Last updated on September 18th, 2017 at 10:01 am
Artificial intelligence is being used by many companies to do a better job of marketing an selling products and services, but firms like Receptiviti.ai and Integrate.ai are suggesting the same technology could help firms better understand the emotional issues among their customers and even their own employees.
Speaking in a panel discussion at the Elevate Toronto conference Wednesday, startups in the space suggested that a lot of existing data is already available that could improve team morale, cultivate a stronger relationship with buyers and many other benefits. Unlike many of the most touted approaches for using AI, where firms try to predict who will be interested in a purchase, for example, these companies are studying internal and external sources to provide more of a psychological insight into a specific group.
“Ultimately a lot of people problems in organizations relate to emotions,” said Kathryn Hume, head of product at Toronto-based Integrate.ai.
Hume gave the example of how, when a small company starts growing, some employees who may have been part of every meeting started to get left off the invite list. Some might see that as a boss trying to give them more time for their duties, but others could see it as a sign they are considered less valuable than before. AI can be used to discern and predict those when responses might occur so that employers could then reassure staff, she said.
“That’s a real blessing. It’s dealing with something that’s sensitive to us,” she said. “The crux of applying AI In work context is that it’s great to talk about optimization and efficiency, but it’s hard to talk about is how it hits upon people’s raw experience.”
Jonathan Kreindler CEO at Receptiviti.ai in Toronto, said many companies are sitting on vast treasure troves of information that could provide warning signals about team stress and burnout, but they’ve traditionally turned to potentially less accurate techniques like employee engagement surveys to see them until now. His firm looks through sources like e-mail and slack to study things like sentiment to provide insights about a group of employees, but stops short of actively studying an individual’s personal messages.
“People don’t understand what’s happening below them,” he said. “These kinds of insights are relevant not just about risk but management in general. This is not about HR, but insights to properly manage their business.”
Integrate, meanwhile, looks at a variety of more public-facing sources such as social media to help companies get a better sense of who their customers are. Today, most of what a firm knows is primarily based on transactional data, Hume said, which paints a very black-and-white, one-dimensional portrait of their interests and aspirations.
“We’re trying to help them maximize mutual lifetime benefit between businesses and consumers — not just to sell more, but to help companies to do the right thing,” she said.
Of course, using AI In this way raises a number of questions about privacy, which the startups said can only be addressed by drawing a hard line in the sand about what’s reasonable and ethical. A consumer wouldn’t want any company to know about a conversation they’d had with their doctor about mental health, Hume pointed out, as it might affect their future employment opportunities.
“Just because you want to do analysis doesn’t mean you have to see everything,” Kreindler added.
The Elevate Toronto event wraps up on Thursday.