Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Harnessing the Power of AI: An Interview with Scott Muncaster, Owner and Managing Director of Adactus

Leaders Perception Magazine is currently running an interview series called – Navigating AI’s Impact On Business

In an exclusive interview with Scott Muncaster, the Owner and Managing Director of Adactus, a people-first software company, we dive into the transformative potential of AI in the business landscape. Muncaster, whose career spans diverse industries and a proven track record of driving innovation, shares valuable insights on the impact of AI on customer service, the future of jobs, and strategies entrepreneurs can employ to leverage this cutting-edge technology effectively. Discover how businesses can adapt and thrive in an era of AI-driven advancements.

Interviewee Name: Scott Muncaster

Company: Adactus

The Interview

Can you tell us about your background and how you got started in your industry?

Scott Muncaster : I started my career at Marks & Spencer, where I worked to develop customer ordering and fulfilment solutions, before joining Pizza Hut’s team and moving into the restaurant sector. There, I led the development of the brand’s first online ordering service – which now accounts for more than 70% of the company’s sales.

After my time at Pizza Hut, I then served as a consultant to several national restaurant groups, before buying Adactus in 2016. I’m currently the Owner and Managing Director of Adactus, which is a people-first software company. For businesses that want to introduce technology to improve the service they offer, we help to connect the customer journey.

Can you share a recent success or accomplishment that you’re proud of, either personally or for your company?

Scott Muncaster : One of our clients in the restaurant sector recently came to us seeking help to better understand their audience. The perception was that their customers were older, more affluent people, who were less price conscious and mobile than the average person. However, once we analysed their data, we found that only around 25% of their customer base fit into this category, with the other 75% comprising three main groups of equal importance to the brand; some more price conscious, some younger and with different dining out tastes and habits. The smallest group, the younger guests, represented only 5% of the database – but this was also the one growing most rapidly, and with the greatest future value to the brand as they could be purchasing for many decades to come.

We then created a multi-pronged strategy to meet all the client’s needs now they knew they had several audiences with different value perceptions and different expectations on format of the menu and experiences on offer. The company used the information we discovered to change its approach, products and experience, and to shape the future plans of the business. The learning here was that what you think you know, and what is true, are often very different

Within that, a key point is that small, emerging trends in the data – perhaps not significant in terms of today’s sales – can provide insight into future demand and supply needs.

In your opinion, what are the most significant changes that AI will bring to the business landscape over the next 5-10 years, and how can entrepreneurs prepare for these changes?

Scott Muncaster : The potential changes driven by AI are long-reaching and will affect every industry. If I was to pick three significant developments, they’d be in roles requiring analysis / diagnosis, decision making and communication, starting with the moderately difficult, repetitious tasks, then quickly learning to do the hard stuff better than humans.

Any role that requires an interpretation of data – whether that’s a GP, a mechanic or an insurance broker – can be done by an automated AI system. Available 24/7, with an infallible memory and access to the sum of all recorded learning It will be more efficient, knowledgeable and accurate then even the best human subject matter expert in taking in information and reading back what it means.

Once an analysis or diagnosis is made, AI can make the best rational decisions – in commercial enterprises, to guide the direction of your business. We already see this in travel, for example, with companies like Airbnb using AI to set prices for rooms or properties based on demand to maximise occupancy.

In both gathering information for analysis / diagnosis and then sharing of output from decision making, AI will learn and develop better communication skills than humans. Communications with customers – or patients, or service providers – can be handled by AI at any time, speaking to many people simultaneously, in their own language, in terms we know they understand. It can learn and tailor to the best way to get an accurate description of needs, symptoms, dreams… then communicate the proposed solution with the same absolute clarity, free of mood, bias or “just having a bad day”.

How do you see AI changing the way businesses operate, particularly in terms of customer service and experience, and what strategies can entrepreneurs use to leverage this technology effectively?

Scott Muncaster : I think AI will help businesses to be faster and more certain in what they do. AI can segment customers on a far greater number of data-points than a human can comfortably handle, then quickly run test-and-learn trials to prove its hypothesis on what will increase sales.

It will apply scientific discipline to analysing results – it won’t bring bias, or rose-tinted glasses to see the desired outcome, so say “See, I told you”.

In terms of what entrepreneurs can do to leverage the technology effectively, I believe they just need to start. Assign time and budget to AI and automated systems. Ensure data collection processes are up to scratch, allowing you to capture high quality customer data at every touch point. Be prepared to be data and evidence driven.

There is growing concern that AI may replace jobs that are currently performed by humans. What are your thoughts on this, and how can businesses and entrepreneurs ensure that they are creating jobs that are complementary to, rather than competitive with, AI?

Scott Muncaster : It’s all about finding the right balance between automation and people to provide the right experience to customers.

Humans are the personification of your brand. Customers choose your brand because of the people, especially in customer facing industries such as hospitality. Employees can read the room, understand body language, and make decisions to shape the experience for each customer. Brands should lean into this and find ways to support their human team through AI and automation.

Despite what I’ve said above about communication skills when customers are looking for an experience (as opposed to patients wishing to be cured), AI will (at least for now) have a hard time replacing this human element. For example, waiters or sommeliers, (whose functional roles could absolutely be done by AI) can add theatre, wit and empathy that are authentic and loveable precisely because it is human.

My advice is to invest in the right team and experience, then it will become clearer which technologies are required.

What are some examples of businesses that are currently using AI in innovative and impactful ways, and how can entrepreneurs learn from these examples to drive growth and success in their own businesses?

Scott Muncaster : I think business needs to learn from science, to start thinking how scientists think. Good scientists want the facts, not to prove they were right. This is why AI is rapidly transforming progress in the prevention and cure of serious illness. In business, any service which involves people telling customers things that you don’t necessarily understand (e.g. actuaries, motor mechanics), or where people’s needs or conditions are complex and varied (e.g. building design, training) will benefit from AI adoption.

Today, when we see AI as not-quite-realistic human avatars who make mistakes when asked simple questions, it may seem to be a bit too new, too “clunky” – especially when it comes to communication. However, the data-driven principles behind it – removing bias, making it fast, always available, multi-tasking – are already a big leap forward for over human know-how. Once the front-end interfaces have developed a little further, to the point where’s we’re all as comfortable interacting with AI bots as we are with humans, the possibilities really do become endless.

Leaders Perception magaizne would like to thank Scott Muncaster and Adactus for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

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