The state of AI: why businesses need to start using Artificial Intelligence now

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hotly discussed and debated subject in 2018. From newspapers to world leaders, everyone is talking about what machine intelligence and robotics could and might do for businesses. With all the buzz it is generating, Artificial Intelligence is rapidly emerging as a lucrative technology. By 2035, global consulting firm Accenture has suggested that Artificial Intelligence could add an estimated £654 billion to the UK economy. It comes as little surprise then to see an increasing number of businesses adding AI into their operations. The latest report by Spiceworks indicates that 40% of large organisations (across Europe and North America) are expected to implement AI chatbots or intelligent assistants in the workplace by 2019.   

AI has evolved into something much more than a tech buzzword. From its inception in the 1950s, what once seemed to be a science fiction dream for scientists has become a pioneering reality with innovations in Healthcare, the automotive industry and even space exploration. At this point in the AI narrative, it seems useful to assess precisely what value organisations can gain from using Artificial Intelligence. Is it truly worth businesses investing their time, resources and costs?   

Perhaps a better question is not whether businesses should utilise intelligence devices, but how they use it. AI has become the ultimate symbol of modernity in business, yet while many companies trialled basic messenger chatbots and other devices last year they also discovered that it is not a magic tool. Now organisations are more conscious of how AI solutions can be adapted to their specific needs and those of their customers. Intelligent machines and robotics are building blocks which, integrated into processes and client pathways, enable businesses to boost productivity, performance and quality of service. Automation, conversational bots, filtering and data analysis are a few of the powerful tools businesses can harness to transform their customer service and employee efficiency. Enterprises can additionally program their AI devices with unique skills, further enhancing the rewards to be reaped from the technology. It is this performance optimisation which lends organisations the greatest advantage above competitors.   

Our own consumer behaviour reflects how paramount AI has become in creating a superior customer experience in 2018. From Amazon’s uncanny purchase recommendations to your Instagram explore feed, to Apple’s friendly virtual assistant Siri, Gmail’s spam filtering and a host of retail chatbots who can advise you on anything from gift ideas to delivery information: AI is part of our everyday lives. Artificial Intelligence produces a more efficient and personalised service for the end user, predicting what you want to see or ask and generally appealing to the consumer appetite for fast, on-demand services. It is certainly becoming tougher for companies to maintain customer loyalty now with an ever-expanding number of brands, and means of access, available to consumers. 

Recent research conducted by Accenture shows that 77% of consumers now admit to retracting their loyalty to brands more quickly than they did three years ago. In today’s modern world AI is no longer a desirable tool, but an essential one if businesses hope to strengthen their customer connection and drive profitability. Enlisting intelligent devices further assists organisations in building a better long-term customer relationship. Businesses have a wealth of data at their disposal and with the appropriate smart tools they can effectively analyse this data to build rich customer insight. Through continually evaluating the customer experience, businesses are able to stay ahead of consumer trends and stand out with their offerings. Given the centrality of the consumer in today’s economy, having such insight is invaluable for meeting consumer demands, creating targeted marketing strategies and forming a brand which inspires customer loyalty.   

There is certainly much fascination (and profit) surrounding AI across various industries, however it is not without detractors. Elon Musk famously prophesised that Artificial Intelligence will see the downfall of humanity, and he is not alone in being concerned by the future of AI. Anxieties remains over the impact of AI on human jobs. At the end of 2017 Gartner reported this problematic statistic: AI will create 2.3 million jobs by 2020 but eliminate 1.8 million. The complexity of this new technology is illustrated by a recent study on AI in France. There, the popular feeling towards AI is a mixture of curiosity, concern and excitement with 72% of individuals having an overall “positive” attitude towards the technology.   

Despite the apprehension more and more enterprises are recognising that intelligent devices can enrich their human workforce, increasing collaboration and productivity. The call and contact centre industry is one which has benefited greatly from AI devices to help manage its high customer volume. Call agents must be adept at managing calls and handling a range of emotions, and with the sophistication of natural language processing and speech recognition there are voicebots now which both increase customer satisfaction and ease the strain on call agents. Intelligent Conversational agents are increasingly used to manage recurring customer requests, decreasing the wait time for the caller and creating a better customer service. Customers are quickly connected with the call agent which leads to a more productive conversation. 

Far from removing the need for human interaction, Artificial Intelligence in this context facilitates more meaningful interactions between the call agent and the caller. Call centres who operate an AI-supported conversational service can support more conversations, decongest the number of unwanted calls and enable more customers to ring outside of business hours. In this way, AI delivers not only a more streamlined customer experience but a better employee experience as well. Artificial Intelligence can serve as an instrument for businesses to maximise the talents of their staff: the purpose of AI is not to replace employees but rather augment their capabilities.   

There is still much concern surrounding AI and its long-term effects, yet it is nevertheless a technology with infinite possibilities. Artificial Intelligence learns and evolves with humans; an ability which is particularly valuable as we find more uses and needs for the technology. Ultimately, the key to intelligent devices in business is incorporation: integrating these technologies into business processes to enrich human capacities. The result is greater customer engagement, productivity and commercial impact.     

Frédéric Durand, CEO and Founder of Diabolocom 

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