Imagine that you’re on a journey in your car in an unfamiliar town. Your SatNav says “Go straight on”, but your passenger, who has a map in their hand says, “No, I think it is left here.” Who do you believe? asks Prof. Steven van Belleghem
Ten years ago, a GPS system was only about 80% accurate. It would still occasionally lead you to the wrong destination or send you the wrong way down a one-way street. Today, these systems have achieved the crucial 99% accuracy threshold whereby we will start to trust a machine more than another human being.
This is a hypothesis you can apply in almost every industry. Before too long, robot advisers will be playing a big role in the finance world, as wealthy customers will choose to get their investment advice from a machine rather than from its human colleague. After all, a robot can store and process much more information in real time, so could have completed a transaction to capitalise on a market trend before a human banker had even spotted the opportunity.
Of course, for some people making investments is an emotional matter – but it shouldn’t be, it is a rational process that lends itself perfectly to the use of machines. And the same could also be true of doctors – perhaps those doctors who aren’t using smart computer technology will soon lose the confidence of their patients?
How will AI change your relationship with your customers?
The reality is that artificial intelligence has been in our lives for years. Facebook timelines, Spotify recommendations and the virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa are all AI driven. But in the coming years, the evolution of AI will see more companies use it to offer significant added value to their customers. This will happen in six steps, each with increasing impact.
Curation of information
The current Google interface was developed in the previous century. Each search brings back dozens of pages with hundreds of links, but nobody bothers to search through all those pages. Information overload is something that we all try to avoid, and while Google keeps developing, it is still essentially an old interface that gives users far too much irrelevant information.
Artificial intelligence helps to curate content. Facebook is an excellent example. Instead of you making the choice, Facebooks makes a decision about what you get to see and what is blocked out. For retail platforms this is a major opportunity – a really good AI interface will use data to only suggest clothes that it knows match your taste.
Provision of customized information
Today, simple questions can be answered almost instantly by smart interfaces like Siri or Alexa. In the future, much more complex questions will also be possible. Before long, our virtual assistant will become our main source of help for all our daily queries and problems. This application has huge potential for governments – thousands of us have questions about taxes, opening hours and hundreds of other things, and this level of AI could give you a correct answer to us all immediately.
This has already been part of most e-commerce sites for years, but the quality of these recommendations will improve. The more data that is available about an individual user, the more targeted the resulting recommendations will be.
Prediction is at the very heart of artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars need to predict what other drivers are going to do, while banks wants to know if a customer is likely to repay their loan. As the quality of AI predictions increases, the products that are dependent on the predictions will fall in price. Decisions will be taken more quickly, fewer mistakes will be made and the quality of the end product will improve correspondingly.
The same process will also be seen at company level. Think about the elements in your business processes that could benefit from more accurate predictions – this will become a standard part of most companies’ AI strategy.
The next phase of artificial intelligence involves the full automation of many aspects of our daily lives. Our cars will drive us, instead of us driving them. Our basic daily necessities (washing powder, coffee, cornflakes, etc.) will be ordered and delivered automatically, on the basis of input from a machine. We are moving from e-commerce to a-commerce: automated commerce. It might sound futuristic, but the building blocks are already in place to make this happen.
In this final phase, AI will be able to perfectly understand the context of the consumer. At the moment, your Netflix account can only take your past viewing preferences and that of similar customers into account. Once the context can be analysed properly, the level of the recommendations – and the level of automation – will improve dramatically to even reflect your mood at that moment.
To make contextual analysis possible, the AI interface will not only search for data in a well-defined silo, but will scan all available data. The complexity of such an analysis is huge – you can best compare it to the way people converse with each other. At the moment, this is a form of empathy that is only possible between people, as we have the ability to take account of all the different parameters when they talk to someone else. The day that a computer or robot is capable of making the same analysis, that will be the day when one of the most important distinctions between humans and machines falls away.
Prof. Steven van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his new book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com