Phocuswright Europe: Be more like Netflix and use AI to drive empathy, says Skyscanner tech chief

Phocuswright Europe: Be more like Netflix and use AI to drive empathy, says Skyscanner tech chief

The modern digital consumer expects personalisation because they already get it from brands like Netflix so the next generation of voice-controlled devices need to develop empathy.

That was the message from Skyscanner chief technology officer Bryan Dove at last week’s Phocuswright Europe conference in Amsterdam.

He said bots today are basically no more than voice-enabled form fillers picking out key words in much the same way that customers have been searching for travel for decades by form filling.

However, artificial intelligence is poised to change all that. “You want to be able to speak to your device the way you speak to your friends.

“What you are looking for it a digital assistant that just knows you. It should just know what we mean, what we want,” Dove said.

Putting together flights with hotels is the “relatively easy part” because you get “relatively repeatable patterns”, added Dove.

The difficulty comes when machines need to appreciate the more unusual, detailed nuances of people’s travel preferences.

“This notion of deep personalisation, yesterday it was a nice to have to surprise and delight customers. But this is something consumers have today. Look at Netflix.

“Consumers today expect personalisation and they do not even reward you for it. Tomorrow, if you do not offer deep personalisation consumers will find someone who will.”

Artificial intelligence also has applications outside of consumer-facing interfaces, like being able to detect when contact centre staff are losing empathy with customers because they need a break.

Dove advised firms to start by sorting their data out and “create your AI story” and said firms must be patient but start now because return on investment (ROI) is not delivered overnight.

“This stuff is really hard. You have to get started today. It takes a long time. Be patient. We have all been coached in going things in agile ways.

“The problem with data is we are far less forgiving. We expect precision from data and AI does the same. That means it takes a really long time for work to create ROI.”

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