe, professor at Chukyo University’s School of Global Studies.

“He had superbly good instincts about what was happening on the ground. To maximize their appeal, he made sure Nintendo consoles were designed for the living room,” said Yabe.

When the Wii came out, Iwata insisted the controller be called a “remote,” a more familiar term evoking TV sets, rather than “controller.” He liked games for learning English, hanging out with a dog and cooking food.

“A video game is interesting when you can have fun simply watching someone play,” Iwata wrote.


TOKYO (AP) — By YURI KAGEYAMA

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Domino’s collaborates with Nuro on test launch of autonomous pizza delivery

Inside Telecom Staff

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autonomous pizza delivery

Global pizza giant Domino’s and Nuro, a top self-driving delivery company, are launching a test autonomous pizza delivery vehicle in Houston, Texas, the companies announced on Monday.

Beginning this week, select customers who place a pre-paid order through the Domino’s website on certain days and times from the Domino’s in Woodland Heights, located at 3209 Houston Ave., can choose to have their pizza delivered by Nuro’s R2 robot.

Nuro’s R2 is the first completely autonomous, occupantless on-road delivery vehicle with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

This collaboration between Domino’s and Nuro will introduce an entirely new delivery experience to pizza lovers.

How it works

Select customers who place a pre-paid website order from the participating Domino’s store can opt to have their pizza delivered by R2. Customers who are selected will receive text alerts, which will update them on R2’s location and provide them with a unique PIN to retrieve their order.

Customers may also track the vehicle via GPS tracking on their order confirmation page. Once R2 arrives, customers will be prompted to enter their PIN on the bot’s touchscreen. R2’s doors will then gently open upward, revealing the customer’s hot Domino’s pizza, the companies said in a joint statement.

“We’re excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino’s customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s senior vice president and chief innovation officer.

“There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations,” Maloney added. “The growing demand for great-tasting pizza creates the need for more deliveries, and we look forward to seeing how autonomous delivery can work along with Domino’s existing delivery experts to better support the customers’ needs.”

Nuro notes of itself that its mission is to better everyday life through robotics. The company’s custom autonomous vehicles are designed to bring the things customers, from produce to prescriptions, right to the home.

“Nuro’s mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we’re launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino’s,” said Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president. “We’re excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino’s customers in Houston. We can’t wait to see what they think.”

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