Is our workplace ready for AI assistants?

Business Innovations

28 October 2018

Is our workplace ready for AI assistants?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

The world is rather interesting these days, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). The technology has long moved out of the ambit of sci-fi and has made a definite entrance into our professional lives. But how far has it really penetrated?

Today there are digital assistants scheduling meetings, chatbots working alongside teachers as their assistants and even AI working with HR to make better hiring decisions. The implications of AI in the workplace have started to get noticed. The day isn’t far when HR will leverage the combined power of human intelligence and Artificial Intelligence to deliver a more personalized employee experience.`

It has been predicted that by 2022, one in five workers will have AI as their co-worker. Imagine that!

#1 Humans and AI will work side-by-side

Today artificial intelligence is working effortlessly alongside HR managers and teaching assistants. Chatbots are quick on the uptake and, as Jill Watson, the AI-empowered teaching assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology showed, they can very soon begin to answer routine student queries. This will allow teachers and their human assistants to free-up a significant amount of time and focus on more complex areas of teaching.

As AI becomes a new, trusted member of the team, taking over more routine tasks, HR leaders will now need to spend time orienting and training chatbots, and also educating the rest of the team on how to work with them. The result of this will be more time for human employees to do tasks meant for humans, such as complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

#2 Can AI take over some roles entirely?

There is a fear that AI will take over some tasks entirely. Even in the worst case scenario, this is unlikely. At best, certain activities will need to be re-defined, and that could call for revising business processes and introducing new job roles. As the point above outlines, AI can take over certain routine activities, allowing individuals who earlier performed these roles to bring greater value to their customers and employees.

#3 Sourcing and recruiting new hires

Another notable area where AI is helping companies is the way they source and recruit new hires. With the backing of AI, recruiters can prioritize jobs more efficiently, find the right talent faster, and match candidates more effectively. Rather than relying on filters such as years of experience or education levels, machine learning can help shortlist candidates based on core skills such as agility, cognitive abilities, etc. This ‘horizontal sourcing’ model can even help talent move across business verticals, domains, and industries. This is a fantastic example of AI truly reinventing a business function.

#4 Machine learning will help improve careers

There is a trend that is gradually being noticed across industries and sectors. Employees at all levels are staying 30% longer in their roles. This is an excellent opportunity for companies to help employees focus on their career and not just aim for promotions. Managers at Cisco are already leveraging machine learning to help their team members present their skills, interests, and passions, and then look for internal roles that can help further their career goals.

#5 AI as a virtual coach and to reinforce learning

Several newer companies are investing in chatbots that will provide employees with individual coaching in the workplace.

Take the example of the MIT Media Lab startup GiantOtter. The company is riding on AI to develop and train ‘Coach Otto’, a training bot that provides online coaching for companies. An employer can use this chatbot as a coach or a companion to improve an individual’s performance on the job, for instance preparing a manager for a difficult conversation with an employee.

Conclusion:

There is no doubt that AI + human is the future of work. Now it is simply a question of businesses using AI to create a seamless employee experience. What do you think? Will the advent of AI threaten existing jobs, or will the two work seamlessly and create a more efficient system?

What’s in a name? How did some of our favourite brands get their names?

Business Innovations

08 February 2019

What’s in a name? How did some of our favourite brands get their names?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Brands and brand names are deeply entrenched in our lives; almost staple, one could say. We all ‘Google’ information, Skype with friends, and love to treat ourselves to a Häagen-Dazs ice cream every now and then.

But did you ever stop to wonder where these brands got their names from? Surely someone or a group of people sat in a boardroom and came up with these names. But what do they actually mean? Let’s look at some of our favourite ones, shall we, in no particular order?

Google is a typo!

Google’s founder, Larry Page, was brainstorming with a bunch of graduate students at Stanford University to create a massive data-index website. Someone (no one is sure who) suggested ‘googolplex’, which means the largest describable number. A student misspelled the name and that’s how ‘Google’ came to be.

And you thought Adidas stands for ‘All Day I Dream About Soccer’?

Sorry folks, the Adidas name has nothing to do with athletic sports. Story goes, the founder of the brand, Adolf Dassler, started making shoes when he returned home after WWI. He needed to give a name to the brand, so he combined his nickname Adi, with the first three letters of his last name. As simple as that. Now use this knowledge to correct someone else’s misinformation.

Twitter means just what it stands for.

The podcasting company, Odeo, was brainstorming one day. Jack Dorsey, who was then an undergraduate student at NYU, came up with the idea of an individual using an SMS service to send messages to a small group. The original name given for this service was ‘twttr’, an idea inspired by Flickr as much as the five-character length of American SMS short codes. In fact, the service was launched as ‘twttr’ also because twitter.com was already taken. Six months later the domain was purchased and there’s been no looking back since. According to Dorsey, “…we came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”

Did you also believe IKEA to be a Swedish word?

IKEA is a fine example of a make-believe word. And no, it has nothing to do with Sweden, not directly at least. Founder Ingvar Kamprad created the brand name by combining the initials of his name, IK and then adding on the first letters of the farm and village where he grew up in southern Sweden: Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd. We, for one, are glad that he went with the initials only. Can you imagine saying those names aloud!

Amazon is named after the world’s biggest river.

Amazon, launched in 1995 as a bookstore, was meant to be called Cadabra by its founder, Jeff Bezos. It seems, however, that the company’s first lawyer, Todd Tarbert, felt the name sounded too similar to ‘cadaver’. Bezos then chose Relentless (if you visit relentless.com you will get redirected to the Amazon website. Try it, we just did.), but he eventually decided on Amazon – the world’s largest river. In fact, the company’s first logo even had an image of the river.

Starbucks finds its origins in Moby-Dick.

Starbucks cofounder Gordon Bowker tells an interesting tale of the origin of the name. They definitely wanted something that began with ‘st’ because it sounded powerful. Somehow the conversation veered to the old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier. The old mining town of Starbo caught their eye, and Gordon immediately thought of Melville’s first mate, Starbuck, from Moby-Dick.

Häagen-Dazs is real, but the name is all made up.

Reuben Mattus, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, wanted to pay tribute to Denmark (the only country that saved Jews during WWII) and decided to name his ice-cream company Häagen-Dazs. The name doesn’t mean anything, but the combination of letters, especially the umlaut, does the job splendidly.

Xerox isn’t random, unlike what you might have thought.

We’ve seen made-up names and names that used initials of the founders or those that got their inspiration from entirely unrelated subjects. Xerox isn’t one of those; it has a clear etymology. It comes from the word xerography, which is a technical term for the dry copying process used in photocopiers, which itself is derived from the Greek words xeros (dry) and graphos) writing. That ‘x’? It was added for some techy punch. So popular is the brand name that today Xerox has gone on to become the generic word for the act of photocopying.

Sony needed something simple in English.

Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (as Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering) made perfect sense in Japan, but wouldn’t have the same impact in the US. How did the company overcome the hurdle? By reinventing the brand as something short and simple. Sony seemed to be a good choice as it was easy to say, and additionally it also suggested ‘sonus’ which is Latin for sound. Moreover, it was similar to ‘sonny’ an American slang for a young lad. That made the name friendly and approachable.

Facebook or Facemesh?

When Mark Zuckerberg was studying at Harvard’s University, there used to be an online directory of all the students in the college called Face Book. The idea behind this was to familiarize all the students with each other. If you’ve seen The Social Network, you will be familiar with how Mark hacked the servers and created a competition of sorts to ask people to choose who looked better. He initially named it Facemesh. This later evolved into a networking site where people could communicate with each other and even put up their photographs, and he reverted to calling it Facebook.

Then there’s Pepsi, named after dyspepsia (meaning indigestion) because it was meant to aid digestion. McDonald’s is named after the two brothers Dick and Mac McDonald who ran a burger restaurant. Gap literally indicates the generation gap between adults and kids. Nike is the Greek goddess of victory (apt, isn’t it?). Skype is derived from ‘Sky peer-to-peer’, which was shortened to ‘Skyper’. However, the domain name was already taken, so the ‘r’ was dropped to make it Skype. Gatorade was launched as an energy drink for the Florida Gators.

Whew! The list of brand names and their origins is actually endless, but these are just some of the more popular ones that we encounter almost daily.

Conclusion

What does this list tell you? Original, unique and catchy names are very important to building great brands, as against descriptive or rational ones. Fun business names have more power and it is important to think out of the box when naming a brand.

Do you have any names that you think are quirky in their own right? Tell us in the comments below.

Do you know what your chatbots and customers are talking about?

Business Innovations

23 January 2019

Do you know what your chatbots and customers are talking about?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Artificial Intelligence is here, and it is here to stay for good. As machine-learning technology advances, it is paving the way for better self-learning machines that are showing the promise of being able to do almost everything that we humans can.

The benefits are indeed countless and more businesses than ever are getting excited about taking AI from behind the scenes to a more customer-facing role. This could be as simple as offering customer support, to helping close sales or even creating content for a blog.

But as is the case with everything new and exciting, this is unchartered territory and it comes with its posse of risks. While it might not be as dangerous or life-threatening as The Terminator, it could still create mischief and hurt your business. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of having chatbots interact with your customers.

An employee that’s always working, but that means constant supervision

What makes machines better than humans is their indefatigable ability to work. Given a chance, with uninterrupted electricity, they could work all day long, all days of the year, year after year. No lunch break, no sick leave, no overtime, and no home to go to.

This is extremely beneficial when it comes to interacting with customers. An AI chatbot can take care of customer calls after hours or from anywhere across the globe. Or if all your customer representatives are busy (and haven’t we all been on the other side of the unending recording), a chatbot can step in and handle more routine calls or trivial cases.

However, AI cannot be 100% perfect all the time. You cannot afford to let your AI chatbot run free to handle the night shift all on its own. Perhaps your chatbot could face an unanticipated problem, or it could interact with a troll, or there could be a language issue. While this doesn’t mean someone needs to be managing it every moment, you do need to have in place a system that contacts specific employees when the AI is stumped. If you don’t maintain a supervisor in place, you could face unhappy customers or worse, loss of business.

AI finds the most efficient solution and repeats it perfectly, but it leaves no room for improvising

The beauty of AI is that it finds patterns; could be through trial and error, or through the analysis of large volumes of data. Once it finds the patterns, it knows how to replicate them perfectly, over and over again, without messing up ever. In customer service it could be about finding a solution to their problems; in sales it might mean convincing them to agree to a follow-up call or even buying a product.

However, AI will not be able to improvise, like a human can, and respond to that one situation that is outside of the established pattern. While a human will quickly improvise and come up with a response that deviates from the pre-written script, AI will struggle in this scenario.

Data collection happens easily, but it can make you a target for hackers

An AI chatbot is the prefect repository of information on a customer. As it talks to a customer, it collects and analyses data, and learns more about the individual and uses that information to improve the experience.

What is the kind of data that can be collected? It isn’t just restricted to likes and dislikes, or the types of offers a customer responds to. The data collected can include some valuable and personal information, such as addresses, bank details, payment information, full names, and other information that can be used for stealing an identity.

This makes the chatbot and your database a target for hackers. To counter that, a business needs to invest in high-level security which means virus protection, firewalls, long and complex passwords, and educating employees on security best practices.

AI can develop a personality through customer interactions, but that leaves you open for manipulation

Earlier AI chatbots were simply question-and-response systems that sounded robotic. But as technology improved, AI chatbots have only grown better. Today customers often don’t realise that they are talking to a chatbot. With the right interactions, it is quite possible to build a distinct personality that meets the needs of the brand better. This could mean including specific words, starting conversations in a distinct way, and even using memes and emojis.

The downside to this is that if people figure out, they are talking to an AI chatbot, they could try and manipulate it. We all know what happened to Microsoft’s AI chatbot Tay on twitter. In less than a day, trolls taught it to issue sexist, racist and Nazi propaganda tweets, while also insulting anyone that tried engaging with it.

In all likelihood, this will happen to your chatbot as well. To avoid this, you must have qualified people go through your AI’s behaviour meticulously to remove traces of any negative habits it might have picked up. You must also have specific blockers against learning negative habits, such as abusing, calling people bad names, inappropriate content, etc.

Conclusion

The possibilities with AI are only as limited as our imagination. Or that of the abilities of AI itself. This powerful technology, although a little creepy, can perform tasks in minutes that would take a human, weeks to complete. It can overcome prejudices and learn from its mistakes quickly. Is it any wonder that more businesses are jumping on to the AI bandwagon?

Amazing ways live video can give your business a boost

Business Innovations

15 January 2019

Amazing ways live video can give your business a boost

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

If content is king, then it would be safe to assume that video content is the emperor. It is one of the most effective content mediums in today’s digital market, and if a business wants to stay ahead of competitors, it needs to embrace video to gain a prominent spot in the consumers’ mind and life.

The country today is heading towards a video streaming market that is expected to touch $5 billion by 2023. This has been made possible by rising affluence, affordable digital devices, deeper data penetration in rural markets and even digital adoption by newer demographics.

With the increasing competition, it is also critical to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the right message. And live video streaming on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram is the fastest, cheapest and most effective way of doing so.

Here are 6 amazing opportunities for including live video in your content marketing plan.

#1 A Q&A session

Let’s start with a simple Q&A session. This is an effective way for you to strengthen your relationship with your customers, current as well as potential. You could answer questions on how to use the product, or give tips to improve user experience, and even deal with grievances.

The session needn’t be restricted to your product alone, you could even organise a Q&A session to answer doubts and queries related to the industry. For instance, a company in the business of manufacturing beauty products can conduct a live session on skin care. This creates stickiness and takes your product from a cold and lifeless entity to something warm and more approachable.

#2 Share live events

There was a time live events meant actual music concerts or fashion shows with a live, physically present, captive audience. That is still the case, no doubt. However, with the seamless integration of digital in our lives, today an event can be conducted in one location and streamed ‘live’ to captive online audiences across the world.

Instead of waiting for a telecast later, people can participate in the event as it is happening. And the participation isn’t passive. Broadcasting the event live on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter gives your customers, current and potential, a chance to interact, ask questions, and become part of the brand story.

This helps build trust, showcase what your brand stands for beyond the product or service, allows you to express opinions, and works towards creating a stronger, expert brand.

#3 Test or review your product live

Another tried and tested way to build trust among your community is by testing or reviewing your product online. Time it with the launch of your new product and you are guaranteed more eyeballs than you could have imagined with just a launch.

Land Rover adopted this brilliant strategy while launching its latest vehicle. For an entire month the car brand did a live test drive video on Facebook. The vehicle was driven over all kinds of terrain and customers as well as car aficionados were treated to the vehicle’s performance. Any surprises the video got 9.7K views, and was shared across the platform by customers?

#4 Broadcast the launch of a new product

Similar to the product demo or test, you can also launch your product online and broadcast the event live. This is turning out to be quite a popular way for brands to generate a buzz around their new product and of course, eventually lead to sales.

For example, Dell used Facebook Live to launch its first Inspiron gaming laptop in India. The live event reached out to more than 55k fans through the launch alone.

#5 Live testimonials

Testimonials are great to get your customers to talk about your products. Have you given any thought to live testimonials? A new take on traditional customer endorsement, live testimonials, if done right, can provide you great returns no matter what your industry.

Goes without saying that you should choose your most satisfied customers, and get them to speak from the heart while directing them gently. Keep the videos no more than 2-3 minutes; else your audience will drop off.

 #6 Invite influencers

Everyone is talking about influencers these days. Perhaps your business can benefit from the opinion of one. Invite an influencer from the same industry to give your audience a whole new take on the subject, making the session interesting for them. Additionally, your influencer will certainly invite his or her audience to participate, giving your product more mileage.

But how do you find an influencer? Rely on tools like Buzzstream or Grin to locate an expert who can help your business. If your influencer turns out to be in a different geography, you can use Instagram’s new feature – collab-live stream – to overcome that challenge.

Conclusion

Thanks to social media live video options you can connect with your audience at a deeper level and engage with them like never before, wherever they are, whenever you want.