Artificial Intelligence: Can it make businesses run faster, and is it worth the investment?

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Not long ago, “artificial intelligence” was a term reserved solely for science fiction. Now, many businesses are adopting artificial intelligence (AI) programs to help make their businesses run easier and faster. They are also considering whether it is worth the investment, as AI has migrated further to cognitive technologies as an expansion of customer experience.

For example, hospital systems have experimented with technologies that help patient families retain a semblance of routine as they contend with serious illness. Customer-care features include making recommendations for restaurants and lodging for patient families and discerning which patients may need bill-paying assistance. Implementation has resulted in elevated patient and support team satisfaction, better financial performance and reduced data entry time for hospital staff.

AI technology is forecasted to reach $437 billion by 2025. A survey by PwC showed 72 percent of business executives regard AI as an advantage; more than half believe it can increase productivity and that the potential solutions are greater than employment concerns of jobs becoming obsolete. Harvard Business Review surveyed 250 executives and determined 75 percent believe AI will significantly transform their companies within three years.

Starting small may make sense to begin the transformation. Encourage game-changing ideas while you evaluate when and whether the time, talent and financial resources are available to bring them to fruition.

AI can help businesses with internal and external customer engagement, data analysis and insights, and automating general business processes through Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies, which are the simplest and less costly to implement.

Chatbots are a starting point, but not the complete answer. A major social media platform discovered its bots could not answer 70 percent of customer inquiries without employee involvement. Shopping centers have website bots to answer basic questions, but customers still seek assistance from informative guest services representatives as they pass by.

Associates may fear for their jobs as automation heads their way. Human resources directors and industrial engineers reside in training mode and dissect processes to improve it. Companies can view AI as a resource to maintain and retrain — not reduce — staff by freeing associates to develop more immediate, effective and intricate customer experiences by proactively engaging customers.

Think of the tasks that once were cumbersome, those that now reside conveniently within your phone. Aren’t you more efficient now? AI enables employees to seize the opportunity to learn new skills and polish existing ones, and can help companies gather insights more quickly and clearly. Sales representatives pursue hot leads prequalified by AI and can add their human touch to seal the deal. Marketers provide feedback to clients more quickly through a framework driven by data, combining it with in-person customer sentiments. Data analysis helps predict which customers are inclined to buy and targets digital ads.

AI can refine and redefine roles so data can be served directly to employees to make them more effective — as if the AI platform were another staff person. As businesses are being charged with being more customer-focused, AI can create more customer value and enhance your organization’s relevance and competitive advantage.

Only you know which technology — and when to implement it — will be right for your business to keep you informed and a step ahead of competition. Embracing AI can be a step in the right direction.

Michele Cuthbert is CEO and creator of Baker Creative