Dealing with the possibilities that artificial intelligence opens up in communication is currently becoming a must for companies. But many sales, marketing, service, and communication departments are still rather cautious about the new AI technologies. They have to overcome their fear of contact quickly, says Gabriele Horcher. Because not a few representatives of their target groups – whether end-users or purchasing departments – are already using the advantages that AI offers in communication.
An end-user does not have to be clear about his communication strategy before using artificial intelligence to his advantage. He simply tries out the new tools or features that GAFA & Co. usually offer him free of charge. With his smartphone, he is able to outsource his communication with companies. With Google Duplex, a digital assistant for consumers is already in use in the USA, which makes appointments with hairdressers or craftsmen by phone or reserves a table in a restaurant. End users are already using artificial intelligence to communicate. In contrast, many companies still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to AI. It is high time to change that.
The buyer is already there
Technologies such as text mining, possibly in conjunction with smart speakers, make it easier for consumers to research relevant information that interests them privately or professionally. If he uses Google News, for example, he no longer surfs on individual media or company pages. The target group is sometimes spoiled so that they do much less research themselves. For companies and media companies, this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the target group’s attention to their own messages. End users can even collect and use the data they leave on the Internet.
And it’s not just the end-users who take advantage of the clear advantages of artificial intelligence. The purchasing departments in companies are also upgrading. When looking for suitable suppliers, they are now looking for much more than just the right product specifications. In the past, purchasing may only have looked at the balance sheet of a supplier. AIs are now researching, structuring, and evaluating the overall framework that is important to a company – also under pressure from its customers – from the supplier’s environmental awareness to its attitude to human rights, political issues, and security aspects to management style at board level.
Buying and selling behavior
It wasn’t that long ago that the buying behavior of purchasing departments and end consumers has changed fundamentally: through the Internet. As a result, many companies have lost market share and sales over the past 20 years. Even today, quite a few of them are surprised that their previous strategies and content no longer work. They do not want to recognize that the Internet offers more than the option of having a business card online – it is the basis for unprecedented market transparency. The formerly loyal target group not only has completely different information and research options today, but also a much larger selection. Accordingly, a tendency to change has replaced old brand loyalty. It was too much work for the companies that missed the connection here to keep an eye on forum posts, social media posts, and reviews – not to mention actively using these channels. They thought they could sit out when GAFA & Co. curtailed the presence of their presence and information on the web. They have neither adequately observed and analyzed the Internet technology nor the behavior of their target group. And they did not react to the changed buying behavior in time: with a changed selling behavior. Given the next paradigm shift from AI, this must not happen a second time.
The two challenges of artificial intelligence
So that companies do not have to laboriously adjust to changing customer behavior, they should monitor it continuously – and combine this knowledge with their own new strategic and technological possibilities. Because there are two challenges for communicators in sales, service, marketing, and corporate communication: Not only that they have to deal extensively with possible own AI communication scenarios. You should also research what information needs exist and which applications your target group is already using or will use in the foreseeable future. Knowing what a supplier or end-user AI is looking for and how it evaluates the results is the first step towards providing and providing suitable answers to the AI’s questions. If companies do not deal with which digital information their target group needs, the greatest AI-supported campaign can be completely ineffective.
The uses of AI in communication
Artificial intelligence is already changing the way companies work in their communication: digital, voice-controlled assistants help to get relevant information faster, order things, or even edit photos and graphics. There are features like speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and even text-to-video. Translations of entire Word or PowerPoint files or of conversations, automated image recognition, and text creation are possible. Automating recurring processes saves a lot of time and improves the throughput and the outcome of the communication enormously.
Artificial intelligence can not only accelerate repetitive work processes but also bring completely new insights. Various aspects can be analyzed: for example, behavior in social media, voice patterns, facial expressions, or body signals such as heart and respiratory rate. Nowadays, algorithms can not only find out what a person wants at a certain moment – but they can also recognize how they feel about it and how they tick in general. With this knowledge, it is not only possible to change the specific approach, but also the specific offer portfolio – right down to the individual price.
The distant future was yesterday
If we look a little further into the future, it becomes clear that the use of artificial intelligence on the supplier and buyer side does not only change the way we work in sales, service, marketing, and communication; it will completely revolutionize some of the communication. Why? Because in the future, artificial intelligence on the supplier side will increasingly communicate directly with artificial intelligence on the demand side. And for this, AIs don’t need a chichi or a nice website. Unlike us, they are not influenced by psychological effects in their decision. You need data, numbers, and facts. And this in-depth, breadth and speed that we as humans could neither understand nor make available quickly enough. The prerequisite for smooth communication between AIs is – much more than today – the availability and accessibility of correct, current, and relevant data.
Anyone who hopes that this will make any channel superfluous will be disappointed. The last few decades have shown that channels and technologies can lose importance at times, but never completely disappear. Communication channels are also subject to modes, there are wave movements. The monster wave is currently called digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence, and is likely to continue for the next ten years. The complexity does not decrease, but increases. Another reason to get help from AI.
Communication is becoming more human
Fortunately, the fear that communication could completely lose its human touch is unfounded. It’s not a contradiction: technology sometimes makes communication even more human. What we perceive as typical human communication is communication with an individual character, real one-to-one communication. Such communication is direct, fast, specific, relevant, understandable, trusting, and personal. In fact, AI is able to meet all of these criteria for one-to-one communication. The first chatbot in history is Eliza – a virtual psychotherapist that the computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum programmed as early as 1966. In such an individual interaction, machines even have advantages: Not only can they interpret our behavior, our facial expressions, voice, and body signals, their own communication does not flow into their communication. A chatbot knows no bad days
The digitization of companies also requires AI in communication
Companies have to act, not wait. Responsible entrepreneurs should now empower their marketing, sales, service, and communications departments to work on the future of their communications. Because it is crucial for the competitive situation of companies to adapt their own sales behavior to the changed shopping behavior of their target group – and ideally even to anticipate this change. It is important to make time and resources available for the observation and analysis of new technologies and behavior changes. Industry associations as well as trade fair and congress organizers often offer lectures and workshops on the various trend topics. Of course, it is also possible to conduct in-house workshops or to hire external consultants.