Before “Star Wars” release in 1977, snooty high society cast Sci-Fi aside as a separate genre from “serious” works of fiction. It was a label delineating pulp from artistic merit. Sci-fi was B-movies—not blockbusters. That is until a galaxy far, far away came to the big screens.
Sure, credit is due for late ’60s gems that paved the way for George Lucas, such as “Star Trek,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Jetson’s.” But it was “Star Wars” that plunged the rock causing box-office receipts for sci-fi to jump from 5% in 1971 to nearly 50% by 1982 according to Britannica. “Star Wars” was a game-changer.
Its notoriety brought forward commercial viability and acclaim that increased the plausibility of turning on-screen inspiration into real-life innovation. And although air speeders, lightsabers, and hyperspace travel might still be aspirational, we’ve witnessed many examples of science fiction becoming science fact.
AI technology portrayed by pop culture is already accessible for businesses of all sizes and continues to advance rapidly as many businesses prioritize AI investments. In fact, our CX research says more than 52% of businesses will invest in artificial intelligence or automation technologies to improve CX this year. In terms of the big picture—pun intended; movies are great predictors of technology trends. In honor of the unofficial Star Wars holiday, we’re looking back at AI-technology predictions within sci-fi movies, to compile a list of what’s become real life in contact center AI today.
So, pop the popcorn and cue the John Williams’ trumpeting fanfare as we roll the credits on today’s biggest CX trends portrayed by the movies.
Effortless and seamless digital-first omnichannel
Twenty years ago, the thought of ordering pizza online and not having to interact with a real person was #goals. Cellular phones were becoming smaller and more affordable, and the birth of eCommerce had just taken place. The reality of a “smart” device and unified experience across devices and channels felt like a near-term possibility.
The Net (1995) – In this thriller about internet identity theft, a computer programmer played by Sandra Bullock orders pizza online, uses virtual messaging to communicate with her friends and family, only one of which she sees in person, and she books airline tickets online.
The Cable Guy (1996) – The Cable Guy is a dark comedy about a cable installer, played by Jim Carrey, whose attempt to befriend a customer, played by Matthew Broderick, turns into stalking. An accurate prediction of future technology gets delivered by Jim Carrey as a closing monologue when he says: “The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone, and computer. You’ll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel or watch female wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam. There’s no end to the possibilities.”
Fast forward through a global pandemic to today where we’re all too familiar with digital customer journeys at home and at work. At this point, you can not only order a pizza online, but you can also use your smart assistant who remembers your favorite order. You’re not only chatting with friends, but most businesses are now set up to support a remote work-from-home structure. And omnichannel isn’t a novel concept; consumers expect it.
In terms of the contact center, the digital journey begins long before a customer initiates contact with a real person. They’ve searched about your product on Google, have been on your website, mobile app, and various other digital properties, read online reviews, and executed purchases online. When they do reach out to the agent, it’s no longer for break-fix issues by voice only.
In fact, 62% of businesses reported an increase in digital interactions since the start of the pandemic. But it’s not just about being on these channels, it’s about integrating a seamless experience across them—93% of consumers expect this. Want more new CX statistics? Check out the NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark 2020.
Virtual agents, chatbots, and effortless self-Service
The use of computer programs to support and enhance human activities within sci-fi movies has been a consistent thread since as early as the late 1960s when “2001: A Space Odyssey” brought HAL 9000 to life. Granted, our virtual assistants today aren’t cast as villains (for the most part). Many of the intelligent virtual assistants are reminiscent of the real-life smart home assistants we use today, and much technology portrayed on-film is meant to help the characters help themselves:
Her (2013) — “Her” is the story of a man falling in love with his AI-voice assistant, Samantha. The AI assistant provides everything from automation and administrative functions to companionship. Her presence is unified across all digital and traditional channels, making her fully accessible on any channel and every stage of the customer journey.
Blade Runner (1982) — The leading character Rick Decker, played by Harrison Ford, hunts down escaped “replicants” or human-looking Androids to get rid of them. In one scene, he uses a voice-controlled Esper machine that turns a photograph into a 3D scene, which he can explore and use for analysis.
And in terms of how customers are helping themselves, 71% of businesses believe chatbots make it easier for customers; however, 90% believe they need to get smarter before consumers are willing to use them regularly (NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark 2020).In real life, chatbots and virtual agents can support transactions, frequently asked questions, provide files, make content or product recommendations, and more. Self-service statistics and research tell us that customers are routinely looking to Google and website searches to find the answer for themselves before reaching out to an agent. The self-service and digital channels are also less expensive than agent interactions, which likely explains why businesses have a 15% increasing preference for self-service channels (NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark 2020).
Contact center automation
Automation is using machines or computers to perform repetitive tasks humans typically perform. It’s no new trope as seen throughout examples like Inspector Gadget, 007, and Rosie the Robot in “The Jetson’s.” Here are a few more examples:
Iron Man (2008) — Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, has an artificial intelligence system that in addition to being a virtual assistant that supports him in saving the world, it also controls the functions in his mansion, performs security, and automates back-office management for his company, Stark Industries.
WALL-E (2008) – WALL-E is a specialized garbage-cleaning AI-robot based on Narrow AI, an existing AI technology system programmed to accomplish one task: compact trash on a quest to clean up an uninhabitable earth.
Automation is just as much a CX trend, too. Especially when it comes to supporting agents and supervisors. Contact Center RPA is used to automate most after-contact agent work and intraday supervisor activities. RPA can integrate data, applications, and workflow by doing tasks like automating mouse clicks to sourcing data and filling in fields. RPA performs repetitive tasks more quickly than humans and is less prone to error. According to Aberdeen, 63% of contact centers currently use or are planning to use Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
AI-powered Analytics and Predictive Modeling
Considering AI is all about looking for and finding patterns in data, it’s fitting that a common theme throughout AI movies is using data to predict outcomes and make decisions.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – The movie Space Odyssey questions man’s place in the universe and our relationship with technology. It’s got a bleak and extreme take on AI, however, there are some accurate predictions trending in CX today. When supercomputer HAL 9000 says, “I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you’re badly upset,” it uses voice authentication to understand human speech, detect and respond to human sentiment.
Moneyball (2011) – Based on a true story of the first-time statistical modeling was used in sports today, the lead characters in this movie use data analytics to predict the most undervalued baseball players to maximize spend on team recruiting.
Robocop (1987) — In a movie about a cyborg crime fighter, RoboCop, there’s a scene where you see Robocop upload a photo of a bad guy into a computer and it scans through the database to identify the criminal records of the person he’s seeking. This technology uses computer vision, which breaks down visuals into datapoints the computer can then crawl for patterns.
In contact centers, there’s no shortage of agent and interaction data. AI technology helps manage and use the data to automate reporting and surface trends in real-time across a variety of different applications, such as sentiment and root cause of customer frustration, desirable or undesirable agent behaviors, coaching opportunities for agents, and cross-sell opportunities.
For instance, contact centers have historical data about how many interactions on which channels were fielded by a specific quantity of agents by date and time. Using this historical customer interaction data, you can optimize and predict scheduling patterns that reduce labor waste across all channels to improve your forecasting accuracy.
As another example, AI-powered sentiment analysis monitors for intent using aspects like keyword recognition, emotional detection, pitch or tone, and speed to detect and recognize patterns in data that improve agent effectiveness.
Personalizing the customer experience
Catering experiences to the user or customer is an instance you see throughout a few different AI movies, here are two great movies where we see personalization at play:
Minority Report (2002) – This 2054-set thriller is about predicting crime before it happens using “PreCogs,” that analyze data to make predictions. Aside from the use of interaction data, which we already touched on, another CX trend the movie accurately predicts is personalization. In a shopping scene, you see personalized ads that recognize the viewer and their state of mind, or sentiment.
Robot & Frank (2012) — In the movie about an aging jewel thief whose adult children enlist the help of an AI-powered Robot to assist in home care of their father we see a few different CX trends. Throughout the interactions, we see how the Robot can adjust its approach based on Frank’s preferences, from what food it recommends, to the healthy activities the user prefers.
Using customer data to personalize web experiences, messaging, chatbot, and agent interactions is a trend contact centers are using today. Call centers can personalize customer interactions in many ways. Here are some ideas for how contact centers are personalizing the customer experience:
- Automate outbound email sent on the customer’s birthday
- Integrate the CMS so that an agent has the full context on the customer’s history when providing support, no matter which channel from which the customer came.
- Using this integrated customer data, personalizing scripts to thank the customer for their specific years of loyalty
- Providing a custom response based on the page a person is browsing on the company’s website, like having a chatbot pop up to say, “need help with a money transfer?” if they are on a money transfer page or came from a search with this term
- Use a chatbot to make product suggestions based on customers with similar data and buying patterns
Personalization can deepen the customer’s relationship with a company, improve their customer experience, increase sales, and more. The ideas are limitless when it comes to the data available, and businesses can reap the benefits of customer loyalty and retention.
Conversational humanlike chat
Machines talking like humans is a theme throughout many movies.
Terminator 2 (1991)— One of the most memorable Terminator lines, “Hasta la-Vista, Baby” relates to humanlike chat. It’s from a scene where the character John Connor attempts to teach the Terminator how to speak more like a human.
Star Wars (1977 to Present) —C-3PO is a companion, co-pilot, and protocol droid fluent in more than six million forms of communication. He assists in etiquette, customs, and translation as an ambassador-like figure. But, even with all this language knowledge, he still gets context wrong. He often overstates what’s already obvious, comes across like a know-it-all, and often misinterprets social cues.
In contact centers, there’s a big focus on humanlike chat. AI technologies of natural language processing and machine learning are making it increasingly easier to automate tasks that require context.
We see this in a few different applications today, from the chatbot being able to understand and respond based on the context of the conversation to Conversational IVR, which can analyze the customer’s spoken response and route them according to their need.
AI is often cast as the sidekick in movies. It’s meant to help serve people and make our lives easier. Here are a couple of examples where we see this trope:
I, Robot (2004) — Set in the year 2035, the goal of U.S. Robotics is to place a robot in every home. AI-powered robots work in public service positions as assistants and workers in support of human owners.
Star Wars (1977 to Present) — From R2-D2 delivering a message to save Princess Leia’s life to C3-PO famously telling Han Solo the odds of flying successfully through an asteroid field, we consistently see droids as helpful sidekicks throughout the Star Wars Franchise.
In contact centers, AI works as a sidekick for agents. From internally facing chatbots to real-time interaction guidance, human-and-machine collaborations that support agents in delivering exceptional experiences are one of the biggest trends in CX today. We see it in many different applications. There are chatbots that can make content recommendations or provide files or that agents can invoke to complete transactions and other back-office work. There’s Ai-powered analytic guidance that helps them understand the next best action to take and provides them on how to respond to the customer. Much so that, nearly 40% of businesses are investing in agent-facing AI or automation for better efficiency.
Make your customer experience the next box-office-hit
This list of today’s CX trends shows accurate predictions of AI tech and it just goes to show that the galaxy far, far away is as close as your contact center.
If you enjoyed this trip to the movies, then add “Contact Center AI Explained by Pop Culture” to your “watch” list. Meant to demystify AI terminology, this eBook teaches AI fundamentals through pop culture examples. A trailer for the eBook is below, but you can get the full version here.