AI-Powered Chatbots Are the New Face of Customer Service
While today’s chatbots might be rudimentary, recent advances in AI and machine learning are creating a new generation of the programs that are dramatically changing customer service.
Though chatbots have come a long way since they were first developed over 50 years ago, many of the ones used today are still pretty rudimentary. When chatbots make headlines, for example, it’s more often for their failures than for their successes.
But thankfully, infamous bot bloopers like Microsoft’s short-lived Tay are few and far between. Recent advances in AI and machine learning have given rise to a new generation of chatbots that are already revolutionizing the field of customer service. A global survey carried out by Forrester Research showed that 31% of firms were using chatbots in 2016 and 2017, and that even more plan to deploy them in 2018.
Benefits of Chatbots
What led to this chatbot revolution in customer service? The answer is the unstoppable drive among both businesses and consumers for efficiency.
Most consumers fear having to try and contact tech support or customer service, and for good reason: the average American consumer spends 10-20 minutes on hold per week. No one likes being put on hold, especially when they’re calling to expedite a process. Even when they aren’t on hold, many service channels funnel consumers into automated phone trees that are incredibly difficult to navigate.
The response to issues like these has traditionally been to outsource customer service calls to countries like the Philippines, but it’s clear that this type of human-to-human service is not working. With low returns and astronomical costs ($1.3 trillion are spent on 265 billion customer service calls every year), it’s no wonder that firms everywhere have sought out alternatives.
Chatbots are an obvious solution to the inefficiencies of the call center: always available and consistent in service, these automated phone operators could make waiting on hold a thing of the past. And the proof is already on display: online chat has been providing higher levels of customer satisfaction than both phone and email since 2013.
In addition to their immediacy, chatbots can also provide a wide range of services that range from simple decision tree structures to AI-powered tools that learn from every customer interaction to improve service in the future. These capabilities have a directly beneficial impact on the bottom line — Forrester predicts, for example, that adopting and using AI effectively can increase a firm’s revenues by 5-10%.
An AI Apocalypse?
Change is certainly coming to CRM, but the rise of chatbots does not mean that human roles in the field will be altogether eliminated. Though this is a constant worry when it comes to automation, new technologies tend to augment rather than eliminate human labor. When ATMs were first introduced in the 1990s, for example, many feared that they would replace bank tellers and eliminate jobs — instead, the amount of teller jobs increased overall, and ATMs took over only the most routine and dull aspects of their work.
The CRM industry is likely to follow a similar course. While the nature of work will certainly change, chatbots are predicted to yield the strongest return on investment when paired with human agents, streamlining workflow so that representatives can more efficiently serve their customers.
The advantages of AI are even more profound for digital marketers, who spend far too much of their time analyzing huge volumes of data and coordinating campaigns across dozens of channels and devices. Albert™, the first autonomous marketing platform built from the ground up on AI, seeks to take over those tasks.
Albert collects and analyzes information from all your previous campaigns and uses it to launch dozens of micro-campaigns, testing varying creative material across channels to achieve optimal results. Start working with Albert today to free your marketing department from the drudgery of data and get back to the creative work that made them want to be marketers in the first place.
How to Choose Your Agency Partner
The digital marketing landscape is changing quickly, and ad agencies need to adapt if they want to stay relevant.
Executing a highly personalized marketing campaign across a variety of channels is more challenging and complex today than ever before. For many companies, the knee-jerk reaction to this deepening complexity is to turn to an advertising agency for expert assistance. In certain circumstances this can still be an effective move, but it’s no longer the kind of common sense choice it was when print, television, and out-of-home advertising dominated the industry.
As Albert™ CEO Or Shani points out in CMO, “The role of the media buyer as middleman in digital ad buying is very different from the role of middlemen in traditional media.” If companies fail to adjust their relationships with ad agencies and media buyers, Shani continues, “advertisers put themselves at risk of absorbing even more costs in the form of marked-up prices at the bid level — or of the entire service provided by partners.”
As such, marketers looking to choose an agency partner must take a strategic approach to the selection process by making sure that each candidate is capable of providing value in today’s marketing environment, not the marketing environment of the past. Ad agencies that have truly kept up with the times will check all three of the boxes outlined below.
A Demonstrated “Right-Fit” Track Record
At the end of the day, “marketing” is a catch-all term that can take on significantly different meanings in different sectors. A heavy industry manufacturer may need to advertise just as much as a restaurant does, but this doesn’t mean that the same ad agency will be the right fit for both. When choosing an agency partner, a company should carefully examine candidates’ backgrounds to ensure that a potential partner has a demonstrated record of success in the company’s specific field.
This holds true not only for industry expertise, but for account size as well. If your company would be an agency’s largest or smallest account, this should prompt you to reconsider the decision to commit. Is the agency capable of handling a campaign portfolio this large? Conversely, is the agency nimble enough to meet the needs of a portfolio this small? Account size shouldn’t always be a disqualifying factor in and of itself, but it’s vitally important to consider.
A Capacity for Predictive Insights
As the volume of data bearing upon critical marketing decisions grows, strong data analytics will become increasingly important. When it comes to evaluating both specific ad performance and broader campaign effectiveness, a company’s agency partner will often be the only one with all of the data necessary to perform the requisite calculations.
Unfortunately, these evaluations tend to only go as far as a rundown of metrics like impressions, ad clicks, starts and stops, and click-through rates. While these metrics certainly help paint a broader picture of overall campaign performance, they don’t provide companies much in terms of forward-looking insight. True campaign optimization can only occur when a company is able to surface and act on predictive insights, in real-time, like those provided by autonomous tools like Albert. By implementing this kind of AI tech, companies can begin to understand what is likely to happen in the future, not just what has already happened.
Completely Transparent Operations
According to the Association of National Advertisers’ industry-shaking 2016 Media Transparency Report, “Numerous non-transparent business practices, including cash rebates to media agencies, were found to be pervasive in the U.S. media ad buying ecosystem.” When agencies are compelled by these suspect incentive structures to repeatedly direct their clients’ ad spend toward media that may not actually be in the clients’ best interests, the entire purpose of an agency partnership begins to break down.
As such, companies must do everything they can to ensure that the agency partner is organized and dedicated to delivering positive outcomes, not claiming kickbacks or rebates from ad publishers.
More often than not, this will include a willingness on the part of the agency to work alongside an AI platform like Albert. Artificial intelligence marketing tools make marketing more efficient, and an agency that refuses to recognize this value is unlikely to be a good partner for any company hoping to stand out from its competition.
Microsoft Calls for New Regulations Around AI
In a new ebook, Microsoft surprised many by calling on the government to increase its oversight of the application and development of artificial intelligence.
For the past two decades, tech companies have been the biggest movers and shakers in the U.S. economy, disrupting old business paradigms and innovating new ones. Companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google have ambitions to move beyond the screen by reaching into huge and valuable markets like healthcare and finance. Like any major corporation with an unquenchable thirst for growth, these companies typically aren’t big fans of regulation.
But interestingly enough, a recently released Microsoft ebook vocalized the company’s support for precisely that. Throughout the 149 pages of The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its Role in Society, the book’s authors Brad Smith and Harry Shum — the company’s President and Executive VP of AI and Research, respectively — offer a convincing prediction for how AI will affect society as a whole in the years to come. In turn, Smith and Shum also offer a definitive call for increased regulation on AI and its application, a space that the company clearly plans on dominating.
That begs the question, why would Microsoft ask to be wrapped up in red tape?
While this demand may at first seem perplexing, recent changes in how society and the government view the latest technology helps contextualize Microsoft’s position. As a recent article in The Economist details, public opinion of Silicon Valley is no longer as overwhelmingly positive as it once was, and government regulators and trustbusters are turning a critical eye towards Big Data. In light of these trends, Microsoft’s call for regulation can be seen as a preemptive measure to make sure that if and when the rules are written, they’re written on Microsoft’s terms.
The authors are careful to delineate a narrow framework for policy. They insist, for example, that while regulation is needed, it shouldn’t be developed too soon, since the specific needs of the technology are still emerging. Since too much red tape too soon could strangle new developments, they call for a slow implementation of AI policy, rolled out over five years with heavy input from technology companies.
Trust in Technology
Microsoft’s demand for regulation boils down to a key factor: trust. Thanks to years of dystopian science-fiction movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix, there is widespread skepticism of AI amongst the general public. This lack of trust amounts to more than just existential unease — in an economy that is already starting to depend on AI components, it also affects productivity.
At Albert™, our belief is that trust in AI is something to be earned, and that means a commitment to transparency. If marketers weren’t given visibility into how our autonomous AI-based platform works, they’d be (understandably) far less willing to trust and collaborate with it. That’s why we introduced Inside Albert, which offers marketers a view into the inner workings of Albert’s mind and makes it easier for them to tweak his parameters to optimize campaign results.
For Microsoft, the call for regulation serves exactly the same purpose. By publicly advocating on behalf of consumers, Microsoft has already started to establish itself as a trustworthy leader in the AI space. Since artificial intelligence promises to change so many aspects of modern life, that trust will go a long way in the years to come.
New Gartner Report Claims AI Will Create Net Gain in Jobs
It’s clear that artificial intelligence is going to play a significant role in our economy, but will that role displace human jobs? Not according to a new Gartner report, which argues that increased AI adoption will actually create a net gain in jobs.
AI pessimists may be singing a different tune after reading a new report from the research firm Gartner. The report argues that while certain industries may experience more disruption than others. AI will create a gain in jobs and benefits in the long-run. More important than the specific jobs that are created, lost, or altered is the fact that the character of work itself is likely to completely change thanks to the advent of this incredible technology.
Powering the Job Economy
As Gartner’s research director Manjunath Bhat emphatically puts it, “AI are not here to take away our jobs.” To the contrary, the report predicts that by 2020, AI will create a net 500,000 jobs — by 2025, that number will jump up to two million.
The primary role of AI is to help human workers, not replace them, so it only makes sense that the technology would set more people up for success in the job economy. AI and machine learning will be used to automate routine, repeatable tasks, freeing up time for workers to focus on more abstract and complex work. In the process, the technologies boost productivity and enhance human employees’ quality of work while simultaneously cutting costs for the employer.
Gartner predicts that artificial intelligence will become such a competitive necessity by 2022 that 20% of workers will rely on AI to help them do their job. A world that dependent on intelligent computers may seem far off, but the fact is that this technology is already powering many aspects of daily life for workers across industries. For example, Albert™, the first autonomous marketing platform built from the ground up with AI, already handles much of the routine, behind the scenes work for marketers at brands and ad agencies, allowing them to refocus their energy on generating creative material and developing new strategies.
Changing the Nature of Work
Of course, not everyone does the same kind of work, and AI will therefore affect each industry differently. Gartner asserts that healthcare, the public sector, and education will see the greatest job gains, while manufacturing will be hit the hardest.
But while job losses are an unfortunate consequence of disruption, they’re hardly a new phenomenon. For instance, the internet has rendered many industries and technologies obsolete, destroying jobs in the process. But the internet has inarguably been a huge contributor to the U.S. economy, creating completely new industries, generating countless new jobs, and providing overall growth.
That’s almost certainly how the development and adoption of AI is going to play out in the coming years. The initial integration of a revolutionary new technology often requires adjustment, but as businesses adapt their practices to these changes, large gains are sure to come — and soon. Gartner estimates that by 2021, AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value, while recovering 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity. With so much on the table, the path for the future is clear: it’s time for man and machine to work together.
Rawnet’s Success Is Proof That Agencies Are Evolving
A recent op-ed by the Managing Director of Rawnet demonstrates how agencies can abandon traditional models made obsolete by digital media and thrive in a new era.
Companies across all sectors have struggled to match the blistering pace of technological innovation, but that task has proven especially challenging for advertising agencies. Working to appeal to very broad demographics of people, often for companies in a wide variety of industries, these firms must stay ahead of the technological curve to both maintain market reach and stay profitable in an era that is quickly rendering their traditional model obsolete.
But the savviest in the industry are proving that the agency is far from extinction. A recent op-ed written by Adam Smith, the Managing Director of Rawnet, demonstrates how some agencies are adopting new technologies like AI and shifting their approach to keep up with the pace of disruption in their industry.
Shifting from Tactics to Strategy
Smith argues that agencies no longer can offer the tactical benefits they once did for brands. As a result, agencies now get most of their increasingly limited revenue from full-time equivalents like headcount or through kickbacks. At the same time, the marketplace has never been more competitive or oversaturated, which has forced vendors to participate in a race to the bottom in terms of cost and quality of work that has predictably further depreciated their value to brands.
Unless agencies can offer dirt-cheap prices, many of the tasks they’ve traditionally taken on can now be performed more efficiently in-house, often by new AI-enabled technologies. This shift is forcing agencies to adapt by shifting their focus from delivery to strategy. Instead of continuing to deliver singular actions, Smith argues, agencies need to develop new perspectives and techniques. These then should be combined in a holistic manner, as agencies should draw on knowledge accumulated from every industry they work in to help clients find additional value in their new technological capabilities.
As Smith puts it, “The agency of 2018 must offer insights that make an immediate commercial impact, it must bring a wealth of knowledge from field experience across all sectors, and it must offer a new perspective.”
Redefining Goals to Get Results
In order to evolve and thrive in the current digital ecosystem, all agencies need to place an emphasis on transparency with their clients and move away from broad, vague terms like “digital strategy.” For Rawnet, this meant redefining their services to concretely reflect what they had to offer, including value proposition design, product and service development, and bespoke business applications. Though these are specific to Rawnet, all agencies will need to similarly distill and redesign their core services and offerings.
Agencies shouldn’t look at this tech-inspired disruption as a threat or burden, but as an opportunity to expand their capabilities. To do so, these firms will need to quickly abandon traditional models, completely restructure their operations, and seek out efficiencies. There’s no one simple way to adapt and evolve, but this rapid transformation of the advertising and marketing landscape is already underway and agencies need to take note.
51% of Businesses Are Investing in AI, But Many Are Seeing No Results
2017 marked a record-high in corporate investment in artificial intelligence, but a variety of growing pains continue to hold many companies back from full adoption.
“Adopting AI technologies is a natural evolution for any company that seeks to be an insight-driven organization,” says David Steier, Managing Director of Advanced Analytics and Modeling at Deloitte. “As with the adoption of any new technology,” he continues, “we’re seeing a variance in rates of AI adoption, but in the medium-long term, AI will be embedded into enterprises across many industries.”
The numbers certainly seem to support Steier’s optimism. According to the 2017 Deloitte State of Cognitive Survey (Deloitte uses “cognitive technologies” and “artificial intelligence” interchangeably), 87% of “cognitive-aware” companies agree that AI is either “important” or “very important” to their product and service offerings. A staggering 92% of these companies agree that AI is either “important” or “very important” to internal business processes. Remarkably, none of the 250 respondents “believe that AI will fail to drive substantive change, either for themselves or their industry.”
It’s hardly surprising, then, that 51% of companies invested in some sort of AI capabilities in 2017, according to Forrester’s recent report, Predictions 2018: A Year of Reckoning. This widespread interest in AI is encouraging, but as the report’s authors caution, “Success isn’t easy.” In fact, Forrester found that 55% of the companies that have invested in AI have yet to achieve any tangible business outcomes with the technology, and a further 43% claim that it’s too soon to tell whether AI has produced any real results.
The Challenges of AI Adoption
Though generally more bullish on AI’s overall success rate, the Deloitte survey includes some telling figures on why AI has yet to live up to its potential in the corporate world
Nearly half (47%) of cognitive-aware companies “find it difficult to integrate cognitive projects with existing processes and systems,” the survey found. Furthermore, 40% of respondents complained that “cognitive technologies and expertise are too expensive,” and 37% admitted that “managers don’t understand cognitive technologies and how they work.” Not only are AI experts expensive, but they’re also hard to find: 35% of respondents “can’t get enough people with expertise in the technology.”
Notably, fewer than a third (31%) of the companies Deloitte talked to felt that artificial intelligence technologies are too immature or underdeveloped to produce results. In other words, a significant majority of companies believe in the power of AI; they’re simply having trouble hiring the right people to put it into action effectively.
Confidence in AI Remains High
Despite these challenges, optimism across the corporate sphere endures. A mere 9% of companies included in the Deloitte survey agree that AI has been overhyped, and 90% still believe that AI will be either “somewhat more” or “much more” important to their business strategies in the future than it is today.
Encouragingly — especially for workers — 69% of cognitive-aware companies anticipate minimal or no job losses as a result of increasing AI adoption, and 28% even anticipate “many new jobs” being created as a result of AI adoption. This is largely because over half (51%) of the Deloitte respondents “believe that machines and humans will augment each other in the workplace within three years.”
The Importance of Choosing the Right AI Tool
Ultimately, achieving more tangible results in the AI arena will boil down to improving the way companies choose and implement their AI-powered tools. “Unless firms plan, deploy, and govern it correctly,” Forrester observes, “new AI tech will provide meager benefits at best or, at worst, result in unexpected and undesired outcomes.”
Fortunately (at least in the marketing sector) a clear industry leader has emerged: Albert™, the world’s first fully-autonomous AI marketing platform. Albert is capable of managing countless digital marketing campaigns simultaneously, not only replicating past efforts, but also using massive multivariate testing to refine and optimize campaigns at an otherwise impossible pace and scale.
As a glassbox tool, Albert enables marketers to examine the decisions Albert makes, guaranteeing the kind of radical transparency that many AI marketing tools lack. Pivoting from a traditional tech stack to an AI-first approach to business can be challenge — the Forrester numbers make that clear — but with a tool like Albert, marketers have everything they need to move forward into a better, more productive AI-driven future.