How artificial intelligence is changing communications

Paul Walsh

By Paul Walsh
18 Jan 2017


3 min read

Contents

Though it was first thought of in the early 1300s, artificial intelligence is only just becoming an everyday reality. Most smartphones have some sort of virtual assistant, Xbox One can track human movement, and self-driving cars are now hitting the streets.

We’re living in the future that was put forward by countless sci-fi novels and films, and I for one think that’s fantastic. But how is artificial intelligence changing the way we communicate? And what implications does it have for your business?

This is how I think AI, whether it’s Siri, Alexa, Cortana or something new, will transform communications as we know it.

Online customer support

You’ve probably seen those ‘customer service live-chat’ pop-ups in the bottom corner while browsing online. Normally, I don’t pay them much attention, but I started thinking – is there actually a real person on the other end?

The idea of these chat boxes is that customers can communicate directly with a staff member and get the information they need in real time. However, chances are that it’s not a real person that you’re talking to – it’s a rudimentary AI system with a bunch of automated responses extracting knowledge directly from the website.

This is great for customer service employees. The mundane, everyday questions like “what time are you open till today?” and “where are you based?” can be farmed out to these bots, so the real-life customer service staff can concentrate on more complex matters.

As chatbots like this become more adept at understanding natural language and online slang through natural language processing (NLP) techniques, this technology will improve and go way beyond its first incarnation of simply categorising queries.

Facebook is one of the first to pioneer this type of technology. It is now possible for developers to integrate a bot into their messenger app and deliver fresh content to their customers. This can range from automated subscription content (such as weather/traffic updates) to customised communications like receipts, shopping notifications and live automated messages.

This makes the customer’s life easier and simpler and the company seems more accessible. This AI development will also save the company time and money, so it’s worth investing in during the early stages of development.

Content creation

There are other AI bots out there too. The latest time-saving development is automated content writing software.

The shortest blog posts typically take just over two hours to complete. So, if you’re churning out six blogs a week, that’s a whole working day gone for one of your employees. Wouldn’t it be great if something could write the simpler stuff for you?

Well, artificial intelligence can!

Big Internet players such as AP, Yahoo and Fox all use robot writers for simple stories that don’t need a lot of depth. These include:

-Financial summaries

-Sports recaps

-Quick reports

In short, any data-driven piece could have been - or was probably - written by a robot. This is a fantastic leap forward in technology. Though these AIs can’t write investigative hard-hitting articles (yet), writing these simple stories frees up the real writers to concentrate on more important pieces.

However

These intelligent computers are just that – computers. Empathy and depth are just out of reach for our artificial counterparts and these are some of the most important qualities in building relationships with customers.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the feeling when, after typing in the eighth option of an automated phone menu, you just want to talk to a real person. It’s the same with AI – there are some things a human just does better.

This is set to improve as AI technology improves, but we will still need people to work alongside AIs to check their work occasionally. A case in point is Microsoft’s AI Tweet-bot which started spouting inappropriate and offensive content after basing its conversational language from millennials’ tweets. These developments in AI are exciting and impressive – but are not without their flaws and still need human intervention.

I believe that AI will become a major player in business communications over the coming years. However, brands need to be transparent about using it – or risk breaking the trust between them and their clients.

For now, AI is straightforward and allows customer service assistants to deal with more complex issues. It’s a great way to “support, augment and enable human interaction” , but soon, I feel it will become much more. Watch this space!

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