Microsoft: Humans + AI = Better CX

By Jenny Mayo
on 13 February 2019

We’ve all heard the cliche; that someday, robots will take all our jobs. And why wouldn’t they? Robots work tirelessly, with extreme precision, and without protest. But what if replacing humans isn’t actually the goal? ShiSh, Worldwide Director of Retail Business Strategy for Microsoft, presented at our recent CX Obsession event and told a slightly different story. Microsoft is committed to the use of artificial intelligence in the retail industry to augment and enhance the customer experience, not replace it.

Check out ShiSh’s talk from our CX Obsession event in Seattle, Washington:

A.I. helping humans

“Robotics and AI is something that is really changing how work is happening on a daily basis,” ShiSh tells us. But that may not mean exactly what you think. While many retail workers fear that robots will lead to a decrease in jobs, that is not Microsoft’s goal. According to ShiSh, the idea is to use artificial intelligence and robotics in a way that helps retail workers (and ultimately customers).”It’s not about AI versus humans,” he says. “It is AI and humans.”

Here’s an example: You’ve just walked into a large retail store, looking for a specific item. You look around where your item should be, but find empty shelves. Look around a little more, and you see more missing or misplaced items. When you attempt to find a store associate to help you, they are nowhere to be found — probably because they are busy finding the stock to replenish the shelves, or perhaps cleaning up a spill on another aisle. You give up, frustrated, and go home to order from Amazon instead. Missing employees leads to a poor customer experience! By incorporating robots with AI to handle manual tasks like those above — and these robots exist, watch the video above to see them in action! — the employees are freed up to engage more with customers, resulting in better customer experiences.

Defining a more customer-focused skill set

As companies continue to turn to robotics and AI to complete the more mundane, repetitive tasks, retail workers are free to hone their skill sets for customer engagement. How can retailers help develop these changing skill sets, or re-train existing employees for new roles, keeping the customer in mind? These are questions that companies need to start asking themselves now, in order to deliver increasingly smooth customer experiences in the future. As ShiSh reminds us, “90% of us at some point were in farming, and that changed. And over time what’s going to happen is the jobs that we see today will change as well. It’s very important for organizations to be conscious of that, and start changing things.”

Big thanks to ShiSh for sharing this awesome AI story with us. Be sure to stay tuned for more videos, stories, and details on our next event. Want to see CX Obsession happen near you? Vote for your city in our poll or hit us up on Twitter @asknicely!

Want more stories about customer obsession?

VIEW MORE VIDEOS

 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Hi. My talk today is essentially going to be about something that Microsoft is really passionate about: really empowering people and organizations to achieve more.

Robotics and AI is something that is really changing how work is happening on a daily basis. And one of the big challenges is that — I work with retail, and in retail, there is a huge challenge. Most people working in retail are challenged by the fact that robotics and AI is potentially going to take jobs away, and one of the things that I kind of work with and I’m very passionate about is, AI essentially helps people, and it’s not about AI versus humans. It is AI and humans.

Artificial intelligence. Another way of really looking at it is augmented intelligence, like I have

here. And what AI does is helps each of us to do what we do even better. There’s a lot of examples in retail that I’m going to focus on that really addresses that.

This is a picture from a retail store. You’ve probably seen something like this. You have empty shelves, misplaced products, and so on, and store associates in addition to their day job of

engaging with customers, helping customers, also have to do the rounds of the aisles on a regular basis trying to actually replace, or rather, look for misplaced products and replenish any of the products that need to be replenished. So this really takes time away from customers. So one of the things that a lot of retailers do is try to figure out, how can we use AI for actually helping store associates do some of these repetitive mundane tasks that take away from customer engagement?

One of those is really robots in the stores, and this is becoming very popular, where robots with vision capabilities will kind of roam the aisles, look for products that are missing, look for misplaced products and send notifications to the store associates. In addition to that, the other things, things like spilled items on the floor, these are disruptive tasks, where the store associates do have a lot of things to do and then there is unplanned tasks like this. Again, robots with AI capabilities do come in really handy in addressing these things. This is an example from, actually this is from Walmart, and there’s a few other companies using these as well, where you have robots going down the floor looking for spills, cleaning up, and they’re using AI capabilities really to avoid people, to look for other abnormalities or outliers and things like that that store associates need to be notified about.

So as a result, store associates, what we find, are able to focus more on customer engagement. Their skillsets start changing, they focus more on customer tasks rather than the repetitive tasks. And that’s again another aspect of it where retailers are really looking at, how can we start changing the way store associates engage with customers and do tasks that are more important for the bottom line?

Chatbots are another area that a lot of retailers use. They are useful for certain things. For example, when you call a call center for things like, what time does the store open, do you have a certain product, do you have parking? You don’t want to be on hold for about 10 minutes to answer something very simple. So chatbots do have their use, but for certain things, like for example, a customer who’s complaining calls in and is then responded to by chatbot. That’s probably not a great experience. So in this situation what we find is a human at the other end is

probably going to do a much better job in engaging with the customer, improving the customer experience. But the challenge that many retailers have is the skill sets needed for that call center person is much higher, the training needed is much higher, to be able to respond in a timely manner. To be able to have all the responses very quickly.

So as a result what we’re really doing is combining the call center person with a chatbot with AI capabilities. When a call comes in the bot actually picks up the call, transcribes the call, looks for questions, finds the responses in the back end systems, presents it to the person so that the person on the phone can actually respond much easier.

Another scenario here is in a drive-through. One of the big challenges someone working at a drive-through has got is there’s a lot of engine noise in there, just a lot of ambient noise and at the same time they’re having a conversation with the customer, and they are keying in stuff into the POS, and as a result there is lot of errors. So one of the things that we did with AI is really look at, can we have someone assisting that person? An application that actually listens and transcribes the call, converts it to a POS. On the left what you see is the actual conversation. It’s listening in and transcribing it on the right. It’s converting it to a POS order. So as a result the employee is just having a conversation. The system is transcribing all of the orders and person is now very focused on the customer. So that’s again another aspect of it as well. So this, I kind of think this is a great example of how AI and a human can actually work together side by side where you have the transcription happening as well as the order converting right away.

Another example is here you have a store associate, and a lot of cases the store associate is talking to a customer. They have an application that they use for making recommendations, finding information, answering questions and so on. But for the most part while having that conversation, they’re engaging with an application. There is no direct connection.

What you see here is actually from New Zealand. This is in New Zealand, and, they are using augmented reality and AI. It looks ridiculous, of course, the glasses, but what’s really happening is the form factor of these are getting smaller and you’re going to find that the augmented reality glasses are not going to be as big anymore.

So what we really find is there’s a lot of instances not only in retail, but in every organization, every industry, there is opportunity for employees to work side-by-side with AI capabilities and robots.

It doesn’t have to be a situation where AI is completely replacing people. But there is a lot of opportunity for actually augmenting human capability with AI and robotics. One of the things that we are working actively with organizations is looking for opportunities where with deliberation they can actually figure out, how can they retrain existing employees for new roles? Because over time what’s really happened is the fact that 90% of us at some point were in farming, and that changed. And over time what’s going to happen is the jobs that we see today will change as well. It’s very important for organizations to be conscious of that and start changing things.

Thank you.

We’ve all heard the cliche; that someday, robots will take all our jobs. And why wouldn’t they? Robots work tirelessly, with extreme precision, and without protest. But what if replacing humans isn’t actually the goal? ShiSh, Worldwide Director of Retail Business Strategy for Microsoft, presented at our recent CX Obsession event and told a slightly different story. Microsoft is committed to the use of artificial intelligence in the retail industry to augment and enhance the customer experience, not replace it.

Check out ShiSh’s talk from our CX Obsession event in Seattle, Washington:

A.I. helping humans

“Robotics and AI is something that is really changing how work is happening on a daily basis,” ShiSh tells us. But that may not mean exactly what you think. While many retail workers fear that robots will lead to a decrease in jobs, that is not Microsoft’s goal. According to ShiSh, the idea is to use artificial intelligence and robotics in a way that helps retail workers (and ultimately customers).”It’s not about AI versus humans,” he says. “It is AI and humans.”

Here’s an example: You’ve just walked into a large retail store, looking for a specific item. You look around where your item should be, but find empty shelves. Look around a little more, and you see more missing or misplaced items. When you attempt to find a store associate to help you, they are nowhere to be found — probably because they are busy finding the stock to replenish the shelves, or perhaps cleaning up a spill on another aisle. You give up, frustrated, and go home to order from Amazon instead. Missing employees leads to a poor customer experience! By incorporating robots with AI to handle manual tasks like those above — and these robots exist, watch the video above to see them in action! — the employees are freed up to engage more with customers, resulting in better customer experiences.

Defining a more customer-focused skill set

As companies continue to turn to robotics and AI to complete the more mundane, repetitive tasks, retail workers are free to hone their skill sets for customer engagement. How can retailers help develop these changing skill sets, or re-train existing employees for new roles, keeping the customer in mind? These are questions that companies need to start asking themselves now, in order to deliver increasingly smooth customer experiences in the future. As ShiSh reminds us, “90% of us at some point were in farming, and that changed. And over time what’s going to happen is the jobs that we see today will change as well. It’s very important for organizations to be conscious of that, and start changing things.”

Big thanks to ShiSh for sharing this awesome AI story with us. Be sure to stay tuned for more videos, stories, and details on our next event. Want to see CX Obsession happen near you? Vote for your city in our poll or hit us up on Twitter @asknicely!

Want more stories about customer obsession?

VIEW MORE VIDEOS

 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Hi. My talk today is essentially going to be about something that Microsoft is really passionate about: really empowering people and organizations to achieve more.

Robotics and AI is something that is really changing how work is happening on a daily basis. And one of the big challenges is that — I work with retail, and in retail, there is a huge challenge. Most people working in retail are challenged by the fact that robotics and AI is potentially going to take jobs away, and one of the things that I kind of work with and I’m very passionate about is, AI essentially helps people, and it’s not about AI versus humans. It is AI and humans.

Artificial intelligence. Another way of really looking at it is augmented intelligence, like I have

here. And what AI does is helps each of us to do what we do even better. There’s a lot of examples in retail that I’m going to focus on that really addresses that.

This is a picture from a retail store. You’ve probably seen something like this. You have empty shelves, misplaced products, and so on, and store associates in addition to their day job of

engaging with customers, helping customers, also have to do the rounds of the aisles on a regular basis trying to actually replace, or rather, look for misplaced products and replenish any of the products that need to be replenished. So this really takes time away from customers. So one of the things that a lot of retailers do is try to figure out, how can we use AI for actually helping store associates do some of these repetitive mundane tasks that take away from customer engagement?

One of those is really robots in the stores, and this is becoming very popular, where robots with vision capabilities will kind of roam the aisles, look for products that are missing, look for misplaced products and send notifications to the store associates. In addition to that, the other things, things like spilled items on the floor, these are disruptive tasks, where the store associates do have a lot of things to do and then there is unplanned tasks like this. Again, robots with AI capabilities do come in really handy in addressing these things. This is an example from, actually this is from Walmart, and there’s a few other companies using these as well, where you have robots going down the floor looking for spills, cleaning up, and they’re using AI capabilities really to avoid people, to look for other abnormalities or outliers and things like that that store associates need to be notified about.

So as a result, store associates, what we find, are able to focus more on customer engagement. Their skillsets start changing, they focus more on customer tasks rather than the repetitive tasks. And that’s again another aspect of it where retailers are really looking at, how can we start changing the way store associates engage with customers and do tasks that are more important for the bottom line?

Chatbots are another area that a lot of retailers use. They are useful for certain things. For example, when you call a call center for things like, what time does the store open, do you have a certain product, do you have parking? You don’t want to be on hold for about 10 minutes to answer something very simple. So chatbots do have their use, but for certain things, like for example, a customer who’s complaining calls in and is then responded to by chatbot. That’s probably not a great experience. So in this situation what we find is a human at the other end is

probably going to do a much better job in engaging with the customer, improving the customer experience. But the challenge that many retailers have is the skill sets needed for that call center person is much higher, the training needed is much higher, to be able to respond in a timely manner. To be able to have all the responses very quickly.

So as a result what we’re really doing is combining the call center person with a chatbot with AI capabilities. When a call comes in the bot actually picks up the call, transcribes the call, looks for questions, finds the responses in the back end systems, presents it to the person so that the person on the phone can actually respond much easier.

Another scenario here is in a drive-through. One of the big challenges someone working at a drive-through has got is there’s a lot of engine noise in there, just a lot of ambient noise and at the same time they’re having a conversation with the customer, and they are keying in stuff into the POS, and as a result there is lot of errors. So one of the things that we did with AI is really look at, can we have someone assisting that person? An application that actually listens and transcribes the call, converts it to a POS. On the left what you see is the actual conversation. It’s listening in and transcribing it on the right. It’s converting it to a POS order. So as a result the employee is just having a conversation. The system is transcribing all of the orders and person is now very focused on the customer. So that’s again another aspect of it as well. So this, I kind of think this is a great example of how AI and a human can actually work together side by side where you have the transcription happening as well as the order converting right away.

Another example is here you have a store associate, and a lot of cases the store associate is talking to a customer. They have an application that they use for making recommendations, finding information, answering questions and so on. But for the most part while having that conversation, they’re engaging with an application. There is no direct connection.

What you see here is actually from New Zealand. This is in New Zealand, and, they are using augmented reality and AI. It looks ridiculous, of course, the glasses, but what’s really happening is the form factor of these are getting smaller and you’re going to find that the augmented reality glasses are not going to be as big anymore.

So what we really find is there’s a lot of instances not only in retail, but in every organization, every industry, there is opportunity for employees to work side-by-side with AI capabilities and robots.

It doesn’t have to be a situation where AI is completely replacing people. But there is a lot of opportunity for actually augmenting human capability with AI and robotics. One of the things that we are working actively with organizations is looking for opportunities where with deliberation they can actually figure out, how can they retrain existing employees for new roles? Because over time what’s really happened is the fact that 90% of us at some point were in farming, and that changed. And over time what’s going to happen is the jobs that we see today will change as well. It’s very important for organizations to be conscious of that and start changing things.

Thank you.


About the author

Jenny Mayo

Jenny is AskNicely’s Marketing Coordinator. Her experience in both tech and hospitality give her a keen understanding and passion for customer experience. Outside the office walls, you can find Jenny hula hooping, crocheting unicorn hats for her friends, or walking her canine child, Stella (who may or may not have a tiny unicorn hat of her own).

Other posts by Jenny Mayo

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