When we think of Artificial Intelligence our imaginations tend to conjure thoughts of sophisticated humanoid robots that have a level of sentient intelligence to them. Although we are not too far off from this, Artificial Intelligence is already a factor in our personal and professional lives.
Whether we know it or not, here's how Artificial Intelligence is changing the business landscape.
Let's say you're an airline with a high volume of customer service requests. Now imagine how these customer service requests multiply during peak seasons. You're now left with a challenge:
Hire more customer service reps:
The challenge with this is that peak season is temporary and the the airline will face overhead costs beyond salary for these temporary CSR's such as sourcing and training them. Also, they will have to account for the cost of taking key resources to focus on accommodating and managing these reps when they could have them focus on areas that may be more productive to the airline.
The Solution is simple. Implement a Chat Bot (Think Apple's Siri) to assist with customer service inquiries during peak season or throughout the year. One such airline that is using this technology to their own and their customer's advantage is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. KLM's chat bot integrates with Facebook Messenger so that when a customer purchases a ticket online, they can ask the chat bot questions on items such as booking information, check-ins, flight status, boarding passes, etc. The chat bot then responds seamlessly to the customer with the information they requested.
The cost/benefit to KLM is that this provides a more streamlined service to their customers for simple requests while allowing their CSR's to focus on more complicated matters.
Business Process Automation
As a Sr. Account Manager for an organization that helps it's customers develop software to automate their business processes, I frequently speak with business leaders who are looking to make their operation faster and more efficient. An example of this efficiency is creating software that can automate the Estimation process for manufacturers based on their labour and material costs. When done manually, these processes can be very complicated, time consuming, and can leave much room for human error resulting in lost revenue. The automation processes we develop are usually in the form of a customized application that streamlines all of the above.
However, there is still a human element involved in this process which does not make it fully autonomous. Enter the world of Predictive Analytics. The demand forecast that manufacturers rely on to determine which products, materials, and labour resources are needed to fulfill market requirements is moving towards full autonomy with the help of Artificial Intelligence. Using Big Data and Predictive Analytics, manufacturers will have the analysis tools to make decisions based on reoccurring trends and inconsistencies in relation to materials, labour, and their respective costs.
A 2013 document by German tech publisher Versita titled ADVANCES IN MANUFACTURING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY helped define manufacturing AI in 2 categories:
- Advisory System: The user enters a problem and all relevant data about this problem into the system. The system then evaluates and presents the user with multiple solutions so the user can choose the most adequate option.
- Dictatorial System: The system analyzes and acts on the most adequate solution without human consultation or intervention. This is a fully autonomous system that has the capability of running a manufacturing operation from demand forecast to machinery, etc.
There will come a time, very shortly, where manufacturing AI will not be considered cutting edge anymore. It will be a standardized tool required by any manufacturing operation in order to remain competitive. How they implement this tool (Advisory vs. Dictatorial) will be up to them.
Artificial Intelligence for Business will be a recurring article and in Part 2 I'll cover how AI is influencing other industries. There is no doubt that AI is going to revolutionize the business landscape and only time will tell if the overall effect will be positive or negative.
In later series, I will touch on some of the potential dangers surrounding AI that some very well known experts are cautioning us about. Thanks and stay tuned.
Questions for You:
- How do you feel about AI?
- Do you or does anyone you know have business related experience with AI?
- How do you feel AI will affect your industry?
- Is AI something that we should be cautious about or not?