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CRM and Robots: What We Learned About Artificial Intelligence at CRM Evolution

by Katie Liesmann on May 14, 2018

5 minute read

In early April, we attended and sponsored CRM Evolution 2018. This is an annual event where analysts, consultants, vendors, and project leaders get together to share CRM knowledge. We think many people would be surprised to hear that there wasn’t a single session that didn’t mention the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) in some form or fashion. We came back excited about the possibilities of using AI in our CRM consulting practice. Keep reading to see three reasons why AI is the hottest topic in the CRM industry right now.

AI Can Compliment Your Hiring Strategy

While people such as Elon Musk express concern that robots may be a threat to humans, at CRM Evolution, we discussed why organizations should considering making their next hire an AI bot.  

Rather than viewing bots as a threat to or a replacement for humans, Tobias Goebel of Aspect spoke about how robots and humans have strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. Humans are able to use intuition to make out-of-the-box decisions (think of when Captain Sully landed a plane on The Hudson in 2009), and we can have the gifts of empathy, creativity, and personality. At the same time, humans are "only human", so they also get sick, quit their jobs (after you’ve spent training investments on them), and become bored doing tedious or manual work.

Robots on the other hand, never have bad moods, produce consistent quality, are fluent in multiple languages, and will only be a new employee once. The enlightening discussion focused on how to support customer experiences using AI and ML, how to maintain privacy in the process, and why “hiring” a bot is a good investment to make for you and your employees.

AI is Changing Consumer Behavior

Another reason that AI and ML were on everyone’s minds was because we know that the use of these technologies is changing human behaviors. In a presentation on smart speech technology, Brent Leary, Managing Partner of CRM Essentials, spoke about how the ways people are changing. A few examples include that people using smart speakers are listening to more audio, podcasts, and news; they are also beginning to make purchases using only their voice. Leary said that as the shopping spends through voice outlets increases to $40 billion in the year 2020, he anticipates that smart speakers will be used in more and more places, including at workplaces and businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

It’s no news that consumers want what they want, where and when they want it. Brian Solis dove deeper into this in one session when he spoke about how technology such as the smartphones are teaching each consumer that they are “the most important person in the world.” The ability of humans to create technology that satisfies this belief is limited--and that’s where “robots” (or AI & ML) come in. These tools will help us adapt past these limits and for the first time in history, create objects that learn from our changing behavior, rather than creating objects that we must learn to use.

AI Will Always Need a Human Element

The conversation around AI is shifting to a focus on ethics and data privacy. The day we were at CRM Evolution learning about AI also just happened to be the day that Mark Zuckerberg was testifying before Congress. Each of us had our minds on data privacy and our responsibility as businesses to act in respectful ways when it comes to consumer data and security rights.

In a session by R. Ray Wang, it was suggested that we need to involve what he calls the Digital Artisan in our process of creating AI and ML technologies. He said that these anthropologists, artists, and ecologists would be able to help us think outside of the software engineering mindset and measure the impact that these technologies will have on society. He reminded us to use transparency and reversibility in the process, and always to make sure the methods start and end with humans--rather than rely 100% on AI technology.

Concluding Thoughts

We saw at CRM Evolution that AI and ML take on several forms--from intelligent chatbots that store conversations in the CRM--to internal CRM assistants that help sales reps predict how to make the best sale. It may take some time for organizations to get the hang of implementing these technologies in a way that boosts user experience and is secure without crossing any personal information lines. But one thing is for sure--we learned at CRM Evolution that the technology is finally robust enough that it’s time to start planning it into your strategy.

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