A few weeks ago, I called my broadband provider about intermittent outages. The helpful customer support rep looked at my account and cheerfully told me that I could save money by switching to a different plan. A few minutes later, I had changed my plan to one that cost half as much and delivered comparable speeds. At first, I was happy. Then I was annoyed. Because I realized, in reality, no customer service team is proactively looking out for my well-being before I raise a problem.
AI and the New Age of Customer Advocacy
AI and the new age of customer advocacy are when AI can treat every customer like royalty just as they expected. But, unfortunately, proactively advocating on behalf of customers until now has been expensive and not easy to scale due to the reliance on humans.
In addition, it was easier to triage problems because, frankly, in the short turn companies earned higher revenues from ignorant customers. Now the customers know everything, and they expect to be treated like royalty. Therefore, companies must change their core approach to customer experience and support. Modern artificial intelligence will drive that change.
Customers already have AI-powered options with adversarial bill challenging solutions.
Arguing with your customers is bad business — let alone arguing with their external AI advocates.
Delighting customers by demonstrating you really put them first with proactive actions and personalized care is the best way to build long-term customer value. The only way to do this effectively and at scale is to leverage AI to make customer advocacy a core internal value and competency. In the past, businesses made the excuse that proactively communicating business policies with customers was not scalable.
AI removes that fig leaf by making personalized customer advocacy economical, inevitable and desirable at zero marginal cost. This tectonic shift will open up many new business models and put many older business models in the graveyard. Here’s what this new reality might look like.
AI Makes Cognitive Tasks Free — That Changes Everything.
The radical change that AI brings to business transactions is making a previously expensive resource – cognitive function – nearly free.
As outlined in the book “Prediction Machines” by three brilliant economists from the University of Toronto, the superpower of AI is making predictions free.
An AI today can do a fine job selecting clothing to suit your tastes, based on past purchases and anonymized purchases of others who share your likes and dislikes. In addition, there are a growing number of AI-driven personal shopping assistants such as “The Yes” and Beyond, which pairs stylists with customer opinions and applies AI to create ever-better recommendations.
Conversational AI powers retail chatbots that guide customers to more intelligent choices. In addition, the cost of serving one customer or 1 million customers is nearly identical, so the marginal cost of each new interaction is zero.
When what was formerly expensive becomes free, this forces major economic disruptions and realigns market power in surprising ways.
Think of what happened when the smartphone absorbed the GPS, the camera and the radio — or when detailed maps and traffic data became freely available at zero cost with Google Maps. These shifts to free or near-free disrupted legacy businesses and created new opportunities, like ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft and crowdsource traffic mapping company Waze.
Smart AI Will Perform Sophisticated Advocacy
A smart AI today could easily book a flight based on your ranked preferences of stops, airport choice, distance from destination, price and time of departure or arrival.
Your AI travel agent knows.
In the very near future, an AI travel agent would know that you like to go to Hawaii and preferred Maui departing on Thursday and returning Sunday evening. Your AI travel agent would alert you when flights meet your financial criteria of dropping below $500 RT and pre-book a room at a hotel near your favorite beach. (If this sounds like your old human travel agent, that’s because it basically is.)
Your AI personal concierge
An AI could serve as a personal concierge, alerting you to concerts you might like in your area or to books due to be published that suit your tastes.
Think about this:
Taking the scenario one step further, an AI might save you from a bad decision. For example, after checking past prices of flights to Hawaii and booking trends at nearby hotels, then negotiating with a hotel AI on a special room rate, the AI might say, “Wait, don’t book that flight. There is likely to be another flight sale this month, and your favorite hotel is booked for the weekend you are thinking about, so why not wait for the next sale? I already have a triple-upgrade to your favorite room.”
Foundations of AI as Consumer Advocate and Partner are Already Taking Shape
In the case of my Internet provider, an AI can be tasked with periodically reviewing what you are paying, what you are consuming, and going out to seek the best offers, negotiating on your behalf.
Human-powered analogies of this are already taking shape. Trim, BillShark, and TrueBill all offer bill negotiation services for cable, phone, and many other types of bills that rely on a smarter data backend to assist human experts. These negotiation services are starting to build a repository of data for training AI systems.
The data will be not just on pricing but on how to negotiate. Trim, for example, also uses smart AI and crowdsourcing to proactively request a bill credit for when a subscriber’s Internet goes down, even if they don’t notice it or request a refund themselves.
Entrepreneurs are applying basic AI to allow people to tackle more complicated tasks quickly and easily.
Several startups can advocate for consumers by disputing parking tickets or filing small court claims across many states. These, however, are adversarial relationships that can do real damage to the relation.
Why Customer Advocacy AI is Inevitable
Because the consumer’s AI will be talking to the merchant’s AI, then there is no need for standardized products or pricing.
In this era, we finally realize mass personalization of retail and consumer services, powered preferences illuminated through the smart use of AI. At the same time, this consumer advocate AI could supplant many of the more cumbersome, adversarial unpleasant interactions between customers and brands they use.
At the highest level, like my friendly cable company customer service rep, the AI will act internally as the advocate and voice of the customer at the individualized level.
By making customer-centricity truly programmatic and creating algorithms specifically for this task, companies will elevate customer advocacy from a second-tier program to one that informs business strategy. As a result, the business strategy will drive product development and design with constantly updated feedback based on real behaviors and interactions.
At the same time, the companies must optimize their products and support to allow customers to choose the external AI (should they so desire). Companies can empower that form of interaction via APIs and other ways of conversations between customer AI and internal support AI.
How to Survive and Thrive in the Era of AI Customer Advocacy
Envisioning a future where AI talks to AI allows our personal advocates to constantly scan the horizon to look out for our well-being. This type of AI customer advocacy will be negotiating on our behalf with superior knowledge and lead to some wholesale changes in business models and customer engagement mechanisms.
The first part of the old world to go will be tedious, time-intensive and unpleasant tasks.
Some of the tasks we will not miss will be running through lengthy sign-up processes or haggling on prices or promotional plans. Next, we will offload cognitively intensive but narrowly focused tasks that are heavily dependent on past tastes or indicated preferences. These tasks include such things as shopping for clothes, planning a trip, or finding the best doctor or dentist in our area. This AI capability can either come as a service paid for by the customer or as one provided for the customer by the company.
For businesses, dealing with this fully empowered consumer AI will be challenging.
For the first time, the consumer may have significantly better information than the business selling the service or product. Adding AI to this mix, as well, gives the consumer cognitive superpowers.
An AI can easily check across millions of travel permutations on any number of parameters. The AI travel helps will include flights, hotels, ticket availability for sporting events, special restaurant dinners, camping permits to national parks.
Your personal, desired conditions found and coordinated by AI
Your AI will be able to find the right mixture of desirable conditions that fits with stated or implicit preferences while fitting into work and family schedules. This has not been possible yet because the AIs were not advanced enough and could not readily talk to each other, let alone negotiate complex transactions.
All situations can change as the cost of AI drops further and the capabilities improve — just as our smartphones consumed multiple industry categories, including cameras, recorders, radios, newspapers and GPS systems.
Tremendous business advantages wait in AI for those who dare to dream
Just as Amazon and Netflix saw over the horizon to futures that were not yet real, businesses that can imagine a world where their inventory systems, CRM, and pricing systems can collaborate with customers’ AI will enjoy a tremendous advantage.
Monetize your future with AI
How to monetize that future remains unclear, but we can make some educated guesses based on the directions we see AI systems heading in retail, travel and media.
Delivering customer-centric goods and services that are truly personalized will command a premium. This is already true today in the bespoke world. In the future, it will be true for every consumer that has an AI on their side.
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Application Dependencies: Are They Holding Back Software Innovation?
In software development, a dependency is a piece of software that another piece of software relies on in order to function. An application’s dependencies are the external components that the application needs in order to work. These can include libraries, frameworks, and other software packages that the application uses.
For example, if an application is written in Python and uses the Django web framework, then Django would be a dependency of the application. In order to run the application, the Django library would need to be installed on the system.
Managing Dependencies in Software Development
Managing dependencies is an important part of software development, as it helps to ensure that an application has all the necessary components it needs to run correctly. This can be especially important when deploying an application to a new environment, as all of the dependencies will need to be installed and configured correctly in order for the application to work.
While dependencies make it possible to develop applications faster and add advanced functionality quickly without having to build them from scratch, they also introduce serious risks that can bring software development projects to a halt. I’ll describe what types of dependencies commonly exist in software projects and how they impact software innovation.
Types of Software Dependencies
Functional dependencies are components or resources that are necessary for an application to function. They result from the tasks that enable businesses to achieve their desired outcomes. It is important to identify and map these dependencies to detect and address issues, removing redundant dependencies.
Sometimes, you might need an unavailable dependency, such as one still in development. Mocking is a technique used in software development to create simulated versions of components or dependencies for testing purposes. Mocking allows developers to test the behavior of a piece of code in isolation by replacing its dependencies with mock objects that mimic the behavior of the real dependencies.
Developmental dependencies, on the other hand, are dependencies that are only needed during the development and testing phase of a software application. These dependencies might include tools for testing, debugging, or building the application and are not necessary for the application to run in production.
For example, an application may depend on a testing framework such as JUnit or PyTest during development in order to run automated tests. Still, the testing framework would not be required when the application is deployed.
Similarly, an application may depend on a build tool such as Gradle or Maven during development in order to compile and package the code, but the build tool would not be needed when the application is running.
Non-Functional and Operational
Non-functional dependencies are dependencies that relate to the overall behavior and performance of a software application rather than its specific functionalities. Examples of non-functional dependencies might include dependencies on particular hardware or software configurations or dependencies on system-level services such as networking or security.
Operational requirements can be hidden in functional requirements, so they only become apparent later in the project. To resolve an issue with such dependencies, it is important to establish policies, identify the root cause of the issue, and determine the appropriate resolution.
Dangers and Risks of Application Dependencies
There are several risks associated with application dependencies, and the danger increases with greater reliance on external software components:
- Security vulnerabilities: Dependencies can contain bugs or flaws that can be exploited by attackers. It is important to keep dependencies up-to-date and to regularly check for and install any available security patches.
- Compatibility issues: Dependencies are not always compatible with the version of the software they are being used with, or they might rely on other dependencies that are not present.
- License issues: Dependencies may be subject to different licenses, and using them in an application may create legal issues if the terms of the license are not followed. It is important to carefully review the licenses of any dependencies before using them in an application.
- Maintenance and updates: These are essential in order to stay current and secure. If a dependency is no longer maintained or supported, it can become a liability for the application that relies on it.
- Complexity: An application with a large number of dependencies can be more complex to maintain and deploy, as all of the dependencies will need to be managed and kept up-to-date. This can result in something called dependency hell.
How Application Dependencies Impact Software Projects
Application dependencies are an important aspect of software development that can significantly impact the success of a software project. Understanding and managing these dependencies is crucial for building and maintaining high-quality software systems that are resilient, scalable, and easy to maintain:
Application dependencies can make the software more complex to build and maintain.
For example, if a software system has many dependencies on external libraries or frameworks, it may require more coordination between different teams and systems to ensure that these dependencies are properly managed. This can increase the time and effort required to deliver the project, and it can make it more difficult to make changes to the system in the future.
Application dependencies can affect software stability and reliability
If a change is made to a dependent component of the system, it can have unintended consequences on other parts of the system that rely on that component. This can make it more difficult to ensure that new features or changes are safe and reliable, and it can increase the risk of regressions or other issues.
Application dependencies can impact the scalability and performance of a software system
If dependencies are not properly managed or optimized, they can become bottlenecks or points of failure that limit the ability of the system to handle high levels of traffic or workload. This can impact the usability and reliability of the system, and it can reduce the value that it delivers to stakeholders.
Therefore, it is important for software teams to carefully understand and manage application dependencies in order to ensure that their projects are successful. This may require using tools and practices such as dependency mapping, automated testing, and continuous monitoring to track and manage dependencies effectively.
In conclusion, application dependencies can have a significant impact on software development projects. While dependencies can provide valuable functionality and save developers time and effort, they can also increase the complexity of a project, introduce security vulnerabilities, impact performance, and cause conflicts.
It’s important for developers to carefully consider the dependencies that their applications rely on and to try to minimize the number of dependencies as much as possible in order to keep the project simple and maintainable.
By keeping your project simple and maintainable — developers can help ensure that their applications are able to take advantage of the latest innovations and technologies and are able to adapt and evolve over time.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Mikhail Nilov; Pexels; Thank you!
Leveraging Social Media To Grow Your Career In 2023
Employees are ready to change their jobs, with nearly half of American workers planning to look for a new job in the coming six months. According to a new Robert Half report, which surveyed 2,500 professionals, around 46% of them said they plan on making a career or job change in the first half of the year.
Job-hopping has become a workplace trend among young working professionals in the post-pandemic labor market. A recent Gallup study found that 60% of surveyed millennials – ages 27 to 40 years – are more likely to look for different opportunities this year. The percentage of non-millennials workers looking to switch jobs is roughly 15% lower.
A majority of Generation Z candidates have also claimed that they are likely to make a job change this year. In a 2022 Lever Great Resignation report, around 65% of Gen Z professionals said that they are likely to leave their job by the end of the year. Moreover, 13% of them are twice as likely to quit their jobs in the next month.
Job-hopping has become almost synonymous in the post-COVID workforce, and younger professionals are fueling this trend by leaving unfulfilling roles and moving on to greener pastures.
Yet, with so many professionals changing jobs, or looking to switch careers, even against the backdrop of a looming recession, many of them have geared themselves towards social media as a way to build a professional brand and market themselves to potential employers.
Using Social Media For Career Growth
Keeping your social media professional can be a hard ball to juggle. In a 2020 Harris Poll survey, around 70% of employers said that every company should screen candidates’ social media throughout the hiring process. Additionally, the majority of employers – 78% – believe that all their current employees should adhere to a work–appropriate social media profile.
Employees should care about what they share and post on social media. Although the debate over whether social media screening during the hiring process is ethical is still ongoing, candidates willing to leverage social media to develop or boost their careers will need to set up a social media strategy that can help them land the job they want.
Much of our digital identity is pinned to our social media accounts, and a lot of what we share, like and the people we interact with via these channels can speak a great deal of the types of person we are outside of the workplace.
Aside from employees using these platforms to grow their network, or search for possible job opportunities, employers and recruiters are using it to look for any possible red or green flags that you might bring to the workplace.
Social media has moved beyond its traditional form, and today it’s become a digital ecosystem that helps to connect like-minded professionals and their potential employers.
How To Use Social Media To Boost Career Opportunities
Searching for a job is more than browsing through recruitment websites and job listings on LinkedIn or Google. The internet, and social media is a vast place, with near-endless possibilities, and when it comes to growing your career through social media, you will need to know a few things first.
Have A Social Strategy
It might sound strange at first, but having a social media strategy will help you come in contact with the right people faster. Your social media strategy should include building an online identity that reflects your professional and personal side.
You can use different platforms for different connections or networks, it’s all about how you present yourself through your brand. Think of the type of content you share regularly, does it reflect who you are as a professional? How often do you post, or reply to comments and messages? Are there any areas where you can improve or update the information to help you grow your network of contacts?
Write some questions down to get you started, and start working on building an online identity that can get noticed by like-minded individuals in the same industry.
Network With Industry Professionals
Nowadays it’s easier than ever before to reach out to a company or recruiter through their social media, and the same goes for connecting with professionals working in the same industry.
Instead of using social media to only share insightful content, or engage with your friends, try to grow your professional network. On top of this, it’s important to engage with these people as well, even if it’s simply exchanging a few words now and again.
Be active in your mission to get to know the people that are out there, and spend a bit of time researching their profiles to better understand the type of skills and qualifications these people may have. Networking is one of the best possible ways to move around your industry without putting in much effort.
Grow Your Skills
Looking at other people’s social media profiles, whether it’s Twitter or Indeed.com, or even Instagram will give a better idea of the type of skills you might need to develop to help grow and make the next big career jump.
Often professionals will share their skills, and what they’re experts in at the top of their social media accounts, this way it is easier for recruiters to know who the person is, and for like-minded professionals to engage with them.
If you compare the skills of several professionals already working in the field you’re interested in, you will get a better idea of where you might need to upskill yourself by completing some courses or doing a bit of reading.
Advertise Your Expertise
When we say advertise, we don’t necessarily mean flashy and colorful digital adverts that you’d hope will get the attention of your potential employer.
Instead try and convey your expertise through the type of content you can share such as blog posts, news articles, industry research, or even projects you’ve worked on. Additionally, you can also share your job title and relevant experience in the bio section of your profile.
The better you are at showing people your expertise in a professional, yet unpretentious way, the faster your feed will fill up with similar content and other experienced individuals.
Update Your Profiles
This is relevant to almost every social media profile you have, regardless of what you use it for. People often neglect social media platforms they don’t use anymore, and while it can be tedious to spend so much time updating photos or replying to messages, decide on a couple of platforms you’d like to use and stick to them.
Make sure that the platforms you end up using have a recent photo, and that all other relevant personal information has been updated such as your job title, industry experience, and your current city. You don’t need to do this every week, only when needed, or when you’ve changed jobs or moved.
The better you curate your social media, the easier it will be for employers and recruiters to notice you as you actively begin to network.
Social media can be a professional tool, despite it receiving so much negative clout in recent years. Although it’s hard to determine whether possible employers or recruiters will screen your social media accounts before or during the hiring process, it’s best to always keep a well-groomed online identity – especially if you’re looking to make progress in your career.
Make well-informed decisions, and think about the type of content you’re sharing. Remember to engage with like-minded professionals, and have conversations online through the information you share with your followers.
The better you are at curating one or two social media platforms for career purposes, the quicker you’ll be able to expand your network, and grow your professional skills. Don’t think too much about it, try and have a balance as much as possible, as this will help you to enjoy your social media experience while maintaining a professional, yet fun digital identity.
Published First on ValueWalk. Read Here.
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Have You Heard of These 6 Amazing Ways to Use AI in Construction?
Artificial intelligence might have started as the fictional villain of sci-fi stories, but it’s quickly becoming indispensable in many industries. The construction industry is one among many beginning to adopt this new technology. How can companies and contractors start employing AI in construction? How could this industry 4.0 technology change the industry in the coming years?
1. Programming an Extra Set of Eyes
Drone cameras have already become invaluable for contractors, especially for site surveying and inspections. While they can help keep inspectors and workers safe, they still require a live person behind the camera and the controls. In the future, users could train AI to see, analyze and understand the images they’re observing, reducing or eliminating the need for a human operator or drone pilot.
Human inspectors will still be necessary, but if programmers can teach an extra set of AI-powered eyes to recognize when something is incorrect or missing, it could help streamline these processes.
As a bonus, these AI eyes could potentially recognize or identify errors and safety issues human inspectors might overlook. Observational AI systems rely on pattern recognition and spend most of their time observing hundreds of thousands of images to ensure they can correctly identify their targets.
They don’t experience the problem of familiarity. It’s like editing a piece of text. The more often the author reads it, the more likely they are to overlook errors rather than fix them. AI observational systems don’t have that problem, making them more efficient for safety applications.
2. Turning Data into Actionable Insights
Construction might be one of the slowest industries to adopt new technologies. Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped the slow introduction of smart building. Incorporating devices into a construction project generates massive amounts of data. Without an AI or machine learning system, that information languishes in digital limbo. Skilled analysts may be able to make heads or tails of it, but putting it to use requires additional tools.
In construction, AI can sort through massive amounts of data, find patterns and deliver actionable insights that can improve productivity and worksite efficiency. It can use equipment maintenance data to create a better care schedule, preventing costly downtime due to equipment failure. With enough information, it can even predict when these maintenance cycles should occur based on past data.
3. Adopting Virtual Assistants
Alexa or Siri might seem like something users only need after their shift ends, but these virtual assistants and many others can help improve outcomes. Digital helpers designed for construction applications can manage communication, bolster inter-team coordination, schedule and track appointments, and more. Advanced assistants can access data generated by the above technology and help with budgeting and estimation.
Modern helpers may take time to customize to a company’s specific needs, but their benefits vastly outweigh the time investment. Utilizing natural language processing (NLP) can make these virtual tools even more powerful. NLP allows users to speak to their virtual assistants as they would to the person next to them.
4. Incorporating AI Into Wearable Technologies
Like virtual assistants, wearable technology might not seem like it has much of a place in the construction industry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Fitbits and Apple Watches might not offer much, but they are far from the only wearable devices available in the construction industry.
Monitoring an employee’s heart rate and other vital statistics can indicate when they might be in distress. Fatigue monitors can prevent on-the-job accidents by alerting supervisors when someone is operating heavy equipment while not adequately rested. Impact sensors can detect when someone experiences a fall. Connecting these wearable sensors to a centralized AI in construction sites allows the system to monitor employees in real-time and send alerts as needed.
5. Procuring and Supply Chains
Supply chains across industries took a significant hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The price of some construction supplies skyrocketed, and the supply chains for other materials slowed to a crawl — if they were still available. Incorporating AI into procurement and supply chain systems can help improve efficiency and reduce the chance an upset like the pandemic could derail these supply chains again.
There are applications for AI and related technologies throughout the supply chain, from manufacturing and harvesting to those last-mile deliveries. Sensors can collect information about everything from location to distance traveled. They can monitor temperature and humidity for materials requiring more climate control, making it easier to protect all necessary supplies while in transit. Pairing these sensors with an AI system can make sense of data while generating actionable insights.
6. Integrating Robotics and Automation
Contrary to the story popular media tries to spin, robots aren’t appearing in workplaces intending to steal jobs. Instead, they could help improve workplace efficiency and reduce on-the-job injuries by completing mundane, repetitive, or dangerous tasks. Introducing robotics and automation can lower the potential for stress injuries since construction workers are most frequently diagnosed with this type of ailment.
When it comes to dangerous tasks, AI-powered robotics or automation are ideal. These applications can include everything from cleaning tanks or operating in low-oxygen environments to completing tasks in situations that would otherwise be unsafe for human life. While it is currently possible to use these robots manually via remote control, adding AI to the mix would free up workers for more critical or complex tasks employers can’t automate.
Looking to the Future of AI in Construction
There are so many amazing applications for AI construction that it’s easy to forget it’s still novel technology. It will take some time before the industry is ready to adopt this technology and capitalize on all its benefits. AI could make all the difference for companies looking to differentiate themselves in this competitive field.
Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh; Unsplash; Thank you!