For some, artificial intelligence (AI) is still an intimidating concept. When a successful businessman like Elon Musk asserts that “AI is more dangerous than nukes,” people envision a future rooted in post-apocalyptic science fiction. Other, less dire futurists merely claim that fast-learning AI will replace traditional human jobs. Neither outcome could be further from the truth.
In fact, we’ll respond with a popular meme inspired by The Matrix: “What if we told you ... that AI lets us be more human?”
The right AI for the right job
First, there are many kinds of AI; we should clarify what kind we mean. We aren’t talking about social media chatbots or digital assistants like Siri or Alexa. Although automated — and helpful at times — these tools aren’t designed for true learning beyond basic pattern recognition.
Things get much more interesting as AI functions become more complex. When we give AI the ability to learn, adapt, and interpret large data-sets in real time, we create AI solutions that allow humans to focus on activities that are better suited to humans, such as intuition, interaction, and engagement. This can be particularly advantageous in sales environments.
We recently helped a technology client create an AI tool for their sales support team. Sales representatives used to send all product-oriented questions to subject-matter experts via email. Sales support representatives would then spend large amounts of time scouring product datasheets to answer questions like, “which computer has the fastest processor?” or “which laptop has the largest display?” This process was inefficient, to say the least. Information could be inaccurate, or incomplete, and gathering it could take days.
This system could not deliver a consistent, quality customer experience, and it doesn’t take a marketing degree to know that poor customer experiences don’t translate well to sales.
The solution? Let AI handle it.
After working with the client to vet suppliers and recommending a solution based on our findings, we uploaded more than 85 percent of their product information to a text-based machine-learning system. Sales representatives could receive answers from the AI in seconds, and the AI itself learned from every interaction, improving its overall performance steadily over time.
“Wait,” you might be thinking, “isn’t this just a fancy chatbot?” Well, yes, if you only look at functionality. But empowered with comprehensive product information and machine learning (ML), this AI delivers meaningful results.
For sales representatives and their customers, who expect instant gratification from all services, response times of days or hours turned into minutes and seconds. The AI delivered information needed to execute sales far more quickly, and gave upper management deeper insight into the customer journey by providing consistent, personalized information. Positive performance translated into a 4 percent rise in sales across two quarters. When you weigh the perks against the problems, the advantage is easy to see.