Franchises must embrace new tech if they’re to stay fit for the future, says Tim Morris from Cymphony. Now’s the time for businesses to act
Let’s start this one with a stat. According to the US International Trade Administration, the UK Artificial Intelligence (AI) market is expected to grow from £16.9 billion to £803.7 billion by 2035. Clearly AI is not just a flash in the pan. We’re talking about a new industry with a value that’s higher than the GDP of Portugal, Greece and Croatia combined!
Ignoring the rapid advances in AI is a luxury that businesses, especially franchisors, can no longer afford. While we may currently chuckle at the limitations of some chatbots and customer service automations, AI’s capability is evolving at an unprecedented rate and the boundary between interacting with a human and a machine is becoming increasingly blurred. As we approach the advent of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – machines that possess human-like cognitive abilities – AI will soon not just be a luxury, but a necessity for maintaining a competitive edge.
The AI you see currently isn’t the end point, it’s the start line. The possibilities with AI are still in their infancy. Data management, language processing, self-driving vehicles; these might be the applications that spring to mind when you think of AI, but in truth new uses for the technology are being thought of and implemented every day. The next AI breakthrough might be today, tomorrow, a week from now. We can’t say for sure, but what we do know is that it is coming, and it will be soon.
Around one in six UK organisations, totalling 432,000, have embraced at least one AI technology according to UK government research. If you’re in a decision-making role, especially in franchise operations, the question isn’t about if you should integrate AI, but how quickly you can do it effectively. The time to strategise about the role of AI in your operations is now. Failing to act promptly may not only mean missed opportunities, but could also result in inefficiencies when you eventually have no choice but to integrate AI as a retrofitted afterthought.
Customer service ready for a rapid change
We’ve all found ourselves arguing with an annoying chatbot at some point in life. Contrary to popular perceptions, these rule-based programs are not powered by sophisticated AI but follow a pre-defined set of instructions.
The next generation of AI-driven customer service systems will not just follow a script; they will be capable of learning from each interaction, improving their understanding and providing a far more ‘human’ experience through techniques such as Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing. Although neither option is a match for a real person, something we pride ourselves on here at Cymphony, it doesn’t mean we aren’t exploring new ways in which AI can help us improve the service we provide.
The bottom line for businesses is not just an improved customer experience, but dramatically increased operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Imagine a customer service ecosystem where calls are never abandoned and issues are resolved before they escalate, thanks to an AI system that can understand the problem and provide a solution in real time.
For businesses, the integration of AI could translate to higher customer retention rates, reduced overheads, and the ability to focus human resources on tasks that require a nuanced touch.
Risk versus reward
AI undeniably elicits a range of opinions, often marked by scepticism and caution. The transformative potential of AI is seismic, and that will aways ruffle a few feathers. While many people express concerns about AI displacing human jobs, there is an alternative viewpoint that underscores the burgeoning demand for AI specialists. These experts are essential for integrating the technology into business operations both effectively and securely, although this expertise comes at a cost.
When queried about their primary apprehensions surrounding AI, the British public highlighted three major areas: the erosion of human skills, the impact on employment, and concerns related to privacy and data security, according to Forbes Advisor market research in May 2023, conducted by Opinium. These are not just legitimate concerns; they’re critical issues that need to be addressed as AI continues to permeate multiple sectors.
For businesses, outsourcing may offer a viable solution to some of these challenges, acting as a crucial bridge to the efficient adoption of AI technologies. By enlisting external expertise, companies can implement AI in a cost-effective manner, ensure secure data collection, and gain a competitive edge. At Cymphony, for example, we offer a lead response service that guarantees a response time of under five minutes – far outpacing the industry average of 47 hours. As we look to the future, one can’t help but wonder: what could an AI-driven response service deliver?
Will you make the leap?
Franchisors need to take a collaborative approach with their networks. As AI becomes more commonplace, some franchisees are already taking steps to incorporate it in their operations. Instead of allowing a fragmented adoption, you should take the lead in fostering an organised, network-wide strategy for AI integration. This is not a topic for future board meetings; it should be on the agenda today.
AI is growing and developing at a rapid pace. Whether you find that prospect exciting or terrifying, the reality is that the landscape is changing fast. The businesses that embrace these changes – integrating AI in a thoughtful and strategic manner – will be the ones that thrive in the future.
What businesses need to know
• The UK AI market is expected to grow from £16.9 billion to £803.7 billion by 2035.
• Around one in six UK organisations, totalling 432,000, have embraced at least one AI technology – according to government research.
• Whether you find the prospect exciting or terrifying, the reality is that the landscape is changing. The businesses that embrace these changes, integrating AI in a thoughtful and strategic manner, will be the ones that thrive in the competitive marketplace of tomorrow.
• The next AI breakthrough might be today, tomorrow, a week from now. We can’t say for sure, but what we do know is that it’s coming and it can’t be ignored.