Companies are turning towards artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline their critical processes and make things simpler and more efficient. But how is it really helping them?
“From wearable devices to chatbots, connected appliances to autonomous vehicles, we live in a world where machines are getting smarter every day,” says Steve Newton, executive vice president UK at Worldpay.
“Technology has become embedded into every aspect of our lives. Brands are only just beginning to scratch the surface with AI, but as the technology becomes more sophisticated, it will become another way for businesses to gain advantage in multiple areas of operation.”
Improving the customer experience
One of the reasons why brands have been embracing technology in the workplace, Newton explains, is to improve the customer journey and experience.
Research carried out by Gartner indicates that 81 per cent of businesses will compete mostly on customer experience over the next two years. “Brands that offer a hyper-personalised experience through the use of machine learning and predictive analytics will be the ones that stand out from the crowd,” says Newton.
In the retail industry, which has been struggling of late from poor sales, AI, he points out, has been used to improve customer satisfaction and drive more detailed sales insights in e-commerce. “If businesses can make changes to better serve customers, this can help generate more loyalty and in turn revenue,” he says. “On the operational side, AI will help to streamline and speed up day-to-day operations, predicting and preventing problems before they occur.
“Businesses implementing the technology successfully are likely to have the potential to reap the rewards of cost and efficiency savings, allowing the opportunity for growth and expansion. Anything that reduces day-to-day life admin and menial tasks for time-poor consumers has the potential to succeed.”
What does the future hold?
By using technology to improve the experience for customers, companies are changing the way people work and how things are traditionally done. A store of the future, Newton explains, could see the traditional checkout process removed entirely, while retail robots could be on hand to answer questions and take payments.
Or in a restaurant, food could be pre-ordered via a chatbot and customers could pay through invisible payments technology without having to interrupt a staff member for the bill. “Reducing these delays would remove two of the major friction points in the customer service journey, and allow waiting staff the time to deliver a world-class service,” he says.
“It makes sense for businesses to auto¬mate mundane tasks to enable staff to focus on adding value through great customer service. That does not necessarily mean fewer staff, but freeing up time for workers to directly help customers.”
Companies are already beginning to do this. For example, Amazon and Walmart have both been rolling out robots across their fulfilment centres, while robotic catering has already become a reality at the Henn na restaurant in Japan’s Huis Ten Bosch theme park.
But Newton warns that brands need to strike the balance between technology and the human touch. “Ultimately, human skills remain essential for many tasks, making the marriage between humans and ma¬chines vital to success,” he says. “Robots will not replace workers, but jobs will evolve to focus on more skilled, creative and complex tasks.”