Don’t Blame the Robot! AI and the Human Factor

When I talk about marketing with my customers and at events, I discuss how analytics, including using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, can drive improved customer experience. I often say that without analytics, marketing departments might as well just go home.

Technology, data and insights

In today’s world, we are surrounded by data. Companies are trying to collect the right data and transform it into meaningful insights using powerful algorithms. But despite increasing use of technology and increasingly demanding consumers, the basic rules of customer engagement have not changed. In marketing, the equation of “relevance + convenience = acceptance” is still valid.

The only difference is that over time, the precise definitions of relevance and convenience have expanded to recognise the importance of tighter targeting and the involvement of real-time technology and more channels.

The basic rules of customer engagement have not changed. In marketing, the equation of “relevance + convenience = acceptance” is still valid.

Most companies have a range of technologies they use to (try to) deliver a consistent customer experience to their clients and prospects. Organisations are doing everything possible to understand their customers, who are their most valuable assets. They are trying to learn about them and predict their behaviour using real-time analytics with high-performing models. The technology allows organisations to use the data, discover the best insights and deploy these insights in daily operations to drive optimal customer experiences.

But is this really true? What about the human factor? I think this could turn out to be even more important.

Technology or talk?

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this. When my son was born, almost 19 years ago, I opened a savings account for him at my bank and put a fixed amount into it every month to build a fund for him. When he was about 6 years old, he opened his own children’s savings account at the same bank – the lure of the piggy bank, with PIN code security and digital money-counter was too cool to resist. My son used the savings account for a while, but when he turned 12, it became a traditional current account. He never used it as such, because his mother opened another account for him at her bank, but it remained there, dormant.

The day my son turned 18 years old, the money in the savings account that I had opened for him was transferred to that dormant current account in his name, and the savings account was closed. I only discovered that when my monthly deposit to the savings account was refused, and I called the bank to ask what had happened. They suggested that my son should contact the bank because I was no longer able to handle the account on his behalf.

This is where the story gets complicated, and indeed, quite astonishing. The adviser at the bank told my son to go online and apply for a debit card, which was free for students. He could then use the debit card number to create an online banking profile, transfer the money to the account of his choice and then close the long-dormant current account.