I am pleased to report that I have just passed another Microsoft course, this time from the Microsoft Professional Program for Artificial Intelligence:
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, with a final mark of 100%.
This was a fascinating course, providing a very good introduction to machine learning, text analysis, computer vision (including face recognition and video analysis) and conversation as a platform (chatbots and Natural Language Processing [NLP]).
One example of how #AI can make it easier for your staff, customers or suppliers to interact with your software tools is to add a combined”Next Step / Tell me what you want to do” facility.
This uses natural language processing (NLP) combined with knowledge of who the user is (and what their role is, e.g. whether they are a member of staff, a customer, or a supplier, or a user with admin rights for example) and the context (which page or part of the app they are on, and what data they have stored in the system), to add two powerful new ways for the user to interact (with minimal training) with the app:
What’s my next step?
On any page, simply clicking the Go button asks the system “What’s my next step?”. The system then look intelligently at the user’s identity, role, data and location within the app and makes one or more suggestions as to what the user could usefully do next to make the most of the app.
Example 1: a new user has just registered and wonders what they should do. They could consult the online help file which will tell them that they need to register their family within the system. But far more simply, then can just ask “What’s my next step?” by clicking the Go button. The system guides them step by step, telling them initially that they need to create one or more families in the system:
Within a few short years, some companies and organisations will have adopted Artificial Intelligence (AI) in at least one part of their work: interfacing with their customers. (I’m using customers in the widest sense of the word: it could be students in education, or patients in healthcare for example).
Imagine the following:
Instead of having to log in to a website or an application, the application simply recognises the user’s face or voice
Instead of having to click on a menu to navigate the app, the user can just talk to it, either by speaking or using a chatbot type interface.
Instead of calling customer service (and being told “you are currently number two in a queue” or “Our business hours are 0900 to 1700 Monday to Friday, please call back during those times” ), they can get an immediate response (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) from a chatbot.
If customers have a choice between interacting with one organisation in that way, or another in the more traditional way, I think they will vote with their feet.
Adding a chatbot to your organisation’s website can provide a more interactive experience for your users while at the same time reducing demands on your staff’s time. Chatbots can help to:
free your team to deal with more complex enquiries or tasks
speed up employee training by providing a very accessible and intuitive source for staff to obtain information internally
automate complex workflows (such as providing quotes or booking services)
provide availability 24/7, 365 days a year
provide an alternative user interface for your apps than the traditional point and click menu/button system
Once written, your chatbots can be made widely accessible to your staff via various channels, e.g. Microsoft Teams in Office 365, Skype for Business, Facebook and email. This means that when your staff or customers need information, they can obtain it very quickly via the most convenient route for them.
It seems that Microsoft have recently amended Microsoft Teams (their collaboration tool within Office 365) so that “guest users”, that is to say users who are not part of your organisation’s Office 365 subscription, can be added to Teams. If so, that is a very welcome development, because:
Microsoft Teams is a great collaboration tool
it means that external users (e.g. clients, suppliers, or simply people from other organisations) who want to can share information or work together on a project with your internal team.
Here is an example of using Polly (a polling and survey chat bot), to add polls to conversations in Teams: