The Future of AI and Communication in the Workplace
In our last blog post, we discussed the ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) could impact the way we communicate in the future on a personal level. We highlighted the rise of ‘smart’ technology - smart homes, smart messaging - and the fact that most of us had already come into contact with some form of AI technology even if we weren’t aware.
This week we’re focusing more on communication in a professional setting, how companies can harness the power of AI in their future communications, and examples of AI in the workplace.
One of the most popular applications of AI technology within communication in business is the use of chatbots. We’ve most likely all interacted with one at some point, and most likely with varying degrees of success and enjoyment. They’re still a work in progress! However, the technology has come on leaps and bounds over the past years and chatbots are certainly showing no signs of slowing down.
“Chatbots process the text presented to them by the user (a process known as “parsing”), before responding according to a complex series of algorithms that interprets and identifies what the user said, infers what they mean and/or want, and determine a series of appropriate responses based on this information.” (Source)
In a customer service - or any customer-facing - environment, chatbots offer businesses the ability to have instant engagement with customers, all round the clock. As with many things in the modern world, time is increasingly of the essence, and customers want real-time support when enquiring with a business. Where it would be unfeasible for human customer support agents to be expected to work through the night to deal with any and all incoming enquiries, AI-based chatbots are able to take the reins. Service-based companies' workplace desires this kind of availability and flexibility for continuous business operations even in the absence or lack of human resources.
But, as previously mentioned, AI technology works best when working with humans, too. So the most optimal use of AI technology in the customer service field, is for the chatbot to work as a qualifying tool, which can then inform human call handlers/customer service agents of the details surrounding the query, to make for a more streamlined customer experience. This method reduces the workload of employees, especially on routine tasks. Still, human intelligence is needed to make conversations more personal. However advanced AI and natural language processing (NLP) technology becomes, without humans in the loop, they will unlikely ever provide emotionally rich communication, which will still be a necessity.
Outside of the customer service arena, chatbot technology also has unlimited potential. Improvements in machine learning and emerging technologies have made chatbots more reliable in assessing customer problems. Health service provider Babylon Health, have integrated AI technology into an area of their app -‘Ask Babylon’- whereby an AI-based chatbot is able to recognise a patient’s symptoms and provide health and triage information. Again, they aren’t suggesting this service should be used in a medical emergency as a substitute for a doctor, but it can certainly help in more minor circumstances. Particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic is the app’s ability to recognise what might be COVID-19 symptoms and suggest possible next steps. At a time when the National Health Service is functioning beyond capacity, the introduction of AI technology could very much enhance communication with patients.
The Future of Chatbots: Voicebots
Taking chatbots one step further is the introduction of ‘Voicebots’. These are based on the same technologies as chatbots, but, as the name suggests, function via voice rather than text. It means that they can generate and process up to 150 words per minute, as opposed to on average 40 words per minute as produced by chatbots, which leads to increased efficiency in communication in a customer service based environment. Voicebots offer a closer alternative to human conversation than chatbots and it’s as a result of this that it’s predicted they will become an integral part of business’s customer service offerings in time to come.
As well as actually facilitating communication between businesses and customers, AI technology can be used to enhance the content of communication too. In an already competitive market, businesses are having to go to greater lengths to earn and build the trust of their customers. They are becoming increasingly required to ‘stand out’ amongst their competitors in terms of their offerings. One of the most effective ways of achieving this is through personalised content.
AI technology can provide businesses with a plethora of information surrounding their customers’ behaviour. AI has the capability to sort through huge amounts of data and provide insights regarding past, present and future outcomes. This allows businesses to get inside their customer’s minds, and provide them with the information required to tailor messaging to each individual customer, reassuring them that the business truly understands and cares about their unique experience. Advancements in AI have made them viable inclusions in human resources applications to enhance virtual collaborative approaches with real agents and gather customer insights that can be used to further improve company services.
AI x Telephony
A long-term predicted use of AI within communication is the Telecommunications Industry’s application of AI within telephony platforms. It is suggested that AI technology could analyse phone conversations to instantly ascertain data from them. This could include analysing the call via NLP technology to gauge whether it was a positive or negative phone call; providing a more personalised customer experience by ensuring that the call is put through to the correct customer service agent to deal with the enquiry; and using the data gathered from the phone call analyses to provide the call handler with a 360 view of the situation, informing them as to exactly who the customer is, what previous voice interactions they’ve had with the business and ultimately ensuring they have all the information they need to effectively and efficiently deal with the customer’s enquiry. But this also opens up the issue about security and software development to ensure the AI-based system maintains privacy.
AI and Online Communications
In this world of virtual communications we find ourselves in - both personally and professionally - what role does and could AI play? The main area is through its combination with NLP. It’s the 2 technologies working together that allow for virtual assistant tools - such as Eric.ai - to interpret the conversations that take place during online meetings, do repetitive tasks such as taking notes, and automatically provide transcriptions and summaries at the end. This enhances productivity during the meeting, as attendees are more focused on the discussions at hand rather than having to take notes; in turn, overall communication is improved as conversations are more rich and detailed. This is a must for every company concerned with enhancing their business management processes and saving time and resources.
Don’t forget you can still sign up to get early access to Eric.ai here.
A key theme emerging from this discussion is the improved customer experience that incorporating AI into professional messaging can offer. On one hand, AI technology empowers your customers by enabling them to speak with your business at any time of day, and at a time that suits them.
Additionally, as a business, you can build better relationships with your customers by using AI technology to get to know them better; offer them a personalised service and make them feel like you really understand them. With the continuous improvements in technology, AI-based software will eventually have its own personal development process that will help it adapt to the environment and type of persona its owner wants it to exhibit.
AI technology has the power to enhance and improve communications and, ultimately, relationships between businesses and their customers. We can’t stress enough though, that for the benefits of AI to truly be reaped, AI needs to work with humans, not instead of them.