How many a time have you been in the queue for seemingly an eternity, waiting to talk to a customer care executive for a problem that often can be resolved in just a matter of minutes? Or the next best thing would be talking with an IVR with a limited set of instructions and if your problems don’t fit the bill, well then you’ll simply need to make your way through an endless maze of numbers till once again you’re waiting in queue as you are constantly reassured that ‘your call is important to us!’ One of the times when you’d so wish that the dawn of the robots was upon us. Well, not all hope is lost as bots can help save the day be being our ever so patient agony aunts.
As per research conducted by BI Intelligence, the average number of active users per month for the top four messaging apps was pegged at close to 3 billion in 2015, far outnumbering the number of active users on social media at a more modest 2.5 billion. This paradigm shift in user preference creates a highly lucrative growth opportunity for chatbots. These conversational tools are programmed to adhere to specific rules and respond to questions by users. The next-generation of these bots are based on AI and integrate Natural Language Understanding (NLU), as opposed to Natural Language Processing (NLP), enabling them to be smarter and understand language rather than just commands. The application of these conversational tools are endless, right from replacing live chats to providing users with a personalized virtual store experience, wherein the chatbot would help you make your purchase similar to how an in-store employee would go about it. Another application area for this technology is in the hotel industry, currently in the midst of raging price war, with online travel agencies walking away with a major share of the pie. Digital concierge is one such solution that can turn the tide in favor of hotel owners, by providing a highly customised customer experience from pre-booking to post-stay.
Deployment of hybrid AI conversational tools would result in a win-win situation for the service provider—through major cost savings on manpower—as well as for the user by—providing a highly personalised and efficient experience.
One of the more ‘primitive’ versions of intelligent conversational tools was Ask Jenn, an intelligent personal assistant developed back in 2008, for Alaska Airlines. By 2015, this personal assistant was a favorite among online travelers, having answered over 20 million questions. While these intelligent conversational tools are vastly superior to their conventional counterparts, they aren’t without their fair share of issues, the most major of them all being having a deeper understanding of human language and responding appropriately while considering the subtle nuances of the natural human language.
The most suitable alternative to intelligent conversational tools is hybrid conversational tools, which brings in the best of both worlds. When interacting with the user, in case of being unable to provide an effective solution, the tool would escalate the conversation to a human handler. As the handler addresses the concerns of the user, the chatbot would analyse and learn from the same. Over time, this would enable it to have complex conversations, which would otherwise not have been possible. This constant cycle of learning makes it a robust and highly dynamic tool, with myriad applications across sectors. The burgeoning e-commerce sector is expected to be among the major adopters of these systems, allowing for a highly personalised conversation with the user, based on various aspects such as gender, age, ethnicity, and region, while assisting the user with purchasing a product. The conversational tools help users make a choice when buying a product. Hybrid AI conversational tools could also help connect the user to the most compatible sales representative based on match scores (the system will evaluate the outcomes for connecting the user to each salesperson and ultimately connects to the salesperson who has the best result for the particular user).Moreover, such hybrid AI conversational tools are able to learn from the interaction between the user and the human supervisor. This eventually enables the tools to expand its ability to handle more varied types of customer queries in a more humane way.
We have only just skimmed the surface of this highly dynamic tool, which promises to put an end to endless wait times to get through to a human customer care agent. While this may sound like the death knell for industries such as call center, it is only a matter of time before these tools find their way across to all sectors. So, next time you are asked to confirm that you are not a robot when visiting a website, you may just be greeted by a highly AI conversational tools on the other end.
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