- Customer Experience And Service
- Business Process Automation
- Cost Reductions And Operational Efficiency
- Data Security And Fraud
- Predictive Analytics
- Staff Training
There is a huge buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and its subsets such as machine learning and natural language processing. This hype has largely been created by the transformational impact it is having on businesses. The speed at which organisations can develop AI based technology and increase their value is key to having a competitive advantage. Whilst many organisations are still trying to understand exactly what AI is capable of, this article summarises some of the key benefits that are already being realised.
One of the most common forms of AI is the conversational chatbot. These are messaging apps, speech-based assistants or voice activated devices that are used to automate communication and create a very personalised customer experience. These Internet of Things (IoT) based applications can process vast amounts of data instantly meaning they can make faster and more accurate responses than a human would ever be able to.
Similar personalisation that makes best use of data can be used in marketing. This is where we get emails that are relevant to us and social media ads that just happen to be something we are interested in. In some cases, each customer can even see different website homepages depending on their likely preferences and what will interest them the most.
Utilising AI in these ways is a great way to ensure customer loyalty through a personalised experience.
Businesses that have been established for a long time tend to have several manual processes. AI is a natural partner to optimise these efforts given its efficiency at handling routine tasks, improving interfaces, willingness and speed to do monotonous tasks and ability to handle massive amounts of data.
There are some obvious processes like using robotics in factories, managing conditions in product storage, processing payments and registering customer requests but these only touch the surface of the possibilities. Doctors can use AI devices to dictate clinical notes which automatically fills in the relevant forms and orders a prescription. Lawyers will use AI to process contracts and agreements in a split second that may have taken them days or weeks.
Essentially, anything that can be turned into a digital format has the potential for automation.
An improved customer experience and process automation will have a clear knock-on effect when it comes to reducing business costs.
In the context of efficiency, where AI can process vast amount of data so accurately, it can greatly reduce the number of business errors, improve workflows to increase production outputs and free up employee time for higher-level tasks. As an example, in healthcare, unnecessary tests as estimated to cost $210 billion per year in the US alone. Even if AI reduces this by half it is doing an amazing job.
Gartner predicts that 85% of service interactions will take place between human and AI in 2020. This reduces to cost of business call centres and allows businesses to focus their staff elsewhere. For example, they may be redeployed into jobs that support the AI and digital technology. More to the point, AI is never sick and doesn’t need a holiday!
Whilst AI can be costly to deploy, in the long run the savings will heavily outweigh the investment.
AI can be used to help identify fraudulent transactions and prevent unauthorised access to data. In an exponentially growing digital world, this is especially important when it comes to defending cyber-attacks. Powerful algorithms can find malware and combat spam for example. Machine learning will detect irregular patterns in the data and inform businesses when there is a potential threat.
As well as this we are seeing the increased utilisation of identity checks other than passwords such as facial recognition and fingerprint technology. These unique identifiers based on unstructured data are far more difficult to hack and offer a great layer of protection for businesses.
Predictive analytics could be called the heartbeat of AI. Traditionally, management information would report on what has happened in the business e.g. we sold 100 pairs of shoes yesterday. Machine learning algorithms will make decisions on what is going to happen in the future. It will do this by finding patterns in data and making decisions based on that. For example, it can predict when a customer is next likely to want to buy a pair of shoes and ensure you are at the front of the queue when they come to market.
Another example comes in supply chain management where machine learning can predict when stock is likely to run out or whether there is going to be product surplus.
AI is being used in businesses to create personalised training plans. Some companies could have huge knowledge bases that take staff weeks or even months to learn. AI has been shown to cut this in half by presenting content to the learner in the way that best suits them. This could include the order they learn items in, the length of time between when learners are presented with repeat information or the type of material such as written, visual and audio. Training is both more useful and enjoyable.
Whilst many applications are still relatively immature, companies need to prepare for investment in AI if they are going to keep up with the competition. It should be made clear that AI is not going to replace humans but instead, it will provide the technology to run monotonous, tedious and repetitive jobs, allowing people to focus on what they are best at. For example, AI will help diagnose disease so doctors can concentrate on caring for patients. AI will deliver learning curriculums, so teachers can worry about helping the students.
To make the most of these powerful efficiencies, AI should be considered as a means of augmenting and not replacing human capabilities.