Everyone seems to agree that artificial intelligence (AI) will help businesses to automate, provide better customer experience or simply sell more. If we’re honest, businesses have been doing these things for decades if not centuries, so why all the concern about AI? Isn’t it just a new way of doing the same things? If a bank, say, is using machine learning to detect potential fraud or a telco using neural nets to predict churn, what’s so new?
These cases are very definitely AI, and have been helping companies to do better for a long time. Executives, however, want more concrete examples. Those cases are a bit invisible, without any obvious outcome. All you see is a better bottom line as a result of better, automated decisions. This is important — it is the reason why these systems have been developed, after all — but it is not very exciting.
Seeing is believing
As humans, we want to see exciting new gadgets doing exciting new things. We like it when computers can do something new, right in front of us. This may be one reason why chatbots and other conversational systems seem more like AI than fraud detection — you can see it at work. You can talk to the machine, and it will reply! Sometimes it might even provide you with exactly what you needed. This helps us communicate more efficiently, automate parts of the customer journey and bring better service to the customers through call centres and similar technology. Behind the scenes, there may be multiple capabilities used to achieve this, including voice-to-text, natural language processing and recommendation engines. Deep learning offers new options to understand speech.
What is great about chatbots is that they are both exciting and visible uses of AI, and also deliver actual business benefits. At their best, they make us feel that we can communicate with computers. We might even not notice that we were talking to a machine, not a human. This, however, brings us to the dark side, as it were.
Not quite science fiction
The dark side is something that always seems to come up when we talk about AI, maybe as a result of all the science fiction stories that we have absorbed over the years. When we see machines that can speak to us, learn and adapt, we start connecting the dots to the science fiction stories, and to bots that end up trying to take over the world or start a war. (Don’t worry, these kinds of bots are still very much in the realms of science fiction. We would need a lot of ground-breaking research before we can create anything that can achieve that level of autonomy). However, even with the current level of AI capabilities, there is still plenty to discuss about ethics .
It is important to think about the data being used to interact with, and provide services to customers. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) brings some structure and standards on how to use customer data. But what is right may go beyond what is required. Perhaps the most important thing is to think about the data and the application and make sure that it fits the standards, ethics and brand you want your company to represent.
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Chatbots are a new and promising interface for customer journeys and we all should keep a close eye on the latest development of the AI space. We should embrace the brains behind the conversation systems and be proud of the capabilities already developed and built in your organization, but at the same time, be concerned about the dangers of walking blindly into the future.#Chatbots are a new and promising interface for customer journeys and we all should keep a close eye on the latest development of the #AI space. #SASCIConnectionCircle Click To Tweet
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This blog post was originally posted in German on the SAS blog site Mehr Wissen.