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  1. If we set out to become a truly customer-centric organisation
    the way we involve data and technology is crucial
  2. Tech can help us uncover needs, improve service and perform better
    but not without striking the right balance between real-life and tech assistance

Can we secure our printing future by looking at the future of racing?

AI racing cars look so cool and futuristic.
What can we learn from them?

Technology, and particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI), is developing at a dizzying pace, bringing fundamental changes to our daily lives. But in the race to stay relevant, we can lose touch with the human element that should drive our work.

Let’s look at what we can learn from the world of motorsports.

Imagining F1 racing without humans

The Formula 1 (F1) car racing championships are high adrenaline events that mix the excitement of competition and the intrigue of personalities with mind-blowing technology.

At each competition hundreds of people are involved in getting the cars to make their laps, from engineers to strategists.

F1 isn’t just a race: it’s one of the most advanced R&D labs in the world. The engineering and technology developed by F1 has trickled down to road car technology, consumer electronics and even medical technology.

The next frontier for car racing technology is AI. Car manufacturers like Renault, Williams and Honda are already using machine learning and analytics to help build their cars and strategize during races.

As it does for road cars, tech-assisted driving and ultimately self-driving technology helps compensate for human error and prevent accidents.

This year Roborace, a competition with self-driving, electrically powered vehicles started its first season alongside the Formula E (electric street racing) competitions. Not having to take a human driver’s safety or capacity for error into account allows developers to reach new heights of speed and complex track manoeuvres.

It’s a dream for techies and engineers, sure.
But what about the fans?

Can we envision an F1 race without the hugely popular drivers, even if computers could do their job better?

Should tech have a heart?

New technologies like AI give us new tools to manage and make sense of data we can use to optimize customer experience. However, as we discussed in our post on the KBC banking app as a case of customer intimacy, technology does not signify or provide customer intimacy in and of itself.

Technology itself is impersonal - not taking into account the human bias we seem to ‘build’ into every AI system; it’s what we do with it that makes the difference. It’s important to understand how technology can help us, but also what its limitations are.

For F1 racing, though engineers can eliminate human error from their calculations, they can’t replace human intuition and their capacity to judge in unknown surroundings.

(Although, when Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s best GO player, it seems the self-taught AI player somehow made machine-driven decisions mimicking human intuition in a largely open game with lots of possible moves and options. Then again, would we enjoy a game of GO between two AI players?)

We also can’t lose sight of why we develop technology: ultimately, it is to make people’s lives better and/or build successful businesses.

High-powered machines don’t mean anything if they aren’t serving anybody. That’s why motorsport governing body FIA is resolved, for the moment, to keep F1 cars driven by flesh-and-blood drivers who engage fans and sustain popularity.

Tech behaving like humans

Most F1 fans would say that racing isn’t really about the cars, but about humans operating at their limit, rivalry, unpredictability, tragedy, heroism and emotion. Cars are literally and figuratively vehicles for personalities and the love of competition.

And, businesswise, what’s the point of a race if nobody’s watching it?

So it’s interesting to see on how Roborace will be doing in terms of fan base; to see if and how they will include the human element. Or would we somehow learn to be able to root for a machine that behaves as if it has guts and insight, which is likely since we, or at least some people, can fall in love with cars or computers. (Movie tip: check out ‘Her’ by Spike Jonze.)

Print technology driven by humans

Approached the right way, tech can help you get closer to customers instead of alienating yourself from them. Let’s look at how the print industry is embracing technology, and how we can make technology work for us instead of the other way around.

  • Smarter set-ups: The adoption of AI algorithms fed by big data is making digital set-ups even smarter. Benefits include more effective predictive maintenance, better performing operators, better data security and intelligent automation of paper to digital. New printing tech allows customers added flexibility to design and customize their products.
  • Smarter customer service: The more data is fed into the interface with customers, the more their experience can be tailored. AI will streamline this data analysis and allow us to make more sense of it by getting insights into needs and behavior, figuring out what solutions are appropriate, and personalizing services.

Added value with a beating heart

Customers are loyal towards companies that treat them as more than a number. When used to our advantage, machine learning will allow us to streamline and personalize customer interactions, allowing us to focus on where human beings have added value: being a human contact when the customer prefers it, addressing complex issues, providing empathy and using intuition to resolve problems.

For example, an intelligent app or website could easily put customers in touch with a human advisor if they wish, or an intelligent press can relay complex problems to a human supervisor.

As we mentioned with KBC bank, to serve customers best this harmonious balance between technology and ‘the human element’ has to be woven into a company’s processes from top to bottom and back to front.

Want to be a truly customer-centric organization?

Humans are designing and evaluating technology in a way that serves them better. Placing importance on the quality and training of your staff and your internal culture is as valuable as ever.

It’s all part of the overall customer experience that is critical to success in today’s market.

To seize the full promise of intelligent technology, we need a beating heart. Customer experience can be powered by tech, but it needs to be driven by humans.

Because in the end, that’s who we’re doing it for (if you set out to be a customer-centric organisation, that is).

PS: As for the careers of F1 drivers, don’t worry about them too much. The highest paid F1 superstar currently earns over $ 50 million a year.

HERE’S THE THING

  1. Customer needs and service
    where are you today in terms of data?
  2. From your website’s data to press data
    are they part of your efforts to improve performance?
  3. Think for a moment about your favourite apps
    why do you like them so much, and what can you learn from them
  4. Could you do the same for brands you like,
    business partners and other suppliers?

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