Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning still seem like the stuff of science fiction to many people, and often conjure up disturbing imagery. Think of supercomputer Hal refusing to let in astronaut Bowman into the spaceship in ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’. Or Skynet taking over the world and embarking on a campaign of annihilation in the Terminator movies. Scary stuff! In truth, the impact that AI and machine learning will have on our lives is far less exciting than a high-budget Hollywood blockbuster, but it will be revolutionary, nonetheless. Both concepts are already having a major influence on our daily existence, and businesses are already being disrupted. In the next decade, this process will accelerate even further. Here’s how AI and machine learning will revolutionalise business.
What Are AI and Machine Learning?
AI, in simple terms, is a term that refers to any computer, device or software that mimics human activities. While AI cannot think as we can (at least not yet), they can mimic our ability to learn, problem-solve and plan. Machine learning is a subset of AI – it’s all about the data. The algorithms that drive it assimilate data, analyse it, take insights from it, and build models which can then be employed by humans in all manner of situations. And it’s not just big business that will be impacted; the rise of companies offering ai and machine learning services for startups shows that all sizes of businesses will be affected.
The data a company holds on the market it operates in and how customers behave has always been a key asset to businesses, big and small. This information has given them the insights they need to grow their operations and retain a competitive edge. In days gone by, businesses didn’t generate that much data – so it was easy to capture, store and use. The digital revolution has created vast tracts of information, but the vast majority of it is unstructured (ie it doesn’t conform to any data models). So, only about 0.5% of all that invaluable information is actually being used at the moment! AI and machine learning tools will play a central role in mining that data, interrogating it and interpreting it. The predictive analysis generated will be used to anticipate and act on emerging market trends, informing key decisions and strategies.
Meanwhile, these tools will be used to delve deeply into consumer behaviour, so potential customers are always offered relevant products and services. Existing customers will be retained in the same way.
It is difficult to overstate how AI and machine learning will utterly revolutionise customer service. Many companies already operate AI chatbots that can provide virtual assistance to answer simple enquiries and deliver technical support. Currently, the technology is still fairly crude. It doesn’t tend to personalise responses very well; and is quite dependent on the human user entering a required amount of detail before responding. That’s going to change. Hugely. AI and machine learning will evolve to crunch huge amounts of data, analysing millions of consumer transactions. The sales intelligence generated will allow the needs of consumers to be anticipated. The user experience will become deeply engaging and completely personalised. Businesses will begin to speak to the customers at the right time, with the right content. With true 24/7 operations, the era of being on hold will be over!
Automation has been used in business processes for decades, with humans often operating alongside robots in many factories. Picture a car production line and you can see this in action. With the advent of the AI and machine learning revolution, a new age of automation is upon us. We’ve already talked about how chatbots will transform customer service, but that’s far from the whole story. Software will perform many recurring and often mundane tasks currently performed by humans. Sales and marketing are already being turned on their head, with AI-driven CRM systems moving communication from human driven cold calling and emails to timely and relevant automated transactions. As more data is mined, this process will become even more imbedded. Sales pitches will be hyper-personalised, always arriving at the best time using the most effective medium.
Operations, HR and accounting functions will be completely changed too – AI and machine learning will do all the hard yards, eliminating errors and allowing businesses to focus on core strategies that lead to long-term growth and success.