How can small food businesses absorb the shock of higher costs, without pricing out customers?
But many people are yet to fully realise the benefits that AI could bring to their businesses.
In this article, we go over the most common types of AI and how the technology could improve your operations.
Business benefits of AIJust to clear things up right away, AI is much broader than machine learning or robots with humanlike cognitive capabilities. AI covers a huge range of tools and technology, from the automation of routine tasks to natural language processing.
Overall, most AI technologies can help cut costs and speed up otherwise longwinded processes. And they can unlock the potential of your employees by freeing up workers to focus on more important things, rather than having to slog away at repetitive, time-consuming tasks.
But they can also fulfil roles that human workers can’t, potentially giving you a leg up on the competition.
Here are the three main types of AI and how they could benefit your business.
Robotic process automationBy far the most widely used cognitive technology, robotic process automation (RPA) is essentially the use of software robots to carry out mundane digital tasks. These bots are capable of emulating most human-computer interactions by following pre-defined instructions.
The great thing is, you can program RPA software to work across multiple applications and systems. Those pre-defined instructions can be as simple as one specific action or as complicated as a multi-step workflow.
Uses:You can use RPA for any digital process that has rule-based actions. If the process has clear, logical steps, then you can teach a bot to do it.
RPA is often used in all kinds of data-processing scenarios, from invoices and payroll to data storage and analytics.
Benefits:This kind of AI is relatively cheap, quick to implement and brings a fast return on investment.
These bots perform mundane tasks faster than any human possibly could, without making errors or needing a toilet break, increasing profitability and productivity.
RPA also frees employees up to work on more important, engaging tasks – ones that require face-to-face interaction, creativity or critical thinking. That means you can tap into your employees’ potential and give them tasks they will really engage with.
Cognitive insightThis is where AI gets a little more sophisticated. Rather than simply processing the data, cognitive insight uses algorithms to detect patterns and interpret what they mean. ‘Cognitive’ relates to the algorithm’s ability to ‘think’ about the data, and the ‘insight’ is the outcome.
Cognitive insight is also a version of machine learning. As the algorithm trawls through and analyses huge amounts of data, its ability to predict outcomes improves. This, along with the sheer quantity of data that these programs can interpret, sets cognitive insight apart from traditional analytics as a powerful AI tool.
Cognitive insight is excellent if you need to sift through vast amounts of data to find patterns or predict outcomes.
For instance, manufacturers could use it to analyse returns data to find out whether certain components or models are prone to particular faults.
Other businesses could use it to interpret buyer behaviour and then build increasingly accurate models of how their customers might act, with these insights informing their sales strategies.
It’s also really useful for companies with strict regulatory requirements who need to meticulously track data, such as companies that need to detect fraud.
Benefits:Best for large-scale and data-intensive businesses, these powerful machine-learning applications can streamline complex processes, leading to huge savings.
Accurate, data-driven modelling can give you strategic insights and a competitive edge. And, as this kind of AI can detect things your business might otherwise miss, you could end up retrieving lost revenue, such as from unfulfilled invoices or fraudulent claims.
Cognitive engagementThe final key type of AI is cognitive engagement. This is when AI is used to engage with employees and customers by using natural language processing, machine learning and intelligent agents (simply put, an intelligent agent is any system that can autonomously act in response to its environment).
Cognitive engagement tools are designed to interact with people, often in a humanlike way. They’re usually used to exchange information, provide support or encourage action (think chatbots and retail product recommendations).
Uses:At the moment, most companies are using cognitive engagement more with employees than customers as the technology is still in its infancy. Some businesses use intelligent agents to support workers with particular tasks, while others may have an AI system working as an internal IT helpdesk for employees.
As cognitive engagement technology is refined, it’ll likely take a more customer-facing role.
Fortunately, recent research suggests that it won’t immediately threaten human jobs in the same field. Instead, AI will be used to handle a growing number of general inquiries and interactions while allowing people to focus their attention on more complex tasks. A customer-service chatbot, for instance, could collect information from a customer before their case is handed over to an actual person, thus speeding up the process.
Benefits:Cognitive engagement technology can improve both customer and employee satisfaction. It can speed up processes, reduce waiting times, and make support easier to access, resulting in a smoother, less stressful experience.
Of course, this leads to tangible benefits for your business. Happier customers are likely to remain loyal, spend more, and generate that all-important word-of-mouth marketing.
Meanwhile, satisfied, stress-free employees are more productive and more likely to stay with your company for longer. The technology can also help to streamline their processes and free them up to work on more complex tasks, once again helping them realise their full potential.
AI in the futureAs AI grows more sophisticated, the employment landscape will shift dramatically. Many jobs that could traditionally only be done by humans could become automated, while new roles are likely to emerge.
In the meantime, AI is already providing businesses with huge benefits. If you’re not using cognitive technologies already, then perhaps it’s an area worth exploring.
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