Imagine you want to buy a new pen in 1930.
You used to buy pens in the shop next to the post office but you’ve heard that there is a new one near the church. You go there and… you find out that this exact day they closed earlier. You come back the next day, but when you do, it turns out that they don’t have any pen you like.
In 1970, you don’t need to waste so much time! You have a telephone at home, so you can look for the new shop in the Yellow Pages and call them before you go. Unfortunately, it turns out that they are not listed yet – it’s a new shop and the book is 7 months already.
In 1997, you don’t need Yellow Pages. You use the Internet. You search the store at web directory and find their phone number or an email address.
In 2003, you use Google. You find the shop’s website (it’s super cool and it has flash animations) and see when they are open. Perhaps you can even see some photos of the pens they offer.
In 2009, you buy the pen online from a shop located miles away. No need to walk anywhere.
Now, imagine you have a personal assistant. You say: “I need to buy a pen. It should be black, not too heavy, not too thick, quite elegant, and cost no more than $10 including delivery. Oh, and I need it for Wednesday”, and you are presented with a few options from different shops, based on your requirements and your sense of style. You say: “Yeah, I like that one! Order it to my office address” and the order starts proceeding.
This is how many people imagine Artificial Intelligence: some futuristic device showing holograms and being able to hold a conversation like a very nice and polite human. Even though technology is not that advanced (yet), it seems to be a matter of time when this scenario becomes reality. Meanwhile, we experience AI every day – using voice commands, ordering tickets with the help of chatbots, receiving automated and personalized emails with offers based on our online behavior.
AI in sales
Sales (including customer relations, forecasting, and sales automation) are listed among the top industries to be influenced by Artificial Intelligence (McKinsey Global Institute, Artificial Intelligence, 2017). If you do sales and you are not thinking about introducing AI to your product or service – you can expect to be soon lagging behind others who will.
Here are the top ways AI will impact sales in 2018:
For the past few years, automation has been listed as one of the main trends in sales and marketing. And it’s not going to step back! Personalized, real-time content targeting produces 20% more sales opportunities. With behavioral targeting methods, intelligent tools will be able to nurture potential leads at the early stage, personalize pricing, or give suggestions regarding offering discounts to certain customers. And so to increase the probability of closing the deal.
A marketing stack that employs AI algorithms might learn that a specific buyer who checks into LinkedIn on Monday mornings has recently started looking for a new CRM tool – explains Tara Callinan, Tenfold. The software can then suggest (or even create) targeted posts to be published on the days and times that they’ll see them: one that asks their requirements of the software and another follow up piece with a comparison of the CRM ecosystem.
The ability to recognize human emotions is one of the major challenges for AI. A chatbot that can tell when a person is getting frustrated and adjust its tactics accordingly – either by changing the tone, offering a special deal, or seamlessly forwarding the conversation to a human consultant – will go a long way towards improving customer relations.
Natural language processing
NLP is the ability of computers to analyze, understand and generate human language, including speech. Thanks to that, instead of saying “dawn London today”, you say “Ok Google, when is the dawn?” – which is more natural and intuitive.
Fundamentally, it’s the difference between ‘give me what I said’ and ‘give me what I want’.
The development of NLP leads to natural language interaction, which enables people to communicate with computers using normal, everyday language to complete tasks.
In the same way that decades ago made it possible for any business to provide key information about the business 24 hours a day, we’ll see bots start making it possible for businesses to provide answers to the most common questions their customers have. Natural language processing and machine learning will be increasingly accessible to even small and medium organizations.
(Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO, HubSpot)
According to Forbes, it is estimated that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed by AI. No wonder! Chatbots do not work 9 to 5, do not have weekends or holidays. They are able to respond to your request immediately, help you solve the problem or proceed your order.
Moreover, the development of chatbots will soon lead to providing more personalized support. One thing that humans will never be better at than AI is quickly digesting customer data and history to provide context to customer questions. Since chatbots are now much more than a complex FAQ catalog, they are able not only to provide support effectively but also to do it in a more personalized way.
Access to large databases and users history, combined with the ability to recognize human emotions will improve customer experience. According to Chris Bauserman, VP Segment & Product Marketing, NICE inContact:
2018 will bring AI’s proactive, context-inclusive handoff of chat sessions to live agents, enabling quicker and more complete resolution of more complex customer needs
Better Customer Experience
The future of customer experience is a holistic consumer-centric approach that includes audience understanding, targeting, delivery, and measurement. Prediction engines providing recommendations on sales accounts will not only increase the number of sales opportunities and their value, but also contribute to the improvement of customer experience.
AI chatbots will provide fast service for transactional or support issues. AI-powered sales tools will suggest actions, micro-training, and just-in-time content for reps based on assessment of the customer’s needs, the rep’s skills and experience, and the competitive dynamic during sales, like the way Netflix recommends movies – predicts Yuchun Lee, CEO and Co-founder of Allego (source: Forbes)
It is also worth to note that aiming for better CX, major brands are expected to phase out emails in favor of real-time customer-agent communications like chatbots and chat (Forrester predictions for 2018).
On the other hand, a group of sales leaders and experts are alarming that the development of Artificial Intelligence may eventually lead to… mistrust.
According to John Barrows from JBarrows Sales Training, AI’s ability to customize and personalize content may lead clients to stop trusting e-mails in their inbox – as well as other digital channels of communication – which opens the way for the big comeback of the phone (SalesHacker).
Even though a need for interaction with a real human being will not concern everybody, it can be an important factor that may impact the further development of AI.