Is Intelligence Artificial if it Helps Build Better Customer Relations?

Mairit Hollstén-Väinölä, VP Customer Support, Global Services, Nokia

Mairit Hollstén-Väinölä, VP Customer Support, Global Services, Nokia

A source of much hype and many misplaced hopes and fears, artificial intelligence or ‘AI’ is often presented as something impersonal and inhuman. Yet in the work I do, I see it as an enabler of improved human connectivity and more rewarding tasks and relationships, especially with our customers. My experience of AI is that it makes room for more natural, human relationships.

I direct the customer support personnel for Nokia Global Services. The main task of my teams is to make sure that mobile radio products and solutions are introduced to our mobile operator customers smoothly and effectively. We now employ or build AI to help us in several different ways:

1. Automation of services, such as advanced identification and correction of network issues, ideally before the customer is even aware of them

2. Augmented intelligence, where customer service experts are presented with possible ways to troubleshoot the customer issue based on historical and real-time data

3. More convenient and futuristic ways for customers to get help solving their own issues, such as chatbots

Nokia is an engineering company and we build highly technical products that also need to work side by side with other vendors’ products. Given the complexity of modern networks and the 5G era that we are entering, troubleshooting issues could become very time-consuming and expensive, especially when network outages can potentially affect so many subscribers.

“Given the complexity of modern networks and the 5G era that we are entering, troubleshooting issues could become very time-consuming and expensive, especially when network outages can potentially affect so many subscribers”

Even with so much at stake, the root cause of an issue can often be minute and seemingly banal and therefore, easy to miss. Fortunately, network equipment can be designed to log even the most inconsequential of operational details. Unfortunately, no human being could ever sift and sort all the logged details to discover the issue.

This is where AI can step in and use advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to recognize patterns in the data. Over time, these algorithms will become more and more precise at identifying the probable causes of issues. Working closely with our service engineers, my future vision is that AI can eventually be trained to be very accurate; so accurate that it can trigger corrective actions and alerts, and the issue can be corrected before the customer is even aware of it.

Thanks to AI and machine learning, the focus of a service engineer’s work will shift from more repetitive tasks to analysis, troubleshooting, and accumulating and sharing knowledge. In this way, AI creates more opportunities for developing more fulfilling human skills and abilities.

The second way we will use AI is to augment and improve our service to customers. Our customer service engineers have access to real-time data, but there is only so much data that a human can process. AI, on the other hand, can sift through huge amounts of data to look for patterns. In the future, AI will not only have access to the customer record, it can probably query the network itself, help the engineer with additional questions he or she could ask, even detect that a similar problem has been already described by another customer, and suggest a solution based on the information it has of that particular case.

The most attractive feature about AI is that it allows us to provide better and more consistent customer service. Good, AI-powered customer service is more than just the absence of problems and reacting to a customer’s question as soon as it comes—at its best, it creates trust and loyalty and even a sense of wow!

Speaking of creating wow, the third way that we will use AI is with chatbots, computer programs that act as conversational agents. They are tireless and always there. This also raises the expectations of customers, who assume that any interaction will be processed on-demand, also outside business opening hours. The key to a good chatbot is not simply to operate on a set of predefined rules that respond to very specific questions with a ready-made answer. Advanced chatbots will use AI and machine-learning mechanisms to provide a tailored response. These bots require massive amounts of data to manipulate and score it and to retrieve a correct answer to the identified question. Advanced chatbots will use programs that learn, i.e. continue to improve their responses based on their interactions with users and with experts who train them with pairs of questions and answers.

I see AI as something driving corrective action in customer networks. Customers will get alerts when human action is needed, and they will have full transparency on any automated corrective actions taken. The end result of integrating AI techniques into our customer service operations is that there will be a lot less drudgery and frustration. This is what I consider the human aspect of technology: AI will take over repetitive tasks, creating more opportunities for developing human skills that lead to happier service teams and, most importantly, loyal and happy customers.

Weekly Brief

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