Due to rapid technological advancements, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now found in various aspects of our daily lives – though most of us are often completely unaware of how regularly we use it. From the recommendations we receive on Amazon or Netflix to the AI-driven camera software used to improve the photos we take on our smartphones, AI forms parts of the popular services that are used multiple times a day. Even the map and Satnav applications we use rely on AI. Company chatbots are a more well-known use of AI, and can now be found on nearly every company website you visit. In fact, it’s been predicted that 80 per cent of companies will be using chatbots this year.
At the same time, consumer demands are getting harder to meet. Driven by the growing ramifications of the ‘Amazon Effect’, consumers today expect instant gratification when it comes to interacting with businesses. Digital banks such as Monzo and Starling continue to build expectations by enabling customers to open an account in a matter of minutes. Not only this, but businesses are expected to provide 24/7 customer responses through a multitude of communication channels, including Twitter, Facebook messenger and other social media. This has been exacerbated by the current Covid-19 outbreak, which has placed an even greater pressure on customer service teams to respond quickly and seamlessly to enquiries on a broad range of issues.
A customer’s interaction with an organisation can leave a lasting impression, and potentially impact future trust and loyalty in the future – and when it comes to optimising customer service, AI-enabled systems are increasingly becoming the knight in shining armour, as well as in day-to-day interactions in normal conditions. In allowing companies to provide agents that are ‘always on’, AI can provide automated and tailored experiences for customers that have never been possible before. However, some organisations are yet to make the change and adopt these technologies – and their benefits.
What’s getting in the way of progression?
For a number of organisations, not having the right skills in place has hindered the ability to deploy AI across the customer service function. According to an IBM institute of Business Value study, 120 million workers in the world’s twelve largest economies will need to be retrained or reskilled as a result of AI and intelligent automation.
Budgetary constraints can also deter businesses from making the investment often required to integrate AI systems into an existing IT infrastructure. A lack of understanding around AI can also mean that some businesses are left concerned that the solution they are putting in place may end up not aligning with the needs of the business. Therefore, concerns over wasting time, money and other resources often overtake technology adoption. However, many will find that these concerns will be outweighed by the costs of not being able to unlock the true potential of this technology – and the risk of falling behind in today’s fast-paced marketplace.
Unlocking the value of AI
It is often the smaller businesses that lack the IT foundation and personnel to keep up with the latest technological advancements. Yet ultimately it will be these investments that enable these same businesses to keep up with customer demands and flourish in an ever-evolving landscape. In this respect, adopting low-code solutions enables teams with a resource shortage to quickly prototype specific features or workflows without any need for specialised technical skill – empowering employees to innovate and implement significant change, without having to rely purely on the IT department.
Low-code is helping companies surpass shortages within multiple digital skills, including AI, by removing the need for highly-trained developers who have traditionally been relied upon to bring new applications to the forefront. In fact, in a recent analyst report, Forrester predicts that savvy application design & development (AD&D) leaders will no longer try and reinvent the wheel and instead will now source algorithms and insight from their platform vendor or its ecosystem. Implementation consultants will now be able to differentiate themselves using AI-driven templates, add-ons and accelerators – particularly industry-specific ones.
Everyday business users can use low-code software to get automated and AI-driven solutions up and running quickly and easily. The lack of complex coding means the whole process of integrating AI is automatically simplified, and accessible for a range of workers across a variety of business sectors and sizes. The ability to test applications before implementation means businesses are able to access the capabilities of AI, investing valuable time and effort elsewhere. This unlocks a wave of new possibilities for AI development across a range of functions.
By breaking down walls between IT and other departments, low-code technology enables teams to work collaboratively on applications that rapidly improve processes, by utilising the knowledge of customer facing wider-business teams.
As businesses across the globe continue to face the ongoing ramifications of Covid-19, it is imperative that organisations respond with agility in order to keep up with increasingly complex customer demands. Implementing the technology that can help organisations cope is therefore essential when it comes to businesses staying competitive and afloat. Where many workforces are currently facing unprecedented difficulties, the adoption of AI processes through low-code applications allows for the freeing up of workers and minimises workloads – enabling them to focus on more strategic tasks within the organisation, through the automation of more mundane processes.
The importance of human interaction
Whilst there are a myriad of benefits to AI deployment, it is important for organisations to acknowledge the importance of human interaction regarding customer satisfaction. AI and automated processes undoubtedly offer optimised experiences by tightening up efficiencies and streamlining interactions, but they should also be used to complement the more personal approach needed for businesses to be truly successful.
We are all aware of the frustrations faced when dealing with never-ending rounds of automated telephone responses or unhelpful chatbots when all that is required is to converse with a real human being. To ensure customers’ needs are truly met, it is important to put guardrails around the use of AI, ensuring there is always an easy route back to a real customer service agent if required.
Looking ahead to a digital-first era
The recent Covid-19 pandemic will only continue to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. As consumer demands continue to grow in complexity, businesses must continually evaluate the customer experience. AI will play a key role in this. However, digital-first is an ongoing process, constantly undergoing change and improvement. Businesses should always consider the desired outcomes rather than the technology behind it – asking questions such as, what does the perfect customer journey look like? Once this is established, only then is it the right time to focus on the tools needed for the job in order to achieve the desired outcome. This process will enable businesses to thrive in the post-digital era.
Richard Billington, Chief Technical Officer, Netcall