In an era accustomed to the conveniences of labour-saving technologies like automatic washing machines, robotic vacuum cleaners, and self-driving vehicles, the next frontier lies in the transformative potential of artificial intelligence. Beyond merely streamlining daily tasks, AI is positioned to revolutionise the way we process information, transcending the realm of efficiency to unlock the power of turning data into actionable knowledge. As we embrace this technological evolution, the fusion of AI and information stands poised to reshape the landscape of our understanding, heralding a new era where the acquisition and utilisation of knowledge reach unprecedented heights. 

According to Michael Bradley, Strategic Engagement Leader at Datacom, AI is a foundational technology that will enable truly intelligent interactions between humans and machines.    

“AI, in my opinion, is a facilitating technology,” he says. “It’s not the answer to everything, but it’s an enabler of outcomes in a more intelligent way. The internet was the start of the information age; it let anyone publish vast amounts of data. Now that we have a tonne of information out in the world, it’s time to put it to better use.”

Photo of Michael Bradley holding a microphone standing on stage
Michael Bradley believes AI is a facilitating technology – it's not the answer to everything, he says, but "an enabler of outcomes in a more intelligent way."

And that’s what Michael strives to do. He gives Australasian organisations the tools, knowledge and capabilities to use AI technologies to solve their biggest problems. Prior to joining Datacom, Michael was a regional director at Cognigy, one of the world’s leading conversational AI solutions, which Datacom now represents across Australia and New Zealand. He now leads Datacom enterprise sales and strategic engagements for Experience Technologies, providing digital solutions to enhance customer experience and contact centre operations. 

Michael says certain tech research organisations are paving the way to the new world of knowledge and the intelligence age, allowing us to leverage AI to access the unfathomable amount of information online.  

“Surfacing relevant knowledge within context has been really difficult up until now,” he says. “Say you go to Google because you want to buy a new car and you get a whole page of sponsored articles that may or may not be relevant. It takes a lot of effort to find an article you might want to read. While you have access to knowledge, you still have to sift through all the information to find the information that is usable for you. That’s not why you’re going to Google – you want a quick answer.”  

AI by way of Semantic Search, he says, can take your question, quickly scan the world’s content and come back with a contextually structured, summarised answer. 

“It’s everything you ever wanted right there. It’s like you went to a subject matter expert who’s spent their entire life reading on a topic and you ask them an obscure question, to which they give you a really succinct answer. We have access to so much knowledge at our fingertips. It’s a matter of understanding how to use the technology to derive a meaningful outcome. But I think it’s going to get easier and easier, just like we’ve seen with new search engines like” 

Michael works primarily with two main types of artificial intelligence technologies used in supporting information and assistance requirements: Conversational AI (C-AI) which is more structured and outcome-orientated, allows people to interact with devices in a natural conversational manner to resolve a specific query. It’s used in applications such as chatbots, virtual assistants and customer service automation. And Generative AI (G-AI), which is more flexible and focused on creating new content, such as text and images, based on user input and open data. G-AI provides conversational fluidity and sophistication. It doesn’t care why you’re here, says Michael, but it lacks the focus, structure and reliability of C-AI. When combined, however, these two forms of AI provide a seemingly organic conversational style that mimics human language but is still outcome orientated.   

“While C-AI does use natural language, it still lacks empathy. If you were to say to someone, ‘My grandad died, I need to rebook my flight’, it’s unlikely the virtual assistant will acknowledge your loss. An ideal digital experience will identify that it’s been a difficult life event for you and say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss. Let’s look at some alternative flights for you.’ Whereas conversational-AI might say, ‘Great. Let me look at that for you.’ So meshing the two together gives a more human-like experience.” 

Photo of younger woman sitting with an elderly woman, pointing to something on a laptop screen
Meshing conversational and generative AI together creates a more human experience, with the potential to realise new levels of customer service.

Michael says Datacom uses C-AI to boost customer engagement and decrease the reliance on traditional contact centres. The result: lower costs through less dependency on people-orientated systems, and reduced handling time, which increases customer satisfaction because they’re not on hold until someone takes their call.

“You also increase overall customer engagement because they get their query answered faster and are more likely to further engage with you,” he says. “We advise organisations, uncover where the problems lie, solve those with conversational AI-based outcomes, and build and implement that technology in a way that makes sense for those businesses.” 

It’s definitely a cost-effective solution, he adds. “Automating contact centre operations through a digital channel can cost you cents rather than dollars for a human agent, making the return on investment pretty obvious – providing you empower your digital agents in the same way you would empower your people.” 

But this isn’t about replacing humans with machines, he stresses. Michael says the fear that AI will take over human roles is unfounded. Like the previous technological revolutions that humans have adapted and upskilled to deliver new levels of value. If we look at AI through the lens of it being a tool for enhancement, rather than replacement, we will embrace this change and realise new levels of customer service. 

 “When machine automation made production lines more efficient, everyone thought robots would take their jobs. And whilst that was true for some, those efficiencies increased production volumes, generated further demand, and ultimately created new jobs within the industry. The same, of course, happened with the internet so we should look at AI in the same way. You could let technology replace you and take your job… But if you’re open minded and agile enough to adopt the technology to your benefit, you could instead use it to enhance your outputs and increase your ability to service more customers. You have to think about what you’re doing, how AI plays a role, and how you can take advantage of it.”

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