Cognitive Computing – Are You Afraid of the Bots?

In our December 2016 blog, “The 411: New trends and their impact on BPM,” we highlighted cognitive computing (self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to replicate how the human mind comes to conclusions and decisions) as a growing trend. We noted the example of IBM’s supercomputer Watson, which defeated two Jeopardy! champions back in 2011. But did you know that since then, Watson has been keeping busy working as a movie trailer editor?

Recently, 20th Century Fox turned to Watson to develop a trailer for its 2016 artificial intelligence (AI) horror thriller, Morgan, (fittingly). By taking 100 horror movie trailers, Watson “learned” what makes a movie trailer scary and what creates suspense to entice viewers to want to watch a movie. Analyzing data on visuals, audio and composition, Watson selected the best moments from Morgan and created the first AI-generated movie trailer.

You can be the judge below if Watson’s trailer really is that scary. But, breakthroughs in cognitive computing, like Watson, are sure to frighten company employees that fear their jobs might be taken over by these supercomputers.

Are You Scared?

Since their creation, computers have always been binary, literal and black-and-white devices. It’s always been either “yes” or “no,” not “maybe.” But now that technologies exist that can conduct more analytical and creative tasks, won’t millions of people be sent to the unemployment office?

Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Instead of taking away jobs, cognitive computing will help improve people’s jobs as well as the companies and customers they serve. For instance, let’s take a look at the world of banking, which is an industry that for many years has been plagued with a reputation for poor phone customer service.  Banks’ phone customer service is known for sending most customers through a long chain of departmental transfers and mind-numbing muzak. It’s a process that’s not only wearying on customers, but also employees who are trying to juggle multiple cases and the constant barrage of incoming calls.

Banks Embrace the Chatbot

Forward-thinking bank institutions are looking to give their customers a new level of service and experience by implementing cognitive computing technology via chatbots. Instead of calling a customer help line, people can go on the bank’s website or mobile app and correspond with a chatbot that has been fed a vast library of bank and financial information and data on how people actually talk. Rather than using formulaic commands, customers can message the bot, just like if they were talking to an actual person, and the bot will respond like one too. Moreover, because of the high-speed analytical capabilities of cognitive computing, the chatbot can find the answer much faster than a human can.

That last part is critical. According to Sanjay Srivastava, SVP and chief digital officer at Genpact:

“Customers usually prefer to speak with a knowledgeable person who has the quickest, most accurate answer. Financial institutions need to be concerned with delighting the customer and not losing that personal touch and communication they have with their clients.”

With the chatbots, customer service improves greatly because customers can get quick answers to their pressing questions. As for the actual human customer service employees, the bots help ease their workloads. Instead of having to deal with people who are calling for basic account questions, like their current balance, staff can dedicate their time to higher-level cases that are a bit more complex and still require human intervention.

Cognitive computing is not something to be feared, but embraced. Businesses can use this cutting-edge technology to streamline processes and deliver smarter, better customer service, but still in a very human way. Thus, they can outpace their competitors, who are probably still busy transferring their soon-to-be-lost customers.