Killer robots. Job-stealing automation. And impersonal chat bots.
Artificial intelligence has been the talk of tech in recent years, but not all of the conversation has been completely flattering. Despite the popularity of these science-fiction-driven doomsday scenarios that would make Terminator proud, artificial intelligence stands to do more good than harm in the multifamily industry.
At least that’s the takeaway from the Managing Multifamily in an AI World session at the 2018 Entrata Summit in Park City, Utah. To prove it, speaker Darrin Karras, vice president of Watson AI at IBM, shared the many ways Watson has improved work-life balance for associates, made 24/7 customer service a reality and increased employee engagement in companies spanning dozens of industries.
“There is a misconception that AI is going to take over,” Karras said. “The good thing about AI right now is that you have to train it on your data and educate it so it’s smart. If you put bad data in, it could give bad answers.”
While that training takes time, it’ll save time in the long run for associates, improving their work-life balance. In fact, Karras argues that it makes 24/7 customer support possible for organizations that don’t have the resources to staff it, like many multifamily operators.
“Scaling your employees is hard when they’re sleeping,” Karras said. “You only want to work so many hours, but how do you make sure you can provide 24/7 service? If you think about that experience, how do you transcend your employee and replicate that employee to extend service through a digital agent?”
That’s what AI is capable of doing for customer service through chat bots that learn as they have more interactions with residents. Companies such as Royal Bank of Scotland are using chat bots to handle customer inquiries. RBS reports that 85 percent of customer inquiries are managed through its chat bot, according to Karras.
The fact that RBS is very transparent to customers that they’re interacting with a bot seems to indicate that customers are getting used to it. As does the fact that Amazon and Google have sold millions of their digital assistants.
But these digital assistants come with a branding hitch.
“The question is: How do we make sure it’s AI for business and that you are controlling that voice of the company?” Karras said. “The concern today is that the brand is being diminished by Alexa and Google. That’s why there are a lot of billion dollar marketing firms trying to figure out how to take that back.”
Implementing AI in multifamily, however, doesn’t have to cost a billion dollars. It’s about taking baby steps in the right direction.
“Start small with use cases that are simple,” Karras said. “Scheduling a tour is really simple way to start. People often think this is huge and it’s going to take forever. It doesn’t if you start small.”