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Opinion Taking stock of the artificial intelligence paradigm shift

  • December 29 2017, 7:35pm EST

Big data and machine learning are already having a huge impact in business, and while there is plenty of speculation about where artificial intelligence will take us in the future, deploying the technology has become an imperative for any businesses that wants to stay ahead of the curve.

AI represents a paradigm shift, akin to the way the industrial revolution changed the world. It makes it possible to quickly sift through vast amounts of information and make sense of it to support data-driven decision making. This has the potential to transform every aspect of every business in every industry.

The 2017 Artificial Intelligence Global Executive Study and Research Project found that three-quarters of business executives believe that AI will allow their companies to enter new businesses.

Nearly 85 percent of these executives are certain that AI will give their companies a competitive advantage. They get that the ability to utilize AI’s natural language processing to handle tedious, labor-intensive tasks is opening up a world of new commercial opportunities.

Take market research. Thanks to advancements in natural language processing, companies can now conduct this painstaking work much more accurately and efficiently—and without hiring large teams of people.

Increased efficiency—both in terms of time and money—is one of AI’s greatest virtues. Automating complex tasks reduces costs and frees highly-skilled people to engage in more forward-looking, creative thinking that still eludes robots—and that ultimately comprises a business’ main competitive advantage.

Lead Management

Sales leads are the lifeblood of all businesses, and AI helps businesses generate better leads by analyzing the connections between people, companies, products and places. The software not only identifies a lead, but also validates and quantifies it—working more efficiently than a human who might overlook certain opportunities.

With a nuanced understanding of the customer preferences, behaviors and interests that provide the context for a lead , an AI application can even recommend type of communication that will most likely close the deal. All this is done at the speed of light and at a fraction of the cost of employing salespeople and marketers.

AI applications also help businesses nurture client relationships. Virtual customer service agents and chatbots can field questions and automate simple discussions with clients, freeing employees to focus on more complex issues.

As the technology continues to develop, the experience of interacting with an AI “employee” will become nearly indistinguishable from dealing with a human customer care agent. And the accompanying economies of scale will allow for more “hands on” customized customer care at nearly no cost.

AI apps can streamline other functions as well. Smart CRMs, for instance, are self-updating, auto-correcting systems that stay on top of a company’s relationship management. A great example is the “round-robin” lead assignment that a smart CRM like Chime provides for real estate brokerages. Rather than pay someone to distribute leads to agents, a smart CRM does this at lightning speed based on specific user-created parameters.

These platforms can also analyze customer patterns for email opens and text message reads, and then send out follow-up messages at the optimal time to engage with the lead—which results in better conversion rates.

While companies have only begun to scratch the surface of AI’s business potential, one thing is already clear: In the coming years, AI automation will improve how transactions take place for both buyers and sellers. AI applications will let businesses develop deeper, more nuanced views of their prospects, providing better, more highly curated leads, and ensuring that more deals close.

Happily, application quality will continue to improve, even as the cost for AI software falls. Businesses may have only just begun to recognize the countless ways that AI can revolutionize their operations for the better, but they can already see that the technology is a win-win for companies that want to stay on the cutting edge of success.

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