AI is Less Complicated (and Less Scary) Than You Think

By Annie Mitchell


When people think of artificial intelligence (AI), they probably imagine robots that look eerily like humans, Hal from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey or just the general destruction of all humanity at the hands of omniscient mechanical overlords. But fear not! The truth is AI is already interwoven throughout modern society, and it’s making our personal and professional lives much easier – just ask Siri or Alexa.

Because AI is so prevalent today, you can find discussions about it in nearly every industry or business vertical. Plus, many of our clients already take advantage of this advanced technology, whether to enhance customer experience platforms or as a behind-the-scenes operational driver. Below, we’ve compiled a few use-cases that demonstrate the power of AI, and what it could mean for businesses moving forward.

Smart Technology

One of the most straightforward types of AI, smart technology is ubiquitous in today’s business world, and is likely already in your home. We’re now on a first-name basis with virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and OK Google, and approximately 25 percent of Americans own a smart speaker. But today’s smart devices can do so much more than tell you the weather – in fact, they’re transforming the way many businesses operate.

Smart cameras are helping retailers not only monitor the number of customers inside the store, but also control the flow of new customers by automatically opening and closing access points based on occupancy levels.

Smart traffic signals can intelligently adjust their timing based on volume and can even detect air pollution levels and transmit data back to a centralized monitoring station.

Schools and other public spaces have also installed smart sensors that can detect whether occupants are using vaping devices in inconspicuous locations like bathrooms.

These smart devices are all powered by AI, and they’re helping businesses work more efficiently, allocate resources more effectively and better serve their clientele.

New Revenue Streams

Businesses can also use AI to compile and analyze customer data, develop new products or service offerings based on that data, and create new revenue streams. A fascinating example lies in the collaboration between Alibaba and Mars.

Alibaba is the massive ecommerce site predominantly used in Asia, and it utilizes AI to gather data on customers’ shopping patterns and preferences. Understanding the power of this information, Mars, Incorporated – the global $35 billion candy company – tapped into Alibaba’s insights to develop a new product. Because Alibaba’s data showed consumers frequently purchased spicy snacks in conjunction with sweeter treats, Mars decided to offer the best of both worlds in a new product: Spicy Snickers. Featuring a classic “mala” spicy profile sourced from Szechuan peppercorns, the Spicy Snickers proved to be a huge success among Mars’ APAC customers. Using the power of AI, Mars was able to glean new insights from customers, develop a new product and bring it to market in less than half the time usually required for a product launch.

Better Customer Feedback

Requesting and aggregating customer feedback can be an onerous task for any business — but with the power of AI, the process becomes much easier and more actionable.

There are typically two forms of customer feedback: quantitative (“rate your experience on a scale from one to five”) and qualitative (“please describe your experience”). Quantitative feedback may be easier to aggregate, but it leaves much to interpretation, and customers might have more nuanced feedback not easily captured by a numeric scale. On the other hand, qualitative feedback might give customers ample room to share their thoughts, but it can be incredibly difficult to compile and analyze due to its open-ended nature. How are businesses supposed to reconcile this?

A study published in Harvard Business Review describes the way AI can help with this conundrum. Using a linguistics-based processor, the team’s AI was able to assign quantitative value to common phrases in open-ended customer reviews, like “a bit disappointing,” “struggling,” and “more expensive.” This allowed the business to achieve the ultimate win-win: Their customers could submit open-ended, qualitative feedback which could be analyzed through a quantitative lens. With AI, businesses can solicit more authentic feedback without compromising their ability to act on it.

The Takeaway

AI is more accessible and user-friendly than many may think, and it continues to improve as software developers and data scientists hone its capabilities and applications. Many of our clients across the healthcare, customer experience and retail industries use AI to drive results for their customers. AI can continually transform our daily lives, propel businesses through digital transformations and enrich interactions with customers. The only thing AI can’t do is open the pod bay doors – I’m sorry, Dave.