How Conversational AI Increases Your Competitive Edge
Let's take a look at how conversational Artificial Intelligence increases your competitive edge and look at the importance of customer engagement.
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In the second part of our series, Getting Started in Conversational AI, we take a look at some of the business benefits that conversational Artificial Intelligence delivers.
From speech-enabled interfaces that improve customer experience, to intelligent chatbots that deliver 24/7 customer service, or humanlike digital assistants that drive online sales revenue, conversational AI is rapidly changing customer interaction.
Gartner says that by 2021, 15% of all customer service interactions will be completely handled by AI, an increase of 400% from 2017. But customer service is only one part of the story.
Fundamental to the success and impact of conversational AI is its ability to capture and interpret conversational data to uncover the single "voice of the customer," ultimately revealing what your customers actually think. This is the very information that will deliver the key insights crucial to transforming your company's bottom line.
With such a wealth of information available, and customers demanding the faster, more personalized experience that conversational AI offers, why limit the benefits of conversational AI to one part of the organization such as customer service?
Interacting with customers as they traverse through different departments and multiple touch points gives enterprises the opportunity to learn more about their customers than ever before. From initial lead generation through to sales, customer service, repeat business and even HR and internal processes, each connection strengthens the relationship.
Whether its driving online sales revenue using humanlike virtual sales assistants, to new ways of differentiation via intelligent voice interfaces, customer engagement is key to increasing your competitive advantage.
The Importance of Customer Engagement
Customer engagement is central to an organization's success.
Engaged customers drive loyalty, which boosts revenue, and in turn, increases profitability. A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect on the bottom line as decreasing costs by 10%.
According to Gallup, customer engagement represents a 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.
But customers are fickle creatures. They no longer want to respond to your every email, join loyalty programs, or like you on Facebook. They just want to get something done as quickly as possible and move on with their lives.
Speed and convenience are winning over price and brand.
That means less interaction, reduced engagement and fewer opportunities to understand exactly the needs of your customers.
Or does it?
How Conversational AI Reduces Friction
Reducing friction in a customer's journey is one of the key objectives for businesses today.
Unfortunately, digital channels are fraught with points of irritation. Devices are getting smaller leaving little or no space for navigation menus; at the same navigation menus are growing more complex as businesses increase the content available to customers.
Each hiccup in the customer's experience of trying to find information, make a purchase, or solve a problem creates friction. Since people normally choose the path of least resistance, these areas of agitation impact negatively on the customer experience and potentially drives the customer away.
Conversational AI resolves the problem by enabling customers to ask for exactly what they want using their own words and terminology. But it's not simply a conversation. The capabilities behind conversational AI allow for applications to do so much more such as fill out forms, make recommendations, upsell, book appointments. You name it, conversational AI can be built to do it.
With conversational AI customers can carry out complex online tasks faster and easier than ever before. This not only reduces friction but also improves the customer experience, which increases engagement.
Conversational AI Features Increase Engagement
Providing customer service on terms is no longer sufficient. Your customers want an experience that's fast and convenient, 24/7, 365. They want to message you a question while waiting in line for coffee or use their voice to make an online purchase while driving to work. They want to be understood using their own words, not your jargon. And they want to do so using the multitude of devices and services that interact with every day.
Conversational AI helps eliminate the challenges that customers have interacting with enterprises over digital channels by understanding; acting in a humanlike manner, always being available and consistent across whichever channel they choose. At the same time, it provides an opportunity to reignite the customer experience with increased engagement, personalized customer service, and improved customer satisfaction.
The features of conversational AI align themselves perfectly with those required to deliver a frictionless experience:
Easy and Effortless — Customers can interact with an enterprise over any channel, at any time, simply by asking a question using their own words without any need to understand your company jargon.
Personalized and Relevant — Answers and information given is personalized using details provided during the conversation, combined with an understanding of individual's likes and preferences.
Intelligent — The interface is capable of handling typical human-like conversations including context, ambiguity, and interruption. It can access back-end systems or third-party databases to deliver a comprehensive answer.
Consistent — Regardless of how the customer phrases their question, they are given a consistent, correct response over every channel.
On-brand — Your conversational AI interface will always reflect the tone of your brand. Whether that's formal, informal — or darn right sarcastic — the choice is up to you.
Never underestimate the power of consistency. By simply delivering the right contact information over all of its customer contact channels, one major teleco reduced its call transfer rates from 80% to zero.
Key Requirements for a Truly Conversational Experience
Conversational AI is a form of Artificial Intelligence that allows people to communicate with applications, websites, and devices in every day, humanlike natural language via voice, text, touch, or gesture input.
While perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when talking about conversational AI could well be an intelligent virtual assistant or chatbot (let's refer to them as simply chatbots for ease), few chatbots today can deliver the complex capabilities required to create the simple, intuitive experience that customers demand. Not just because of their lack of true conversational ability, but also because of many other issues such as support for back-end integration to enable crucial customer information to be easily accessed or the ability to effectively mine, interpret and use the conversational data generated.
In order to ensure an intelligent, comprehensive conversation that is able to do meaningful tasks for the user, there are several features required to deliver the Conversational AI experience including:
Support for a two-way, interactive conversation — Conversation is rarely as simple as a single question followed by an answer. People will sometimes tell you everything in a single sentence. Or they need guiding through a process and split their query into several pieces, only revealing each factual nugget as they remember the various points during a conversation.
It's up to the conversational application to determine the meaning, clarify any ambiguity, reassess if the user adds more information and remember the pertinent facts to be used later in the conversation. Even if the user switches device or service mid-conversation.
Support for multi-purpose dialogues — A conversational AI interface that supports multitasking and multi-domains with the capability to switch between different topics and tasks, delivers a more complete experience for the user than a simple one-purpose bot.
In addition, support for conversation outside of the enterprise's domain is also important. It might only be small-talk about the weather or a reminder to be polite if a disgruntled customer decides to say what they really think of your service, but it is an extremely effective tool in increasing engagement and a positive experience.
Adapts to user's pace and knowledge — Some people like conversational AI interfaces because they can get to answers faster. Others like them because it doesn't matter how many times they ask the same question the answer is always patiently given.
A conversational AI interface can support both expert and novice users by delivering a direct to the point answer or provide an in-depth, step-by-step response to guide the customer through.
Keeping conversations on track — Maybe it's to ask how long delivery takes, or to find out more about a particular feature, either way, there is always a potential for the customer to become distracted and stop their purchase. In short, in conversation, customers will so often branch off on a tangential topic.
To overcome the issue, conversational AI applications must be able to support user interruption, topic-switching, and decision-changing. Firstly, by answering the query and then by bringing the conversation back on track to follow the customer original goal or to switch to a different path if the customer has indicated a new intent.
One car manufacturer significantly increased its online conversion rate of new web visitor to booking a test drive by ensuring the customer remained engaged with personalized, relevant conversation that kept them on track until the goal was reached.
Personality Drives Engagement
Personality isn't just to please customers or to differentiate a brand, it's personality that engages the user. The more engaged the user is, the more they use the conversational interface, and the more data you receive in return. This information can then be used to further personalize the conversation and deliver actionable data to the business.
Contextual understanding — To deliver an intelligent, humanlike conversational experience, the application needs to understand the context of the discussion and to remember pertinent facts. This will enable the conversation to flow normally, as opposed to the user constantly repeating the main point.
For example, a customer might inquire as to what time the train arrives in London and then follow up by asking "And the next one?" The conversational AI application would automatically understand that the user is referring to the next train to London.
Deep and broad understanding — The Oxford Dictionaries blog lists 22 ways to say "yes" in English, including expected words like "yes" and "OK," and less common variants like "10-4," "righto," and "fo'shizzle."
Enabling customers to express themselves in their own way using colloquial and informal language allows for deeper understanding beyond simple intent recognition. This, in turn, increases engagement.
Data ownership — People reveal vast amounts of information in conversations. Their individual preferences, views, opinions, feelings, inclinations and more are all part of the conversation. This information can then be used to feed-back into the conversation to increase engagement, train and maintain a conversational AI application and further analyzed to deliver actionable business data.
Without control and ownership over that data, enterprises run the risk of only receiving a portion of the data from third-party chatbot providers with the remainder being sold off or used for internal systems to serve adverts for your competitors.
Error-handling — Technology is great until something goes awry. Ensuring that non-understandings are handled as smoothly as the rest of the conversation is an essential part of conversational AI. Whether it's simply a case of the application asking another question to resolve an ambiguity or admitting that they need to handover to a live agent, its key that it can do so as seamlessly as possible.
Support for different types of conversations — Conversational AI is adaptable to all kinds of applications from information-seeking to transactional including problem-solving, planning/scheduling, tutorial/guiding, form-filling, task-oriented or even just small talk.
Why a Platform Is Fundamental
Conversational AI applications shouldn't just be something that is built and then forgotten. A tick in the box next to the word chatbot. To optimize RoI, capitalize on emerging channels or expand into new geographies, conversational AI applications need to be adaptable to tomorrow's needs.
By building on a conversational platform, it's possible to build an application once and deploy it in multiple languages, across multiple platforms and channels and still reuse most of the original build.
Conversational AI is a key element in digital transformation. Its use throughout the business will grow from customer-facing applications to improving the internal process. Employees are already using it in departments such as HR and call centers.
In addition, conversational AI is being increasingly used to extend the robotic process automation (RPA) proposition, allowing for RPA and other AI assets to be integrated into conversational applications to deliver zero intervention solutions for high volume processes.
Building on an AI platform allows enterprises to easily take the time, resources and data already invested in one project and reuse it in another. New applications are built faster, delivering benefits to customers before your competitors, while giving you even more data on which to increase your lead.
Published at DZone with permission of Andy Peart, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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