There Will Be an Answer. Let it Be. And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me...
What can AI do? What can’t it do? If you’re looking at AI for your business, think basics. PHOTO: Randy Heinitz

Worried about the recent surge of artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots and our impending botnet overlords? 

No need. This future tech is here to help, not hinder.

You may have caught wind of the recent news hype surrounding AI, and now you’re wondering, “What’s all this AI stuff about?”

The AI frenzy has journalists, futurists and vendors alike dreaming up all kinds of possibilities — good and bad. But a lot of the concepts are over sensationalized, or just baseless fluff.

So, what is a realistic view of AI? What can you reasonably expect from AI tools in the near future? How can you use AI practically to improve your business?

AI is more of a milestone than anything. It is the culmination of brilliant computer engineering that has amassed over many years. In its basic form, AI is merely a string of code that mirrors thought. It is the next step for computers beyond simple 1+1 calculations.

As a program, AI can be used to create more complicated and interactive technology. Examples might include a digital chat window (similar to that AOL SmarterChild), that gives programmed responses. Or it could be an interactive robot that can respond to verbal commands. Or even an internet connected device that can sense and make environmental changes based on preference.

AI borrows from one or many of the below abilities:

  • Learning
  • Reasoning
  • Problem-solving
  • Perception
  • Language-understanding

It doesn’t have a “look” per say…

What Can AI Do for Me?

AI today falls into a sort of catchall. Truthfully, AI is in a blank slate mode. The programs today can reach almost child like cognition and engage in tasks that are somewhat complex (but maybe not especially creative).

If you’re looking at AI for your business, think basics.

When you were a kid, did you ever dream of having a robot? In that dream, what was your robot doing? Probably picking up clothes, mowing the lawn, making your meals — all the chores you hated doing on your own.

That is what current AI is setup for — chore removal.

Businesses want to save time and money. Data collection, data entry and data sorting/translation tend to fall in the “necessary evil” world of business. The tasks require time, manpower and money, but doesn’t often entail a lot of abstract thought. It’s a computational task that requires slightly more than calculator-like ability.

Platforms like Salesforce Einstein, IBM Watson and Microsoft AI are set up for developers to make these chore bots. If used properly, they can reduce the overhead associated with administrative tasks.

Is AI Expensive?

Consider this: If you work in sales, how much time do you spend setting up dial lists, determining who to call first (based on value), manually dialing prospects, looking up prospect information to understand their needs, creating a post call report, etc.? What if your focus could just be selling? Do you think you’d sell more?

The short answer to “Is it expensive?” is yes. But when you consider the value (added profit + time saved – cost), it would be irresponsible not to consider it.

What Will AI Become?

AI promises to improve for years to come. In just a few years, developers have made tremendous strides in the technology. AI isn’t going to completely replace the company workforce, but it will certainly transform and redefine roles.

As the technology continues to take form, companies will adjust their work models. Ideally, the AI will free up more strategic roles in business and reduce basic button-pushing tasks.

Where Will AI Flourish?

The contact center is a likely ground-zero for future AI. Businesses thrive on clear, concise communication, and the contact center is an obvious conduit for interaction.

Companies have found that by improving the technology in their contact center, they can vastly improve their overall performance. Consequently, they are constantly looking to deploy technology that adds efficiency and savings.

Omnichannel tools and customer journey analytics are currently center stage for contact center improvement. But soon elements of IoT and AI will proliferate as businesses chase the ever rising sales and service benchmarks.

AI will have plenty of play in general marketing and advertising functions as well. As a sophisticated always-on, never-tired employee surrogate it will help us glean better customer insights faster.

When Should I Buy AI?

If you are considering AI for your business, evaluate your current technology first. AI isn’t something you can just throw into your legacy system and expect change.

You must prepare for an AI arrival by laying foundational updates. Empower your existing employees, update your communication tools and audit your business processes.

Then, when you are confident in your business without AI, you will be prepared to add the tool to facilitate a greater return.