From the Data and AI Expert Labs: Invest in teams, not just technology

By | 3 minute read | March 9, 2021


IBM’s Data and AI Expert Labs help guide organizations on their AI journeys. Expert Labs consultants represent years of data and AI expertise and offer best practices and business strategies to meet each organization’s unique needs. In the previous post, I discussed how it may benefit your organization to rethink your systems and perhaps break them so you can remake them better.

Understand that when you transform your day-to-day operations, breaking systems so you can put them back together again better, there will be disruption. You need to invest in your team’s skills and abilities, because they will be the ones working collectively to make the transformation happen. Build a team, including your line-of-business workers, subject matter experts, and IT professionals who are comfortable with new processes and learning about new technology.

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, customer requests for information from businesses have increased exponentially. In the early weeks of the crisis, the Expert Labs team was able to tackle smaller use cases for organizations, building conversational AI assistants to answer FAQs for businesses without involving human agents, who were themselves wrapped up in the chaos of COVID. We effectively implemented conversational AI solutions and saw excellent results within 48 hours. A couple of years ago, it would have taken at least six months. That’s how accessible the technology has become.

So it can be done, and it can be done fast. Once it’s deployed, your business technologists can pick it up and run with it. From there they can grow in functionality with just a little education. This is where your team building comes in, because silos cannot exist in an AI ecosystem. Above all else, AI is a trained system. It’s not an event, it’s a journey.

Another example: we worked with a large call center company that processes about $8 billion in transactions across forty million unique customers. They installed a Watson Assistant conversational solution to increase customer accessibility. Once it went live, they noticed that it wasn’t communicating the way they wanted it to: it was developed by technologists, and its own communication was overly technical. So business leaders then brought in communication professionals, English majors and liberal arts graduates, to teach the solution to speak more like a person.

From what we have observed, organizations are opening up their data to customers. More than ever before, the customer wants to reach as far into an organization as possible to get answers to their questions. What good is having all that information locked away or blocked by an inefficient gatekeeper for organizations? Set it free.

Here’s a story from Honda. They were apprehensive about asking customers to interact with a virtual assistant. They believed that people only wanted to talk to other people. But when they investigated, they found that 33% of call center inquiries came after the call centers were closed. So Honda launched their Digital Assisted Virtual Engineer (DAVE) to help customers get information about Honda and Acura recalls around the clock.

This technology is not only changing how organizations interface with clients and customers; it’s changing how they use their human resources as well. This is especially apparent in call centers. The call center agent’s role is going to change dramatically in the near future and become a more high-skilled job. Because the AI solution will be able to sweep all the FAQs off of the agent’s daily task list, the agent will become more of a knowledge worker and customer satisfaction expert. When these valuable workers are no longer burdened with answering the same rote questions all day or forced to navigate prohibitive systems to help a customer, they can more effectively contribute to increasing revenue. We’ve seen some companies reach a 7% increase — just from taking rote tasks off the agent’s plate.

I hope I’ve somewhat demystified the role and usage of AI in your business. You’re not in it alone, and this is far from scary or new territory. If you’re thinking about how you can launch your own virtual assistant or AI powered solution, reach out to us.

For more information, schedule a free, no-pressure chat with one of our experts. When you’re ready, the Data and AI Experts can arm you with best practices, show you how to set things up and provide advice. Most customer-facing conversational assistants are extremely easy to implement. But if you’re thinking of going beyond an FAQ bot — perhaps a service that uses customer account knowledge where you’ll need strong IT services — that’s a role we can provide.