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Do customers really want to talk to robots?

SugarCRM embeds more data privacy controls in its products for GDPR compliance The new innovation within the company’s Cloud, Relationship Management, and Relationship Intelligence offerings will help companies implement best practices for data privacy SugarCRM Inc., the company that helps organisations build better business relationships, today announced new features for its entire cloud and product portfolio that will enable financial businesses to implement best practices for data privacy. These capabilities mean organisations can confidently deploy SugarCRM products as a key part of their GDPR compliance plans. Data privacy-related functionality is now available as part of the company’s Spring ‘18 Cloud update as well as the Sugar 8 release for on-premise customers. “SugarCRM has a reputation as a trustworthy CRM provider, so it’s not a surprise they took the GDPR challenge head on,” said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research. “What SugarCRM has done with this investment is accelerate time-to-compliance for customers and reduce the time and effort they need to ensure they’re managing GDPR compliance on an ongoing basis." SugarCRM’s new features will ensure financial institutions are better prepared for whatever comes next. New privacy-related features include: A “command centre” for data privacy –Sugar now includes a new module to address and log all customer requests related to data privacy. The advent of the data privacy manager (DPM) –SugarCRM added a new role within Sugar to review requests and mark records for erasure. Easy access to stored customer data– Sugar introduces a Personal Information Log (PI Log) feature that captures the sources of customer data input and modifications. Companies can send the personal data within the PI Log to data subjects upon request. Flagging Customers who object to data processing– Sugar users can “flag” anyone who requests that their personal data is not used in profiling or automated business processes. This is then used as a filter in campaigns and reports. Email Communications – A new global setting specifies if new email addresses should default to “opted-out” or “opted-in” for customer communications. If an email address is set to opt-out, a clear visual indicator is next to wherever Sugar displays the email address. Managing Consent – Organisations now manage within Sugar the process of a person providing “consent” to the storing and processing of their personal data. If the customer withdraws consent, Sugar records the request within the data privacy management module. Limiting data collection to only what is necessary– Data privacy regulations dictate that businesses should only process relevant personal data, and all other personal data may be inappropriate. Admins can easily remove unneeded fields via Studio (Sugar’s configuration console for admins). SugarCRM HintⓇ – Customers and prospects can request that any personal data not relevant to doing business be removed from all systems. Companies can now control what data is provided via a Hint search. Sugar Cloud– SugarCRM has put internal policies in place to protect our customers’ data in our cloud and to perform our obligations as a data processor. “SugarCRM has a reputation as a trustworthy CRM provider, so it’s not a surprise they took the GDPR challenge head on,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP Research at Nucleus Research. “I’ve seen an early demo of the new features coming in Sugar and I’m excited to see how they will help organisations implement best practices for data privacy.”   The latest version of Sugar is available for both cloud and on-premise customers today. For more information and to sign up for a free trial, please visit

By Anne de Kerckhove, CEO, Freespee

No matter which sector you are currently operating in, it’s more than likely that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will soon completely change the way you do business. Consumer-facing organisations in the retail, energy, finance, insurance and automotive sectors are embracing automation – not just to keep up with competitors, but also to keep pace with increasing expectations. However, with so much hype around AI in today’s media landscape, knowing the true value of what it can offer organisations – and how it can truly improve the customer experience – is increasingly difficult.

We have all been surprised at how quickly long-standing, established high-street retailers such as WHSmith, House of Fraser and M&S came under existential threat by the rise of more agile e-commerce players. At the heart of their woes lies a failure to provide customers with the experience they want – and need. And that is just as much a threat to online businesses as it is to their bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

E-commerce faces many of the same threats

The Internet is no longer young, and e-commerce has matured to a point where the market is not merely full but overcrowded. As these digital business models evolve, so do consumers’ expectations.

Thus, online operators who don’t keep pace with changing attitudes are beginning to stagnate – and feel the adverse effects of this upon their business. In this way, the digital marketplace shares the woes of bricks and mortar, at a different point in its lifecycle. Savvy businesses must therefore act now — traditional retail has shown us the likely results of any failure to adapt.

What do consumers want?

Anne de Kerckhove

Anne de Kerckhove

Where businesses are falling short is on customer experience. Consumers, in an increasingly digital and saturated marketplace, have an increasing expectation for their transactions to be instantaneous, immersive and entirely seamless.

As this becomes the norm, consumers’ needs will continue to evolve – the next holy grail is great customer service that not only meets, but also predicts, their needs and responds accordingly. Only data-driven insights will be able to facilitate this process, with AI and machine-learning moving in tandem with purchasing habits, and instantly identifying – better yet, anticipating – and meeting consumers’ needs.

Who wants to talk to robots?

According to PwC’s Global Insights Survey 2018, which surveyed more than 22,000 consumers worldwide, customers are happy to talk to robots. Brands must convince customers that they are authentic and caring in order to thrive – and though it may seem counterintuitive, AI could lie at the heart of this. AI can increase the human element to customer service – allowing businesses to offer the very best of human one-to-one service, in an online space. In fact, 60% of respondents in the survey agreed that AI can reduce the time it takes to get answers while being highly tailored to their preferences. [1]

In many cases, AI provides a great solution, and there is clear evidence in the PwC survey that not only are customers perfectly happy ‘talking to robots’ – hence the rise of apps like Siri and Cortana, and devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home – but they actually plan to do so more often. PwC found that while just 10% of respondents owned an AI device at the time of response, nearly one in three had plans to purchase one, and 18% of AI device owners associated ownership of that device with shopping behaviours.[2]

However, despite consumers’ likelihood of adopting AI in the near future, some businesses seem less keen on the technology. Of course, the fundamental problem here is that if organisations cannot meet their customers’ needs – in the way they prefer – those potential buyers will go elsewhere — as we have seen with high street brands. Here, the benefits of AI are clear; it offers far more than just customer service and client retention.

AI does human things, super-humanly

Interaction and conversations between humans and brands become more productive for both parties with AI-enabled technologies. This is because they combine artificial intelligence and data to provide analytics – learning from and responding to a slew of data points in a way that no human ever could. With this analytical insight available, a call centre agent can provide the empathetic, responsive service that customers appreciate – and, increasingly, require.

For example, it is relatively straightforward for a good AI application to analyse the past and recent purchasing behaviours of individual clients, combine this understanding with wider machine learning in various data sets, and come up with rational predictions of future behaviours. This lets businesses plan, make investment decisions, build marketing plans and generally arrange their business in response to these insights.

It’s a win-win: consumers get a customised service, and the business gets a healthy bottom line. The business can quickly and easily customise special offers and promotions to the individual, and clients will be happy and ready to spread the good news on social media and elsewhere — at which point AI can analyse that, too!

Another strength is the power of AI to analyse, more or less instantly, processes and behaviour paths and identify areas of weakness or failure, so that vendors can eliminate these and refine processes to better suit the customer.

Which sectors?

Currently, AI offers so many forms and applications, it is difficult to imagine a sector that can’t benefit from it. However, if we take a slightly more prosaic definition of AI as ‘technology doing things that humans do, in apparently human ways’, then any business that conducts substantial sales or marketing online has much to gain from the more widespread applications of AI. That’s because it effectively makes (super)human customer service available 24/7.

As technology develops, it seems inevitable that AI will become part of everyday business in much the same way as the telephone or the desktop computer. Now that we have seen the evidence of what happens to businesses that fail to meet evolving customer expectations, the pressure is on for organisations to embrace the power of AI. That’s why savvy companies are already deploying new technologies that incorporate AI — and are likely to see an expanding customer base as a result.

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