Will Artificial Intelligence bring creativity to life?

Mumbi Odame

AI is everywhere, it seems to be an indispensable tool. But do people really want to interact with an artificial mind? Or is the fear of becoming unemployed or even meaningless too big? Mumbi Odame, CEO of Motivation by Design (Pty) Ltd, provides us with some interesting facts about her understanding of AI. She also talks about the role of human connection in a hyper connected and digitised world. One fact I can tell you now: Human beings will not stop communicating and Artificial Intelligence can help people inside and outside of customer service to develop their creativity!

Mumbi Odame was one of the first three Certified Customer Experience Professionals (CCXP) in Africa and is also a certified coach. Highly experienced in the financial industry, Mumbi’s diverse experience in both the front, middle and back office gives an edge in developing and implementing CX strategies underpinned by a truly human element.

Mumbi is the Head of Business Enablement and Solutions Delivery at Barclays Africa. Out of her passion to grow the customer experience profession in Africa she founded Motivation by Design (Pty) Ltd and collaborates with businesses to create systemic and sustainable business models that focus on the customer while driving customer experience training, coaching and mentorship. Mumbi holds an MBA and a BSc in Electrical Engineering and is a well-known speaker in the subject of Customer Experience.

AI is a big promise

AI holds a huge promise for business including the customer service, has it become indispensable? In your opinion, do customers really want to interact with an artificial mind?

Service by definition is the act of assisting a customer before, during or after purchase. AI provides the ability to automate a lot of activities and provide cost efficiency but it also enables a consistent customer experience. Customer interactions fulfil both functional and emotional needs. In most cases AI does not have the ability to fulfil the emotional needs, yet, and therefore people still want to deal with people. In addition, we are social beings and the rise of social media is evidence that people want to connect with other people. It is my opinion that there is space for AI but there will always be space for human interactions. What I expect however is the nature of the interaction and the activities we engage in, as humans, will change.

The Approach of AI-Implementation

How should a company approach the implementation of AI to enhance customer experience? Would you share some advices or concrete examples for our readers?

Like any new innovation in an organization, the dance floor approach is always a good one. I call it standing on the balcony; observe the dance floor and as you do so start understanding what AI can do for your organization. Like any technology, AI is an enabler. It is therefore important to understand what problem you want to solve and if AI is the best solution to solving that problem. Providing great customer experience is about consistently delivering on your brand promise. An organization needs to start with understanding their brand promise, who the target market is and how to deliver that brand promise to the target market consistently and at every interaction. If one understands the capabilities of AI solutions, there is a myriad of ways one can use it to create that consistency. What is important is to be clear on how AI will enable the business and do so effectively and efficiently.

“In a relatively cynical and often cruel world, I have the belief in people and their ability to transcend anything that comes in their way.”

Human connection in a hyper connected world

You are passionate about the role of human connection in a hyper connected and digitised world – tell us more about that.

In a relatively cynical and often cruel world, I have full and total belief in people and their ability to transcend anything that comes in their way. It is from this basis that I believe that the ability to connect with one another remains the most useful skill we need in the world today. Technology will do for us what we ask it to do. One of the fears people have of AI is that it will take over the world and we, as humans, will lose control of it. It will happen if we create it to do so. I know that sounds naïve but we are totally in control of how we configure these machines. The second issue is that we will have no jobs. I think the issue of jobs has to do with us losing our identity to our work. We get defined by what we do and if we do not have jobs then we have no idea who we are. Thankfully the younger generations are starting to change that. They want work as a means to support their lifestyle and not as a lifestyle itself. We as humans are greater than any job and I believe we will never get to a point where we do not want to connect with one another as human beings. The growth of yoga and meditation is a good indicator of what technology is doing for us, we have more space and time and we soon discover connecting with ourselves is the starting point to connecting with others. Creativity is the outcome of this connection and with all that creativity we will need some AI to bring it to life

“We as humans are greater than any job and I believe we will never get to a point where we do not want to connect with another as human beings.”

Innovations in Africa

Most people like to look to Silicon Valley when it comes to innovations, also for customer experience, should we maybe turn to Africa?

The old adage, necessity is the mother of invention, still holds true today. Silicon Valley will continue to innovate for the problems they are passionate about and that make business sense to them. Africa continues to struggle with social issues and basic needs are still difficult to meet for most people. We will therefore continue to have innovation coming out of the continent to solve these problems. The challenge is how to make innovation targeted at solving basic needs commercially viable. I don’t therefore think that it is a Silicon Valley or Africa debate. It is a Silicon Valley and Africa approach where each provides a piece of the puzzle. You cannot sit in Silicon Valley and create a solution for an African country without having engaged and understood the issue at the grassroot level. There is however a lot of benefit for Africa to engage with the innovation that has and continous to come out of Silicon Valley in order to create smart solutions to the challenges in the continent. Additionally, Africa is diverse and a solution for one country will not necessarily work for the next and this is the reason opportunities abound on the continent. Having said that the levels of education in Africa are high and continue to increase and as more people get exposed to innovation in other markets, Africa is going to continue rising.

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