Various companies are also taking advantage of artificial intelligence technology to improve their businesses in numerous ways — and many of those benefits are trickling down to consumers as well. Artificial intelligence is not always what one may imagine (for better and worse), thanks again to those sci-fi writers. AI is not necessarily used to create humanized robots, although that is a possibility, it is also used to dramatically improve processes within companies.
Machine learning is one aspect of AI that is most commonly used to enhance processes. As Chris Nicholson, co-founder and CEO of Skymind, described it on a recent TechEmergence podcast: “AI is just a box. Math and code. If this, then that. That is the simplest way to describe it.” So, don’t fear an AI takeover of humanity just yet.
Nicholson goes on to describe that the main purpose of AI technology in everyday business is primarily as a way to organize and analyze data. The main purpose is to automate many business functions to ultimately better serve the customers and to add to the company’s bottom line. Experts believe that the use of artificial intelligence in business is poised to grow exponentially over the next decade.
Customer service is uniquely suited to disruption. According to a study by The Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC), the average annual turnover rate for call center agents in US contact centers ranges between 30-45 percent — more than double the average for all other professions in the U.S. Some of most oft-cited reasons for turnover in the customer service industry include:
- Non-challenging or repetitive work
- Lack of recognition
- No career growth or development opportunities
- Inflexible working environment
- Employee disengagement
- Excessive pressure or stress
- Abusive calls
- Low job satisfaction
In a 2017 report entitled 10 Reasons Why AI-powered, Automated Customer Service is the Future, IBM researchers noted that by 2020, experts project that more than 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without the need for a human agent. This will be a revolutionary development, not only for the 2.8 million customer service professionals in the United States that will see their job responsibilities change significantly in a very short period of time, but will also impact millions of customer service representatives around the globe. The advantages for companies are obvious. Rather than incur the high cost of hiring, training, management/supervision for series of mostly repetitive tasks for a class of employees that, on average, will only stay in their current customer service role for two or three years, resources can be easily adapted to machine learning and AI solutions. It is cost-effective and if well-designed and thoughtfully implemented can actually improve customer satisfaction. In a global survey of almost 600 executives conducted by MIT Technology Review Insights, 90% of companies reported integrating AI into the customer experience. The early results have been very impressive.
AI dramatically improves the efficiency, processing speed and transaction volume of customer interactions. Almost 90% of companies report faster complaint resolution, and over 80% say they enhance call volume processing using AI. Additionally, the average respondent indicates that between 25% and 50% of all inquiries are now completely resolved through automated channels. In North America, 60% of the respondents believe AI-based solutions will deliver a 10% or more increase in customer lifetime value in the next year. Over one-third of respondents in the Asia Pacific region attribute the increased use of AI to revenue growth of greater than 10%.
MetLife, one of the largest insurance companies in the United States, is using an AI system developed by Cogito to help its contact center staff improve customer service interactions by tracking and monitoring the emotions expressed by customers during conversations with contact center personnel and prompting call center agents to improve responses to customers’ emotional needs. The AI system simultaneously is monitoring agents’ emotions and, providing insight if they are sounding tired or detached. The emotional intelligence software was developed by Cogito to help the US military better detect post-traumatic stress disorder among its service members.
Some companies are integrating artificial intelligence to make blockchain applications more practical and useful. While smart contracts have obvious applications in the cryptocurrency space, they have a myriad of potential use cases in B2C interactions, simplifying the sales process, making it easier to change or update existing agreements (like a Netflix subscription or high-speed Internet service), track goods and products anywhere they may be in the supply chain (from when it leaves the warehouse until it arrives at your door), retrieve and secure data (verifying payment of outstanding credit card bills or transferring health records from one doctor to another), and more.
“We are now developing AI-based solutions to automatically generate smart contracts, or what we call ‘intelligent contracts’,” explained Dr. Steve Deng, Chief AI Scientist for Matrix AI Network, (MAN), a global open-source, public, intelligent blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system, combining advanced AI and blockchain technology, “currently, smart contracts are programmed and if you want to use a smart contract, you either need to know how to program or find a programmer. AI offers a unique opportunity to learn how to map transaction intent to program intelligent contracts. In other words, once you define the elements of a particular transaction, a program synthesis tool is able to generate an intelligent contract.”
Huawei opened a Global Service Centre (GSC) powered by an AI-based Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) capability to provide an improved customer service experience providing technical support, remote delivery, network operation, and marketing and channel support, so they can deliver 24/7 support to its customers.
Amazon is using chatbots, intelligent, natural language virtual assistants, to upgrade the customer service experience and make it faster, easier and more efficient. Chatbots are able to recognize human speech and decipher caller intent. Callers are able to complete an ever-increasing list of tasks such as changing a password, requesting a balance on an account, or scheduling an appointment, without ever having to speak to a live agent. More and more companies are adopting elements of the Amazon model, which remains the gold-standard in an online, AI chat experience. Artificial intelligence was once only relegated to the pages of science fiction novels, but now it is an everyday reality for billions. From insurance to retail, and every industry in between, the customer service experience is undergoing a dramatic revolution – integrating artificial intelligence, blockchain, Big Data, machine learning, NLP and other emerging technologies to create new efficiencies and drive results.