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“My coffee, please, Jarvis.”

In the movie series Iron Man, billionaire inventor and businessman Tony Stark relies routinely on his virtual personal assistant, Jarvis, to help him conduct his daily affairs. At the command of Tony’s voice—and often on his own volition—he retrieves personal messages, sets up meetings, monitors home security and models new prototypes.

JARVIS (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) is a smart agent with personality. He taps a vast array of information networks and performs lightning-fast calculations to provide Tony whatever he needs.

While today’s digital assistants are still a way off from Jarvis’ more extraordinary feats, his working relationship with Tony shows us how man and machine might collaborate in the not-too-distant future.

Industry analyst Gartner predicted last year that “the world was rapidly moving to a future in which machines and humans would be co-workers, and possibly even co-dependents—and this is now a reality.”1

This trend is of special importance to those who provide customer service solutions and to the companies and individuals who use them.

First, the raw computing power available today is enabling more machine-to-machine service and support, removing human labor where it’s not essential.

But as systems become smarter and more autonomous, a new cooperation between humans and machines is emerging.

Gartner estimates that “there will be 25 billion connected things by 2020.” In Gartner’s “Internet of Things” forecast, it is estimated that “47% of devices will have the necessary intelligence to request support. From connected engines to connected prosthetics, things everywhere will be requesting support from humans and human-managed businesses.”2.

That means the everyday devices we use—smart phones, TVs, household appliances and just about anything that contains a chip—will have the ability to initiate a request for assistance or repair when needed.

And just as with Jarvis—or Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now—all that will be needed for consumers to initiate their own complex requests is the ability to talk to their devices, combined with some powerful, intelligent processes working in the background.

Today’s contact center services increasingly incorporate omnichannel communications as part of the product package. Offering multiple channels, however, is just a first step in creating an effortless customer experience.

What’s also needed is the seamless and intelligent integration of voice, email and text interactions, for example.

Humach’s Single Conversation Manager does just that by grouping all related customer interactions in a single “conversation,” enabling customers to initiate a request through one channel and continue to resolution through others.

As smart agents become more adaptive, they will learn to anticipate our requests and converse with greater understanding.

Gartner sums it up well: “The last mile for multichannel and exceptional customer experiences will be this seamless two-way engagement with customers. It will mimic human conversations, with both listening and speaking, have a sense of history, use in-the-moment context, timing and tone, and have the ability to respond, add to and continue with a thought or purpose at multiple occasions and places over time.“3

Yet, with all the advances in computing abilities still to come, we humans must continue to parent our artificially intelligent offspring. Lest, one day, my personal assistant says to yours, “Let’s do lunch.”—and then start gossiping about our personal affairs.

1, 3 Gartner, Top Strategic Predictions for 2016 and Beyond: The Future Is a Digital Thing, October 2nd, 2015

2 Gartner, Predicts 2016: CRM Customer Service and Support, November 17, 2015

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