Putting AI into action
By Roni Dvir August 10, 2017
- AI is a key component for supporting current and future IT systems, platforms and processes
- AI can have a positive impact across the entire spectrum of operations
WILL the dawn of the era of artificial intelligence (AI), herald a timely demise of the customer complaints department? While perhaps a tad optimistic, service providers know that when it comes to AI, its potential is too huge to be measured.
And despite all the hype and discussion around its benefits, there remains much confusion about how to make AI really work for both service providers and their customers.
So what exactly is AI, and what makes it so important that service providers should start acting now to make it an integral part of their long-term strategy?
According to Gartner’s IT Glossary, AI is technology that appears to emulate human performance – typically by learning, coming to its own conclusions, appearing to understand complex content, engaging in natural dialog with people, and enhancing human cognitive performance.
Indeed, AI represents a force of differentiation that will enable service providers to more effectively drive value across the business – from network optimisation and data analytics through to customer care and marketing engagement.
Already, we’re seeing the most forward-thinking of these companies infusing AI across their operations – notably AT&T, Telefonica, and ST Telecom. So let’s take a look at what service providers stand to gain by leveraging the power of AI.
Keep ahead of new business demands
AI is a key component for supporting current and future IT systems, platforms and processes. A main end-goal of digital transformation is to create more streamlined and agile operations that can scale and respond to complex customer and business needs in near real time.
AI can keep pace with these demands with solutions (both machine learning and deep learning) that include analytics tools and automation that can systematically respond, operate and improve operational and business support systems.
AI can have a positive impact across the entire spectrum of operations. It can take network optimisation to new levels, bringing advanced intelligence to data analytics, while making customer-facing operations and services more effective than ever before.
AI solutions can also extract data from one part of the business to feed others, with self-learning capabilities constantly improving over time. And by injecting intelligence across multiple areas of the business, AI can create cross-domain value. Key areas where AI can impact operations include:
- The intelligence-driven product catalogue: leverage customer behaviour and engagement data to automatically fine-tune product catalogue offerings. AI can propose the optimal price, content, size, validity or other parameters of a product catalogue entry, and configure it based on deep learning of the competition from available data, such as advertising, voice of the customer feedback and BSS data.
- Network optimisation: enable efficient and proactive routing of traffic so that capacity can be managed effectively, network outages minimised, and faults bypassed. AI can also be used to optimise network configurations according to dynamic network-capacity demands, the characteristics of the traffic volumes, user behaviour and other parameters.
- Marketing engagement: create contextual, personalised customer engagements in real time for every customer, across a wide range of criteria. These include personalised NBA/NBO, service bundles and marketing messages in the customer’s channel of choice.
- Customer care: transform customer care and service. By harnessing intelligence and automation, you can anticipate customers’ needs and issues and proactively engage them at the right time and channel; personalise engagement using machine learning to quickly address needs in unassisted channels; and empower agents in assisted channels to enable personalised treatment, accelerate resolution and avoid repeated calls
Don’t just jump
But how quickly should service providers climb onto the AI bandwagon? Whether you’re a visionary striving to be first to market or treading more cautiously to avoid mistakes of others, the process of incorporating AI involves risk.
The most pragmatic approach is one that balances that risk. Building a carefully formulated AI roadmap, makes it possible to maximise the opportunities while minimising potential downsides. According to Ovum, a good AI roadmap consists of three major stages:
- Assessing: What value will AI technology add to the business? Assess skills availability within the business, understand what data is available and which of it is important. Then, verify how much is being collected and how quickly can it be extracted. With this information, create an AI strategy and timeline, and plan for which low-hanging-fruit AI applications will deliver immediate benefits. Crucially, secure buy-in from the highest levels of your organisation to support success of the project.
- Building: Decide whether AI systems will be built with in-house resources, external suppliers or a combination of both. While going it alone is an option, if AI is not your core business, you risk a bad investment if you’re not fully in-sync with AI’s rapid evolution. This is where an experienced AI expert can deliver real value. According to Ovum, agile and DevOps disciplines provide the best flexibility, as they can be rapidly fine-tuned or pivoted when necessary, and leverage evidence-based metrics to determine if new features are delivering their intended value.
- Managing: Support needs to emanate from the highest levels of the organisation, all the way to the CEO, as the incorporation of AI also involves cultural challenges that must be dealt with. No less important is creating bottom-up acceptance, which may involve hiring specialised consultants. A change management AI steering committee is a worthwhile investment to oversee this process, ensure the standard of internal expertise is maintained and continually assess opportunities in the market.
With AI prominently perched at the cutting edge of technology, we still don’t know how far it will go in shaping the industry and the lives of consumers. But for service providers seeking to achieve long-term differentiation, it provides the means to leverage the data they hold to offer their customers unique experiences unlike any they had before. If they start moving now, and with a well-planned strategy, AI can be the golden egg that re-establishes service providers’ authority at the top of this ever-evolving industry.
Roni Dvir is part of Digital Intelligence Product Marketing at Amdocs