Business leaders admit to not 'fully understanding' AI value

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Over 70% of respondents expect AI to improve customer engagement and experience.
Over 70% of respondents expect AI to improve customer engagement and experience.

About one in five business leaders 'fully understand' how artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can be implemented within their organisation, while over three quarters admit to only 'somewhat' understanding it.

This is according to the results of a recent AI and customer experience survey, conducted by ITWeb in partnership with software firm Freshworks.

The survey highlights that while most local organisations have a fair understanding of the value of AI in customer service, some are still holding back from investing in the technology due to financial constraints, lack of infrastructural support for AI, or underappreciation of its return on investment (ROI).

According to experts, innovations such as AI and virtual reality (VR) will reshape customer contact, helping brands create personalised customer experiences and unconventional self-services.

When asked about their organisation's current implementation and use of AI technologies, 14% of respondents reported they have partially deployed AI and it's working as expected.

Almost one quarter (24%) admitted to having no AI deployment yet, with no future plan to adopt it. Another 23% have no deployment yet, but plan to implement it by 2020, while almost a third (27%) said they have limited deployment, with return on investment currently unknown.

Customer service leads the way when it comes to driving revenue from AI capabilities, followed by the product innovation and R&D function and supply chain operations.

Research firm Garter predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human being.

"Within the next few years, customer-centric organisations will gain tremendous advantages through digital customer experience strategies, marketing integration, social media and leveraging customer data and information," notes the research.

By far the strongest driving force behind AI deployments is the need to gain competitive advantage (65%). Others are influenced by customer demands (44%), the need to resolve specific business operational or technical problems (39%), and R&D and innovation (38%).

Stumbling blocks ahead

The biggest barrier to implementing AI strategies and goals across the organisation is cultural challenge or change management, cited by over a half of respondent. Also high on the list of stumbling blocks are a lack of AI knowledge or maturity (49%), as well as concerns about integration of AI into the business decision-making process (42%) and data integration to support the AI model for better insight (38%). High deployment costs and lack of ROI (33%) also emerged as additional challenges.

Just under a third of respondents believe that by the year 2025, 10% of their organisation's workforce will be replaced by AI.

In terms of leveraging AI to derive return on investment, 72% of respondents expect to improve their organisation's customer engagement and customer experience, while 64% are hoping to optimise operations such as supply chain and business processes. Another 52% want to develop more innovative products and services, while 44% expect AI to mitigate the risk of cyber attacks and fraud.

Most often, it is the CIO who is championing the development of an AI strategy at their organisation, but it can also be driven from the very top - the CEO or the COO.

Only 7% of businesses participating in this survey have employed a Chief AI Officer, while 13% report the AI responsibility already sits under another C-suite role.

About the survey

The 2018 AI & Customer Experience Survey, was run online on ITWeb for a period of two weeks in November.

The survey was conducted in partnership with Freshworks and explored the understanding of AI, its potential to transform the customer experience, and the driving forces behind the early AI deployments in SA.

A total of 142 respondents participated, largely made up of senior level ICT decision-makers: 33% of respondents are CEOs and 43% middle management, representing companies across major industry sectors.

While close to 40% come from small business, 25% of survey respondents are from companies with between 501 and 5 000 employees and 15% are from multinationals with over 10 000 employees.

To view the complete graphed results, click here:

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