Our website uses cookies

Cookies enable us to provide the best experience possible and help us understand how visitors use our website. By browsing Essential Retail Magazine, you agree to our use of cookies.

Okay, I understand Learn more

How Sky uses AI to create personalised content recommendations

Television and telecommunications specialist Sky is using artificial intelligence (AI) as part of an advanced approach to technology and data that aims to boost both customer satisfaction levels and company profits.

Rob McLaughlin, head of digital decisioning and analytics at Sky, says AI plays an ever-increasing role in helping his company increase the relevance of the content it presents to customers.

“AI is good for the customer and, for us, as it also makes our business more efficient,” he tells Essential Retail at the recent Adobe Summit in London. “A customer calling a contact centre, waiting on a phone and talking to a business advisor is inefficient for the customer and the business. There’s a lot of improvements that can be made by using technology like AI to run our business more efficiently.”

Testing AI

The firm implemented the automated personalisation system Adobe Target last July. The system was used to test AI, which was introduced alongside a human, rules-based approach, where employees work from a set of rules during customer interactions. The programme developed rapidly and is now part of an integrated approach to advanced technology at Sky.

“We have explicit support for the programme from our chief operating officer and chief financial officer,” says McLaughlin. “They already see how AI can directly support our business objectives. Take services, where AI is anticipating what our customers are going to need and then helping deliver that support to them, possibly even before they know they need it.”

McLaughlin says context is crucial when using advanced technology like AI. The key is to ensure recommendations are sent to the right people through the right channel. People who are interested in sport, for example, are more likely to be interested in offers related to football. Another example is Sky believes its customers are more likely to buy products related to movies on a Saturday night than they are in upgrading their broadband.

“It’s not an earth-shattering concept but it makes a difference,” says McLaughlin, who explains how Sky wants to use technology to help staff make more effective decisions. “AI can provide a real business boost but it must be deployed alongside human intelligence.”

“We have explicit support for the programme from our COO and CFO. They already see how AI can directly support our business objectives."

Effective information management

His team’s medium- and long-term objectives focus on delivering personalised omnichannel experiences, both online and offline. The company is using a range of other technologies to help meet these outcomes, including Audi­ence Man­ag­er and Adobe Ana­lyt­ics with­in the Adobe Ana­lyt­ics Cloud platform. McLaughlin says effective information management is crucial to making the most of these technologies.

“Our average customer tenure is about 10 years. When customers do choose to share their data with us, we end up with a huge resource of information on who are clients are and what their interests might be. In those cases, I think it’s disrespectful if we don’t use the data to help improve our relationships,” he says.

“Our average customer tenure is about 10 years. When customers do choose to share their data with us, we end up with a huge resource of information on who are clients are and what their interests might be."

“If you have a shared history, you must use it to create better experiences. Organisations need to understand the significant role of data in the customer relationship and how it can be used to bring closeness between the customer and the business. In this case, great data is almost like memories – and that’s why its effective use can be so powerful.”

Stringent rules and standards, including the recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), mean organisations that store and process data are subject to statutory obligations. Failure to adhere to these responsibilities could lead to severe penalties, with fines ranging from €10 million to 4% of a company's annual global turnover.

McLaughlin says all companies using data must work in the best interests of their clients. “The consumer tends to say two things a lot now. First: ‘gets your hands off my data’, and second: ‘make things as easy as possible’. The problem is those demands might sometimes conflict with one another,” he says.

“We need to create a genuine value exchange, so that consumers want to give us their data. We then to need use information in a way that isn’t creepy. And I don’t think that should be a challenge – being creepy is not an effective customer experience strategy; being creepy won’t help your company sell more or create better service.”