Using AI for Smarter Cable CX

Your on-demand movie service makes a movie recommendation that is not even close to the type of film you like. You keep seeing online ads for a product you already purchased months ago. Your voice-controlled smart speaker does not understand your accent. Chatbots cannot find the right answer to your service question. You find yourself screaming into your phone, "Speak to a representative!"

These all-too-common maladies of modern technology persist as companies seek to mine their big data and apply artificial intelligence (AI) to make our lives better. Like many companies, cable providers are exploring ways to use AI as part of an overall goal of improving customer experience (CX), an industry imperative as pay-TV subscriptions decline and consumer perceptions of cable companies remain low.

A new Tractica report, "Using Artificial Intelligence for a Smarter Cable Customer Experience," highlights how cable providers are mining their big data and using data-based disciplines to improve network performance, resolve service issues and manage customer care, with the greater goal of automating these operations through AI. The most visible sign of the industry's progress came with Comcast's X1 service featuring cable's first AI voice-controlled navigation platform for video services and smart home automation.

Challenges of implementing AI with weaponized data
But, as discussed in the report, efforts to apply AI more extensively are being limited by the challenges of implementing AI itself. Tractica's report covers the industry's efforts to address CX, cable data sources, recent cable AI activity, benefits for cable customers, AI challenges and industry initiatives, and provides an overview of the tech supplier market. Many of the implementation challenges are technological, but many others are related to business attitudes.

Data is being weaponized -- for business. It is the ammo that companies are using to increase their competitiveness in the 21st century. Naturally, companies want to hoard their data and use it to their competitive advantage. But by keeping data behind walled gardens, they may be limiting opportunities for industry-wide, nationwide and potentially global opportunities. For cable, those industry-wide opportunities include CX benefits, such as universal self-provisioning of new applications; addressable advertising on a national scale; and Internet of Things (IoT) applications that work everywhere.

In order for companies to truly commit to improving CX, they must see a financial benefit. Most cable companies recognize the operational savings that can accrue and the need to remain competitive in the face of data-infused digital businesses, such as Amazon, Google and Netflix. Less attention has been paid to the prospects for financial upside and potential new revenue. Recent efforts by cable providers, programmers and other industry players to cooperate in various initiatives, as described in this report, show the promise of how they may partner for profit.

According to Tractica's report, AI will pay off when data becomes actionable, the network becomes proactive and customers can control their experience. But managers and technicians must be careful about implementing AI in ways that create new layers of frustration for customers. AI is only as good as the people who employ and use it.

— Craig Leddy, Contributing Analyst, Light Reading

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