SMACtalk Live: How Automation Will Forever Change Customer Experience

In SMACtalk by Daniel Newman


In this IBM-sponsored episode of SMACtalk, Daniel Newman interviews Gene Chao, Vice President and General Manager of IBM Automation. The two discuss how automation is changing the landscape of the customer journey, in positive and irreversible ways.

During this episode, Chao discusses the way automation is moving from a static application to a dynamic one. Rather than automating single processes, for instance, companies are using automation within the decision-making process end to end. That allows us to use data to optimize the customer experience, rather than just certain segments of it. In the past, Chao says, we used to be able to automate the first 50 feet of a customer’s experience through chatbots or virtual service assistants. Now automation can walk with them the entire length of their journey.

One of the most interesting elements of digital transformation is that in the past, the enterprise was driving new technology development. But now, consumer experience is forcing the change. In fact, consumer experience has allowed us on the business side to become more comfortable with AI and automation as “decision engines,” rather than something to make a process more efficient. That means we’ll be increasingly relying on automation and AI not just to perform a process but to decide which steps need to be taken next to keep the company moving forward.

Chao discusses IBM’s role in supporting a new digital workforce, where virtual co-workers co-exist with human counterparts for a 360-degree automation experience. In the future, for instance, Dan hopes a chat bot won’t just direct us to the right department. It will do a quick assessment of how valuable we are as customers and make decisions on the spot to keep us happy—be it with a product refund, free upgrade, or other service.

This means more than shifting toward automation. It means changing the way we look at processes before they even get to the automation stage. As Chao said, right now, we’re automated processes designed for people. But in truth, automation from a tech design perspective is capable of so much more than our own self-limited views. In short, we need to get humans out of the way of automation to allow for complete process re-engineering.

As part of this transition—which will forever change both customer experience and the enterprise experience—Chao acknowledges that change management and adoption are still huge factors we as humans need to deal with. Sometimes “automation dividends” are not immediate, and it is possible leaders could get discouraged if they get push back from employees not fully boarding the automation train. That’s why it’s so important to make a focused, smart and strategic transition.