December 3, 2011

Artificial intelligence

To respond quickly to online customer queries, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used by businesses, from retailers to publishers. My CyberTwin CEO, Liesl Capper-Beilby (pictured), explains this trend.

Using artificial intelligence (AI) to answer online customer queries speedily is not the sole preserve of large business. Increasingly, smaller organisations are using computer robotics to drive online sales, absorb traffic from call centres and gather customer data for better audience targeting.

The rise of computerised robotics

Demand is surging for human-looking computer robots that can instantly respond to an online customer query day or night – bypassing the need for customers to remain on hold on a phone as they wait to talk with a person. The robot helps customers navigate the business’s website, solve problems and select products and services.

One Australian company creating this technology is MyCyberTwin, established in 2005. With R&D offices in Sydney and a commercial HQ inNew York, it has had thousands of SMEs sign up to use its MyCyberTwin Professional product. NAB, NASA, HP and Accenture are also clients.

Currently growing at a rate of 100 percent annually, in 2012 MyCyberTwin is anticipating 200 to 300 percent growth as market awareness of virtual agents continues to quickly mature and become mainstream.

“A CyberTwin can chat to thousands of people at the same time, delivering instant 24/7 customer service,” says co-founder and CEO of MyCyberTwin, Liesl Capper-Beilby.

“A customer doesn’t have to wait in a queue for an agent to become available. They click to chat and the majority have a good experience, getting the help they need. This allows small, medium and large enterprises to focus their human resources on other important and challenging tasks internally.

“Every time a customer chats to a CyberTwin instead of picking up the phone to talk with a human agent/employee, the business is saving time and money and working towards its end objectives.”

MyCyberTwin Professional is tailored to be affordable to SMEs keen to build and deploy a CyberTwin virtual agent themselves. It’s free to open an account and they can select an avatar, publish to the website and monitor their CyberTwin for business intelligence.

From space missions to online magazines

NASA deployed a CyberTwin to talk with people around the world about the Phoenix Lander’s mission to Mars (from 2008 to 2010) and publishers also use CyberTwins on their online magazines to increase brand engagement and interactivity, with publishers able to charge users for the increased interaction.

When a ‘perfect girlfriend’ CyberTwin character was deployed on a leading men’s health site, engagement increased exponentially, according to Capper-Beilby. “Visitors to the site were spending considerably more time on the site thanks to the interactive CyberTwin,” she says.

“Most of the time, visitors will go to a site to read an article or two or view a few photos and then go away. But with a CyberTwin, they’re engaged, intrigued and enjoy the interactive experience.”

Other businesses to benefit from AI

To date, the bulk of MyCyberTwin’s customers have been in financial services, publishing, government and IT, but interest is rising from health, retail, education and entertainment sectors, with costs funded by users through the increased engagement.

“An application we’re innovating for the health sector is a virtual nurse that performs a triage-style diagnosis and then connects you with a real doctor, passing on the diagnostic information,” says Capper-Beilby. “This is a classic example of how a CyberTwin can do the ‘grunt work’, allowing human doctors and nurses to have more time to focus on the application of their critical thinking.

“In online retail, a CyberTwin could help you select which items in a store you’d be interested in and process the sale for you. Education presents abundant opportunities for CyberTwins, ranging from interactive language learning to virtual teachers in classrooms.”

The future of AI in business

Because the gap between the virtual and real worlds is lessening all the time, advancements in virtual reality will impact the way AI is used to deliver customer service, predicts Capper-Beilby.

“Large banks are already exploring ‘the branch of the future’ and emotionally expressive avatars will become more articulate,” she says. “Ultimately, because language is currently humans’ most natural way to express ourselves, it’ll become common for devices to interact with end-users in a conversational, humanised way.”

Read how a range of businesses apply AI.

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