Not surprisingly, debate about AI’s impact on the future of society, people and jobs was once again a central topic of discussion at SXSW Interactive this week in Austin. But what was different from past years was the increased prevalence of real-world, practical AI applications on display in Austin and the raft of insights and learnings from the tech, design and business leaders behind these innovations.
For sure, we are still in very early innings of the AI-first phase of the digital revolution, but the notable increase in real-world intelligent applications is indicative of how rapidly things are accelerating.
As business leaders, this shift will continue to dramatically change how we build teams, products and interact with our customers. It’s no longer acceptable to just have a great mobile app or website. The experiences we bring to customers are now everywhere they exist and live — and that is a very different frame for the products you build and the experiences we bring to peoples’ lives.
As builders, creators and makers in an increasingly AI-first world, how can we build and lead teams that solve real problems for customers and keep humanity at the forefront of AI development?
Starting With Purpose
One consistent theme that echoed throughout SXSW talks and panels was that the builders and creators in an AI-first world have both a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to harness data and technology in ways that truly benefit people.
It’s important that the teams building these products are driven by a sense of purpose. What is central to our mission as a company and what motivates us every day is that we have both the opportunity and responsibility to build products and experiences that improve people’s financial lives — saving them time, money, and making them feel more confident and in charge of their circumstances.
In an AI-first world, that means building intelligent products that are more proactive and interactive in helping people manage their finances and their broader financial lives — and doing so in a way that is paradoxically more human-like than the way the financial industry brings products to life today.
Banks have historically expected people to come to their bank to check in on how things are going. The future of banking will increasingly be about helping people in the moment of their need, wherever they are, and proactively doing things on their behalf — from helping people in big ways that keep them out of financial trouble to small ways every day that save time and make banking simpler.
That was the impetus behind the new digital product capabilities we launched at SXSW this week. Last year at SXSW, we announced the launch of Eno, Capital One’s intelligent assistant. Since last year, we have continued to expand Eno’s capabilities in new ways to enhance our customers’ financial lives, and this week, we announced that Eno had extended its capabilities to provide our customers greater security and control over their online shopping experience. With Eno, Capital One cardholders can now shop online without using their real credit card number — giving customers greater control over access to their private information and eliminating hassles and manual work when cards are lost or stolen.
We wanted to relieve a common source of anxiety for our customers and give them greater peace of mind. In the future as Eno learns, Eno’s interactions with customers will continue to become more personalized and proactive, operating as an intelligent assistant that is looking out for our customers and their money.
With the rise of new conversational interfaces, intelligent assistants will increasingly become the backbone of the customer experience. That represents a dramatic shift in how companies and brands interact with their customers today. How you design your intelligent assistant’s character and personality will define the way you connect with your customers in an AI-first world.
When designing Capital One’s intelligent assistant we recognized that character development was a capability we didn’t have — so we sought out filmmakers, anthropologists, journalists and user experience designers with deep experience in character development and diverse perspectives to help define and shape how our intelligent assistant would connect with our customers.
Capital One Head of AI Design Audra Koklys Plummer, a former filmmaker who worked for studios such as Dreamworks, Lucasfilm and Pixar, spoke at SXSW about how the team approached the design of Eno.
We’ve been encouraged by indicators that Eno is striking the right chord. Our customers have rated Eno 4.6 out of 5 stars, and one of the top three most texted phrases from our customers to Eno is “thank you.” That signaled that we’re achieving something greater than just accuracy (which is also critical) — but that we were connecting with our customers in a deeper, more human-like way.
Building systems that are empathetic requires going beyond rational thought and taking a journey into the ‘unthinking’ mind — the irrational, limbic, emotional mind, said Katya Andresen, Senior Vice President, Card Customer Experience, Capital One, in a powerful talk at SXSW exploring how neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics provide the tools for building brands and customer experiences that are loved, lasting and life-changing.
Empowering Innovative Teams
From launching the first skill on Amazon Alexa that allowed people to interact with their financial accounts in 2016 to achieving another industry first with the launch of our intelligent assistant Eno in 2017, our Conversational AI team has continued to build innovative firsts in the financial industry.
In a rapidly changing environment, there are a few core principles that inspire and empower our team.
- Continuous learning — We’re focused on helping teams stay current on macro trends — from machine learning to new styles of interfaces to changing business models. Equally important is ensuring your workforce has access to learn about technology and build new technical skills. Through our Tech College program, all associates at Capital One have the opportunity to access a world-class, engineer-designed learning program that offers a comprehensive curriculum focused on the latest technology disciplines.
- Think Big — Have the courage to aspire to grand ambitions, but have the discipline to quickly recognize and sunset those concepts that didn’t work.
- Encourage Experimentation — Encourage your teams to experiment, knowing that many of them will fail.
- Diversity Matters — Build and foster a diverse and inclusive culture where every voice is heard and matters. Everyone has a unique point of view to share, shaped by their life experiences, cultures, and passions.
- Keep Shipping — We’re in the business of building real-world products that solve real-world customer problems at scale — and the best way we do that is by getting the product in hands of our customers. One reason we love to keep coming back to SXSW every year is that it’s a great opportunity to share early products and concepts with the world, get feedback, and exchange ideas.
Today, we are just scratching the surface of the customer problems we can solve through machine learning and AI. Now is the time to build a strong foundation for the future by pairing intelligence with humanity to ensure every customer experience achieves its potential to improve lives.