Commerce Trends

by Manhattan Associates

The Rise of Machines

When one of the most significant thinkers of recent times – Stephen Hawking – urges caution regarding Artificial Intelligence and the rise of the robot economy, should organisations not take note? Yet in a challenging economy underpinned by ever rising customer expectations the combination of unprecedented efficiency with unparalleled personalisation is simply too compelling for the vast majority of organisations to ignore.

As a result, new technologies are set to dominate customer service; ‘intelligent’ devices such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana are now standard household items and virtual reality is an expected component of the retail experience dynamic – how can an individual buy a new sofa without picturing how it would look in her sitting room? The way in which humans and machines interact is changing fast.

But widely, the issue is that right now, machines are not yet human enough and they cannot yet use body language or eye contact to truly determine an individual’s response. It is also important to remember that over- or mis-use of digital technology and the implications for customer perception and employee morale could be devastating.

There is, as yet, no clear prescription for successfully exploiting machine driven technology while retaining the human element. And, to be fair, strategies will vary between environments. Within a retail store, for example, organisations would do well to err on the side of people as opposed to machine, but to do so whilst ensuring the human touch is empowered to deliver the very best experience. Rather than big brother style tracking, impertinent images or offers, even ‘meet and greet’ holograms, a store associate armed with accurate, real time information about inventory and the customer can deliver an excellent customer experience – and, critically, one that uses human knowledge and experience to reflect the desires and responses of each individual.

But I think we all agree that today, the ability of machines has its place with a pace of change that is extraordinary and holds limitless potential. Organisations clearly need to embrace the concept of new technologies available today; but with caution. Taking small steps, whilst recognising the limitations and the importance of human interaction will be essential.