White Castle among businesses utilizing AI| Interactive Customer Experience (ICX) Summit 2022

While the use of artificial intelligence has grown throughout several industries in recent years, there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding AI. A breakout session, “AI and Machine Learning: Where Are We Now?”, examined it at the ICX Summit in Columbus, Ohio. Susan Carroll-Boser, VP of technology, White Castle, was among the speakers.

Panelists discuss AI and machine learning at the ICX Summit Columbus, Ohio. The group included (left to right) Ben Brown, ConverseNow, April Walker, Microsoft, Jeremy Cauble, Canteen, and Susan Carroll-Boser, White Castle.

While the use of artificial intelligence has grown throughout several industries in recent years, there is still a great deal of mystery and the “fear of the unknown” surrounding AI.

The intriguing technology was top of mind at the breakout session “AI and Machine Learning: Where Are We Now?” at the ICX Summit at the Hilton Easton hotel in Columbus, Ohio on June 2. The one-hour session was sponsored by ConverseNow and Ben Brown, VP of marketing at ConverseNow, moderated the discussion. ConverseNow helps provide voice AI for restaurants.
Panelists included: Susan Carroll-Boser, VP of technology, White Castle, a QSR chain known for its hamburger sliders; Jeremy Cauble, director of customer experience, Canteen, a food and beverage service provider, and April Walker, GM, US Technology Centers, Microsoft, a software development company.

All three panelists talked about the benefits of AI, including how to leverage it to personalize messages and increase sales across different channels. There are quite a few misconceptions about the technology and the panelists had different interpretations of what AI actually does.

“I think AI is about injecting human intelligence into the technology,” Cauble said.

Brown said AI steps into automate important tasks. While some of that work could be done by humans, AI can help free-up employees to concentrate on other duties. AI also helps solve pain points, Carroll-Boser said, issues that emerge where solutions are hard to come by.

“When customers interact with chat bots, it helps them get the answers they need in a 24/7 cycle,” she said.

Does it replace workers?

Does AI kill jobs? That question has been a concern for some workers, especially in industrial manufacturing. All three panelists believe it doesn’t.

“It’s about making people’s lives easier,” Brown said.

Carroll-Boser said there’s a lot of science fiction and misunderstanding about AI.

“It’s really just about innovation,” she said. “We’re looking for opportunities to make jobs easier. This is a chance to really get some tools in there.”

Walker said technology advancements will allow employees to build skills for the future.

“AI is not going to remove jobs but it will replace some of those legacy skills, those more manual tasks,” Walker said. “In fact, I think it will help create jobs.”

Manual labor for low wages isn’t the most appealing work and the young, tech-savvy generation entering the workforce yearn to use skills in other areas, Cauble said.

“They might not want to spend their time in a warehouse picking boxes,” Cauble said. “For workers coming into the workforce, how do we make sure those (tech) skills are there?”

Across the US, many QSR and fast casual restaurants are struggling with worker shortages. Trying to fill positions has become a headache for many, as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Carroll-Boser has already seen the benefits of AI at White Castle locations.

“We now have more hands in the Castle to help with customers,” Caroll-Boser said.

AI needs to be right fit

Before companies jump head-first into AI, they need to built a sound strategy, according to Walker. She said it’s vital to have a strong grasp on the data of how a business operates because simply investing in AI won’t fix every problem. It has to meet an organization’s specific needs.

“What can AI do for your organization? How will it fit your ecosystem and satisfy customer needs?” walker said.

“It can’t magically step in and solve everything,” Brown said.

All three panelists said each of their businesses faced stumbling blocks and learning curves when they initially began to use AI. For Canteen, Cauble said they had to understand how to merge data all together for the tech to function efficiently. Another important aspect was listening. Canteen had to listen to customers and team members to pinpoint the best ways to leverage AI.

“We had the opportunity to speed up some of those processes and it made everybody’s experience better,” Cauble said.

Through the pandemic, companies realized how powerful AI can be, Walker said. The healthcare industry, which was stretched to the max during COVID-19, leaned more on AI and Walker said use cases show the technology was beneficial.

At White Castle, the QSR chain started using AI and machine learning tools at its drive-thrus. Carroll-Boser said it’s made ordering food more convenient, putting more choices in the customer’s hands.

Caroll-Boser thinks before brands roll out AI, they “need to pick the right project to use it for based on your biggest needs.”

The panel also talked about bringing on third-party providers to facilitate AI and machine technology. Caroll-Boser believes its best for companies to rely more on their own resources, but sometimes the funds aren’t available to control every aspect of an AI rollout.

“It takes a lot of learning to find the right path,” she said. “Then you need to find the right partners.”

Walker’s quote “don’t try to boil the ocean,” resonated with Brown, Cauble and Carroll-Boser. She said companies often try to do too much too soon. There needs to be time to learn the technology, build an effective AI strategy, train employees and implement technology that’s ideal for the business.

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