AI and voice recognition will drive engagement with customers
Indian brands lag global peers and need to ramp up quickly
By Manoj Mansukhani
The next time you reach out to your chosen airline, hotel, or online store for a service request or help on selecting a product, you are likely to be interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) software running in the background. The AI software knows all about your preferences, your history with the company, and is available to accurately answer any service request that you may have. Don’t be surprised if you’re chatting with it through a messenger app or actually talking to it via a phone call. In combination with the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects your devices with vendors and service providers, AI will be able to predict and fulfill many of your service and product needs, from travel arrangements to grocery orders.
Artificial intelligence is strongly dependent on the data provided to it. Therefore a company should have a robust system for supplying data from all customer touchpoints to the AI software brain. This requires investment. Companies in India lag behind their global counterparts in the collection and use of customer data and need to ramp up their efforts in this area. For companies to benefit from the promise of artificial intelligence, CMOs and CIOs will need to collaborate much more going forward, working as an integrated team. AI and voice recognition will drive the next wave of how we engage with our customers and deliver personalized experiences.
Artificial intelligence now becoming widely used
Artificial intelligence has been around since 1956. Because of recent technological advances, AI is only now becoming widely used by companies. IBM’s Watson, one of the leading AI programs in the market today, is 24 times faster and much “smarter,” according to IBM, than it was five years ago, when it won on the well-known US TV game show Jeopardy. Google AI, developed by its DeepMind team, recently defeated a human in the complex Chinese board game Go.
Google’s voice recognition technology has been developed over the years and now achieves a high level of accuracy. The number of people using voice search continues to increase. Asking for directions is the number one reason that adults use voice search, a Google survey found. An increase in voice search has also been experienced by Baidu, the largest search engine in China, with a large percentage of searches now happening via voice because of the difficulty in typing the Chinese characters.
Amazon ventured into the area of voice-activated personal assistants with the launch of Amazon Echo, which allows you to control devices in your home, take down requests/reminders, and order things from Amazon. Google is slated to launch its own voice-activated personal assistant, “Google Home,” in the second half of this year.
The Grid, an AI-based, website-developing tool, enables users to achieve a customized website. Users supply content but rely on AI to create well-organized and impactful layouts that adjust as more content is added.
Artificial intelligence helps drive productivity
Google has been using AI to help design its Street View. Earlier, design would take weeks of work by people employed to tag every street, building and shop captured via Google Street View. Using Google Brain’s AI capabilities, it was possible to tag all of the addresses captured by Street View in France in an hour. Although often thought of as the preeminent search engine, Google now describes itself as a “machine learning” company.
Swedbank, a Swedish financial institution, has integrated a virtual assistant called Nina on its website to help answer customer queries in a conversational manner using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology. This allows customers to get answers to their queries and also to execute some self-service banking functions. Nina now handles 80 percent of the 30,000 monthly queries on the Swedbank website.
Facebook recently opened its messenger platform to help brands create “Chatbots,” virtual assistants designed to engage in voice communication with customers. Airlines have jumped on this option and are now answering customer queries right from Facebook Messenger. Chatbots are allowing customers to check flight status and carry out other services with the airlines.
In India too we are seeing brands adopt AI to help deliver better customer experiences and improve productivity. Abof.com, the online fashion site of the Aditya Birla Group, has partnered with IBM Watson to help deliver enhanced personalized shopping experiences to millennials. AI enables the site to deliver product choices based on the shopping behavior of the online shopper. Wipro, the IT services company, has developed its in-house AI platform, “Holmes,” to help automate several aspects of its projects for clients. The company anticipates that AI will enable it to shift 3000 engineers from mundane software maintenance to more productive activities.
AI becomes a marketing and communication tool
Globally, marketers have taken the early steps to incorporate AI in ways that help improve the overall customer experience. They are also deploying AI to help match consumer behavior with relevant content and ads.
AI technology developed by Emotient, a startup recently acquired by Apple, recognizes facial micro expressions of joy, anger, and surprise to help infer real emotional responses as well as attention and engagement. A leading FMCG brand used Emotient’s AI software to measure participant’s facial expressions when they were asked to select a fragrance. The technology predicted preferences more accurately than focus groups and surveys.
In the ad campaign for its first electric car, BMW deployed its iGenius technology to help answer questions about the new model via text. Able to handle multiple requests at the same time, the software helped save the costs of deploying people to BMW service centers and training dealers.
Machines already supply some business media content. This phenomenon is apparent in certain financial stories from The Associated Press, which can be easily identified in articles that end with the notation: “This story is generated by Automated Insights.”