"A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported on Monday morning five miles from Westwood, California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6:25 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles."
The paragraph above is the lead of an article written by an algorithm and published in the LA Times in 2014. Cool, right?
Well, it’s nothing new. From sports news and financial reports to poems and even novels, more and more content is being generated through artificial intelligence (AI). Some media outlets are producing over 30,000 local news stories a month using AI - and it’s hard to tell the difference.
This takes us to the heart of the definition of AI, a broad term to describe the ways a computer software mimics human behavior, with the goal of solving problems better and faster than we do.
In this article, I will focus on 5 ways AI is changing the way we do business.
AI can be either a supporting tool or a replacement tool for jobs, tasks and even entire industries. It will all depend on how you prepare your company for the future. Here are the five areas you can implement now.
#1 - Automating Recruitment
Chances are you’re already using AI in your business to automate boring and repetitive tasks, such as sending out email sequences to prospects or creating invoices.
AI, however, can do more than that.
One important subset of AI is Machine Learning—algorithms that analyze large amounts of data, identify patterns and predict outcomes. The cool thing about machine learning is that it goes further than automation, not just sending invoices when you tell it, for example, but predicting when the invoices should be sent, who’s getting them and who’s not, when payments are due, and more.
Machine learning automation is now helping HR departments with employee recruitment, automating processes like screening resumes and cover letters, tracking down applicants and scheduling interviews. AI will make hiring and recruitment more effective, saving a lot of time and using large amounts of data to match an applicant’s experience, knowledge, and skills to the job's requirements.
Furthermore, chatbots will interview the candidates as another part of the screening process, analyzing responses and even facial expressions to determine if the person is a good fit for the company.
All this is good news for HR professionals, given that 52% of talent acquisition leaders say the hardest part of recruitment is identifying the right candidates from a large pool of applicants.
#2 - Personalizing Marketing and Sales
AI promises to revolutionize marketing and sales and is in fact doing it right now. For instance, AI will qualify leads way faster and more effectively than humans, allowing sales reps to just close deals.
Think for example how much time a rep can spend updating and cleaning up the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. AI can make the CRM a self-updating, auto-correcting system that simply works for you.
Machine learning can analyze your prospects data and predict who will buy. Wouldn’t that come handy? This is called Predictive Marketing.
Not only that, but AI can also create a hyper-personalized email/chat messages for each prospect, create targeted content and cross-sell and upsell suggestions for each client. What’s more, AI can do all that by itself, without much human intervention - you’d just have to set up a chatbot on your website, in emails or on social.
And of course, AI works for ad targeting, gathering and analyzing huge amounts of historical data to decide which ads work best on which people. Marketers can use AI to analyze behaviors and find unexpected connections between different variables, such as previous click patterns, location information, and frequency of app use to better target customers.
#3 - Simplifying Customer Support
Just like in sales, chatbots are taking over customer support. They answer queries quickly, are available 24/7 and only refer customers to a rep when necessary. There are two relevant stats here: Up to 80 percent of customer support interactions could be handled by a chatbot alone; and more than 40% of people prefer live chat over other contact methods because it prevents them from being placed on hold.
In fact, customers feel most satisfied during their buyer's journey when using a live chat feature (92%), compared to voice (88%), email (85%), and even social media messaging (Facebook 84%, Twitter 77%).
Customer support reps can actually partner with robots to simplify their work. An interesting case would be using AI to analyze customer call data, classify interactions based on positive or negative outcomes and then analyzing the patterns in each category to provide a script with the most effective phrases to use during support calls.
AI can also assist customer support through sentiment analysis (a.k.a. emotion AI) - classifying tickets as “frustrated”, “neutral”, “excited” and the like. With this info in hand, agents can prioritize tasks and escalate queries more effectively.
#4 - Improving Security
With all the sci-fi movies predicting a dark future where AI robots enslave humanity, it’s odd to think we should let AI take care of the security of our businesses.
The fact is, however, that most cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. So, AI can make our computers and networks safer, filtering out malware, spam and phishing emails even before a human opens them.
Machine learning that has analyzed our customer’s behavior already can easily recognize who’s a customer and who’s not, thus preventing or reacting to cyberattacks in real time.
AI has many current and future applications for security besides defending against hackers, such as privacy protection and crime prevention. As security and personal data threats become more common (think about the Cambridge Analytics scandal, for example), your business will gain trust as you adopt AI into your cybersecurity.
#5 - Reducing Operational Costs
At this point it must be obvious that AI has the potential of saving time, eliminating mundane tasks from your to-do list and making your staff more efficient and productive. So, implementing AI automation in your business will free-up time for other tasks, reduce human error (which costs money), and even eliminate the need for some positions or at least the need to oversee certain tasks.
In manufacturing, AI solutions can make the production process more efficient and enable things like predictive and preventive maintenance and upgrades, which means lower downtime and less expenses.
What about the initial costs? Of course, there are implementation costs, but in the long term they’re worth it. You just need to look at the available options. For example, when it comes to implementing a chatbot, you can either buy a ready solution or even try it out for free; use self-service platforms to craft a chatbot within a framework; or create a chatbot from scratch.
Other AI applications have different cost structures, some involving hardware purchases rather than mere subscriptions to cloud-based software. As time goes by, however, AI will become more affordable, even for smaller companies.
This Is Only the Beginning
AI keynote speaker Jeremy Gutsche says that the current state of AI is such that robots are seen only as “cute” and helpful, but in the future they’ll be able to do much more than even the most intelligent human - and that’s when our reality will start to change dramatically.
In the meantime, you can start implementing AI in your business to increase productivity and revenue, taking advantage of machine learning automation and predictions. As you begin this journey and dive deep into the world of AI, you’ll find that the potential is limitless.
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