Meeting customer expectations will soon require AI investments

Meeting customer expectations will soon require AI investments

Customers are becoming “impatient narcissists,” according to Rick Davidson, president and CEO of the consultancy Cimphoni. “They want what they want, and they want it now,” he said during this presentation on cognitive computing for the enterprise at the recent Fusion CEO-CIO Symposium in Madison, Wis.

Today’s technology-connected customers care about wait times, ease of use and responsiveness. The deeper the technology is integrated into their lives, the more they’ll expect from the companies they do business with, Davidson warned. To meet evolving customer expectations, CIOs will have to invest in cognitive computing technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

SearchCIO’s senior news writer, Nicole Laskowski, sat down with Davidson at the Fusion conference where he talked about what he calls the “cognitive enterprise” and the steps CIOs need to take to achieve it.

What is the cognitive enterprise?

Rick Davidson: The cognitive enterprise is an organization that not only captures a great deal of information about its customers or purchases information from third-party data aggregators but takes that information and uses tools like machine learning, like artificial intelligence to then develop an informed view of their customers — their patterns, their behaviors — with the intent to push products and services to them that very specifically meet their needs. So it’s using information about customers’ lives — their emotions, moods, et cetera — in a positive way to promote products and services to those customers.

CIOs are focused on the digital business right now. Do they really need to pay attention to the cognitive enterprise, too?

Davidson: So this started with the analog enterprise. Think of it as basically pen and paper. That, pretty much, is over, so rest in peace. The digital enterprise is made up of data we collect that we use to better understand our customers. We’re going to pass through that generation very quickly within the next two to three years. You hear about digital transformation and the digital enterprise, but it’s about how we’re going to use that information to serve our customers.

The cognitive enterprise, which is already here in some aspects — think about tools like Microsoft Cortana, like Siri from Apple, and even Amazon Echo — it’s about predicting and anticipating customer behavior and then pushing or promoting products and services based on how we understand customers specifically.

The big question is do you have to go digital first to go to cognitive? Yes, you probably need to be keen on how to use the information and how to collect and analyze it using big data tools like Hadoop and others. But, as we move into the cognitive enterprise, the set of skills CIOs are going to need to develop will focus more around machine learning and artificial intelligence. We’ll still need to be able to analyze big data, but now we’ll need to see the data develop an understanding of patterns and algorithms that teach us or inform us about how our customers actually use our products and services or would like to use our products and services.