Very few organizations provide consistently stellar customer service. Customers expect organizations to tend to their needs, and if the organization fails to do so, there is a chance that the customer will chose to instead spend money on a competing or substitute product. Some organizations have attempted to implement artificial intelligence in call centers as a way to reduce labor costs and streamline customer service processes. However, as many of us are far too familiar with, artificial intelligence in customer service hasn’t lived up to the hype. The first example that comes to my mind is Amtrak’s “Julie,” who fields all of Amtrak’s calls to get basic information before transferring customers over to an agent. There has not been a time where I haven’t had to read my six-character booking number to Julie at least five times before she finally understood all of the characters. I’m upset before the system even has the chance to transfer me to an agent. Amtrak’s Julie represents a traditionally reactive customer service model, where the customer reaches out to the company with an inquiry, and a support agent reacts to the inquiry. Salesforce & Cisco flipped the traditional customer service model upside-down, and recently partnered to help organizations use data to become more proactive when it comes to customer service. The two technology conglomerates bring together Salesforce’s Service Cloud and Cisco’s Contact Center to create a single agent desktop, where the agent is empowered to quickly handle every customer interaction with personalization and data-driven insights. All customer inquiries come through the Contact Center platform, where Service Cloud intelligence automatically classifies the case based on user history and trends. Contact Center then routes the call to the agent best equipped to tackle the case, along with recommended responses and rich details on the customer from all departments within the company. The more the agent uses the system, the smarter and more predictive it becomes, all benefiting the customer in the end of the day. By merging two major platforms in to a single desktop solution, Salesforce and Cisco bring new-market disruption to customer service. Has anybody experienced stellar customer service that somehow incorporated artificial intelligence? How else do you think artificial intelligence or tomorrow’s high tech could impact the future of customer service?
Changing consumer trends towards more cost-conscious spending has enabled companies to carve a space for themselves in the sharing economy. ThredUp in particular aims to change the way that buyers shop for second-hand clothing. It has grown to become the largest online thrift/consignment shop in the country. ThredUp doesn’t utilize peer to peer transactions to sell items. Instead, ThredUp collects and organizes the clothing it receives then photographs, sells, and delivers the items on their site. ThredUp is a new market innovation because it changes the process of shopping for second-hand clothing and makes it more convenient. Instead of spending hours sifting through racks of unorganized clothing, users can simply search for an item or brand they’re looking for, and all relevant items will populate their screen. Users can benefit from the cost savings of buying second-hand clothing, without having to spend a lot of time searching for desired items. Creating an easy to use, online platform for thrifting makes it more appealing and could attract customers who wouldn’t be keen to try it otherwise. Do you think that ThredUp will gain more popularity over traditional thrift/consignment shops? Do you see it being a different type of innovation when applying a different incumbent, like eBay? Are there any other retail innovators you can think of?
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Many companies have attempted to immerse themselves into the healthcare industry in the past, although few have been successful in reducing healthcare costs. Amazon recently announced its healthcare alliance with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, and it is argued that Amazon is the key component of this partnership, due to the company’s foundation of efficient operational procedures, strong customer focus, and technological integration. Chunka Mui’s Here’s How Amazon Could Disrupt Healthcare emphasizes several capabilities that Amazon has brought to the retail industry that will enable the company to disrupt the healthcare industry. Mui makes the interesting point \that if integrated into healthcare, Amazon’s comprehensive customer records, personalized user experience, price choice and transparency, and reliable reviews will lead the company to a future of vast amounts of patient health data to analyze, personalized health pages, cost options, and trustworthy ratings of healthcare providers. However, do you think that this is enough to make Amazon stand out as a player in healthcare? What roadblocks might arise for the future of this healthcare alliance?
Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, and JPMorgan Chase have a plan that could disrupt the entire healthcare industry. The CEOs of these companies hope to lower heath care costs for the companies’ employees and deliver significant advancements for all patients. This is a monumental challenge being that the health care spending represented 17.9% of the U.S. economy in 2016 and continues to rise. Many skeptics say that health care costs cannot be meaningfully lowered by three companies and that the sector will not change without government action. However; this would not be the first time Amazon has disrupted an entire industry. Amazon’s success has been based on removing entire layers of product sales and distribution, adopting new ways of thinking, and pursuing technological innovation. The new company these CEOs plan to establish will not seek to profit off of health care, but instead offer it at the lowest cost possible. One way to lower costs is to cut the number of people in the industry by moving toward more automation and adopting artificial intelligence in areas such as data input, automated health care tests, lab work and food preparation. Another way to lower health costs is by expanding telemedicine so health care providers could sharephysicians and nurse practitioners. Do you think this is something people will become more comfortable with or will the majority of people still want to physically go into a doctor’s office? With Amazon entering into health care do you think it has a long term goal of entering drug sales by launching an online pharmacy? This would also lower costs by cutting out the middleman. The last way this new company would reshape the industry is by tying payment to quality of care, so consumers would pay a fee based of the value of the care they received. Do you think these three CEOs will be able to create this new health care company and to what extent will it transform the healthcare industry?
Disruptive innovation refers to a new idea or product that drastically changes the way things were previously done. This is something that is very common in many industries, but is much needed within the education industry. Clayton Christensen’s Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, highlights the difficulties with innovation in education, and how computers and technology could be just the type of digital innovation needed within the educational system. This topic was particularly interesting for me, because I have been working for a company in the EdTech industry for the past year, who’s goal is to enhance the value of K-12 education through the use of innovative technology. One of the main ways personal technology can create disruptive innovation is through its ability to provide for a more individualized education for students. Often times the education system generalizes lesson plans due to a lack of resources or finances, and students who do not learn in the traditional way are the ones who suffer. Online learning presents and alternative solution to this problem, and can allow for the development of child-specific lesson plans. Such a level of individualized instruction would be impossible in the traditional classroom setting. Students with any learning style preferences can benefit from this type of disruptive innovation in the education system, by being presented with the opportunity to take additional classes not offered in the traditional classroom, work at his or her own pace, and focus on what learning styles work best for him/her individually. A question I have is, other than the obvious costs, what other factors are limiting disruptive innovation in education? In what other ways can personal technology create disruptive innovation in education?
In 2012, the Raspberry Pi Foundation developed a credit card sized, Linux operated computer that cost between $25 – $35 and was meant to be a cheap tool to teach computer literacy for educational institutions. However, it expanded out of it’s initial target market and was soon adopted by techies as a means to build web servers, routers, arcade machines, and other projects. By 2014 the Raspberry Pi Foundation sold over 4.5 million units as well as disrupted the personal computing (PC) industry. The reason for it’s massive popularity is rooted in the fact that there is a segment of overshot customers in the personal computing market. In 2010, the average price of a desktop personal computer was between $500 – $600 and brought with it a huge portfolio of specs and features. However, there were customers that were looking for a stripped down product to work on small projects such as data collection and server monitoring, where the Raspberry Pi fit in nicely. The Raspberry Pi Foundation continues to innovate in the low end segment releasing new iterations of the Raspberry Pi, some with more functionality and some with less but all fall in a price range between $5 and $35.
Do you think that incumbent PC producers should feel threatened by the Raspberry Pi? What do you think the next strategic step is for the Raspberry Pi foundation?