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Unlocking AI: How professional firms can transform research

By Ethan Murphy
Insights

Unlocking AI: How professional firms can transform research

By Ethan Murphy
Client listening
Unlocking AI: How professional firms can transform research

Artificial intelligence (AI) has stormed into the business mainstream, transforming everything from marketing to operations. Advanced technological capabilities, such as machine learning and natural language processing, have opened up vast opportunities for professionals to maximise work efficiency and growth. Yet in the world of qualitative research for professional services, adoption remains in early stages. Findings from our CLIMB (Client Listening Insight Maturity Benchmark) survey indicate only 1 in 10 firms currently employs AI tools to amplify their qualitative capabilities.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has stormed into the business mainstream, transforming everything from marketing to operations. Advanced technological capabilities, such as machine learning and natural language processing, have opened up vast opportunities for professionals to maximise work efficiency and growth. Yet in the world of qualitative research for professional services, adoption remains in early stages. Findings from our CLIMB (Client Listening Insight Maturity Benchmark) survey indicate only 1 in 10 firms currently employs AI tools to amplify their qualitative capabilities.

Leveraging AI to Enhance Client Listening

AI has the potential to greatly enhance client listening capabilities for professional firms. Advanced tools can ingest surveys, interview transcriptions, and all other formats of data to summarise emerging client needs, challenges, and satisfaction levels. Clever natural language processing can rapidly analyse thousands of client comments to spot recurring themes and summary reports can be produced at the touch of a button. While firms acknowledge all these potential gains, and the vast opportunities of integrating AI into existing client listening programs, research shows adoption of these types of tools has been limited. Attendees reiterated that this hesitance to embrace AI is often driven by a strategic focus on maximising impact while ensuring data security and accuracy of reporting, rather than necessarily a lack of understanding or vision. The key challenge for professional firms is how they can overcome these common barriers and start to tap into AI's transformative capabilities within client research.

In partnership with Rubiklab, we have developed our own AI tool, tailored for client research, the ‘Client Insight Hub’, that encompasses a broad range of capabilities. Beyond offering major efficiency gains and faster analysis, firms using this tool are experiencing transformative advantages. AI helps mitigate biases inherent in traditional client listening programs, providing a more accurate and balanced understanding of client needs. Additionally, the tool facilitates the creation of a centralised knowledge base, streamlining information retrieval and access for team members. This centralised data repository addresses the challenge of data fragmentation, previously a significant barrier, and enhances the overall effectiveness of client research initiatives.

 

AI-powered Thought Leadership Content

AI tools have applications beyond just client listening. In particular, as the demand for engaging and relevant thought leadership content increases, AI is an immensely useful asset in helping firms meet the high volume of thought leadership production required and produce more informative and interesting research.

AI can support teams across all stages of a successful thought leadership campaign. Firstly, powerful market scanning abilities allow AI systems to continuously analyse news events, legislative changes, technological advancements, etc. This can help firms identify fresh new angles and opportunities to explore in their research. Additionally, as with client listening, AI's data analysis abilities can drive efficiency and accuracy when examining research data. Further, AI can also generate impressive first drafts of blogs, articles, and reports on specified topics. This enables teams to focus their efforts on refining subjects and bringing creative flair, streamlining tedious writing tasks, and overcoming writer's block. Evidently, by leveraging AI across different stages of a thought leadership campaign, professional services firms can keep up with growing content demands.

Addressing Data Security and Accuracy Concerns

AI adoption in professional research still faces obstacles that necessitate thoughtful navigation. Attendees agreed that issues of data privacy and security stand among the largest concerns when implementing these tools. This is a common challenge, especially when leveraging free web versions or open-source AI channels. Consequently, firms must invest in enclosed AI tools, which meet stringent data and security protocols. Internally built solutions allow tight control over access permissions so teams can utilise AI insights while upholding sensitive client agreements and legal commitments.

Another common worry is how reliant findings produced by AI are, and whether there is any algorithmic bias. While open-source AI can be helpful with data analysis, results are not repeatable and there can be a tendency to hallucinate when answering questions it does not have an answer to. It tries to ‘please it’s master’ and can make-up findings, if pushed. As participants reiterated, researchers must be able to rely on the accuracy and reliability of AI-generated analysis to integrate this into their internal processes. Firms utilising our AI tool greatly value its transparency and the ability to inspect the underlying logic and data behind any insights generated. The tool can cite the origins of any conclusions, as well as admit readily if inadequate information exists to speculate about a specific topic, ensuring reliability over hallucination.

 

The Future of AI?

Looking beyond specific research projects, recent innovations have explored using AI to help expand the coverage and depth of wider client and market intelligence. By consolidating earnings reports, press releases, web data and more, AI can continually map vendor positioning, partnership potentials, and other windows of opportunity. This has potential to save teams copious time gathering intelligence and can instead free them up to interpret and follow-up on these insights, strategically.

Intriguingly, the session concluded with an exercise in designing what the ideal AI assistant would look like. Attendees envisioned a shift from AI as merely a descriptive and analytical tool to a more prescriptive and powerful forecasting engine, able to make accurate predictions about future outcomes and scenarios. With immense computational power, an AI tool that could ingest volumes of historical data and build models that forecast market shifts, emerging client needs, new competitive threats, and much, more.

Conclusions

Given the rapid pace of AI advancement and expanding capabilities, it's likely just a matter of time before predictive AI tools transforms how professional services gather, examine, and utilise data. However, professional services firms need not wait to embrace AI; there are many proven AI applications available now that are underutilised in the industry. Professional services that proactively adopt current AI solutions are set to gain a competitive edge and deliver greater value to clients.