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The Influencers

Artificial Intelligence: It’s Only Scary if You Let it Control You

INFLUENCER: Laughlin Constable's Paul Brienza shares examples of human creativity and artificial intelligence that enhance experiences

Artificial Intelligence: It’s Only Scary if You Let it Control You

A lot of press about artificial intelligence (AI) focuses on its scary side. Many paint the vision of robots, smart houses (think back to the 1999 Disney movie “Smart House” of a cyborg maid that takes over) and artificial beings crafting our experiences. This fear is not all hype, as Microsoft’s AI-powered Twitter bot showed when she went haywire, tweeting inappropriate and aggressive responses that were egged on by other Twitter users. As with any new technology, though, you can manage it with an appropriate level of checks and balances to ensure ethical standards are being met.

Part of the reason people are scared of AI is because they don’t understand it. To make things more confusing, the term AI refers to a wide category that includes deep learning, natural language processing, and machine learning. These different applications and uses can be applied to solve problems across industries, from healthcare to retail. In marketing, our focus should be on how can we use AI to make it easier for companies to build meaningful relationships with consumers.

The negative stories of AI remind me of the early days of working in the digital realm, when relational databases were being created to provide product recommendations to consumers based on the products they were viewing. I remember when clients were concerned that consumers would feel that their privacy was being violated by the brand, because we were demonstrating similar products based on their browsing history. To address those fears, we focused our approach on driving a consumer first experience, and ensuring that the consumers’ needs were always met based on their journey.

That lens helps us to make the right technological decisions for our clients and their customers. But when we apply technology for technology’s sake, that’s where it starts to get scary - it’s prone to wandering off the mark. Technology facilitates and supports the experience. It doesn’t create the experience. That’s why human creativity and ingenuity will always be a key part of any experience you create. So AI needs to solve specific problem.

And where should that human thought process start? The value proposition. What is the unique value of using AI in your overall brand experience? The answer will be different for every brand, but for most, it’s about solving an unmet or latent need for your customer.

The first step to determining how to use AI for your brand is always to understand the business challenges you are trying to solve. Not every problem requires AI. However, when you do choose to use AI, it should be approachable, unobtrusive and supportive of the customers’ existing experience (which always comes first).

Examples of human creativity and artificial intelligence that enhance an experience include:

Using natural language processing to relieve customer service stress

LC was able to support a client who needed help relieving customer service pressure and decreasing call centre costs. The solution was creating an AI-powered chatbot. By using data to identify top customer needs, the company was able to review the call centre log's top 10 inbound requests causing the most headaches for both consumers and the client. Powered by IBM Watson’s Conversation Service with an easy foundation to access and train an AI system.


Predicting consumer intent based on online behaviour

Amazon’s transactional AI allows them to predict (pretty accurately) what consumers want to buy based on their interactions online. This is just one of the ways that Amazon uses AI, but it has certainly allowed Amazon to take over multiple industries with their ability to predict behaviour with AI. Amazon’s ability to use AI in ways that make consumers comfortable and happy with this kind of technology is based in the fact that their common goal is to always exceed customer expectations, no matter what.


Guiding consumer decision in a new way

Finding new tires for your car can be a chore. Sears Auto Center wanted help reimagining the way customers searched for car tires. Instead of using traditional, tire searching tools, Sears Auto used artificial intelligence to find a way to discover an individual’s specific needs. 

Using the Natural Language Processing capabilities of IBM Watson technology allowed Sears to ask customers a fundamental question: “When it comes to tires, what’s most important to you?” It changed the interaction from users trying to find information, to users telling Sears what they most wanted. Instead of being forced fed prompts, users can type in things like, “I drive on bumpy rural roads,” or “Off-roading is very important.” Even though these responses are very different, IBM Watson can recognise and understand natural language and offer up all-terrain as the tires both customers should be considering.


Answering consumers’ questions through voice assistance

The emergence of voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa has also given brands a way to tap into these AI-powered systems to help their customers through voice searches. Kayak, the trip scheduling website, has created an Amazon Alexa skill that allows customers to plan their trip, from tracking a flight and checking prices, to even telling Kayak your budget – and letting Kayak tell you where you could afford to travel. All customers need to do is say, “Alexa, ask Kayak where in the world I can go for $1,000”. AI enables these voice assistants to recognise and learn from key common phrases, dialect and other speech differences, in order to answer customers with scary accuracy.

Yes, AI can be scary. But the robots aren’t going to take over any time soon – if you keep your customers’ needs first, and empower your experience with a blend of human creativity and artificial intelligence.

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