Transforming Workflows From Mundane to Marvelous: The Best AI Use Cases to Date

My mission this year has been helping leadership teams and their companies with AI readiness assessments spanning all departments — marketing, sales, service, and IT. To really benefit from AI, businesses need to unearth AI’s potential beyond conventional applications such as chat services and document editing. Over the last year, I’ve uncovered a fascinating array of AI-driven toolsets and approaches to help make “busy work” disappear so folks can focus on more value-driven work. We’ve conducted assessments and done AI work for those in the office equipment channel, the managed print services (MPS) space, leading OEMs and printer/copier manufacturers, those conducting mergers & acquisitions work, MSPs, and those installing fire suppression and HVAC systems. What we’ve seen? AI innovations directed at workflow solutions deliver big-time in measurable and meaningful ways.

I’d like to take some time and approach this article like we approach our assessments: department by department. I strongly believe there is no point to an AI solution in search of a problem. Rather, we need to look the other way, find the problems, and then find the appropriate AI to solve those problems. It’s important to note that not every workflow challenge has an AI solution, no matter what somebody promises you. Read on to discover some actual use cases that have been getting a lot of application in the past year from our interactions with customers of all stripes.

Sales departments

Let’s delve into how we’ve seen AI in sales operations in very real and practical ways. Forget simple help writing better emails (that is so 2023).

Transcription and summarization of sales calls: AI tools have become the silent workhorses of sales departments, diligently transcribing and summarizing key points from sales conversations. This dual functionality serves a pivotal role in enriching customer databases and fine-tuning sales strategies. By capturing the essence of each interaction, sales teams can access a wealth of insights, fostering a deeper understanding of customer needs and preferences. timeOS works well for this, but you can do the same with Microsoft Copilot at certain price points.

Automated CRM and task management: The administrative burden on sales reps has been significantly lightened thanks to AI’s ability to seamlessly update CRM systems and manage tasks. This automation frees up valuable time, allowing sales professionals to concentrate on what they do best — building and nurturing relationships with clients. The shift toward more strategic and less administrative tasks not only boosts productivity but also enhances job satisfaction among sales teams. The good news: We’ve done this integration with HubSpot, Salesforce, and Asana. The bad news? We haven’t done it yet with the leading ERP solution in the office equipment channel. If it’s a thing that can be done, could somebody let me know?

Enhanced prospect research: Gone are the days of sifting through pages of search engine results to gather intelligence on prospects. AI has transformed prospect research into a swift and efficient process, delivering precise insights with the click of a button. This capability enables sales teams to quickly understand a prospect’s business environment, challenges, and needs, leading to more targeted and effective sales pitches. You can do this using ChatGPT (with Bing integration) or Gemini (natively), but my preference is to build a custom-purpose chatbot to do this so you don’t have to use a complex prompt every time. 

AI-driven sales coaching: Perhaps one of the most innovative uses of AI within dealer operations is the advent of virtual sales coaches. These AI platforms are not one-size-fits-all; instead, they are intricately tailored to align with a dealer’s specific sales methodologies and strategies. By providing personalized coaching and actionable strategies, these AI coaches are helping sales teams enhance their funnel management techniques and improve close rates. 

Marketing departments

Marketing departments are what I would call low-hanging fruit for AI benefits, as most of their work is creative and a no-brainer for AI infusion. Some of the easy ones:

Content creation: This use case is very 2023, but it’s still critical in 2024. Low-hanging fruit, certainly, but really tasty fruit, and something everybody should be using AI for. The days of struggling with content creation, ideas for blogs, or the aesthetics of websites are being relegated to the past. Marketers are using it to kill the “blank page” syndrome and for creating outlines and getting examples for inspiration.   This AI-driven content creation is drastically shortening the concept-to-creation cycle, making it possible to produce rich, engaging content at a pace that keeps up with the demands of today’s digital audience. What is more important than time? More time, that’s what. What to use? Some people swear by Grammarly, Notable, and others, but I believe that standard ChatGPT with Dall-E is up to the task without extra expense.

Transforming brand identity development: A standout example of AI’s impact for marketers beyond writing and pretty pictures is seen in how it can be leveraged to overhaul the brand identity kit creation process. Imagine reducing the turnaround time from a staggering 46 hours to a mere seven. I won’t name names here, as I didn’t ask for permission, but one dealer I know did exactly this. And they aren’t charging less because the value of the service is just as high. I hope somebody reading this crunches the math on seven hours vs. 46 hours for anything they create and sell. Purely amazing.  

Caution with customer-facing web chatbots: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but AI likes to hallucinate. Far less than it did a year ago, but it is still prone, and nobody knows why. And sometimes, when it makes stuff up just for fun, AI can get companies in trouble (the Air Canada story is one you need to ask ChatGPT about, or Google it if you’re still so inclined). I’m not saying don’t do it; I’m just saying to be extremely cautious, and to date, we’ve found these to have far less business value than most of the other things we’ve helped customers with. We’ve helped customers build them, along with the disclaimers and other “for informational purposes only” language required to keep them fairly legally safe, but honestly, these have shown the least amount of value for effort in where AI can help make big differences in workflow efficiencies and customer experience.  

Service and customer support

Service departments, traditionally reliant on years of accrued expertise for troubleshooting, are now leveraging AI to offer unprecedented support efficiency. This is really important in 2024 as our service techs “age out” of the market, and younger people aren’t clamoring to replace them. I’m not saying copiers, printers, and mail machines are boring, but they aren’t exactly the belle of the technology ball anymore. The good news: service dispatch providers are using AI to ensure customers still get the same level of support by making it faster and easier to get answers and problems solved quickly, even as technicians age out of the equation. 

Instantaneous troubleshooting with AI chatbots: The coolest new toy on the block for service departments lies in the deployment of purpose-built chatbots. These service-directed AI tools are sophisticated systems trained on vast databases of device troubleshooting information. The ability of these chatbots to offer instant, accurate assistance is transforming the customer support landscape. Where once customers and technicians would wade through cumbersome knowledge bases, they now receive immediate solutions, streamlining the problem resolution process.

Elevating the customer service experience: Integrating AI chatbots into service departments does more than just accelerate support; it enhances the customer service experience. By providing quick and accurate responses, these AI systems ensure that customer frustrations are minimized and satisfaction levels soar. This swift problem resolution capability not only reflects positively on the dealers’ commitment to customer service but also sets a higher industry standard for after-sales support. Take that, Competitor XYZ.

Setting a new standard in after-sales support: The adoption of AI in service departments is obviously a big win for customers in after-sales support. The efficiency and effectiveness brought about by AI-driven support tools mean that customers enjoy great service levels, even if fewer people are providing that service. We’ve always used tools to increase our service levels, be it remote monitoring software or more automated ticketing systems. This is just another level.

OEMs and AI: a cautious approach to date

While OEMs have, so far, approached AI with caution, notable exceptions are signaling a shift. HP’s Amplify program, for example, hints at the potential for integrating AI into product offerings, albeit with limited public details. This cautious stance is largely due to a focus on understanding AI’s implications fully before wide-scale implementation, underscoring a strategic approach to adopting transformative technologies. I don’t have bullet points to add here as information is so scarce. What I can add, however, is even if they aren’t integrating AI into their MFDs or printers (yet), every OEM I’ve dealt with has still taken the time and invested the dollars to help their dealers better understand and deploy AI in their sales workflows. It’s one of those things that doesn’t have an immediate return for the equipment manufacturers but pays off in spades in dealer loyalty and mindshare.

So what’s next with AI?

The integration of AI across the office equipment channel has been slow to start but has been picking up speed constantly. From improving efficiencies in how sales and marketing do their jobs to refining service delivery, AI is here to stay. For OEMs, the journey toward AI integration is marked by careful consideration and strategic planning, ensuring that when AI is embraced, it will be for the right reasons. Areas like production print will likely see more impact than office-grade print and copy management. In which ways is not yet clear, but the complexity of production print and the scale could see some impact with AI efficiency gains. Truthfully, they keep a pretty tight lid on their AI efforts and that really means “we’ll know when we know.” Not the most satisfying answer, but it’s all I’ve got for the time being.

The examples highlighted throughout this exploration underscore AI’s transformative impact on our channel, offering a glimpse into a reality where AI is beginning to impact every way in which we get work done. AI is here to stay, sorry to say (excited to say!), so we’d best all be getting used to it. And if we have to get used to it, why not gain from it? 

West McDonald is the founder of GoWest.ai, a firm respected for its work in the realm of artificial intelligence and business strategy. His journey in the AI industry is marked by a  passion for innovation and a commitment to equipping businesses with the latest in generative AI technologies with an eye on workflow and customer experience. Through GoWest.ai, West and his team specialize in crafting bespoke AI strategies, ensuring companies are not just prepared for the future, but actively shaping it.