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Re-Humanizing / Re-Energizing Conversations Using AI: A Perspective

The need for better customer conversation experience will entice enterprises to seek the help of advanced technologies that promise to provide near-human experience

‘’Welcome. You have called ABC Bank. May I know what you are looking for?’’ 

‘’Credit Card service, please?’’ 

‘’OK, great! Allow me to connect you to the right customer service executive’’

Sounds like a conversation between two humans, isn’t it?

Well, partly right.

The next time you dial your bank’s customer service and are greeted in a similar fashion, do not be surprised if it’s not a human on the other side!

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Welcome to the world of Conversational Artificial Intelligence (Conversational AI)

What is Conversational AI? 

In simple terms, Conversational AI is all about letting computing devices and or software simulate real-time conversations with the help of technologies. Usually, the main objective of such an attempt is to simulate or even reproduce human-like conversations and engagement with customers.

The fast-paced dynamics of the current business world demands a more personalized and customized customer engagement experience. There are two ways to go about doing that –

1) Introduce and train more humans to attend to customers and solve their issues.

2) Introduce Conversational Virtual Assistants to replicate human interaction and behaviour with the help of advanced technologies such as NLP and speech recognition

Nothing can match option one. But given the speed at which businesses need to operate and engage customers, the second option seems like a good alternative and will compliment humans if not replace them entirely.

Research indicates that over time, chatbots and voice bots will almost replicate humans in conversations and customer engagement. The other added benefit is huge savings on operational and customer service costs.

Can Technology Replicate Humans? 

There is a lot of buzz around AI these days.

There is also some level of hype. Conversational AI is not about just ‘answering’ a call. It goes beyond. From answering a customer call, to providing clarifications, to collecting loan repayments and to solving issues even, conversational AI aims to pull all strings to ultimately replicate a human in engaging callers and customers.

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If this is one way of utilizing AI, there are other ways too. For example, some companies are content with some basic level of AI—using chatbots to greet customers and answer a few basic queries in a chat box. For AI to transcend the “machine” image to become a little more human, companies need to invest into AI platforms that perform human-like tasks and can be scaled to take the operational load as businesses expand.

If machines are to be used to converse with humans, then these machines better have the human touch. Advanced technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing  (NLP) are aiding the enhancement and evolution of chatbots into virtual agents which ape human understanding and behaviour to a considerable extent.

What is the Target Market? 

Now comes the big question – Who is more likely to adopt and use conversational AI?

With rapid digitization, technology has become an integral part of businesses. Companies, small and big from varied verticals such as banking, manufacturing, and automotive, edtech, healthcare are digitizing their operations. Though conversational AI is relatively new in comparison with technologies such as automation and cloud, it is not far off from being aggressively adopted.

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To begin with, large companies or enterprises that operate call or contact centres as a means to provide customer support are either adopting or will look to, as we speak. They will be the first movers.

The reason? 

Imminent need.

As businesses expand, so do their operations and that includes operations on sales, marketing and customer service. The imminent need to handle an increasing customer call volume and at the same time, provide qualitative and efficient customer service is prompting large companies to turn towards technologies that will assist them in the process. Conversational AI simply fits the bill here. Backed by ML and NLP, the technology will add great value to contact center or call center services.

There will be a profound shift in customer interactions as businesses look to engage conversational AI to achieve a near-human customer service experience. Enterprises will bank on conversational AI to both handle the increasing customer interaction volumes and enhance customer engagement.

What Other Factors Will Further Drive Adoption of Conversational AI?  

Work Dynamics. Not surprising, isn’t it?

Given the fact that the pandemic just shifted the dynamics of almost every industry in the world.

Enterprises all over the world are re-looking at their business operation cycle which includes acing up on the customer relationship management (CRM). It is here that conversational AI will play a key role as many aspects of business will go remote due to the higher volume of customer conversations being carried out remotely. As social distancing and safety norms become the new normal, enterprises will invest deeper into ML and NLP to take advantage of some cutting-edge conversational AI.

The proof, however, is in the pudding. 

Going forward, the communication landscape between enterprises and consumers will see a paradigm shift, all thanks to conversational AI.

Gradually, companies across several industry verticals will adopt conversational AI not just to enhance their CRM but also use the technology for their inbound and outbound sales & marketing functions.

Communication is paramount, be it from one human to another or from one business to another. The business world hopes Conversational AI to solve this persistent need for consistent and quality communication between companies and customers by re-humanizing interactions and re-kindling the human element in each of these interactions. The future of customer engagement and customer service will see a pivotal leap all thanks to Conversational AI and its subsequent progress.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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