There can be no doubt that every business and operational team has to get ready for a future in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a key role. Already, certain aspects of AI such as machine learning are transforming the ways in which some business functions are fulfilled.
In response, South Africa appears to be staying abreast of the global shift towards AI as a business driver: at least 46% of South African companies are actively piloting AI within their organisations, according to the 2019 AI Maturity Report in South Africa commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ernst & Young (EY).
The study found that local companies are experimenting with a range of different technologies, including Chatbots, Robotic Process Automation and Advanced Analytics.
Indeed, South Africa’s overall investment in AI is significant – with US$1.6-billion (R24-billion) invested over the past ten years. Yet despite this investment, many businesses and operational teams are not yet able to fully maximise the benefits and capabilities of AI platforms. In contact centres, for example, there is often a strong desire to incorporate AI technologies but, in many cases, the appropriate groundwork has not been done.
With this in mind, where should business leaders and decision-makers begin when it comes to the exciting world of AI?
Automation: the low hanging fruit
Arguably, the first step is to make sure that you understand the difference between AI and automation. Today, most people equate automation with AI, which is a fundamental mistake.
Put simply, automation involves using hardware or software that is capable of doing things automatically…without human intervention. On the other hand, AI is all about trying to make machines or software mimic (and eventually supersede) human behaviour and intelligence. That said, automation isn’t necessarily based on AI. Within contact centres, it is important to understand this difference – because many of the current challenges that managers and agents face can be solved or mitigated by the automation of key processes.