We are living in an age of instant communication.
This is not only down to social networking becoming an everyday reality, but also because with the advent of on-the-go technology, new generations have learned to expect quicker gratification of most demands that they have.
This is a clear trend that has significantly affected the way people communicate. Not only with each other, but with organisations too. Whether it’s a retail store, a service provider or even local government, representatives must be ready to converse.
People expect organisations to respond and solve problems quickly and we’re now dealing with a matter of customer satisfaction. This can mean life or death for businesses, but local government must also change to meet these demands if it wants to stay popular. To me, this is an obvious opportunity to change and improve processes to make them more efficient, freeing resources for other areas that need them… But let’s come back to that.
First, let’s look at what’s going on here. Something that’s easy to see when people are communicating nowadays is that they converse using smaller bodies of text. Less words take less time to write and most recipients have gotten pretty good at interpreting these messages accurately enough to respond appropriately.
The number of people attempting to use smaller bursts of information to communicate with organisations has increased substantially. Long gone are the days when letters were the norm! This shift has pushed organisations to look for automated options when there simply aren’t enough humans to play recipient. There are many great options out there, but it’s important to choose the right kind.
For instance, if a distressed voter wants to share an issue with their local government representative, it's going to frustrate them further if they have to use a standard form on a website. It's just not the most appropriate method. A lot of website interfaces are complicated and causes information overload, plus the run-of-the mill response mechanism upon submission is just not personal enough. Whatever generation a person hails from, that’s very discouraging!
Now is a sensible time to embark on a new path that embraces the world's new communication paradigm. Several companies have already found success trialling a new way of doing things.
The method I’m referring to features two main steps. Firstly, creating alternative communication options people can use (like instant messaging, chatbots and social media channels) and in line with this, being more responsive when people use them. Secondly, introducing a smart automated system to deal quickly with the new messages that will inevitably come in.
If adopting this method, it’s important to decide which channels should be automated. This can be influenced by audience as well as in-house resources available. It’s also vital to understand how to manage several channels at once, keeping the relevant staff members in the loop at all times.
The good news is that there are many options available that organisations can use to automate their channels. The less good news is that some of these options only work with specific content and content formats, which need to be normalised so that people (or a computer system) can act upon them. For example, when that voter I mentioned before tries to get in contact with their government rep, they are going to use natural language, not ‘computer speak’. They are not going to be able to guess which specific commands a chatbot can respond to. If a chatbot that can’t handle ‘normal’ speech tries to reply, it’s very likely that it will do so inaccurately and further infuriate the person attempting to communicate!
The quality of any single interaction will affect how people perceive an organisation. Appearing behind-the-times, disorganised and unapproachable is not a good look! But considering how to automate great responses is tricky. Local governments and businesses alike must interact with their communities across many different subjects. This makes for a complex process that's difficult to tailor for each potential scenario.
However, thanks to AI and machine learning, we have the power to create a solution. By combining AI’s systematic approach and machine learning’s advanced algorithms, an intelligent system could learn human behaviour and act in the most appropriate manner, creating conversation that’s relevant and useful. This system, with a 360º view of all the messages and responses taking place, could manage the communication exchanges accurately and do it with a human touch.
AI and machine learning offer us a chance to simplify yet enhance the process, creating a communication platform perfectly suited to the communication style the world has now embraced.
If this approach is utilised, it would help organisations focus their resources on other important matters, negating the additional time they need to respond manually, using slower, out-dated methods. I think adopting this would prove a win-win for both technology - as it enhances further with use - and organisations - as they continue to improve the way they interact with the public.
Ultimately, time moves on and things change. It's inevitable and accepting this sooner rather than later is beneficial. Communication is key and enhancing it to a degree that caters well for your audience is vital to remaining relevant.
This article was first published as part of TechUK’s #CounciloftheFuture campaign.