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Join the conversation: why your business needs conversational AI

(Image credit: Image Credit: Enzozo / Shutterstock)

The age of conversational AI is here and it’s completely redefining how organisations, employees and consumers are communicating with one another. Thanks to its ability to use natural language processing (NLP) to map spoken or written words to intent, conversational AI is no longer just a gimmick. Instead, conversational AI is making an impact across nearly every sector — in our homes, cars, call centres, banks, online shops, and hospitals—and the use cases are growing.

Combining complex NLP, cognitive learning abilities, autonomic task management, and emotional intelligence, conversational AIs can both learn from and respond to text or voice in an engaging, personalised and emotionally cognisant manner. The potential is immense and so it’s unsurprising that recent research found that the global conversational AI market is expected to increase from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion by 2024.

Disruptive markets fuel innovative investments

However, true conversational AI goes beyond the smart speaker in your home that reads out news headlines and plays music on command. An increasing number of organisations are using conversational AI to answer questions, provide information and support, engage with and execute the commands of various stakeholders across the business. Indeed, a recent Gartner report found that by 2022, 70 per cent of white-collar workers will interact with conversational AI on a daily basis.

A large element of what’s fuelling this demand is the increasingly competitive nature of business. Barriers to entry for modern businesses are continually dropping and small, nimble start-ups are able to launch and monopolise on market opportunities quickly.

In this climate, the AI race has replaced the arms race. Organisations and often their respective Governments are having to constantly reinvest into improving the intelligence and capabilities of their core offerings, to improve customer and employee experiences, while simultaneously extending their scale and ability to create value from their existing resources.

How can conversational AI help my business?

But what are the different ways that conversational AI is transforming traditional business processes? While the opportunities are nigh endless, here are four ways that companies can immediately benefit from it:

24/7 support: The days of companies providing customer service on their own terms are no longer. Customers want an experience that’s fast and convenient, 24/7, 365 days a year. They want to ask a question while waiting in line for the post office or make an online purchase whilst on their way to work. It needs to be easy, intuitive and natural.

However, customers don’t want to sacrifice their experience with always-on digital agents – and this is where conversational AI sets itself apart from more primitive solutions. Digital customer service agents that leverage conversational AI provide more human-like experiences that overcome some of the common frustrations that users experience with more simplistic chatbots. Indeed, while many digital solutions claim to be “conversational”, only few offer the truly natural experience that customers crave. Many systems only recognise and respond to specific keywords or set phrases, which means that humans have to adapt to speak the solution’s language. This shift from technology-literate people to people-literate technology is predicted to be a key strategic trend in 2020 by Gartner.

Digital customer service agents enable companies to provide instantaneous and fully scalable customer support as if they were speaking to a human agent. Customers are understood with the words they want to use and in the manner that they speak, rather than having to conform to speaking in a way that a chatbot’s static decision trees will recognise.

Personality driven engagement: Improving the customer experience should be a top priority in organisations and conversational AI can be a big step towards facilitating this. Personalisation is a great way to bring a brand to life in a very personal way. Businesses can craft a unique and consistent personality that is applied to all interactions.

But personalisation isn't just to entertain customers or to differentiate a brand, it's personality itself that engages the user. The more engaged the user is, the happier they’ll be to use the conversational interface, and the more data you receive in return. This information can then be used to further personalise conversations in the future and deliver actionable data to the business.

Augmenting employees: Conversational AIs have the potential to augment the intelligence of their employees to help them complete tasks more effectively. At insurance giant, AllState for example, AI-powered digital colleagues act as whisper agents for their customer service representatives. They not only source information to help human agents personalise their responses and more effectively deal with individual queries, but they also provide recommended responses that are in line with the industry’s complex regulations to ensure that customer interactions are always compliant. 

They can also help release employees from repetitive, administrative tasks. For example, offboarding staff is a time intensive activity for HR managers, who must remove an employee’s access from all the company applications they were using. However, by interacting with a conversational AI interface that is integrated with a company’s autonomic backbone, all the HR manager needs to ask the conversational AI is to “offboard Joe Bloggs” and it will manage the individual access removal requests.

When workers are released of mundane transactional tasks by AI, they will be freed to create new business value through human traits such as people skills, empathy, innovation, negotiation and creative problem solving. Where conversational AI supports this evolution beyond traditional software solutions is the ability for employees to interact with them naturally and to not have to learn and operate another interface.

How will conversational AI help your business?

AI is finally out of the lab and onto the front lines of business, driving companies around the world to fundamentally change how they operate. Advances in automation, AI and NLP make it possible to design experiences where customers feel like they're talking to a real person in a cost-efficient manner. Coupled with this, we’re now also seeing a new wave of human-like avatars as the visual interface for conversational AI solutions. The avatars further support conversational capabilities by showing facial expression and providing physical queues that make the interactions feel even more human-like.

A natural language AI interface that looks and sounds like a real person presents a huge opportunity for brands that want to take their customer services to new levels. There’s no question whether conversational AI can help your business – but when and in which ways will you start to profit from it?

Steve Haighway, COO for Europe, IPsoft

Steve Haighway is COO for Europe at IPsoft.