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As 2018 whirrs into life, we continue to be bombarded by stories of robots. They’re going to make everything wonderful! They’re going to make everything terrible! Everything is changing! They want my job! Every headline and prediction seems sure that – for better or worse – the robots are coming.

It’s true in the world of Customer Experience too. In this realm, AI is going to change everything, apparently.

From chatbots to predictive analytics to turning trillions of data points into a silver bullet that sends profits through the roof, the average CX professional won’t be able to move for automated wonders taking place all around them.

I don’t think so. At least, not yet.

Like every Next Big Thing, AI has some fascinating and exciting possibilities but hype has overtaken us. Yes, chatbots are becoming pretty impressive and are being used to great effect by many businesses. I certainly don’t want to denigrate these highly useful tools, but in most real-life applications, this is really clever indexing, good search functionality, and the judicious use of a pleasing avatar or quirky name. Is it the AI people are dreaming of? Barely.

To me, most of the AI that people are excited about isn’t there yet. It is part formed. Full of potential but wildly unpredictable as some high-profile disasters have made clear. In truth, these stories made me think (not unkindly, I promise) of my teenage son and his friends. Clever? Yes. Likely to go out and change the world?
Probably. An untapped source of massive ability and possibility? Certainly.

Just as likely to go off in an utterly random direction and cause untold damage? Absolutely.

AI at this stage of the game is less Artificial Intelligence and more Adolescent Intelligence. There is so much more to do to train these promising but unformed “minds” before we can all hand over half our jobs to them and go for a nice walk on the beach.

To take AI forward, in CX and any other arenas, we need to provide direction to our creation. Data scientists are working on this and their expectations are much more realistic in terms of what AI really means and what it will really do. Yes, it will make it possible to derive greater insights from our data through deep learning and neural networks – but we still need good data and we need to know what we WANT from that data.

AI can help with the answers, but we still need to ask the right questions. At least, unlike teenagers, the responses are likely to be more than a grunt.

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