Industry News Details

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, And The Future Of Connection Posted on : Jun 12 - 2018

"Alexa." "Siri." "Hey, Google." These are the names we call out now, perhaps more often than we call out those of friends and family members. Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t part of a science-fiction future; it’s our reality. Over the past decade we’ve become accustomed to the idea that when we call a customer service line, we must often pass through a gauntlet of voice-activated technology before reaching a human. The fact that we are willing to shout “representative” repeatedly in order to talk to a person shows both the limits of AI in its current state and our desire to connect to another human being.

In business, the human factor is often the difference between a one-time user and a lifelong customer. It’s a fact that luxury department store owners have known for years. Years ago, the most luxurious boutiques would keep files on index cards noting a frequent consumer’s style preferences as well as any other details that might make for an easier conversation. Now databases hold that information. This isn’t new; sales software has been in place for decades. What is new is that when artificial intelligence and machine learning are added into a CRM, it becomes less of a static database and more of a living interface. Your data isn’t just sitting there, waiting for you to take action. It’s being analyzed and compared to other standards. The analysis leads to recommendations. It doesn’t think for you. It thinks with you.

Where AI shines currently is in recognizing patterns and synthesizing large amounts of data. It can seem magical at times but it’s really mathematical. And the more you feed it, the “smarter” it gets in terms of what it is able to predict. This can be a tremendous help with regards to future customer behavior. Human behavior, for the most part, can be fairly predictable. We celebrate the same holidays each year and we react to changes in seasons in the same ways. Even when we are seeking out something new, it is often connected to something else we’ve previously liked. AI can make life easier simply by knowing what we like and making recommendations. In some ways, it’s an evolution of the wisdom of the crowds; only instead of having to sift through the potential options, it simply surfaces what you are most likely to enjoy.

However, there are places where we don’t want the machine to take over. Shopping on Amazon can be great and sometimes the recommendations are on point. However, search for something once and you might be served the same thing over and over again. This is great when it’s something like shoes but less useful when it’s a one-time purchase like a hammer. A similar phenomenon happens with chatbots. They are great for predictable responses. But when things get complicated, it’s time to bring in a human.

As much as we are mostly predictable, there is still a lot of randomness in human behavior. While we are all experts at dealing with that in each other, technology can find it challenging. It’s the difference between a conversation that feels real and one that is canned. Why, when dealing with customer service, do we still want to hear a human voice on the other end of the line? It’s because we seek connection. Customer service can respond to stimuli but it can’t really empathize in a way that feels authentic. View More