There is no doubt that AI technologies will fundamentally alter customer service provision. But how do we prepare for an AI-driven future if we’re not quite sure what that future looks like? Here, we look at four critical steps you can take to prepare for AI implementation in the future. This article is based on a 2023 presentation by Inform's Technical Director Andrej Godina at the Local Government Strategy Forum Introduction Integrating new technology is always a challenge. Even more so when that technology is as potentially transformative as AI. Consequently, many organisations are unsure how to begin planning for or proceed with AI implementation. As relatively few have started integrating advanced AI applications - most notably generative AI and Large Language Models (LLMS) - there is no roadmap to follow or benchmark to compare against. To compound these challenges, AI is evolving at such a remarkable rate that the technological landscape is changing on an almost weekly basis. This prevents organisations from adopting a “wait-and-see” approach. To sit, do nothing and see how it all turns out is to freeze your organisational transformation and miss crucial steps in the development process. https://www.inform-comms.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Harnessing-AI-to-Set-Your-Future-Foundations.jpg When you do decide to take action, it will require high levels of investment and extensive changes. These all-in-one-go transformations are complex, difficult to execute and prohibitively expensive. Effective AI implementation will require piecemeal investment and smaller projects that demonstrate proof of concept while providing insight into how your organisation can best utilise the technology. \tPrepare the Data The first practical step you can take to prepare for advanced AI implementation concerns data management. It may not sound glamorous. But it is essential. AI is trained on vast amounts of data and the quality of the model depends on the quantity and quality of the data you feed it. It’s the old ‘put in junk, get out junk’ maxim writ large. Preparing data to train AI models involves collecting, analysing and labelling the data at your disposal. For customer service teams, this data mainly consists of raw customer conversations and transcripts. This is fascinating, exciting and extremely valuable because natural language conversations comprise the majority of customer interactions and constitute most of a customer service department’s data. At the same time, these natural language interactions are a data format that customer service departments traditionally found it difficult to extract value from on a large scale. Data training is the foundation on which we build high-quality AI models. If you want to prepare for successful AI implementation, extracting, sorting and labelling the data available to your team is the best possible move. \tLook at Your Current Automation Technologies As part of your preparatory data management, you should closely examine the automation technologies already in play. Whether you utilise Chatbots or Intelligent IVR, you can glean valuable insights from the way customers currently engage with your self-serve channels. They can help in two main ways: \tAutomated workflows typically generate more structured data than manual workflows. This means they are ideal data sources for training AI applications. \tThese channels are where you are most likely to implement customer-facing AI technology. Understanding how your customers use them now will help you strategically plan for AI implementation in the future. https://www.inform-comms.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Look-at-Your-Current-Automation-Technologies.jpg We cannot overstate the value of data sets associated with automation technologies. Many of these tools already utilise AI technology - usually rules-based AI rather than the more complex modern models - so they are the ideal stepping stone for more advanced applications. \tBuild on Existing Technologies Your next step should include analysing your existing customer service technologies and identifying areas where advanced AI can improve performance and deliver maximum value. Organisations planning to implement innovative AI tools must recognise that large-scale, organisation-wide AI projects are not realistic early in the transformation process. Many organisations are naturally and understandably risk averse. They want a successful proof of concept before they tear up the rulebook and institute a whole new approach. With this in mind, the most sensible and effective way forward is to look for smaller implementation projects that demonstrate value, reduce costs and improve performance. The aim behind this piecemeal approach is to test applications, orientate the transformation process towards your organisation’s specific needs and justify further investment in AI technology. The most obvious way to achieve this is by building on existing technologies. Consequently, question how you incorporate newer AI functionalities, such as Natural Language Processing and generative AI, into current self-serve channels like Chatbots and Intelligent IVR. \tEstablish a Timeframe and Budget Finally, local authorities need to answer two key questions: \tCan we budget for it? \tCan we execute implementation quickly enough? In the vast majority of cases, the answer to both questions is “yes”. Making a business case for AI is easier than it sounds. Mainly because the technology guarantees performance improvements while reducing costs. https://www.inform-comms.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Establish-a-Timeframe-and-Budget.jpg When you partner with a local government customer service specialist like Inform, you benefit from our extensive experience and expertise. We have statistics and evidence from historical implementations to back up your business case and can help you construct it in a way that clearly demonstrates the benefits. Similarly, we can get advanced customer service AI tools live within a four-week window, ensuring your organisation sees the benefits within a remarkably short timeframe. All solutions are tailored to your operational requirements and designed to help you overcome your unique challenges. read Self-Service case studies What Next? Implementing advanced AI technologies across an entire organisation is never going to be easy. We are still in the early days of experimentation and development, so there are no plug-and-play transformation solutions. To a certain degree, local authorities need to work with AI specialists to determine the best way to implement these technologies. After all, what constitutes the best approach depends on your existing technologies, operational requirements, financial limitations and in-house experience. However, the four steps detailed in this article are an excellent place to start preparing for that implementation. From there, the Inform team can help you begin to plan your short, mid and long-term strategies, creating a bespoke AI transformation plan centred on implementable, effective Inform technologies that deliver for your organisation. With decades of experience working alongside local government organisations, we are in the perfect position to help you leverage the enormous benefits associated with AI. Our expert team have been providing customer self-service solutions for over 30 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line to find out more about our AI-powered solutions.