Artificial Intelligence for Membership bodies

12 October 2018 by Naresh Raj

We’ve covered a lot about CRM basics in membership recently, so we thought we’d look at some more advanced technology. One term you would have heard everywhere over the past few years is Artificial Intelligence (AI). So let's explore that...


So, what is AI exactly?
Hollywood tends to portray ‘AI’ as humanoid robots hellbent on conquering mankind, with typical artistic licence; we’re more interested in how it can be used in business to help us perform everyday tasks?

So, AI is used across a spectrum of technologies and applications. Let’s start from the beginning and try to create some distinctive groupings.  There is overlap between all of these and no doubt purists will dispute this simplification from many different angles, but this split will do for now:

AI has already been embraced by many other sectors; what happens there usually comes into the membership sector and so Membership bodies should quickly learn from this.

Sectors such as retail have set the bar high in areas such as responsive logistics to enable next-day or even same-day delivery.  This has raised people's expectations around what service levels should be, which means if those people are also your members, they are increasingly judging any (paid for) membership by the same standards.

In the medical field, using AI's ability to learn, image classification and object recognition can now be utilised to identify cancer on MRIs, with the same accuracy as highly trained and qualified radiologists.

In retail, there are virtual shopping capabilities that offer personalised recommendations and discuss purchase options with the customer, using customer service chatbots. Chatbots are essentially computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users by auditory or textual methods that can work through customer queries.  Some are so good that the Turing Test, devised in the 1950s, is now pretty much a reality in the specific areas the chatbots are built for.

Another area related to AI is Natural Language Processing (NLP). This enables understanding, interpretation and manipulation of human language. A leading bank is already using this technology to extract important trends from customer feedback, such as via surveys, to identify the root cause of customer dissatisfaction and initiate improvement measures. This clearly has great potential in the Membership sector to transform member relationships and improve engagement and lifetime value

NLP can also be utilised to enhance the searching and retrieving of your web and external content. You can then turn this into a powerful conversational marketing tool by using chatbots. They can act as24-hour virtual assistants for your organisation by passing along pertinent information without the need for an extra staff member to monitor the chat. If the member’s questions can’t be clearly understood or answered during a chat, well-constructed chatbots can also direct members to a better source of information (such as a human).

Data is more important than ever, particularly to a membership organisation
AI can learn at a much deeper level through wider and deeper information – the more data you feed the AI that uses it, the more accurate it can become, assuming it is built well. The fact that you need lots of data to train deep learning models makes it ideal for membership management. One thing membership organisations all have is data but whether it's high quality or in place is another matter.  In recent years many Membership organisations have recognised this and have moved to a single source of rich data, which gives them a 360-degree view of their members at any time, via modern CRMs such Microsoft Dynamics 365.

As part of providing effective Membership CRM systems, smartimpact have always focused on quality data analysis and what you can do with this intelligence – to the benefit of our clients’ members. This is what inspired us to create the smartengagement module. This module understands how a member is interacting with your organisation by recording use of benefits, communication levels and other signals (i.e. how they express their sentiments) and uses this to produce a member engagement score to trigger alerts and take further action/s to either improve or consolidate the relationship with your organisation.

It’s important to recognise that AI needs great, relevant data. This clearly presents an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage – if you have richer, more accurate data (in terms of volume, quality and relevance) than similar organisations, even if everyone else is applying the same techniques, the best data will win.

How can membership organisations use AI?

  • Chatbots to answer member questions.
  • Chatbots can utilise the engagement to ask more questions of the member for example, to further understand members’ interests and preferences.
  • Send personalised member communications based on the above (assuming it passes the Turing Test – which is the test of a machines ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour, that is the same or indistinguishable from that of a human).
  • Determine similarities between members for networking.
  • Identify member donation and sponsorship habits.
  • To aid management in making more effective strategic decisions guided by AI.
  • Scan Outlook emails for positive or negative language and alert you to take appropriate action via Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Scan telephone interactions to ‘listen’ for positive or negative use of language and automate its contribution to engagement scores.

What are the benefits to membership organisations using AI?

  • Higher engagement and retention due to improved member service quality and fulfilment.
  • Far more focussed member networking due to your deepened understanding of your members' behaviour and personalities allowing you to introduce like-minded people to the most appropriate peers, mentors, or industry partners at forums and events.
  • Drive information provision to a completely new level through using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and chatbots to optimise access to knowledge and information for member consumption.

Is AI a threat?
If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that AI will continue to change how we do business in every industry for many years to come. While it may be hard to see the inroads that AI is making right now in the membership space, organisations are implementing it, and its potential to positively change how we interact with members is already clear to see.

So, AI is not a threat in terms of using it for the business applications above.  Unless Hollywood has anything to do with it...

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