Can Pepper create customer experience?
This is truly a challenging, but yet exciting time for consumer oriented companies. Technology and Innovations change consumer expectations, but also how consumers perceive Customer Experience. Customers can choose from a range of differentiated services:
- bundled services/unbundled services according to their preferences and needs,
- shared service/full service.
The demand for individual high quality products and services is constantly rising and puts pressure on the competitiveness of companies. This in turn forces companies to restructure their strategies to meet customer expectations. What possibilities are available to create customer experience? What output do companies gain? The Japanese multinational telecommunication cooperation Softbank Group released the world’s first humanoid robot in 2014.
“Pepper” is a communication robot, which is capable to react and understand human principle emotions. It offers personalized services on basis of Data collection. It can recognize your voice and cheer you up when you sound sad. It can recognize your face and give you information. Pepper enables companies to react on consumer expectation and increase customer experience.
Can Pepper add value to the service and increase customer satisfaction?
Companies always have to adapt to changing environment. Innovation enables to create new ways of processes. Companies, which fail to adapt will lose their competitiveness.
Imagine you can choose between a
- Hotel without any technological devices
- Hotel with a robot like Pepper, which greets you by name due to facial recognition, gives you information about the weather in Berlin (because it knows that you booked a flight to Berlin).
According to Skift’s 2016 In-Destination Traveler Behavior Survey, traveling ia an emotional journey. Therefore, customers will feel attracted to customer experience with a personal touch and choose innovative companies. The survey also questioned customer satisfaction in different travel stages.
The results of the survey shows, that companies do not exploit the maximum potential of satisfaction. The Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report 2011 (IBM, 2017) showed that 86 % consumers would pay more for a better customer experience. One approach could be to use Pepper as value added service in the middle of the trip and collect data of customer preferences to specialize services the next time. The higher the individualized service Pepper offers, the higher the customer experience and therefore the possibility to gain customer satisfaction.
What is Softbank’s “Robot Creator Community”?
Innovations need creativity and new impulses/ideas. Softbank created the Developer Program (Softbankrobotics, 2017). Users can develop, submit, validate, publish and sell robotics applications. In the short term, users will have access to development tools and enable users to interact with other users. Softbank launched “Pepper Creator Certification” to authorize qualified creators. This Robot Creator Community is open for newcomer’s as well existing users. The “Pepper Pioneer Club” sells applications for Pepper service. This creative atmosphere motivates users to develop new innovative user generated applications for Pepper. Softbank holds “Pepper’s Creators Contest” to reward the winner for the best application and keep competition going.
Why did previous humanoid robot developer fail?
There are many humanoid robots, for example Junko Chihira, Actroid-DER2. They are all designed to look like humans and have facial expressions like humans. They are not capable of facial recognition or voice recognition and do not have the ability to identify emotions. Pepper has these features and is successful. He is 121m tall and looks like a robot. The developers are convinced, that imitating human facial expressions will make robots look like zombies. For human – robot interaction the robot does not have to be a true ‘humanoid’.
The Softbank group established Softbank Robotics to focus solely on Pepper business. As a 100 % subsidiary of Softbank Group Pepper business benefits from existing sale and distribution channels. Pepper was used in Japanese stores of Softbank and saved promotion costs. The key success factor was the outsourcing of Peppers production. These cost advantages enabled the affordable price for Pepper: 20,000 USD for usage of Pepper for 3 years.
What challenges does Pepper face?
Customer Experience can also include negative experiences. Pepper is not intended as replacement for human service providers. Pepper adds value and helps assisting. The human interaction between customers and ie. Receptionist is still crucial.
Many consumers are curious about Pepper and like the idea of robots assisting. But on the other hand many consumers have many open questions ie. about security. How long will Pepper save data? Who has access to my data? What about Privacy? Which Rights or Duties does Pepper have? As Artificial Intelligence is a quite new innovation, many questions stay open. The European Parliament identified the rising importance of Artificial Intelligence and Robots. They submitted a recommendation to the European Commision about Legal Rights and Rules on Robots (European Parliament, 2016).
Pepper won’t be the last Innovation. But one thing is for sure: Artificial Intelligence and robot services will become more important and will revolutionize industries.