AI is Taking Over the World — Just Not in the Ways We Feared

As technology continues its rapid innovation, it’s not difficult to envision a future in which machines will become more intelligent and stronger than their human predecessors, eventually taking over the world — just like our sci-fi nightmares come to life, right?

Well, fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are nowhere near that advanced yet. Right now, AI is most adept at augmenting our human capabilities to make completing tasks and living our lives easier than ever before… just don’t tell Elon Musk, one of the prominent voices raising concerns about AI’s dangers to humanity.

Indeed, advanced technologies are already leveraging AI and machine learning to analyze human behavior so that apps can predict what users want and when they want it. From getting driving directions and music or movie recommendations to placing an order at a fast food restaurant, AI’s potential has intrigued us for decades, and today, its applications are more ubiquitous than you might imagine.

AI for the Enterprise

Rather than serving as a replacement for human employees and their ingenuity, artificial intelligence is generally seen as a supporting tool, augmenting human capabilities. AI is uniquely proficient at processing and analyzing massive amounts of data far more quickly than a human brain could. Consequently, AI excels at performing the time-consuming and arduous tasks that free human employees up to perform more thoughtful work.

Businesses have employed AI for years in applications you didn’t necessarily realize were artificially intelligent — recommendations systems used by Amazon to get you to purchase additional products, by Netflix to get you to watch more shows and by Spotify to offer suggestions for new discoveries and tried-and-true classic favorites based on your prior listening habits. Now, more ostentatious examples of companies using AI are becoming pervasive, and the technology is revolutionizing the way business is done across industries.

Today, 83% of businesses say AI is a strategic priority for their business. In fact, the second edition of Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise found that early AI adopters are now ramping up their investments, launching more initiatives and getting positive returns (82% see a positive ROI). The survey also revealed that 59% are using AI-enabled enterprise software purpose-built to provide insights and intelligence that streamlines sales cycles, processes and workflows.

AI’s enhanced decision-making capabilities make it highly valuable across industries —like banking, cybersecurity, manufacturing, self-driving cars and other business verticals—regardless of whether the technology is simply collecting data from sensors affixed to various assets in a factory or performing a task as complex as monitoring an engine to predict when it will need repairs.

The benefits of integrating AI into the enterprise include cost savings, increased profit margins and increasing revenue growth, the creation of new products and services, the ability to drive higher levels of quality or gain deeper insights from data. Clearly, there are myriad factors driving enterprise adoptions of AI technologies.

AI Redefining Customer Service

Many experts are focusing on its potential for enhancing customer service and improving the customer experience overall.

An IBM study found that 52% of customers have hung up on a customer support line because they didn’t wait to wait for an agent and that half of all customer support calls go unresolved. While these statistics illustrate the discouraging current state of customer service, they also highlight the notion that there is indeed plenty of room for improvement — and how AI can help improve customer service.

With technologies spanning automated emailsvisual search, chatbots and more, AI applications allow companies to better support and engage with their customers at more points of contact along their journey.

AI-powered chatbots have become widely available, with 53% of service organizations expecting to use chatbots within 18 months — a 136% growth rate that signals the massive impact the technology will make in the near future. Unlike their human counterparts, who are restricted by work schedules and struggle to multitask, these bots able to help customers 24/7 and answer questions without any human intervention while providing support to multiple customers at once. And in the digital age of instant gratification, 70% of millennial customers enjoy their AI-fueled chat experience.

So much more than chatbots, AI’s capacity to customize user experiences is revolutionizing the way business interact with consumers. Companies across industries are currently using AI to analyze customer data and tailor products to their users. Because AI pulls data from as many relevant sources as possible, it allows machines to factor in details like the weather, nearby events, item popularity, items normally purchased together or personal preferences, displaying the most relevant content to customers to encourage the purchase of more expensive or upgraded items as well as other add-ons.

No matter the industry, the majority of companies believe AI will be the key that unlocks the cultivation of a customer-focused culture.

AI in Fast Food

One such industry realizing the significant benefits of AI adoption is the quick-service restaurant (QSR) space. From voice ordering and conversational AI drive-thru platforms to burger-flipping robots, a team of data scientists are no longer required to tap the power of AI in fast food restaurants.

An increasing number of restaurants employ voice assistant-enabled ordering using Apple’s Siri, the Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home application programming interfaces (APIs). From Denny’s to Dunkin’ to Starbucks and beyond, an increasing number of QSR point-of-sale (POS) systems handle voice/personal assistant-based ordering along with mobile apps, kiosks, the drive-thru and web sales. But some companies are taking this a step further.

According to the 2019 QSR Drive-Thru Study, “the newest buzzword (in the QSR sector) is AI — artificial intelligence — which could improve the drive-thru operation by replacing the employee at the speaker, recognizing each car’s past orders, or simply predicting what the customer might want to order at that particular time of day.”

To that end, myriad companies in the QSR space are leveraging the strengths of AI technologies to allow businesses to streamline the customer experience, improve employee efficiency and help address labor shortages, especially during peak times.

Cementing the value of AI applications in the QSR space, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield for more than $300 million back in March, and in January, Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard deployed a conversational AI customer service platform, known as “Holly,” to take customer orders at a location in Denver. Both the international fast food giant and the QSR with locations across Colorado and Wyoming intend to use powerful data technology to tailor the drive-thru menu board according to weather, traffic patterns, trending items or the customer’s order in process.

Over the last five years, traffic and menu complexity have led to increasing wait times in the drive-thru, and as a result, it generally takes customers more than double the time (an average of 255 seconds from speaker to order window) to receive their food today as it did 15 years ago. Making matters worse, drive-thru chains are only accurate with 84.4% of their orders.

To eliminate AI biases and ensure the highest accuracy possible, some AI applications are built using actual customer recordings, employing human-in-the-loop (HITL) on all orders. As a result, this type of technological advance can offer benefits such as improved order accuracy, reduced customer wait times, improved average attempted upsell rate and an enhanced, customized customer experience.

So, no, futuristic visions of the Terminator coming to murder you are not set to become reality anytime in the near future. You’re much more likely to work alongside or have your customer experience enhanced by the Terminator’s far less menacing peer — someone like “Holly.”

About the Author
Rob Carpenter is the CEO and Founder of Valyant AI, an enterprise grade conversational AI platform for the quick serve restaurant industry. Valyant has developed a proprietary software application that integrates within a restaurants existing hardware infrastructure and allows the AI software to take the vast majority of customer orders and insert them directly into the POS for payment.