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Chat-botThe rise of voice activated Artificial Intelligence blossomed in 2016, enabling users to achieve various ends by simply delegating the task in a conversational manner to a virtual assistant. Enabling users to order Taco Bell using Slack’s messaging interface, check the status of their UPS Packages and order office supplies from staples.

In 2017, many of these new applications for the virtual assistance will be cut, while many others will proliferate the consumer and enterprise sectors, creating new workflows, operational efficiencies and opportunities for improved customer service. The early signs that Amazon’s Alexa, though marketed as a home product, it is poised to become a go-to platform for voice-based assistances for consumers and businesses.

The trend is already taking hold: Wynn Hotels plans to equip nearly 5,000 rooms with Amazon’s Echo device, which will allow people to query Alexa for room and hotel information.

 

“Alexa: order tape”

Alexa is already being utilized by FedEx in correlation with a built-in app that lets customers ship packages by simply saying “Alexa, I want to ship a package,” per FedEx CIO Rob Carter. “Our belief is that we can create Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to ship complex things around the world and get the documentation just via a conversational approach.” Optimally, a FedEx worker could tell Alexa how much a package weighs and where they want it shipped rather than looking through long lists of commodity tables and commercial invoices.

The trend can be seen even with Capital One’s plans to upgrade an app it built to allow customers to command Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to make payments and get answers to queries about your last credit card statement. The company notes that Amazon has made large strides to its public cloud infrastructure in the effort to become more accommodating to business ML Models.

Like many enterprises, Capital One is reaching beyond the chatbot and assistant tools, hoping to harness ML to improve back-office processes and systems performance, as well as fraud detection. “Our business is so data intensive and so rich with points at which you’re making decisions where adding more intelligence to those decisions and refining them through more data and sophisticated algorithms has a lot of potential,” said CIO of Capital One Rob Alexander.

Moving past the world of Amazon’s Alexa, AI and ML technologies are empowering a smarter generation of CRM technologies. Startups such as Conversica and Dynamic Yield having raised millions to improve the promise of AI tools that lead to reliable sales leads and personalized offers for customers.

 

Is Alexa and other ML the future of CRM

Large companies such as Humana and Aetna are using AI software to tackle the age-old challenge of training new employees in the difficult roles of customer facing support roles. Especially in the face of angry or emotional customers.

Meanwhile, companies such as Boxever — the large cloud analytics company — are setting their sights on closing the gap between operational performance and CRM. Boxever is using ML and data to improve customer service in airline travel. For example, if an airline loses a passenger’s bag, Boxever will note the discontinuity and prompt the airline to alert the passenger via chatbot. While simultaneously prompting flight crew to offer a free upgrade to business-class seating.

 

Not Even Close

The real light of the situation however, while conversational AI and virtual assistants can automate a great deal of tasks, there are several hurdles to clear. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg learned himself after building Jarvis, a virual assistant he has sewn together to automate manual tasks in his home.

Zuckerberg, who chronicled how he used natural language processing, face recognition and speech recognition software for Jarvis, noted that while he built a decent assistant that he wouldn’t be able to build a system that could learn completely new skills on its own unless he made some “fundamental breakthrough in the state of AI along the way.”

“In a way, AI is both closer and farther off than we imagine,” Zuckerberg wrote. “AI is closer to being able to do more powerful things than most people expect — driving cars, curing diseases, discovering planets, understanding media. Those will each have a great impact on the world, but we’re still figuring out what real intelligence is.”