The real value of Artificial Intelligence

Over recent years there’s been a growing buzz around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and what implications it’ll have for the future of the human workforce. AI is beginning to touch everything we do in our day-to-day lives. From Siri to Alexa, it’s now become a household norm. 

But our recent SalesTech report highlighted that there is a divide in opinion when it comes to AI adoption, with just 47% of Brits and 55% of Americans currently using AI in the workplace. Moreover, this trend also transcends into people’s personal lives with 62% of Brits and 64% of Americans using AI for non-work-related tasks. It’s clear that Brits are more guarded when it comes to AI, with just 40% of Brits using it to help them plan their day compared with 45% of Americans.   

Looking to the future is exciting, but for businesses to succeed they need to remain pragmatic in their approach. So how can businesses ensure that they harness technology in the right way? And what are the real benefits of automating the right tasks?   

Reducing unnecessary costs    

Many organisations are eager to explore how they can build AI into their customer-facing operations. One of the most appealing reasons is that it offers speed and efficiency, eliminating cumbersome manual steps for employees and reducing wasted time. The process of streamlining makes everyone’s lives easier, and the cost saving potential is a real draw for organsations as they strive to manage their bottom line. Take EY for example, which has recently implemented AI into its business practices, using AI has helped the company to eliminate repetitive tasks and has saved thousands of hours of employee time and employer money. 

How to harness technology 

The fact is that humans are expensive to employ; the cost of salaries, benefits, pensions and ongoing training means employees have a big financial impact on a business – a problem that can be easily remedied through smart AI adoption.

For customer-facing employees, particularly those who deal with high volumes of complaints, there is value in technology in automating mundane tasks, for example, research, administrative, and record maintenance activities. By streamlining repetitive tasks, employees can focus on more meaningful work, completing duties that require human empathy and insight. Our research highlighted that both in the UK and US, data automation was viewed the most worthwhile use of AI technology, with 53% believing it would directly benefit their organisation. 

Evidently, some things we do on a day-to-day basis do not require input from machines, but the power of technology to streamline basic tasks and free up time is immense.  Businesses that capitalise on this will see a spike in revenue and an improvement in employee performance.   

We are, after all, human    

There are arguably still crucial areas when speaking to a human is both necessary and more productive. For example, if we want to discuss a complex financial decision or receive personal insurance, advice bots can only do so much. These are areas where the human touch is still the ‘golden ticket’ to success. A study by Vanson Bourne concludes that 91% of respondents agree that there should always be a way to contact a real person. People require automation for simple tasks, but for real problems, they want a human to listen to and advise them. The relationship between technology and people is a balancing act, and successful businesses have always figured out how to marry these two factors together.   

Yes, AI is advancing at a rapid rate, but to date there’s not a chatbot, virtual assistant or voice activated device that can deliver ‘real’ emotion. People still want to talk to people, particularly in high value situations such as car sales or investment banking. Where the technology comes in is supporting humans in giving them the information they need intelligently at a time they need it. It complements the job, not replaces it.  

Although it brings to the table many benefits, people still need to err on the side of caution and should be selective in what they automate and what they don’t. Business leaders shouldn’t get so caught up in the vision of the future of automation that they forget that there’s a lot of value in human interaction as well.   

Looking to the future   

Our research highlights that AI now reaches everyone’s lives in some way, but it also demonstrates that people aren’t too willing to let it completely rule their existence. Top concerns from both sides of the Atlantic were about trust in technology, with as many as 40% of the respondents fearing that technology would make errors. The research surmises that people still see the value in a human workforce even if it means that some mundane tasks are automated. And hasn’t that been the case since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution? 

Yes, the rise of automation will re-invent traditional business practices, but it will allow humans to work better, faster and smarter. The AI systems that flourish will be the ones that give transparency to their users, and realise that each business is unique. The businesses that move successfully with the times will use technology and humans in unison to better improve the way their organisation works. Before this happens fully, people need to be comfortable with AI, they need to understand how to use it and why it’s useful.    

Clint Oram, Chief Marketing Officer, SugarCRM 

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