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AI without Empathy Leaves the Enterprise with Artificial Indifference

by Michael Maoz  |  December 21, 2016  |  1 Comment

AI has been the answer to all things for as long as any of us have been IT professionals. As a tech newbie in Boston finishing a Grad program, it was to a course in Lisp over at MIT that my startup sent me. Oh those fun M-expressions! Thank you professor McCarthy.

What has also been around just as long is poor product and process design, which makes the purveyors of AI technologies so hopeful that finally they will connect to a market opportunity.

But will they make money and make a difference? How will IT folks, locked up far away from the average customer, use AI in a way that moves the needle for the business? Here in the US we have the wonderful Chamber of Commerce confection known as Holiday Season spun up. (Yes, this sounds cynical, unless you know anything about US Social History whatsoever, in which case you would see, following the Civil War and the dislocation caused by mechanization and factories, that the current Christmas took shape. What was an almost invisible or reverential day morphed into the glitzy charade seen today. Basically, the transformation arose to address the deep psychic wounds caused by those combined phenomena of war and automation and dislocation. Another day’s story…). Millions of people are buying consumer electronics and home appliances. How is AI embedded?

Where to begin? Example: A new modem arrives from the cable provider. “Simple, two step, automatic.” And within five minutes the new modem is in place. Ta-dum!!! 5x speed! But wait! The routers are blinking yellow. No connection. Hmmm. 40 minutes with Cable/Internet provider later, and still the problem is not solved. “Call Support from your router company.” Brilliant. And then another hour later, the routers are reconfigured, and the extenders extended. And then? One by one, the wireless printers, the 4K HDTV, the smart devices – everything with wireless – needs to be updated.

How does this connect to Empathy, and not just to an internet connection? Because the Cable/Internet provider did not lie, exactly, about the “Simple, two step, automatic,” – they just lacked a basic understanding of and empathy for their shareholders and customers. Shareholders – because hundreds of thousands of tech support calls result, and each of these can cost $50 – $100. And customer empathy is shot because the customer, even a tech-aware customer, cannot anticipate that the six minute modem replacement is really an afternoon of wasted time. Who do they fault? Not themselves, except for gullibility.

Could AI have helped? Sure! In combination with an empathetic enterprise, the process design teams would have considered more than the question of how to make modem replacement “Simple, two step, automatic,” and instead: how do we help the customer get the new capabilities with the least amount of effort? Like: first put a huge Caveat Emptor in digital and physical RED that reads: “DUDE – consider the following before you begin…”. And a simple video on your favorite mobile device could walk the customer through what to expect. And AI software could run across the connected ecosystem and list the anticipated required actions. Maybe even anticipate the time required, the software updates. Imagine?

The scope of corporate apathy, indifference, “not-my-job-isms” is truly breathtaking. Whether in the design of a furnace humidifier, or tracking a sweater delivery through a retailer (not the logistics company – the actual retailer who tells you, ‘no, we don’t have it in the store, but can deliver this to you from another location…’ and two weeks later no one can find or track the item until 30 minutes of phone time are wiped out.), or modem replacement.

Admit it: you can think of another ten examples in your daily lives. More costs could be taken out, more products could be sold, more customers could be made happy, with a minimum of AI and a maximum of common sense and excellent focus on end-to-end process design. The true enemy is empathy at the very top of the business. The CEO, the Board of Directors, the executive leaders. Don’t point a finger at the CIO for being a good and loyal foot-soldier unless the CEO is in the trenches and not out on the golf course, meeting the end customers, looking deeply at where the money is being wasted, and why customers go elsewhere.

AI and empathetic process design are a great pair. AI alone leaves us back in the ’80s when Lisp was a popular tool for AI. The same AI that languished for another 30 years.


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Category: ai  cio  crm  data-and-analytics-strategies  digital-humanism  digital-marketing  empathy  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  strategic-planning  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on AI without Empathy Leaves the Enterprise with Artificial Indifference

  1. Gillian Power says:

    This is spot on. The question arises then – how does an organization systematically cultivate the empathy needed to differentiate?

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