How Much Should I Be Prepared to Invest in an AI System?

3 minute read

AI systems come in all shapes and sizes — from single use case chatbots to comprehensive cognitive systems. What you program the system to do will determine how much you’ll need to spend. Be aware: Even a small-scale AI investment can be substantial.

Implementing an AI system isn’t as easy as purchasing a license and plugging code onto your website. Sure, there are chatbots that can perform basic tasks that don’t require a heavy investment. However, most chatbots cannot bring about transformational change through AI that many enterprises need. If your company is looking to turn AI into a game-changing offering for customers and employees, you’ll need to be prepared to invest in AI on a large scale. That’s because cognitive AI systems should be fully engrained in every fiber of your business in order to deliver business value and results.

There are AI systems that can be purchased to serve a specific function on your site. For example: You can purchase a low-level tool that helps customers reset passwords, or points them to specific FAQ pages for basic inquiries. Basic AI responds in human-sounding phrases and points people in the right direction, but they’re limited in scope and scalability. Still, these tools are expensive and require basic training. They’re not designed for mom and pop shops, but you don’t need to be in the Fortune 100 to make an initial investment. That’s because, although they aren’t nearly as expensive, time-consuming, or powerful as cognitive systems, they still require a modest investment of time and capital.

Cognitive AI systems should be fully engrained in every fiber of your business

Cognitive AI systems are designed to tie into every aspect of your business’s ecosystem. They can pull data from front- and back-end systems, they integrate with your third-party tools, and they’re trained to be customer facing. As a result, they need extensive training periods during which they learn, make mistakes, and adjust. Simple AI systems, like the chatbots you’ll find on some retail websites, don’t need to master every aspect of a business, or even learn how to speak in human-sounding phrases; they’re simply designed to direct customers to the right landing pages. The training period for cognitive systems can take up to a month, and sometimes even longer. During this period, you’re not realizing any ROI, but you’re programming your system to function as close to perfect as possible when it does go live. This means a heavy financial and labor investment, but it also means you’ll end up with a more comprehensive and financially beneficial product.

Another major distinction between basic AI and cognitive AI systems is that cognitive platforms are self-learning. If they come across situations with which they aren’t familiar, or if they have trouble solving a customer request, they escalate those issues to humans and observe human workers to determine the appropriate resolution. In future situations, the cognitive system will apply what it has learned to resolve the situation itself. This means you’re paying for initial interactions which the cognitive tool isn’t resolving, but you’re getting subsequent ROI once the system has mastered and learned and automated the resolution itself.

With less expensive AI systems, there is no self-learning and there is no intellectual advancement. Instead, the system is programmed to accomplish one specific task, and its purview can only be increased via manual programming. You’re getting a less expensive, less time-consuming implementation, but you’re also getting a limited set of skills – and therefore, a limited set of potential results.

What should my business spend on an AI system?

You’ll also want to decide whether you’re interested in purchasing an AI system that has emotional intelligence. These are systems that can read anger, frustration, sadness and other key emotions in order to adjust the tone of conversations. For example: Cognitive systems with emotional intelligence know if a customer is unhappy with the service they’re receiving; as a result, the system will adjust its phraseology to be more sympathetic and helpful. Less expensive tools stick to a basic script that can’t be adjusted on-the-fly, so customers will receive similar responses whether they’re happy, furious, or anything in between. When comparing the two, cognitive AI systems will deliver a better, more human customer experience compared to basic and less expensive tools.

As with any other purchase, you get what you pay for when you invest in an AI system. Any AI investment is going to be substantial, whether you’re talking about a basic chatbot that handles one service issue, or a cognitive system that can handle millions of interactions across a wide variety of topics. However, the more time, money, and labor you’re willing to put into your AI investment the larger your rewards—and the better your customer experience—will be. The choice is yours.


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