I often tell business audiences that all business is personal and that leaders create profits for people through people. Small businesses like mine frequently have an advantage when it comes to making personal connections but lack pricing benefits when it come to scale. Increasingly, I am seeing efforts by larger businesses to use technology to attempt to personalize their offerings. Recently while reading an in-flight magazine, I saw how one airline carrier was attempting to personalize the Frequently Asked Questions section of their website. The article was entitled Virtually At Your Service an introduced Alaska Airline’s “Jenn.” Jenn is the virtual assistant for Alaska Air and she is an avatar – a computer generated image of a person. The article notes that “computerized hardly describes Jenn. Her warm, friendly voice and hint of humor is modeled after the caring professionals Alaska Airlines is renowned for and her repertoire of answers comes from years of real employees talking to you our customers.”
The article continues by noting, that “Jenn is the equivalent of ‘Dear Abby’ for Alaska Airlines. Her wisdom is sought by first time and frequent fliers alike who type questions on their computer screens. Jenn responds immediately with spoken and written answers. She also provides links to further information if you want to learn more. Alaska Airlines is the first domestic carrier to use the technology which, according to the article, has drawn rave reviews for its ease of use and friendliness. Jenn has answered3.4 million questions during nearly 1.5 million chat sessions with customers. That is about 7,000 questions a day. Topics run the gamut, with the most common involving checked luggage policies, purchasing or changing tickets, Mileage plan awards and seat assignments. Then there are the less common questions such as checking moose antlers.”
While I was initially skeptical about Jenn – you know the whole computer replacing human thing – I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom of Alaska Airlines. I have long said and written that service is a flawless product delivered exactly as people want it, in an environment of caring. Unlike human agents, Jenn only provides the accurate information she is programmed to provide, she provides it 24 hours a day, 7000 times per day, and she’s also been programmed to appear warm and caring. The efficiency of this service is remarkable and ultimately cost saving. Let’s only hope that companies utilize the Jenns of the world to free up human resources to further deliver the type of innovative and emotionally engaging service that only real human beings can bring. You can meet Jen here https://activeagent.alaskaair.com/alaskawebui/Agent.aspx . I’d love for you to share this with your team and think about the lessons your business can learn from technologies like Jenn. As always, I value your thoughts, be they about Jenn or personal, should I say techno-personal, service.