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20 October 2018
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Learning must be taken to the next level © iStock

15 November 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of people surveyed are convinced that artificial intelligence (AI) can generate value for their business, but almost half (46 per cent) are being held back by concerns that it's still in its infancy.


According to research by software analytics company SAS, nearly a third (30 per cent) of companies are not sure if they are ready for the technology, citing concerns over a lack of required skills (66 per cent), Return on Investment (ROI)

 (55 per cent), and fears over stories of AI malfunctioning (38 per cent). Many also expressed reservations over the cost of solutions (39 per cent) and lack of trust in the technology (36 per cent), reinforcing fears that AI would not deliver sufficient ROI.


Despite this, businesses are broadly ramping up their investment into AI and expanding its use to enhance customer-facing services, often without realising it. More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of businesses claim to be actively using AI in marketing, communications or customer service. Of those that don’t currently use it, 37 per cent plan to adopt the technology within the next two years.


Peter Pugh-Jones, head of technology, SAS UK & Ireland, said: “Whether we realise it or not, AI has already arrived. From financial services to retail, AI has become more commonplace and we are seeing its use progress from solely back-office support to increasingly front-end, customer-focused roles.”


Pugh-Jones added: “With the ability to unlock accurate insights from vast amounts of data – in near real-time where required – AI is the key to providing the exceptionally responsive and personalised experiences that customers are demanding and businesses are seeking to deliver.”


Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of millennials admit they would gladly use automated customer service systems if they provided a better or quicker service. And nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of consumers would be happy to let robots choose, purchase and deliver gifts to their friends and family at Christmas. To meet customers’ expectations, AI is being used to analyse massive volumes of data and supplement consumer-brand conversations. In total, 41 per cent of businesses are using AI-enabled chatbots to respond to common customer service requests and engage with customers more frequently and on-demand but without increasing labour costs.


AI is also becoming the computerised extra that aids businesses to draw insights from large amounts of customer data and use it to build meaningful relationships and personalised experiences. Nearly a third (30 per cent) are using AI to proactively interact with customers based on their behaviour and mood. A larger proportion (36 per cent) are using AI to build more meaningful relationships with their customers by targeting them with relevant messaging and offers at the right moment, and even predict how their customers will respond or act. With the ability to analyse large datasets concerning the digital footprint of individual customers, AI can translate the results into natural language to provide a human-like medium for meeting customer expectations on-demand.


But to use AI effectively requires good sources of data and proper data management processes in place. With the velocity and volume of customer data increasing, organisations need to use advanced analytics to automatically derive insights from historical data and use it to predict what is likely to happen in the future. Reflecting this, over a third (37 per cent) of businesses believe analytics provides the data to enable AI systems to respond in the moment.


“We can now generate what was once unimaginable volumes of data of all varieties, and even apply analytics to that data as it is being generated. However, the concept of machine learning where we programme machines to understand, learn and improve algorithms applied to that the data is not a new one,” said Pugh-Jones.


“However, what’s needed to take AI and machine learning to the next level is a scalable, advanced analytics platform, where accurate insights can be quickly extracted from all the data. This gives organisations both the fuel and the engine to begin experimenting with AI and successfully explore the boundaries of what is possible.”


 SAS surveyed 300 senior IT and business decision-makers and 350 heads of marketing, customer service, digital and data across the UK exploring attitudes and adoption of AI. It also includes insights from online surveys of 2,000 consumers across the UK aged between 16 and 34, and 1,000 adults exploring their preferences and behaviours when interacting with brands.