Siri in a suit? The digital assistant is set to redefine the way we conduct business.
Digital assistants aren’t just there to tell you about the weather on your smartphone. They have the potential to transform the way we do business – revolutionising how companies understand, predict and respond to customer needs.
Consider the speed at which technologies are evolving. Amazon, for example, started out in 1994 as an online bookseller and, twenty years on, has become the most valuable retailer in the world , thanks to the development of algorithms which learn from customer preferences and iterate those preferences fast.
Digital assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, are now a key point of interaction between people and businesses, revealing those preferences. That’s true even with simple requests, such as booking a taxi or pre-formatted information.
That level of interaction is about to ramp up further. As artificial intelligence (AI) gets even better at understanding language and behaviour, digital assistants will be able to predict customers’ intentions, as well as interpret their requests and adjust offerings accordingly. They’ll soon be making increasingly complex decisions on behalf of the user.
How far can it go? The main limitations to this concierge-type service are cultural, rather than technical. Many people currently baulk at handing over the personal data AI needs in order to learn customer preferences. Yet uptake of concierge apps, such as chatbot-based personal shopper, Operator, is on the rise. As homes start to host more connected devices, the enhanced functionality of assistants such as Siri and Alexa will provide even more data on our habits and preferences.
Many sectors already use AI in helpdesks and customer services. Chatbots – a form of digital assistant – are used in sectors such as healthcare, including Your.MD, a mobile app that provides basic health advice, and multi-platform HealthTap, which reportedly uses AI to answer three-quarters of customer queries.
AI means assistants can now be part of any conversation between a business and its customer, even in professional services. Last year IBM created “artificial lawyer” ROSS, allowing lawyers to sift through more than a billion text documents using cognitive computing and natural language processing tools.
This inevitably blurs the boundaries between sectors. When a consumer, or business decision-maker, is interacting via an AI-powered digital assistant, they’re not primarily reacting to individual brands or types of business. As long as the assistant delivers what they need, they won’t care who delivers it, or how.
Firms such as Google are rethinking their search algorithms as a result of that. An assistant might, for example, only deliver one or two responses to a given request about, a news item, which may not meet user expectations about accuracy or objectivity. Traditional screen-based search is far less exclusive.
You need to consider:
It’s also important to task a multi-disciplinary team (IT, marketing or HR) to evaluate your investment in digital assistant AIs (such as chatbots) and where the challenges might lie.
For more information, see Why the Human Voice is the Year’s Most
Change won’t happen overnight. Microsoft’s AI Twitter account Tay was taken down in less than a day in 2016, for instance, after it learned racist and sexist language. But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella congratulated the team for taking the risk: “It was a great call to get even more grounded in the design principles we talked about, having stronger algorithmic accountability.” Since then, AI chatbots Zo and Ruuh have joined the Microsoft line-up.
Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant might not yet be able to define your business – but, as they incorporate smarter AI, they soon will. The more businesses are prepared, the greater the impact of this game-changing technology.