Insights: Without AI, brands will fall behind
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Insights: Without AI, brands will fall behind

Insights: Without AI, brands will fall behind

Digital users in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE expect AI to have a significantly positive impact on their digital interactions

AI Brands

If the 2023 business zeitgeist could be neatly distilled into two words, they would be ‘artificial intelligence’. People can’t get enough of generative AI (GenAI) tools such as ChatGPT from Open AI, which is reportedly the fastest-growing application in history.

For the uninitiated, these tools draw upon troves of data to answer people’s questions, whether it’s “Which is the largest cricket stadium in the UAE?“ or “Can you please write me a cover letter?”. Answers are presented conversationally and in near-real time.

In the business world, big names such as Snapchat have been adopting the tools to provide more tailored and immersive customer experiences. And regionally, bodies like the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are using them to create virtual customer care assistants that can answer routine queries.

Research reveals that the Middle East is expected to generate economic gains of up to $320bn by 2030 through the adoption of AI.

In relative terms, the UAE is expected to witness the biggest impact of close to 14 per cent of 2030 GDP, while in absolute terms, the largest gains (up to $135.2bn) are expected to accrue to Saudi Arabia’s economy in 2030.

In accordance with this rising sentiment, several Middle East countries are eager to compete in the AI field.

In October 2017, the UAE launched the ‘UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI)’. Furthermore, Dubai formed a higher committee in July 2022 to design policies and analyse trends for the digital economy and future technologies, including AI.

Saudi Arabia also launched the National Strategy for Data and AI in October 2020. The ambitious strategy includes a plan to train up to 20,000 data and AI specialists by 2030.

Qatar announced its National Artificial Intelligence Strategy in October 2019, while Bahrain has already taken steps in the study and application of AI in different fields.

As the battle against skills shortages and high turnover rates rages on, businesses can’t ignore or cower in the face of AI. These tools aren’t going anywhere and instead need to be integrated across departments for Middle Eastern businesses to reap the time and productivity gains they promise – and ultimately stay competitive.

Embracing the future with open arms

If you were to ask employees about their biggest challenges on the job, they’d likely say a lack of time and resources. They work likely includes countless hours of admin and the burden of jumping through hoops and between dozens of applications, ultimately impacting the service they provide clients or customers.

GenAI can provide detailed answers to queries, helping customer-facing employees handle larger volumes and freeing up time for them to focus on interactions. Other routine tasks, such as transcribing calls and scheduling appointments, can also be delegated to AI.

To kick interactions up a notch, teams can also identify subtle patterns within human interactions and draw upon customers’ demographic information, credit card usage, and travel habits to intelligently match them with the employees best suited to resolve their inquiry. This prevents multiple transfers, saves time, and prevents customer frustration.

Artificial intelligence-enabled tools can also be trained in multiple languages, meaning customers from a wide variety of backgrounds or who speak in different dialects can have their questions answered.

In a different context, natural language processing capabilities also provide better care during emergency situations. Imagine a caller reporting a fire in a building. They may be panicked and speaking quickly, making it difficult for a representative to understand the location and severity of the fire.

However, an AI-enabled tool can draw upon data to analyse the caller’s language and fill these gaps. For instance, if ‘smoke’ and ‘third floor’ are mentioned, representatives can zero in on the location and deploy the appropriate resources.

Beyond providing better service to the public, AI-enabled tools have a significant role to play in attracting and training staff. AI can analyse an agent’s performance in real-time and provide personalised programmes and coaching based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Additionally, a recent survey found that Middle Eastern users are among the global leaders in embracing emerging technologies.

Digital users in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE expect AI to have a significantly positive impact on their digital interactions.

With younger generations dominating the Middle East’s workforce and 30 per cent of employees in the region saying they are extremely or very likely to look for a new job in the next year, employers that aren’t interested in supplying them with the best tech risk losing talent.

Limitations of AI

All of this said, it’s important to be aware of AI’s limitations.

In a training context, for instance, generative AI tools can’t understand the context of a random conversation, or respond to the emotional state of employees. Additionally, the tools are based on data and text, not real-world experience. It’s therefore critical that these tools complement rather than replace the human element.

AI-enabled tools are becoming increasingly vital to the success of customer service operations. Whether it’s streamlining tasks, providing personalised training, or delivering more inclusive and diverse customer service, the benefits are clear.

As the market continues to evolve, businesses that fail to capitalise on these benefits risk reputational damage and losing employees to brands that will fulfil these expectations. So, it’s time to embrace the future with open arms and harness the power of AI to stay competitive in a rapidly changing landscape.

Ahmad Dorra is the customer experience solutions lead – Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Avaya

Also read: UAE consumers claim brands have one shot to impress them

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