By Scott Silence, program manager for Customer Care, Xerox Research Centre Europe

It may not be obvious at first glance, but the changes in the customer care domain are similar to how the automotive industry moved from manual assembly lines to automation. During the course of 50 years, the industry experienced very little change. Then, over a very short period of time, automation transformed how cars were manufactured.

I see a comparable scenario in customer care with the confluence of automation and analytics.

Today, customer care is reactive. It begins when a customer calls, emails or uses social media channels to communicate with a brand. In the future, this model will become dynamic. Automation will include technology to manage customer dialogues well beyond today’s question-answering capability. This will allow customers to resolve issues quickly, easily and accurately through the channel that they prefer. Take a look at this video from my colleague Will Radford, who explains how we can help machines understand human language.

Focus on High-Value Conversations with Your Customers

With routine matters handled in a satisfying and cost effective way, with low or no human touch, brands will be able to focus on high-value conversations with their customers. Predictive and prescriptive analytics will help brands foresee needs, and suggest actions that will improve customer relationships – before a customer starts to grumble.

In this model, when you, the customer, make contact, the brand already knows who you are from many different angles, and can anticipate the type of help you’ll need. The brand’s response to your question or concern will be personal, tailored to fit you as an individual. For example, the brand might know how technically sophisticated you are, and can adapt the agent response to skip over some of the basic responses to help you faster and in a more relevant way.

Software and service as an integrated offering quickly will replace the commoditized call center business.  Customer care will transition from being a cost burden to a communication forum where brands can converse and interact with customers. Human agents will still be used, but will be hidden behind the technology, ready to intervene when necessary.

The Billion Dollar Opportunity: Disrupt and Lead Customer Care Market

Using innovation, Xerox has a billion dollar revenue opportunity to disrupt and lead the customer care market, and capture the high profit margins that the new model will produce. Working closely with WDS, A Xerox Company, we’ve created a customer care platform that combines analytics and automation, resulting in personalization at scale. It also includes the use of agents to improve customer relationships. Text-based interactions, such as chat and email, will be the first channels it handles. Voice channels, and potentially even video-based interaction channels, will be added as the technology becomes more and more capable. My fellow researcher, Caroline Brun, explains how machines can understand the sentiment in a customer’s message by placing it in the intended context.

Xerox researchers across the globe are co-innovating with WDS to use Xerox’s extremely broad expertise in many disciplines, such as semantic understanding/parsing, natural language understanding, machine learning and ethnography.

To push the innovation forward, key WDS innovation partners are providing an environment to test the different innovations required for the offering.

Billion Dollar Ideas is a series of three articles that let you in on the people and ideas behind Xerox R&D  labs around the globe. These, and other articles about Xerox innovation, are available in the Simplify Work Innovation category.