Is AI Ahead of Its Time?

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It’s easy to forget a time before the iPhone. Today you can’t walk one block without seeing someone glued to their device. iPhones, however, were not the first handheld device that could do more than make calls – in fact, Palm Pilots and BlackBerrys were once considered top of the line. With them you could call, email, and schedule meetings all on one device. What more could we want?

Consumers were satisfied with these capabilities because they didn’t know what more was possible. But Steve Jobs did. Jobs and his team reimagined what a phone was – they created a pocket-sized computer, camera and a personal assistant all rolled up into one device.

While the iPhone is now a cultural icon, consumers didn’t ditch their BlackBerrys overnight. Except for Apple die-hards, consumers were at first skeptical of moving over to a keyboard-less device that came with a shockingly high price tag. So how did Apple sell 1.3 billion iPhones since its launch in 2007? They provided consumers with a product they didn’t yet know they needed. With its sleek build, intuitive interface, it completely changed consumer expectation of what they wanted in a phone and forced the competition to follow suit.

Now how does AI play a role in all this? I would argue that artificial intelligence (AI) is having its iPhone moment. While its impact is not something you can see by looking down the street, it is dramatically changing a range of industries – from healthcare, manufacturing to customer service and support. In many of these cases, customers aren’t requesting the features and benefits that AI have been able to produce, but soon enough these benefits will become expectation.

Let’s focus in on the customer experience space. While consumers didn’t know they wanted their phone to take professional quality photos, they did value convenience and ease of use. This is the same for AI – consumers are not going to companies specifically asking for “AI,” but they do know they want their questions answered quickly and want to have conversations that are tailored to them specifically.

A recent study conducted by LogMeIn and research firm Vanson Bourne looked at customer expectations and found that consumers are actually complacent with long call wait times and delayed email responses from brands. Why? Consumers know nothing else and, in some cases, are unaware that something better is possible. The study found that while it takes 3X longer to resolve an issue than customers find acceptable, they still rate their experiences as good. And this is where companies with vision can set the bar – similar to the way Apple did all those years ago.

With growing competition in virtually every industry, it has never been more important for organizations to differentiate themselves through a strong customer experience and AI is opening an opportunity for companies large and small to capitalize. In fact, 88% of businesses are investing in or exploring the capabilities of AI in their organization. These companies see the value, even if their customers aren’t demanding it yet.

Today, providing great customer support is a way for companies to stand out from the competition and build a loyal customer base. Now is the time for all companies to implement AI-enabled technology because soon great customer service will become an expectation. And once customers get a taste of how it should be, they won’t settle for less. This is a lesson that Apple’s competitors learned the hard way, and a mistake that companies can’t afford to repeat.

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