Who needs an account manager in a world of friendly bots? Explain expert from IIM RANEPA
What will our life be like five or ten years from now? What trends should one consider if they want to reach their career heights in the future? Arshak Abgaryan, Account Group Head at Goose Gaming Agency and Lecturer in Client Relationship Management as part of the Master's program, Management of Advertising and Media Business, at IIM RANEPA, speaks about the prospects for client relations.
- Do you think it will ever be possible to fully automate customer interaction?
- This is a hot-button issue, and something we discuss during our course. Actually, why does a business need a client manager at all? Take an employee working on the client side, a brand manager. They have a huge number of internal customers they need to interact with, and 20 different agencies handling different issues. That is, a bunch of processes is running in parallel and needs to be monitored all the time. But the brand manager is only human, and at best, they have a team of several people. One way or another, they always need to keep their eye on the ball and make decisions. The purpose of an agency is to take off part of this load and anxiety. It is as if the agency says, my dear client, you don’t have to worry about this part anymore because now I can guarantee it will be fine. Here is a weekly or a daily status for you, to see how the project is faring, and yes, you can write to me at any time... except at night. And the manager on the client side can let go of this piece of work.
How does an automated system work? Roughly speaking, it is always a kind of a Q&A system. You make a query – you get an answer. This does not take any load off your shoulders. That's where artificial intelligence could come in, and when it is capable of fully managing the project... Well, I still think that even then, it won’t be able to replace a human, not entirely, because the advertising industry is about people. If we had any objective assessment algorithms, it would be a different story. But in advertising, everything is very subjective: how cool and creative a project seems to be, and how good this format is, and everything else, from choosing a track for a video to picking a font for a website. Tastes differ, and nothing is objective here. And I have no idea how to train bots or AI-enabled systems to do this.
- Will artificial intelligence be able to replace creative workers?
- There was a case in Japan once, with videos fully created by artificial intelligence. It was a very strange story. But on the whole, there were no differences between what people and artificial intelligence did... Although, personally, I would be far happier to work with people.
- What innovations do you believe have already drastically affected client interaction?
- Electronic document management systems have definitely made life easier. Instant messengers have changed communication a lot. Before that, communicating with a client involved emails, phone calls and personal meetings; now, almost none of that. Three years ago, I spent 30 percent of my time traveling to clients; now we mostly communicate via instant messengers.
- Is this good or bad?
- I would say it has a downside. First, the amount of information to process has become disproportionately larger. Just imagine, I have 130 work chats, about a third of those are client chats. There is a lower ‘threshold’ for messaging than for emailing – a person can first text you and then think. Messaging ups the level of toxicity. When you visited the client and received feedback personally, that relationship felt warmer, more respectful, and trusting. Messaging is largely impersonal. All you see is an avatar, not a real person. The boundaries become blurred. I would say it's not very good.
- What do you think about GIFs and emoticons?
- I love GIFs and stickers because they often lighten the mood. I don't use emoticons at all. My managers use emoticons; I'm neutral about them.
- What messengers do you usually use at work?
- About 99% of my communication is on Telegram. It is insanely convenient, with highly effective functionality. But this also has a downside – you cannot delineate between personal communication and work.
- And the last question. Speaking about advertising in general, which technologies do you think will have the greatest impact on the advertising industry in the near future?
- The first thing that comes to mind is the Unreal Engine game engine. It can be used to render videos the way they do for games, instead of drawing and animating them. It’s a great tool to make very realistic 3D objects and create universes. This technology can give a whole new quality to cartoon commercials. The next one is deepfake, of course. The very fact that we can film a Hollywood star without them coming to Russia makes things much easier. This story has a dark side again, but at some point, people will find a way to regulate it.