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A content writer who has worked for Infosys Technologies and other technology startups in India and abroad.
A freelance journalist with over 7 years of experience, she writes research-based analytical stories on technology and business.
Avanish is a Bangalore-based journalist who writes on business with a specific focus on technology companies.
Priyanka has covered every aspect of the IT industry as a tech journalist since its early days. She is now an independent writer, working on subjects like digital marketing, enterprise technology and high-performance computing, among others.
A freelance content writer, S. Sahu was the former editor of TCS's house magazine at Tata Consultancy Services. He developed tech marketing collateral for the company and helped compile and edit books and journal articles on TCS's technology innovations. He also ghostwrites print and online publications.
Prajwala is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist who writes on social issues, stories of human interest, and art and culture, among others.
Rajesh Nanarpuzha is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at IIM Udaipur. Previously, he has worked as a brand manager in Dabur, and as a business consultant in the retail and consumer goods domains at Cognizant and Tata Consultancy Services. Rajesh has an MBA from IIM Indore and a doctorate in marketing from IIM Ahmedabad.
Priyokumar Singh Naorem
He is a passionate UI & UX designer who thrives on creating engaging creative solutions.
A freelance illustrator, artist, graphic novelist and designer. She has designed and illustrated several book covers. Her personal illustrations so far have attempted to seize the fleeting absurdity and mood of places, things and people she encounters in a childlike, intuitive and expressive manner with closure, beauty and innocence – the things that she desires.
She is an artist and an educator who has taught and lectured at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Oxford University, the Victoria and Albert Museum among other institutions. Her installations, paintings, thread work and sculptures have been exhibited in Saatchi Gallery - London, C24 Gallery - New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art – Lyon, among other notable galleries and museums from around the world.
A commerce graduate from Delhi University, Parul pursued a masters in fine arts from Nottingham Trent University in the UK. As an artist, she is interested in line as a subject which has led her to follow architectural lines in built environments. She says she is also interested in how we perceive the environment that we inhabit and what happens when a subtle shift is made in things which we have been used to seeing in a certain way. We present six of her artworks here.
Shweta Malhotra is a graphic artist and designer from Mumbai, based in New Delhi.
After working with ad agencies and design studios for close to 8 years, she branched out on her own and currently works independently.s Her overall design aesthetic is minimal, bold and graphic, a response to the maximalist visual language prevalent in India.
Rithika Merchant (b.1986) received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Parsons the New School for Design, New York in 2008. She has exhibited extensively since her graduation. Recent exhibitions include a duo show “Reliquaries: The Remembered Self” at TARQ, Mumbai; “Language of the Birds: Occult and Art” at 80WSE Gallery, New York; and group shows at Summerhall, Edinburgh and Artry Gallery, Kochi. Her work has been included in multiple group shows at Stephen Romano Gallery and The Morbid Anatomy Museum, New York. Born in Mumbai, she now divides her time between Mumbai and Barcelona.
Aniruddh Mehta is an artist based out of Mumbai, India. Trained in graphic design from the London College of Communications, Aniruddh is a self-taught illustrator and currently works as an independent freelance designer. He believes in finding the right balance between art and graphic design. He has worked closely in collaboration with Bhavishyavani Future Soundz, Qilla Records, Taxi Fabric, Adidas, Dell and United Colours of Benetton. He also goes by the moniker, ‘thebigfatminimalist’ and his style ranges from bold minimal forms to more intricate pieces exploring patterns and geometry.
Paramesh is an artist who enjoys working in both the realistic and abstract style of painting. He loves working with water color. Featured in this issue are a set of water color works that he has created exclusively for us on the subject of digital transformation.
Based in Mumbai, Chandrashekhar Thakur is a Senior Art Director and Illustrator at Truebil.com and the Founder of HAPPiNESS For You. He loves working with new styles of art and considers illustration to be his forte. Chandrashekhar has completed his BFA from DY Patil College of Applied Art.
Concept and Direction
Head of marketing at Regalix, Nimish drives research in emerging technologies and customer experience, and takes a keen interest in creative arts.
In the coming years, how you deal with your customer support strategy will define your customer experience. In fact, customer support will be more about customer experience management (or CXM, as it is known). Experts see AI and AI-enabled solutions as a major force in improving customer support in the coming years. According to Gartner, by 2020, AI technologies will be virtually pervasive in almost every new software product and service, which includes customer support. Other technologies like AR/VR, IoT, and Natural Language Processing will also play a major role in bringing in a paradigm shift in customer support.
Rajesh Balaji, Global Delivery Leader, Enterprise Application Service, Cognizant discusses how in this age of ‘Customer Relevance’, organizations need to scale up their customer support set-up with the latest technologies available and redefine customer support and the old-world concept of contact centers.
Interviewed by Priyanka Bhattacharya
We are in the age of ‘customer relevance’, where organizations need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant to the ever-changing needs of customers. Crafting superior customer experiences is a key differentiator and a strategic priority for all businesses. In this context, customer support has become a crucial engagement to attract and retain customers.
Customer support has evolved from the traditional telephony-centric, reactive processes of the 1990s, to an omni-channel digital customer engagement center. Customer support today is in the soul of an organization’s ability to define and deliver a consistent customer experience.
Exceptional customer service can improve customer stickiness and directly impact customer lifetime value. This leads to increased revenues and long-term sustainability. Many organizations today have focused investments on building a strong customer support ecosystem for delivering superior customer experience.
/ / What are the emerging technologies that will drive CRM and overall customer support in the coming months?
The emergence of digital channels and rapid advances in technologies like AI and Machine Learning have enabled progressive organizations to find newer ways to engage with customers for the ‘Always-On’ support experience across channels that they desire. The emergence of virtual assistant and the rise of cloud-based cognitive contact centers are key trends fuelled by technology advances.
Newer technology disruptions like AI-powered conversation platforms, sentiment analysis using cognitive algorithms, image processing, and knowledge graph-guided question answering have ushered in an era of sophisticated virtual agents that possess deep knowledge about supported products.
The next-gen customer engagement platform has AI-enabled channels, support bots / conversational UI (user interface), text-to-speech, deep learning, image recognition, journey maps and predictive analytics to drive customer engagement. With AR/VR and IoT technologies reaching a greater level of maturity, we see these technologies being increasingly used in tech support scenarios.
Similarly, with the emergence of Cognitive Contact Center platforms and cloud-based platforms, there is a widespread adoption of cloud-based customer support that significantly reduces cost and offers more personalization.
/ / AI is seen as a major game changer in customer support and CRM, what's your take on that?
AI is definitely changing the way businesses look at managing customer relationships. We are now moving away from a system of records to advanced AI assisted human interactions. Leveraging the power of AI, one can analyze the customer data and turn it into useful insights that can help business stakeholders in decision making. For example, sales representatives can know from beforehand when an opportunity is more likely to close. They can prioritize the highest value leads or serve personalized recommendations to every shopper.
There is no doubt that embracing AI will open opportunities for businesses to provide advanced and real-time self-service to customers at a fraction of the cost. Also, the new digital customer service solutions that are designed would predict customer needs by context, preferences, and historical queries, and will deliver proactive alerts, relevant offers, and content. These solutions will additionally become intelligent over time with integrated artificial intelligence.
/ / There is an increased automation in customer support especially with chatbots, so how is that impacting overall customer experience in terms of support? Is the loss of 'Human Touch' anything to think about seriously?
As per industry analysts’ predictions, by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human intervention. AI-based chatbots are central to transforming customer experience for next-gen customers. Cognitive technologies empower them to provide a human touch to their conversation and help organizations reduce response time while also providing a round-the-clock presence, and ultimately improve the overall customer experience.
However, organizations should take a customer journey-based approach to identify where AI can address routine queries and for more complex scenarios a hybrid approach of AI based assistants with seamless cut-over to human agents is required. For instance, when a chatbot is not able to handle customer queries, there should be a seamless handoff to human agents with all the chat context from bot interaction. We believe that chatbots and AI will enhance the overall experience of the human touch which is required for critical aspects of the customer journey.
/ / What makes for an omnichannel customer support experience? Can you talk about the important developments in this area, especially in the digital sense?
The modern digital-savvy customer demands Anytime-Anywhere-Any Device service and they want it now, making it imperative for organizations to be omni-present. Customers want to be serviced in the channel of their choice. Omni-channel customer service integrates text, social, email, web and instant messaging to provide a unified brand experience so that a customer can switch between multiple channels and still experience a consistent quality of service.
We observe that AI and Machine Learning are being leveraged for data-driven personalized experiences and actionable recommendations and offers. With predictive analytics, customer data is further analyzed to predict what customers will want or do in future. Chatbots are the new channels of engagements that are delivering intuitive, human-like conversations and automated experiences across digital channels by engaging with customers in natural language using voice and text.
/ / Mobile, live chat, chatbots, self-service, how key are they in today's customer support strategy for an organization?
Today’s customers are tech-savvy, mobile, self-reliant, demand convenience and immediate service. We partner with our clients to co-create business models that address the demands of these digital natives for simple conversations, consistent experience and contextual engagements. Tech-savvy millennials do not want to talk to customer support, they want to be empowered to help themselves and want to get things done instantly, without assistance. Intelligent self-service is proven to enhance user experience, and chatbots are a result of an industry shift toward self-service. Chatbots when integrated with the existing contact center, are actually self-service game changers and cut customer care costs drastically. With the next generation expected to be even more self-reliant; automated customer service technologies will be crucial in responding to these human-free, digital-only interactions.
/ / Has the role of contact center diminished or evolved? How so? How can one re-skill the customer support team to handle the various technological changes and AI-driven strategies?
Contact centers have evolved from rudimentary stand-alone operations deployed over a single channel into Digital Customer Experience Centers equipped with Cognitive Intelligence / Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing.
AI, chatbots and automated and self-service technologies free up call center employees from routine tier-1 support requests so they can focus on more complex tasks. AI-powered automated customer service is the future of contact centers, enhancing brand reputation, loyalty, and real-time support, taking customer experience to the next level and generating new revenue streams.
While there is a prevalence of automation, we must not underestimate the power of emotions. There are still many occasions where customers want to talk to real humans instead of an automated service. The personal touch of a competent customer service agent aided by the speed of AI would make a powerful combination.
Social media: Supporting customers on the ‘edge’
Digital technologies make organizations function smoothly and business function processes efficient.
I think requests via social media are made more out of frustration
Kia Puhm, Head, KIA CX Consulting
Messaging through voice - that’s the trend that I see emerging in the near future
James Waters, Vice President, Customer Service, Booking.com
Top performing companies will use technology to make the human experience better
Ed Powers, Independent CX Consultant
I believe chatbots will be custom-built for different situations
Pradyot Ghate, Associate Vice President and Product Lead, Zomato
We live at crossroads of rapidly changing customer experience today
Immanuel Kingsley, VP and Head of Innovation Lab, Hexaware