Opinion: Adjusting and transforming with AI technologies

Opinion: Adjusting and transforming with AI technologies Martin is the co-founder of cloud communications provider Content Guru. After graduating from King’s College, University of London, with a BSc(Hons) in Business Management, Martin worked as a futures market analyst in Asia. He returned to the UK to help launch Redwood Technologies in 1993, developing new overseas territories – particularly emerging markets – and adapting Redwood’s powerful and unique core technology for new sectors.

When it comes to adopting the latest technologies and enhancing service delivery effectiveness, contact centres have been silently leading the way for years. Few other parts of the business have had to adapt so quickly to the demands of today’s connected consumers, first transitioning from voice to omnichannel and then to becoming engagement hubs supporting a growing number of proactive channels of customer interaction.

For some time now, the sector has also been at the forefront of another top technology trend. As they evolve to become the interaction hub of the digital enterprise, contact centres have been deploying AI-technologies at pace. Leveraging image recognition, natural language processing (NLP) and data analytics contact centres are now able to predict call volumes, enable new automated customer self-service channels, and boost the performance of contact centre agents.

Unsurprisingly, when the pandemic hit, contact centres were able to pivot at speed to cope with the ‘new-normal’. So much so, that other industry sectors have been inspired to deploy many of the AI technologies pioneered by contact centres to respond more effectively to the operational realities of today’s post-COVID world.

Transforming omnichannel retail

In the face of repeated national lockdowns, retailers have had to evolve their omnichannel service offerings fast to accommodate rapidly shifting consumer shopping habits. To optimise on-demand home deliveries and click-and-collect pickups from stores that are now operating as virtual warehouses, they had to utilise AI to integrate stock data from across their store and distribution networks. They are also using AI to auto-detect and proactively avoid inventory scarcity issues and aggregate and analyse consumer demand to accurately forecast the optimal product assortments and manage supply chain issues.

To further enhance the online shopping experience and make it more personalised, many retailers are investing in AI tools that enable customers to create a virtual model of themselves using their mobile or laptop camera. This offers customers the ability to ‘try on’ items like make-up, hair colour and clothing from the comfort of their home or create interactive 3D ‘photos’ of rooms to better visualise how furniture and accessories might look in their own spaces.

Revolutionising healthcare service delivery

The outbreak of coronavirus has helped to fast track a number of NHS initiatives designed to transform patient care and make it more predictive, preventative, and personalised. Intelligent automation (IA) – a technology similar to AI that combines robotic, intelligent and autonomous systems – is providing a foundation for this accelerated digital transformation. From supporting faster and more accurate disease diagnosis, to the more effective management of beds and staff resources and ensuring the NHS is better prepared and more responsive to future pandemics, IA is being leveraged to bring life-saving innovation across the health service.

But it’s not just clinical and disease management pathways that are benefiting. The NHS has also taken a pioneering approach to applying this technology to bolster the performance of its NHS 111 online and telephone service. Utilising automatic call routing technology has enabled the service to respond faster and more effectively to patients, prioritising at risk patients with complex or long term health conditions to the right person first time together with all their patient records and details.

These technologies also played a key role in enabling all healthcare providers to collaborate in critical decision making, in conjunction with government bodies, around the best way to deploy resources in emerging coronavirus hotspots. Similarly, digital agents are being used to streamline the management of patient prescriptions, online video bookings with GPs and clinicians and more.

Financial services deploy AI to support new ways of working

COVID-19 accelerated a rapid uptick in the adoption of call centre and channels by customers. Indeed, some banks reported a 400% increase in inbound calls in March 2020 alone. In response, banks and other financial institutions had to innovate at speed, turning to intelligent automation solutions to upscale their operations and streamline previously human intensive and error-prone processes like onboarding, know-your-customer, and anti-money laundering checks. 

To deliver improved customer support, they’ve also utilised AI-powered virtual assistants to automate responses to general queries – such as resetting passwords – and generate a deeper understanding of each customer’s context, behaviour needs and preferences so they can provide personalised recommendations and more streamlined customer journeys.

With thousands of employees across call centres, trading departments and other teams forced to work from home, financial services organisations have turned to AI to mitigate risks and ensure services continue to be delivered in a compliant way. 

Operational agility – it’s the future

Organisations in every industry sector are now taking advantage of AI and IA to optimise performance, streamline processes, deliver enhanced and more personalised services to customers, and uncover insights that can inform strategic decisions.

Providing the resilience that is needed to stay one step ahead of evolving market and consumer demands and disruptive events, AI technologies are now going mainstream and transforming the world of work as we know it.

(Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash)

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