January 22, 2022

A Boon For Business, But Choosing The Best Fit Requires Care

Chetan Dube is the President and CEO of IPsoft. Prior to joining IPsoft, Chetan served as an assistant professor at New York University. 

The Covid-19 pandemic quickly created a business environment of falling revenue and declining capital. That has led to a push-and-pull scenario in which companies must spend less money while generating more.

But the bottom line isn’t going to bolster itself. What can be done, and what investments can be made to deliver a positive return during one of the most difficult periods businesses have ever faced?

An increasing number of businesses are trialing cognitive artificial intelligence. While the U.S. Census Bureau reported that AI is still concentrated in large companies — and in less than 10% of businesses — more firms are discovering how to use the technology to save money and streamline operations. Whether that continues throughout the pandemic remains to be seen, but those of us in the industry have good reason to be optimistic.

The technology is filling in the gaps.

Script-based solutions like chatbots are more widely used within the enterprise than advanced AI. A chatbot is able to interact with a customer through a script of responses and is easy to set up, but it requires significant support from humans to work properly. Sophisticated AI has only recently been gaining adoption, attracting businesses due to its ability to process information much faster than humans. Conversational AI, in particular, provides humanlike conversation with little human involvement over time.

Multinational companies have been switching to conversational AI to get things done around the clock. Pandemic notwithstanding, there is also the struggle to acquire enough talent to offer nearly 24/7 service in multiple geographies and meet customers’ expectations for assistance at any moment.

Employees are leaning on AI.

Whisper agents have been on the rise in particularly competitive industries. Cognitive agents work by quickly accessing relevant information to help human staff answer customer service queries with greater accuracy and speed.

Brands have been using this technology to answer customer requests while agents work at home, without the support of the central office. These automated engagements deliver a strong return on investment when compared to the cost and manpower required to operate a massive 24-hour human staff.

And now it’s time to test it out.

According to a report by Accenture, 75% of executives believe their organizations could be put out of business if they fail to scale AI. This may be a painful reality for firms that weren’t sure they wanted to take the plunge, but that doesn’t mean they should jump on board the AI bandwagon with reckless abandon. Before a solution can be chosen, businesses must first think about the problems they have and wish to solve. Where are their inefficiencies? Are they wasting too much time on day-to-day tasks within their accounts payable department? Is HR struggling to keep up with their distributed workforce? Some employees may be on edge as they search for guidance regarding when they can return to the office.

Marketing may be struggling to keep with their digital ad campaigns by relying on spreadsheets and other outdated technologies that require manual input. Health care professionals may be overworked in the face of Covid-19 and find it difficult to check in on every patient as often as they should. And at the height of the pandemic, call centers might have wondered how they would keep up with the skyrocketing call volumes.

Each of these problems can be solved by AI, but these are just a sampling of the issues businesses face on a daily basis. Instead of picking up a solution because it’s the cool thing to do, enterprises should carefully evaluate their problems and then look for an AI solution that can meet their needs. This will ensure that, by the time they reach their trial phase, everything goes as smoothly as possible.

In a remote setting, which many of us are still in right now, it is paramount that employees are given the chance to try out and interact with the prospective AI solution, whatever it may be. Yes, the goal is to automate a particular task, but there is always a human component on some level. As AI evolves, it will become more like a digital colleague, if you will, and just as you would trial new human employees to make sure they are a good fit, you must do the same with AI. Managers should be communicating with every employee, no matter where they are located, to ensure they understand the AI being trialed.

If staff members aren’t using it or interacting with it, however, or if the technology is at all cumbersome, that’s a good sign it isn’t the right AI solution for the firm. Pay close attention to how the AI learns over time: Does it repeat the same mistakes, or figure out how to genuinely solve the firm’s problems? Organizations should look for a solution that can reliably achieve the latter, providing unending value.

Understanding your needs is key.

AI is on a path to revolutionize the business world, automating everything from marketing and call centers to HR inquiries and beyond. But it can only achieve optimum results — and change how we do business — if organizations take the time to understand their needs before looking into AI solutions that can best satisfy them. With the right effort and a proper evaluation, AI can prove to be a remarkable investment.

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