Richard Billington, Chief Technical Officer at Netcall outlines the importance of levelling the artificial intelligence playing field through low-code applications
Most of us interact with artificial intelligence (AI) in multiple shapes and forms on a daily basis – though we are often completely unaware of it. From the recommendations, we receive at Amazon or Netflix to the AI-driven camera software used to improve the photos we take on our smartphones, AI powers a lot of the services we consume daily. Even the map and satnav applications we use rely on AI. Company chatbots are a more obvious use of AI and can now be found on nearly every company website you visit. In fact, it’s been predicted that 80% of companies will be using chatbots this year.
But consumers are getting ever harder to please. Driven by the growing ramifications of the ‘Amazon Effect’, today’s customer demands instant gratification when it comes to liaising with businesses. Digital banks such as Monzo and Starling continue to build expectations by enabling customers to open an account in a matter of minutes. And that’s not all: businesses are now under pressure to offer 24/7 customer responses through a multitude of communications channels, including Twitter, Facebook Messenger and other social media.
Furthermore, as millions of individuals are left isolated amid the current COVID-19 outbreak, never has there been a greater pressure on customer service teams to respond quickly and seamlessly to enquiries on a broad range of issues. And in a time of crisis, a customer’s interaction with an organisation can leave a lasting impression, and potentially impact future trust and loyalty.
AI-enabled systems are increasingly seen as the knight in shining armour when it comes to optimising customer service in these situations, as well as in day-to-day interactions in normal conditions. In allowing companies to provide agents that are ‘always on’, AI helps to offer automated and tailored experiences for customers that have never been possible before. However, some organisations are yet to harness these technologies – and their benefits.
What’s holding businesses back?
For many organisations, not having the right skills in place has hampered the ability to implement AI across the customer service function. According to an IBM Institute for Business Value study, 120 million workers in the world’s twelve largest economies will need to be retrained or reskilled as a result of AI and intelligent automation.
Other businesses may be limited by budgetary constraints and can be put off by the significant investment often required when integrating AI systems in their existing IT infrastructure. A lack of understanding around AI can also mean that some businesses are left worried that the solution they are putting in place may end up not being quite right for the business needs. Therefore, concerns over wasting time, money and other resources often overtake technology adoption. However, these concerns will be outweighed by the costs of not being able to unlock the true value of this technology – and potentially fall behind in today’s fast-paced marketplace.
Opening up the capabilities of AI
Smaller businesses often lack the IT foundation and personnel to keep up with the latest technological advancements when it comes to enhancing the customer experience. Yet ultimately it will be these investments that enable businesses to keep up with customer demands and flourish in an ever-evolving landscape. In this respect, adopting low-code solutions enables resource-poor teams to quickly prototype specific features or workflows without any need for specialised technical skill – empowering employees to innovate and implement significant change, without having to rely purely on the IT department.
Low-code is helping to overcome shortages in a variety of digital skills, including AI, by removing the need for highly-trained developers who have traditionally been needed to bring new applications to fruition. In fact, in a recent analyst report, Forrester predicts that savvy application design & development (AD&D) leaders will avoid trying to reinvent the wheel and will instead now source algorithms and insight from their platform vendor or its ecosystem. Implementation consultants will use AI-driven templates, add-ons and accelerators, particularly industry-specific ones, to differentiate themselves.
Using low-code software solutions means that everyday business users can get automated and AI-driven solutions up and running quickly and easily. Due to the lack of complex coding, the whole process of integrating AI is automatically simplified, and within easy reach for a range of workers across a variety of business sectors and sizes. The ability to test applications before implementation means that businesses can explore the capabilities of AI without investing valuable time and effort. As a result, they will be empowered to unlock a wave of new possibilities for AI development across a range of functions.
By breaking down silos between IT and other departments within an organisation, low-code technology can be used to bring teams together to work collaboratively on applications that rapidly improve processes, by harnessing the knowledge of customer-facing wider-business teams. And as businesses across the globe continue to face the ongoing ramifications of COVID-19, organisations must respond with agility to keep up with increasingly complex customer demands. Speed of implementation and the technology that can help organisations get there is, therefore, essential when it comes to staying afloat and competitive. Where many workforces are currently under unprecedented strain, the adoption of AI processes through low-code applications can actually help to free up workers and minimise workloads – enabling them to focus on more strategic tasks within the organisation, by automating some of the more mundane processes.
Don’t forget the human touch
Whilst the benefits of AI deployment along the customer journey are myriad, it is important for organisations to acknowledge the importance of human interaction when it comes to satisfying the needs of some customers. AI and automated processes can certainly offer optimised experiences by tightening up efficiencies and streamlining interactions across a range of platforms, but they should also be used to complement a more personal approach in order to be truly successful.
We all know how frustrating it can be when all you want to do is speak to a real human being, but are faced with never-ending rounds of automated telephone responses or unhelpful chatbots. To ensure customers’ needs are truly satisfied, it is important to put guardrails around the use of AI, making sure that there is always an easy route back to a real customer service agent if required.
Preparing for a digital-first era
The recent impact of COVID-19 will only continue to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. As consumer demands continue to grow in complexity, businesses will need to continually evaluate the customer experience. And AI will play a key role in this. Digital-first, however, is an ongoing process, requiring constant change and improvement. A company’s digital development cannot end, otherwise, the business risks being left behind by competitors.
As we enter the dawn of the digital-first era, businesses should begin by focusing on the desired outcomes rather than the technology behind it – ask questions such as, What does the perfect customer journey look like? Once that has been determined, only then is the right time to focus on the tools needed for the job to achieve the desired outcome. This thought process will help businesses thrive in the post-digital era.