4 questions to ask about artificial intelligence in your business

Author

Salesforce and Jim Sinai

December 23, 2016

Everyone seems to be talking about artificial intelligence these days, and you’re probably wondering why it’s suddenly such a hot topic. Is it the prospect of creating autonomous robots and self-driving cars? Or is it about exploring new frontiers of science and outer space?

Those sci-fi aspirations are definitely generating some buzz — but they’re slow-moving projects that aren’t going to change our day-to-day lives just yet. What really gets businesses excited is how AI can radically transform user experiences right now.

By “user experience” we mean how your customers experience your company, whether they’re a first-time buyer or a longtime customer. And because AI excels at reducing the friction of that type of interaction, it’s about to kick off a customer success revolution.

We’ve all experienced the concept of friction at some point as a consumer. Whether it’s a clunky ecommerce website or a customer service rep who knows less about how to solve your problem than you do, friction is what gets between you and an enjoyable customer experience. And it’s a real problem not just for your customers, but also for your business, which can lose out on sales through a process that leaves everyone dissatisfied.

To better understand what we mean by “reducing the friction” of customer experience, let’s look at some real-life examples: If you’re catching a ride with Uber, the app uses your habits and current location to predict your destination so you can schedule the ride with a single tap. Google Home and Amazon Echo let you shop, listen to music, and control home electronics using only your voice. And if you want Hello Hipmunk to help you find flights and hotels for an upcoming trip, all you have to do is cc the app on any email about your travel plans.

These AI-powered apps are transforming the way we use technology, and they’re raising our expectations for every other interaction we have as a customer. We’ve already started demanding more from our web and mobile experiences. And each new generation is found to be more in tune with technology, raising expectations even higher. Once that bar has been raised enough, we’ll expect more from our face-to-face transactions as well.

Consider the experience of buying a car in person. How much longer will customers tolerate pushy sales people pressuring them to test-drive a car or pay for pricey extras? Why put yourself through a negative experience when you can get more value in less time from an app? With the latest in self-service technology, we can poke around at our leisure and explore vehicle options or review third-party opinions with just a tap. The in-person experience just doesn’t compare — at a car dealership, we can’t learn about dozens of cars, ask lots of questions, and get instant input from a community of car buyers and owners.

While the status quo for customer success is clearly on shaky ground, it’s imperative for every business to rethink how it engages its customers — starting with a strategy to quickly take advantage of everything AI has to offer. But how do you know if you have the right strategy for your business?

Just like buying a car, there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution for AI. The AI solution that works best for you and your customers may not be the best option for the company across the street.

But your customers and employees can only benefit from AI if you’re able to figure out what they need — and figuring out what they need starts with asking the right questions.

While there are many questions worth asking when evaluating AI for your business, here are the four questions you should ask first:

  1. How can you use AI to discover new insights into your business by identifying patterns you haven’t already noticed?
  2. How can you use AI to predict outcomes by understanding what your customers and employees are trying to do and using past results to project the future?
  3. How can you use AI to recommend next steps to your customers based on predictions about what they’re most likely to want?
  4. How can you use AI to automate experiences for your customers?

AI is the next big piece of the customer success puzzle. While early adopters of AI have realized the technology’s benefits for years, we’ve still only scratched the surface of what it can do for customer relationships. By helping people discover, predict, recommend, and automate the entire customer experience process, you can help set a new status quo for customer success.

We may still be a few years away from the proliferation of driverless cars or sentient robots, but the first wave of AI is already making an impact today. By asking these four questions early and often, you can build a framework for making every decision and experience an intelligent, frictionless one.

This article was written by Salesforce and Jim Sinai from VentureBeat and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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