Artificial intelligence (AI), the ability of computers to perform complex tasks and learn as they go, is no longer a technology of the future. It’s here, now, and it’s changing the face of many businesses. There are a number of ways that AI might help transform your business, too.
The “intelligence” part of the definition can be misleading. AI can’t think freely as humans do, but it has the ability to sift through, analyze and find the patterns in massive amounts of data much more quickly than the human brain.
“Whether you’re an online business or a retail business there are plenty of ways we’re already using AI and machine learning, and it’s going to improve over the next few years, too,” says Amy Smith, tech analyst for FitSmallBusiness.com.
Nobody likes to wait on hold for a customer service agent. Chatbots, AI-based “agents” that can interact with customers and answer questions in the moment, are incredibly popular now, Smith says. “If a customer can talk to a chat bot to find the answer to their questions without having to find the FAQ section, it’s helpful,” she says.
People who still want to speak to a customer service agent can do so, but chatbots “increase efficiency but also deliver satisfaction to the customers because they’re getting what they need quickly without having to wait on hold,” she says.
VOICE ASSISTED SEARCH
Another way that AI can help businesses is through the use of voice assisted searching with products like Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. “I could see that being very helpful for warehouses and retail store inventories. You can ask, ‘Do we have that size in green?’ with the voice assisted search and get an instant answer,” Smith says.
Most businesses take in a tremendous amount of data every day. Customer demographics and preferences, sales and marketing information and analytics and much more, are known as “big data.” AI has the power to sift through this data quickly and carve out actionable information that businesses can benefit from.
Smith explains, “AI is able to assist in not only figuring out how and when customers shop, for example, but analyzing that data to create segmented groups so we can better target or market to them.”
She gives an example: “If I buy penguin socks from a website, AI assisted data will determine that those who did so will probably also like penguin pajamas. Then we can send out an email campaign to let those people know those pajamas are for sale.”
Big data can also figure out when people are shopping down to the time of day to send targeted coupons or emails at those times.
AI can also make possible new methods of sharing. Smith describes a new app that allows people in a city like San Francisco, where parking is scarce, rent out their unused parking spaces to others in need of them by utilizing GPS and analyzing data.
While AI can make some smart analyses and predictions, a new area of technology is helping to give AI better emotional intelligence. Rana Gujral, CEO of Behavioral Signals, a deep tech AI company, says that his company is helping to deduce emotions from voice or speech.
When coupled with the capabilities of AI, you get a more sophisticated set of programs that can better assist humans in their jobs. “What we feel has been missing in businesses is that AI doesn’t understand the context around the conversation,” Gujral says.
He explains that helping AI understand the context and intent of a person’s speech can help do such things as match a customer service agent to the right customer, or help agents deliver better service in real-time through AI-based analytics. “Imagine a tool that is listening in and guiding you. It can say ‘Slow down, the customer is angry or disengaged based on what you mentioned.’”
His company has had breakthroughs with what he calls “intent prediction engines.” “We’ve been able to predict intent if someone will pay or not pay—say for debt collection—based on some simple questions. You can apply the same capability to propensity to buy questions.”
Other applications might include intelligent point of sale kiosks. “Any conversation between a human and a non-human entity, we could add value to that equation to give the non-human entity the ability to understand emotions and intent and make those conversations more valuable.”
While most of these applications support existing human jobs, there are those who fear that all of this AI could replace human jobs. Smith believes AI is more likely to create new jobs, such as the the mechanical and coding aspects of the tech. Plus, she says, “I think there will be a creation of more jobs, higher paid jobs than those that AI and bots would take over."