Customer Communications

Conversational AI: The Pathway to Customer Centricity

By Engage Hub expert 7 November 2017

At the start of 2018, many businesses embarked on digital transformation initiatives. These had the noble goals of implementing a customer-centric approach, streamlining internal operations and, ultimately, boosting revenue.

But as we move towards 2019, how many have actually accomplished these aspirations?

The answer: not many.

And this is completely understandable because there are huge challenges involved in digital transformation – lack of budget and a clear roadmap, a mixed pot of stakeholders and internal silos, to name a few (read this blog on overcoming barriers to digital transformation for more).

But there is good news – technological advancements in commercial artificial intelligence (AI) offer you ways to overcome transformation challenges while saving valuable time and resource. Here’s how.

How AI helps enhance the cross-channel customer experience and reduce call centre costs

Messaging apps such as WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are new channels consumers are using to communicate with businesses, from retailers to financial institutions. For example, more than 2 billion messages (automated and people-initiated) are sent between people and businesses every month.

Why? According to Facebook Messenger, 56% of customers prefer to message rather than call customer services. And businesses looking to reduce call centre costs also prefer to automate service responses via messaging apps.

These channels offer savvy businesses the opportunity to implement AI-powered chatbots proficient at dealing with enquiries. In some cases, they can even predict a customer’s next action and pre-empt enquiries with proactive communication.

Natural language processing (NLP), another application of AI, is a development in this area. NLP allows chatbots to use natural language instead of only reacting to key words. Voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana are the first consumer-facing technologies in this arena. But as anyone with a voice-activated assistant knows, there’s still room for improvement in the accuracy of understanding and response. Developments in sentiment analysis and machine translation technology will continue to boost precision.

recent survey revealed that 87% of retailers believe that incorporating AI will help improve their customer service. Other benefits from conversational AI include saving money (59.4%), increasing customer lifetime value (47.8%) and enabling personal customer-to-brand interactions (39.1%).

How AI helps streamline internal operations by mapping customer queries to the most common responses

Now I’m not recommending you let an AI chatbot loose on thousands of customer queries. You need to take a strategic approach that factors in the different stages of the customer lifecycle.

Start with Amazon’s Lex chatbot service or IBM’s conversation service, with developers specifying the constraints around intentions and mapping the most common services with a set of possible ways users might request them. Otherwise, customers could be making requests that don’t match with an operational response, resulting in a basic message asking them to contact an agent. And this means you’re offering an inferior customer experience that’s more costly than traditional customer service.

AI, customer engagement and data analysis

Customer engagement vendors are building AI capabilities into their platforms, and these additions enable you to create scalable, individualised customer experiences without the need for manual programming or logic building.

Additionally, machine learning — a pragmatic AI building block — constructs predictive models and competencies that analyse customer interactions across various touchpoints. This, combined with natural language processing, means that businesses will be able to rely on technology to pre-empt customer enquiries, delivering a superior experience without the customer even knowing that they’ve not interacted with a human.

And the benefits go beyond the customer experience. Your business will be able to leverage AI technology building blocks to add intelligence, dramatically boosting your ability to analyse data. And this has further benefits when it comes to informed decisions around streamlining operational processes and customer engagement.

Get in touch to learn more about how intelligent cross-channel conversations help transform the customer experience and improve operational efficiency.