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Leverage Advanced Chatbot To Enhance Customer Experience
Wesley Rhodes, VP R&D and Technology Transformation, The Kroger Co.
Could you shed some light on your journey in this industry, current role, and responsibilities at Kroger?
I started my career as the VP of research & development and technology transformation around three years ago. I also serve as the COO in one of the leading technology transformation companies called Sunrise Technologies, a Kroger subsidiary. Before joining Kroger, I spent 18 years of my professional career at the tech behemoth IBM as a Chief Technologist, gaining significant experience and technical expertise in the technological landscape. I was responsible for addressing the most crucial issues— both business and technical—of IBM’s high-priority customers.
Later on, I have served as the deputy chief technology officer for the U.S. federal, where I was responsible for the National Security and Defense operations. I leveraged my expertise to resolve the most complicated engineering problems within the space. More importantly, my high-risk programmatic background and the National Defense and Intelligence experience have trained me to overcome the most complex commercial issues. It requires a lot of innovation to manage risky projects that are difficult to resolve.
What are some of the trends that you see in the Chatbot space?
Traditionally, chatbots had a marginal amount of intelligence. It was just used to gather data and assist the user in interacting with their consumers to solve their queries and issues. However, as the needs of most businesses for exceptional customer experience have gone up the ladder in the past decades, there was an appetite for highly intelligent conversational experiences.
Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making a paradigm shift in chatbot space. It makes customer interaction easier for businesses, helping them ensure that their consumers’ issues were solved on time
Coming back to customer interaction, the use of conventional models to connect with consumers has undeniably decelerated business operations and their quest to ensure high customer satisfaction. As people had to wait longer to connect to a human, the traditional one-on-one model has put organizations’ customer experience index at a disadvantage. But, today, conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making a paradigm shift in chatbot space. It makes customer interaction easier for businesses, helping them ensure that their consumers’ issues were solved on time. The conversational AI behaves as an intermediary between company personnel and customers. They have gone from a normal chat to a very intelligent and sophisticated conversation between the chatbot and humans. So, we are deploying those AI solutions, which is no longer just a traditional chatbot. They’re very well-trained AI agents that are doing repeatable human thought. That is the trend. It’s almost a misnomer now to call them chatbots.
How do you see the Chatbot space changing in the next 12 to 24 months?
I’d say that the Chatbot space is witnessing two major transformations simultaneously. Primarily, we are witnessing a massive influx of data, which is followed by advanced analytics to help the solutions make more informationdriven decisions. Not just that, the chatbots are also integrated with advanced sensors to further optimize the use of AI. So the ultimate aim of deploying AI into organizations is to improve customer experience and offer insights easily. They can help businesses reduce their operation costs, connect with the logistics chain, give information and insight to streamline their operations and minimize the risk during business disruptions. As a result, it runs naturally into the decisionmaking processes.
A well-created data program is mandatory to feed, clean, correlate, and enrich data so that AI programs can function smoothly. We are also witnessing a major overhaul in terms of data management to make the huge volumes of data fit for AI applications. Born with an ultimate objective to help businesses achieve their goals—whether it’s ensuring customer experience or optimizing logistic chains—these solutions are being fed with the most appropriate interpretations and perspectives. And, it’s designed as a layered AI that can handle multiple functions and manage multiple systems. Various models are used to obtain intelligence, allowing customers to seamlessly engage with business and enable them to buy or make decisions more quickly than before.
As a result, a consumer’s time to choose between you and your rivals is getting shorter. Businesses now must respond quickly to take advantage of opportunities. This is absolutely necessary for today’s pandemic-riddled business environment. With more people moving online for their daily operations, the innovative AI chatbots will serve as a reliable partner for most businesses that help them interact with more consumers and attract them into their ecosystem. And we witness a rush toward innovations like Conversational AI.
Would you like to provide any advice to your colleagues or aspiring professionals in this field?
My advice for them is to think out of the box as things are evolving fast. They need to focus on two critical aspects: hire multi-dimensional people who have multi-perspectives. With that, you will have different disciplines and points of view to look at a problem. Second, hire people who come from different walks of life to look at the situation differently. When these things come together, it will help the organization create some differentiation and diversity of perspective on a problem that yields value.