Over 70 Customer Relationship Management leaders and Tech-intensive industry experts gathered in Paris on September 19th for the second annual Innso Day.

The agenda was clear. Demystify new technologies. Debunk the many fears and fantasies they conjure up. Build confidence with concrete business cases that leverage these technological innovations. And, crucially, stimulate discussion about the right, or wrong, applications of AI and automation.

So, while the day’s focus was on fostering new ideas (with interactive co-creative workshops), the onus was on identifying best operational practices that can see these ideas through. 

A future made of metal or muscle?

McKinsey’s alarming predictions (14% jobs lost) have more recently been tempered by a PWC report that states that while yes, jobs will go because of AI, by 2030 just as many new ones will have been created because of it.

As a market that will be worth an estimated $11.2 billion by 2024, AI and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) are destined to find their rightful place, but that doesn’t mean taking man’s place.

The AI + RPA combo offers advantages no one can afford to ignore: savings that range from 35% to 70%, efficiency by accelerating processing times and reducing errors, and an ostensible enhancement of customer relations. This by no means spells the end of the customer advisor’s role, but perhaps the end of the profession as we know it. The most tedious and time-consuming tasks will be automated, and advisors will be able to hone their real added value: personalizing the customer relationship and delivering targeted expertise. This will both improve the customer experience and reduce employee turnover.

Innso’s software solution was developed with this logic in mind. “Our technology is here to raise the level of comfort of the advisors as well as enrich the customer experience,” explains innso CEO and founder, Nicolas Raffin. “Its role is to act behind the scenes to make the advisors shine for the customers, using their emotional and technical skills and taking pride in their work.” 

So what exactly is the difference between RPA and IA?

RPA is a software solution that has two major characteristics: it reproduces faster and better (i.e. without error) what a human does, but it does not create anything on its own. Second, it fits easily into an existing application environment.

Processing, consolidating and exporting information from a series of Excel files received by email, for example, automating tasks requiring 205 clicks, 60 open windows, or copy pasting via Notepad. This was the case for a huge European telecommunications operator pre-RPA. Post-RPA the time these processes take has been divided by six.

Implementing this type of technology does not require a major IT system overhaul, stresses Karim Ben Djemiaa, E&Y associate. And the adoption rate is very high. Depending on the level of complexity and the number of bots, implementation takes between six and 16 weeks and your ROI can be measured within a year.

Therefore, in an environment where tasks can be automated because the business rule is known, RPA is a no-brainer. On the other hand, when the information is „shifty“ and you have to detect the customer’s intention within unstructured data and link it to one among a variety of products, artificial intelligence can come into play to complement automation and inform the advisor’s decision-making process.

AI is a collection of intelligent services, explains Marco Noël, IBM Watson offering manager. Artificial vision, algorithms, machine learning, natural language recognition are all means to identify the user’s intentions, extract key insights and then implement a decision-making process based on these insights and thus optimize customer service. It can also contribute to offering innovative services to customers, particularly through new conversational channels that foster a much richer relationship.

RPA or AI: When do you know you need it?

The choice shouldn’t come at any price, warns Noël. Whatever your ambitions, it’s of crucial importance to base yourself on field analysis of specific use cases, and then to involve users to clearly understand and define their expectations. The higher the expectation, the higher the risk of disappointing.

Digital transformation is possible when everyone shares the vision. And the best way is to make everyone experience the technology firsthand. “When you have to convince senior and middle managers, communicate clearly at all levels of the company and demonstrate the relevant application and value of the technology through ‘botathons’, pocs, pilots,” recommends Guillaume Laskowski E&Y associate. “Involve your advisors in your beta trials.”

To best support the advisor by optimizing processes and providing added value to the customer relationship, the solution lies at the intersection of human, technological and financial capabilities and customer demand. “You shouldn’t think either/or: it’s a mashup of potentials based on the specifics of the use case,” explains Raffin. In other words it means choosing the best possible combination of RPA, AI and human expertise. “In some cases, depending on the level of maturity of the company, an IS upgrade will suffice,” he continues.

Fleshing out this panel discussion, Orange and Total/AS 24’s customer testimonials outlined their successful deployments of the innso platform.

Innovation made simple

For Orange, the objective was to pool the asynchronous flow processes from all regions, i.e. 40 internal contact centers with 750 advisers, into a unified management system so as to more efficiently monitor the activity at regional, national and local level. Previously, each region processed its own data, in total 40,000 – 50,000 tickets per month.

A challenge met thanks to innso’s simplicity. Its integration and adoption were carried out smoothly and did not require any downtime, as one of innso’s key features is to neatly dissolve whatever barriers prevent a smooth integration. “We did have to change the habits of our advisors though,“ François Oberhauser points out. Together, the innso and Orange project teams traveled from region to region to train their team managers, who were then responsible for training their advisors. Finally, on D-Day and the week that followed, a technical support desk was open all day long for managers.

The next enhancement will be the integration of conversational channels to streamline the customer experience and give back-office advisors higher value-added responsibilities. “This is not a purely technical project,“ says Ana Athayde, innso’s GM EMEA. “The efficiency of the channel comes from its strategic use. It is therefore necessary to pinpoint the right use cases.”

Innso consultants are working closely with Orange teams to identify pain points and define how and when to place this channel, by determining the KPIs that measure the effectiveness of the device. More than a tool to be deployed, innso proposes a deployment method.

A method that also worked for Total AS 24, one of the group’s seven European subsidiaries that provides fuel cards for transportation professionals.

The Heavy Goods Vehicle tax introduced in France last year and several other countries in Europe upped the stakes of a game involving 500,000 customers, 14,300 service stations and 3.5 million cards and 80,000 active toll badges.  At the slightest failure of one these cards or badges, the driver can incur very severe penalties, so it’s become imperative to quickly identify the card number, vehicle registration and the driver.

Forty advisers operate in this activity 24/7, which amounts to roughly 40,000 calls per year – calls that can be made in four different languages. Innso’s front-office solution gives advisors a „web services“ tool that allows them to immediately access AS24’s IS and pull the client’s information, regardless of language, based on just a letter or number, or picture. The tool then provides dynamic scripts that will guide him/her through the customer support process. These scripts evolve constantly and stay within the system, facilitating the transfer of knowledge as advisors come and go.

Rationalizing this part of customer service then opens up other opportunities, including instant messaging for a more personalized, conversational customer relationship that builds a feeling of proximity and can be decisive for a driver whose reality involves driving at 3am and having to rely on a customer support system, anywhere at any time.

By developing a technology that serves operational needs first and foremost, but champions an implementation method that places customer and employee experiences left right and center, innso offers an innovative technological solution that helps instill a culture supporting technological transformation, thus improving brand as well as employer image.