If a company isn't talking about getting itself on the blockchain, there's a good chance they're trying to get in on the other new big-business buzzword: artificial intelligence. M&S is the latest company to get in on the action, with plans to implement voice recognition and AI to help reroute customer calls.
The way the Telegraph phrases it makes it sound as though the company is using AI to replace those irritating automated robot lists. That said, the paper claims M&S uses human operators to transfer customers to the right department, which wasn't the case when I called to double check. Still, the plan is to use technology from Google and Twilio to implement an AI capable of understanding human speech, which should be a hell of a lot better than existing voice recognition robots that call centres use already.
The company plans to have AI in place for all 640 UK shops and 13 call centres by the end of September, and promises that no jobs are being lost in the switchover to AI. Instead 100 members of staff will be transferred to in-store roles. M&S claims that it will be able to handle 90 per cent of customer queries, and transfer them to the tight place within seconds. Presumably the person actually dealing with your problem will be a real human being, due to the general nature of have to come up with a resolution to customer problems.
Chris McGrath, IT programme manager at M&S, said:
“We know that M&S needs to modernise. “We have a lot of backstage resources sitting in switchboards that manually handle these calls...we're getting them away from that backstage onto the shop floor, talking to the customers, as they should be.”
Let's just hope that the AI is a little bit better at understanding what customers are saying. virtual assistants and smart speakers don't have the best reputation when it comes to understanding the wide range of voice types. Nobody wants to be stuck in a loop repeating what they need over and over again because the machine doesn't understand and asked them to rephrase. We have enough of that with the stupid robo call systems already in place. [The Telegraph]