Fact checking with: Frank Smit – Chief Innovation Officer at OBI4wan
In the series “Fact checking with” we interview our colleagues from OBI4wan about their responsibilities, vision and the person behind the expert. In this edition we spoke with Frank Smit. As Chief Innovation Officer Frank directs the Research & Development team and is always looking for new, innovative ideas. He explains what is going on in the world of chatbots and artificial intelligence and which new developments we can expect.
What are your responsibilities as CIO?
“My main task as a CIO is to look ahead and innovate. How can we as an organisation innovate? What does this mean for product development and new markets? My responsibility is that we advance in offering and developing products and services. I manage the Research & Development team. They develop products and services, such as chatbots and OBI4wan software. Innovation is not only my responsibility, but is in the DNA of our entire organisation!
Strategy is a big part of my work, I think a lot about the future and have a clear vision about the role artificial intelligence can play. In addition, I am still involved in many of our clients’ projects.”
Which new developments within AI shouldn’t we miss?
“I think a number of interesting steps in technology are coming. Voice is one of them. Specifically for our business it is interesting to investigate how you can use voice in customer service. The Netherlands has a high adoption rate of Google Assistant. Perhaps everyone will have a Google Home in the future. How nice would it be then that instead of sending a message to a customer service department, you can ask Google Home to deliver your package at a certain time? In that respect, voice is a very interesting development we are having new ideas about and we also do tests with.
Besides voice, much more is happening in the field of artificial intelligence. AI is actually putting human intelligence into a computer. What makes people intelligent? We humans can reason, think and invent new solutions. With chatbots, we’re not that far yet. Where we are now is understanding what someone means and then being able to reason what the next steps may be. The bot can also then start a dialogue with an employee or another bot. In some cases, the bot solves the case all by itself.”
What is on the OBI4wan agenda for 2019 in terms of Chatbots and AI?
“Chatbot development is going extremely fast worldwide. Previously, it was mainly technical people who were involved in chatbots, but now it is also easier for others to do this. I firmly believe that employees within organisations can be responsible for the technology themselves. Customer service employees can set up a stream and make searches themselves, so why not train a digital assistant? Within organisations, new roles will also be added for people who only deal with the bots. Some organisations are already hiring Product Owners for Chatbots. I believe that we will see this even more in the near future.
“I firmly believe that employees within organisations can be responsible for the technology themselves. Customer service employees can arrange a stream and make searches themselves, so why not train a digital assistant?”
What we are also working on is optimizing artificial intelligence in our Brand Monitor. With this solution we help communication professionals and press officers to do their job even better. Through AI we can discover trends in the underlying data. This allows us to recognize alarming data in time to prevent a crisis. With artificial intelligence, we can recognize which sector your organisation is in, who your competitors are and what your reputation drivers are. Of course we do listen very carefully to the wishes and needs of the customer, only then AI can be relevant.
“The Brand Monitor will give users insights that they are not necessarily looking for. These can be messages, trends or the latest trending topics that are important at that moment in for example a certain industry. The solution also learns from the users themselves, based on interests and which messages you found useful or not.”
Most important is of course that the solutions we offer will help the users to make their work easier by telling them more than what is asked. That’s innovation and that’s what I strive for every day!”
4. What would you like to say to organisations that are in doubt about starting with chatbots?
“You probably know exactly what your employees do. As for new technologies, you probably don’t. That’s exciting and I think that’s often the main reason for doubt. You give something out of hands that you have worked hard on in terms of customer satisfaction and your reputation. Also, you have invested time and energy in your employees by training them. But if the volumes increases and the SLA’s are not achieved, this can backfire at you and harm your customer satisfaction. So you’re looking for a solution. The most logical step is to automate.
If you are hesitant about the technology, start small. Are chatbots a part of your online customer service? You can, for example, start using an outside opening hours bot. This is very accessible. So my advice is; don’t tackle it rigorously by suddenly changing your entire customer service in one go. Divide it into small manageable steps and measure the result. This way you can make more efficient steps and then grow.”