It's clear many enterprises are turning to artificial intelligence to increase productivity and meet business goals. What's less clear is where and how exactly it is being used in the workplace.
One recent global study took a look at how IT departments are evolving in the current health crisis to maintain business continuity and meet the needs of customers. The Evolution of IT report from Logic Monitor, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based IT performance monitoring company, analyzed survey responses from 500 IT decision-makers from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results showed many organizations are turning to AI and automation to address the problems created by the closure of physical offices and the rise of remote work.
Benefits of Digital Workplace Automation
The benefits of automation are clear, at least for IT. According to the report, half of IT leaders who have a “great deal of automation” within their IT department said they are very confident in their ability to maintain continuous uptime and availability during a crisis.
A strong majority (88%) said there has been a greater focus on automation in their department over the past three years, and even greater majority (94%) said they expect this focus to increase in the next three years.
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of IT leaders said they employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide insight into IT infrastructure performance and 93% said automation allows IT leaders and their teams to focus on more strategic tasks and initiatives.
The flip-side is many fear job losses as automation gains traction. However, a large majority said the job losses created by the COVID-19 crisis would be far more serious were it not for automation.
It's not just IT departments that are saying this. Many digital workplace employees are now turning to automation to meet performance targets. Four areas stand out:
1. Customer Conversations
Brands are shifting from piloting to operationalizing AI and automation at a rate beyond what might have been expected before the health crisis, said Alex Spinelli, chief technology officer at New York City-based LivePerson, an AI-powered cloud platform that enables brand-to-consumer conversations. Large brands are increasingly using conversational AI to connect with customers. Think Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other messaging channels and you get the idea.
Spinelli said the volume of automation-powered messaging conversations on his company's platform is up 100% since January. In addition, the volume of messaging conversations completed with no human agent needed has tripled. All told, automation now plays a role in approximately 70% of all messaging conversations on the platform.
“These changes are being driven in part by the pandemic, which has shut down stores and call centers," said Spinelli, who predicted that many organizations won't be going back.
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2. Customer Support
COVID-19 has been a digital transformation stress test for companies that have to do more with less, especially customer support teams. The need for AI and automation has rapidly accelerated as support teams see a surge in demand, which AI-based chatbots can immediately triage or resolve, said Shane Murphy-Reuter, senior vice president of marketing at San Francisco-based Intercom.
Citing an Intercom survey, he said that nearly half (47%) of support teams report inbound volume has increased since the outbreak, with an average 51% above normal volume. Businesses turn to AI-driven automation tools because they alleviate stress on support teams and deliver tangible business impact.
Automation is the most effective way to provide support at scale, Murphy-Reuter said, and the best way to deliver this is through proactive, automated and human messenger-based experiences. This kind of support also provides a more powerful experience for support teams than traditional ticketing systems, enabling them to handle more complex queries efficiently and save time by automating manual tasks and processes.
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3. Digital Asset Management
The most exciting possibility for AI is contextualizing data and forming insightful connections, said Byung Choi, CEO of Solana Beach, Calif.-based MarcomCentral, a digital asset management (DAM) company.
Currently, automation in the DAM industry takes over menial, repetitive or time-consuming tasks and allows teams to prioritize human time for more contextual tasks. Its limitations still require human supervision and correction.
“In the future, we do predict that over time, with enough data points and example sets, machine learning can improve to the point where AI will be able to make more meaningful and contextual connections, and hence better predictions,” Choi said. “Once this kind of AI is publicly available and accessible, you would be hard pressed to find a business not operating it.”
Within DAM technology, AI and automation will be able to improve functionality and ease of use. Expect features like improved auto-tagging and smart-search functions that are more accurate, descriptive and responsive to user behavior.
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AI adaptation is also inevitable for marketers as consumers demand personalized interactions that directly speak to their interests. One of AI's biggest benefits is to help marketers customize communications at scale, providing consumers in the digital world with an experience that closely resembles real-world interactions, said Norman Guadagno, chief marketing officer at New York City-based Acoustic, a marketing technology company.
As high-touch customer service becomes too expensive, difficult to implement, or unavailable as is the case with retailers during the pandemic, AI and automation will allow marketers to create a similar experience. Beyond retail, consumers will simply expect better online buying experiences.
“By tapping into the power of AI, marketers can provide consumers with tailored content and relevant information quickly," Guadagno said. "In the end, this will free the marketer and give them back more time to focus on the creative aspects of their work.”
Some ways it can be used:
- Identifying problems: AI can watch over marketing operations to notify marketers of problems in real time so they can quickly mitigate the issue.
- Campaign performance tracking: An important aspect of AI and automation is in the ongoing reporting of campaign performance.
- Optimize performance: AI can provide insights and suggestions on how email can be improved before sending, suggesting subject lines to optimize open rates or selecting content tailored to a target audience.
AI monitors large amounts of data and consumer behavior around the clock, efficiently gathering and updating the marketing information, Guadagno said. By tracking the performance of the AI models and feeding their results back into the learning process, results improve over time, making marketing effort even more productive.