How brands can use
'human-centred' AI to help
create business value
Many companies are investing in enterprise AI - from AI assistants to predictive analytics and intelligent workflows - to help unify people, process and technology and emerge from the pandemic smarter and more resilient
Sponsored by IBM
COVID-19 can push enterprise AI to the top of the business agenda for many companies as a key mechanism for keeping teams and customers connected and supported while apart. As a result, some companies are moving from pilot projects to fully scaled solutions, to help them grow and gain a competitive advantage beyond the pandemic.
We are seeing more than just dabbling in AI. According to IBM’s latest The State of Salesforce: special edition 2020-2021 report, which interviewed over 1,300 global business leaders using the technology, they’re implementing a full spectrum of AI solutions, from AI assistants to conversational AI platforms. In fact, the number of organisations using enterprise AI has increased by more than 150% over the past year, the report reveals, highlighting four key trends:
“Businesses are needing a deeper understanding of customer activity and the life events that are happening for them, such as purchasing a home or car or having a child, that is consistent with the privacy rights and expectations of their customers yet allows for better and more proactive customer service,” explains Luis Chiang, Salesforce Innovation Unit leader for IBM EMEA.
“It's about starting with a ‘design thinking’ user-centric process that gives IBM real empathy for what our client is trying to do for their businesses, how they're trying to do it, and then building the technology around their interactions. This can help them serve their customers in more immediate ways with a lot deeper intelligence and personalisation.”
Working smarter to seize new opportunities
Top AI use cases include market intelligence, email personalisation and analytics, with marketers in particular leveraging AI insights to increase customer engagement and satisfaction. The unifying driver, though, is helping their teams work smarter to overcome COVID-19 pandemic challenges and seize new opportunities.
According to the report, service teams, for example, are launching AI assistants to help improve customer response times and free up agents for more complex tasks. More mature AI assistants, the report highlights, use natural language processing to determine customer intent, handle multiple languages and facilitate seamless handovers.
For CaixaBank, user experience was an important building block for its digital transformation strategy, which needed to accomplish three things: efficiently managing the contact centre, unifying customer service channels and unifying its technology platform – all with a focus on improving user experience for customers and the bank’s agents serving them.
It chose Salesforce, implemented by IBM, due to its high potential to scale and innovate. It incorporated AI, including IBM Watson agent-facing chatbots to provide answers to basic enquiries, escalate to live agents when appropriate and surface answers during customer interaction to reduce the average time to resolution of an enquiry. To improve back-office productivity, CaixaBank automated workflow processes have created consistent customer service journeys while helping to reduce workload for agents.
For more straightforward requests, IBM Watson and machine learning with natural language processing enabled CaixaBank’s support channels to provide nearly 1 million answers each month. Streamlining its support channels has led to over 50 service phone numbers being condensed down to just one.
“Technology is full of trends but it’s important to focus essential tools to help both customers and employees,” says Pere Nebot, CaixaBank’s chief information officer.
Replacing friction with intelligence
Frito-Lay, meanwhile, has used AI to help create a more agile culture, optimising productivity across its systems and better servicing retailers of all sizes, by centralising and modernising its tools. To help increase user adoption, the company engaged the user-focused professionals from IBM Services - including Bluewolf, IBM’s Salesforce practice – to expand its ecommerce strategy and create a new solution to streamline frontline employees’ workflows.
The IBM Garage team conducted nearly 1,500 hours of user research to learn how employees were really using the tools, capturing pain points that the new technology would need to solve – as well as the financial impact of solving these. Frito-Lay and IBM then co-created two solutions built on the Salesforce platform: Snacks to You, an advanced retail ordering solution, and Sales Hub, which helps streamline frontline employee delivery routes.
Frito-Lay is now positioned to function in a virtual environment and quickly adapt to challenges that arise. According to Frito-Lay, retailers now report experiencing fewer out-of-stock scenarios and expensive rush shipments, and they are better able to choose new products to feature in their stores.
“It's about taking friction out of your business and putting intelligence in its place,” says IBM’s Chiang. “This happens when you take the data you have and make it actionable – by getting it in the hands of the employee who's in the middle of doing important work inside your business, who can then use the information they need to make a smart decision.”
“This has the potential to save resources, take cost out and boost productivity, and you can prioritise the context of your customer and the context of your employee, to help achieve a better workflow and process.”
Three tips for implementing AI
With use cases so varied – and the potential benefits plentiful, as Caixa Bank and Frito-Lay’s initiatives outline – what should marketers consider when implementing AI solutions? The State of Salesforce Report offers three pieces of advice: start small, launch early and fix continuously.
The report suggests you choose one area or use case where you think you can make an impact and launch before you think you’re ready. Once you gather data you can evolve your AI assistant accordingly. As you evolve an AI assistant’s capability, it can evolve and align with your brand.
“It certainly doesn’t mean stopping to rethink numerous strategies across a business,” Chiang adds. “Organisations are always evolving and customer problems are evolving. So, it’s a continuous process of learning – there's no beginning, middle and end,” he states.
With AI simply “a new tool that we have in the toolset for those that are looking to deliver great customer experiences”, Chiang explains, The State of Salesforce: special edition 2020-2021 report concludes that organisations that “can help improve the employee experience via end-to-end integration and experience design across every system and platform will have the potential to establish a competitive advantage”.
Some of the surveyed companies, it reveals, are deepening their investments across the Salesforce Platform, prioritising integrated solutions while redesigning processes and putting data-driven decision making at the core. This could place them on the path to resilience and be the difference between the “digital haves and have-nots” the report identifies. In which camp will your business sit? ■
→ Download IBM’s The State of Salesforce: special edition 2020-2021 report for more insights into human-centred AI and three further enterprise AI trends
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1. Trust as the new currency of customer engagement
2. “Human-centred” AI creating new business value
3. The role of employee safety and wellbeing in building resilient businesses
4. How COVID-19 has widened the gap between digital “haves” and “have-nots”
Human-centred AI can create new business value
Human-centred AI is designed to deliver solutions to meet evolving employee and customer needs and expectations. AI investments appear to be ramping up across industries to build connections with users – from virtual assistants and automation to predictive analytics and intelligent workflows.
Human-centred AI in particular may be the foundation for the next evolutionary stage of digital transformation. This can take businesses beyond intelligent solutions for their customers and extend them to their employees, who rely on increasingly complex systems and processes to stay connected and productive, the report notes.
→ Download IBM’s The State of Salesforce: special edition 2020-2021 report for more insights into human-centred AI and three other business transformation priorities
©MMXXI - X—LABS