What is AI?
AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. I prefer automated intelligence. It's already with us in many forms. Artificial Intelligence is the intelligence exhibited by machines or software.
Algorithms helping Google to be the smartest search engine in the galaxy.
Stock markets around the world use Algos, as they call them, allowing high frequency trading using algorithms. It's estimated that as of 2009, high frequency trading accounted for 60-73% of all US equity trading volume. So Artificial Intelligence or AI has done away with human traders.
- Robots, at such a low price, that you can afford one to cut your grass or vacuum your carpets.
- Cars that drive without humans. Scary.
- Amazon's algorithms that suggest what you should buy next, the most successful cross-selling engine on the planet.
AI is already with us and is about to go through massive growth. Before I take a look at the predictions for us, let's have a quick look at the economics of all of this, after all, it's money that drives everything.
The Economic Influence
The fundamental aim of all advanced economies is to increase productivity. In other words to produce more goods and services or gross domestic product (GDP) per person in the workforce. Gone are the days of cheap labour. In the UK we now have the Living Wage which has increased the old minimum wage substantially. Off-shoring to the Far East doesn't bring cheap labour, in fact labour costs in China are rising rapidly as their industrial growth continues.
- In the past we've relied on innovations and inventions to drive productivity.
- In the 19th century, we had steam power
- In the early 20th century, we had electricity and the motor car
- In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, we had personal computing and the internet
All these inventions increased GDP for the countries who maximised their use.
AI is predicted to increase GDP by 1% during the years 2020 and 2030. That's when the changes I'm going to talk about will become mainstream. Let's go.
1. Brains in the sky
Or smart data in the cloud. Have you ever spoken to Siri or Cortana? These are embryos of this prediction. In the future all of our knowledge, our experiences, our data will be held in personal cloud storage accessible via voice control from our Smartphones. It is already. But the future knowledge will be able to learn and improve based upon what we experience, do and learn.
Think about it. Everything you ever want to know or do, the answer will be in the personal cloud. You can ask the cloud any question… anything… and it'll answer it for you in seconds.
The implications for the Inside Sales operation are enormous. No need for training anymore. Your cloud can advise you what you need to know, can feed you information, show you how to do things at a voice command.
No need for coaching since the cloud storage will observe you and provide feedback to make you better at what you do. It's an automated mentor, a coach always on hand to help and assist.
And it learns, it improves, you will be able to buy “boost” packs that enhance it. Can you imagine being able to perform and do anything?
There's even talk of being able to map the human brain, digitise the output and put that in the cloud for accessibility at any time. To be able to “back up” your brain. Maybe this is a few more years away yet.
Will have an enormous influence on the Inside Sales Operation. Tea fetching robots, robot cleaners. Your manager using a robot to enquire how you are, almost like a moving avatar. Window cleaning robots, compliance robots wandering the centre, observing and recording all around them.
3. The Internet of Things
Every device will be connected to the internet and will communicate with other devices.
In our home the following items have chips in them and can communicate via the internet:
- Our Aga cooker. You can switch it on and off from a phone and if it develops an electrical fault, it tells the Aga central control of the problem.
- Our fridge which can inform Tesco's when we're light on milk.
- TVs, DVD Players, Sky Box, naturally.
- My printer.
- My Microsoft Band.
- My car. The computer tells me that my service is due and simultaneously contacts the local garage who emails me to fix up an appointment.
- Smartphones, Tablets, Kindles… but you knew they were connected.
The number of devices connected to the internet is expected to grow tenfold, from 2 billion to 25 billion, between 2010 and 2020.
What are the implications for the Inside Sales operation? Everything smelling of electrics will be connected to the internet and will be able to talk to something else. I mentioned the vending machine, but this is small ticket compared to the bands around the wrists of your Inside Sales People.
Imagine the bands feeding you information about their state of mind, their motivation, their stress levels. Do they need a break, a conversation or just someone to counsel with? We all know that the burn-out amongst Inside Sales People is high and the turnover of staff in a call centre is horrendous. Imagine being able to monitor their state of mind, how useful this would be.
4. 3D Printing
Not necessarily AI, but something that will change the way companies and individuals buy in products. Instead of buying them in, we will use the 3D Printer to make them.
From the internet comes the blueprint fed straight into the 3D Printer which makes it there and then, using some kind of polymer or liquid metal or tofu foodstuff.
So when you need a piece of equipment, you order it up on the internet, pay for the blueprint and have it printed in the office 3D printer or the resource shared with the landlord, since they're going to start off very pricy.
5. Automated salesperson
This might sound very unusual, but you can obtain software that is intelligent and can read and respond to the written text. Imagine an email coming through, the Automated Salesperson called Lucy answers it based upon her programming algorithms and her ability to react to the written word.
She has access to everyone's calendar, email systems and the company's cloud of data and intelligence so can mimic the responses of a real human.
This morning I was using live chat to speak with HP about my malfunctioning printer. Questions came from her, I responded, she reacted and told me how to fix the printer. She might well have been human, she might well have been an intelligent algorithm handling the job.
More and more of these roles will migrate to algorithms and in the Inside Sales of the future much of the initial email exchanging and live chats will be dealt with in this manner. Once the customer has been qualified by the algorithm or algo as I'm going to call it from now on, it'll pass the query onto a human who can make contact and handle the customer moving forward.
Live video chats can be accomplished with an algo. The algo will look, sound and act like a real person on the screen in front of you.
6. Algos in websites
This is the most exciting innovation for the future of the Inside Sales operations. Algos in action on websites. Already Amazon's cross selling engine will recommend products for me, but I'm talking about advice being given by algos.
Imagine you're an Inside Sales operation selling mortgages and associated protection products. Many companies do use humans at the moment to give the advice and complete the sale. In the future, customers will log onto the system looking for mortgage advice and they'll get it from the algo.
The algo will imitate being human, will have all the questions needed to be asked, will call themselves Dave or Umran and will give a great service. I can see voice being added to the mix in a way difficult to distinguish from a real human. A rigidly regulated sale conducted by a computer programme.
Is it a person on the screen or is it a lip synced avatar of the algo? We'll never know.
7. Smart Call Monitoring
This is currently available. A call monitoring system can monitor and listen to the actual call and flag up when an issue occurs. Maybe an irate customer or key words being uttered by either the customer or the sales person. This could be intercepted by the manager or recorded for coaching purposes later. A real time saver.
8. Recruitment with no Limits
It's hard to recruit the right kind of people in the area where the Inside Sales operation lies but the future will allow you to recruit from anywhere in the world and connect them to the centre via the internet. You can now, but the future will allow this to be more effective than it is now with all the algos and AI in operation.
9. Virtual Reality
Will become a reality and ubiquitous. We already have the technology but it'll be become cheaper and easier to move the mass of data around the lightning fast connections everyone has.
Your Inside Salesperson based in Singapore can don their headset and be in the training room in Milton Keynes, interacting with his colleagues. He can be with the manager for a one to one in the meeting room number 4.
Will be beamed to these rooms and in time, you'll think the person is actually there in front of you. But they're not, they're in the home office in downtown Singapore Capital City.
Think about the impact with customers. With the ability to beam your hologram anywhere, Inside Sales will need to change their name back to field sales. Now there's a game changer.
All these predictions are based on present day facts and trends already happening. The period 2020 to 2030 will see robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominating our economies and contributing to a 1% increase in the world's GDP through additional productivity.
For the Inside Sales operations, we will witness an enormous increase in productivity and, by the way, the HP representative on the live chat this morning was a human and she told me her name was Lucy.