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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing faster and has reached a new inflection point where it is effortlessly talking to humans. The technology evolution in human interactions began with the origin of chatbots, which initially treated conversations like a game of tennis—talk, reply, talk, reply. With time, they became more humanized to deliver immersive experiences. The rise of voice assistants, on the other hand, turned a new page in the history of AI-human relationship. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant became an integral part of our lives and dramatically changed the way we interacted with them.
Continued advancements in the field of text-based chatbots and voice-driven assistants, combined with other developments that are beginning to show, have led the world to a new subset of AI. It’s Conversational AI. Conversational AI, a megatrend, is expected to grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion in 2024 according to a report by MarketsandMarkets. A rising consensus among the most knowledgeable AI scientists and thought leaders is that the conversational AI will outgrow its current strength to help machines interact using contextual learning. Some experts also believe that conversational AI will revolutionize the traditional and mobile applications from the ground up and will dislodge them.
Given the market of conversational AI, it isn’t wrong to say that an epic disruption is around the corner. Across industries, enterprises are discovering the potential of conversational AI and stepping up to keep up with the demands of new digital. Those who choose to adopt a wait-and-see approach face the imminent fear of lagging behind.
The article to follow examines the key trends of conversational AI, the business areas where it is set to flourish, and also outlines the aspects organizations must consider while planning a well-articulated conversational AI strategy.
Trend Forecast: Understanding Where the Conversational AI is Heading Next
For the record, the smart speaker that plays music or tosses out weather updates on command isn’t conversational AI. Voice assistants and chatbots are only a slice of a much larger pie. So, limiting the power of conversational AI to these dynamics is nothing short of a disaster.
As far as business leaders are concerned, the technology can provide a way to gain customer insights and use this mission-critical information for making strategic decisions. Moreover, with increased access to cloud computing and advanced algorithms, more companies can implement conversational AI to redefine user interfaces and enable conversations as interactive and human-like as possible. A report from Forrester revealed that 57% of companies are already using enterprise bots or have plans to use it in the near future for both B2B and B2C purposes. These reports explain that conversational AI is a bigger ball game and we have barely touched the tip of the iceberg.
The following are the most upbeat conversational AI trends that present impressive use cases and are likely to take hold in the future.
- Conversational AI is making inroads across industries and will soon provide the kick-start needed to build intelligent interfaces. Intelligent user interfaces combine the latest in design techniques with technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, biometric sensor, computer vision, conversational voice, and auditory analytics.
- Messaging platform such as WeChat has become truly indispensable for today’s millennial generation. Its rapid proliferation will provide opportunities for companies to interact with their customers using high-performance bots.
- The popularity of voice assistants has resulted in its commoditization, paving the way for companies to build their own speech-based assistants and overlay other conversational platforms on theirs’. Given this frantic pace of innovation, it’s only a matter of time when businesses across the globe will be optimized for voice search.
- Machine-to-Machine (M2M) talking is a future phenomenon. Chatbots, of tomorrow, will not only provide personalized customer experience through direct contact but will also interact with fellow bots and other automated response systems.
- Conversational UX or CUX is the next frontier for digital enterprises. It’s an advanced version of UX design packed with elements such as brand persona development, guided conversations, and personalized content. Moving ahead, businesses will use CUX to improve the quality and relevance of customer interactions on their chatbots and drive conversions.
Areas Where Conversational AI is Poised to Accelerate Business Transformation
From Eliza, the world’s first chatbot, to today’s cutting-edge virtual assistants, the growth of conversational AI is a subject of mass acclaim. Its universe is finally expanding and so is the number of use cases. We can find conversational systems in our homes, schools, hospitals, call centers, and even cars. By 2020, as Gartner predicts, over 85% of customer interactions will happen on chatbots with absolutely no human intervention. In response, studies have found a big jump in the adoption of conversational interfaces across businesses in North America, Europe, and developing markets including China.
While it’s thrilling to witness the early success, the potential of conversational AI is fairly unexplored. Below are the areas where technology is poised to make moves and lead a seismic change.
- Human Resources and Recruitment: Despite considerable technology influx, hiring new employees continues to be challenging for the HR teams, irrespective of their size. Machine Learning-based software can help recruiters sift out unsuitable resumes and analyze employee calendars to avoid meeting conflicts. Scaling of conversational technologies can further empower this software to make interview calls, manage post-hire activities, and handle employee training sessions among more; thereby eliminating the stress of the HR professionals.
- Budget and Cost Analysis: An intelligent system can help employees smoothly handle complexities associated with the budget and cost analysis. It helps organizations perform explicit analysis, identify spending patterns, and notify when overhead costs blow out. However, conversational AI helps improve financial planning efficiency by fulfilling the promise of human ingenuity. Using enterprise chatbots, employees can interact with computers to track financial flows, find answers quickly, and make conscious changes accordingly.
- Employee Training: Its common knowledge that employee training goes a long way in fostering a culture of quality and competitiveness. When employees are trained, they bask in confidence, deliver consistently, and embrace new experiences with resilience. Intelligent assistants can track employee productivity and provide estimations to define potential career advancements within the ranks. With conversational AI at the forefront, it can be simpler to facilitate situational role-play exercises and keep the team abreast of changes to company policy.
- Customer Acquisitions and Conversions: Conversational AI can fuel customer growth in three ways:
a) by generating leads
b) by nurturing leads
c) by streamlining conversions
The technology can help weed out unqualified leads, pre-screen buyers, and provide insights on products that have a potential for sale. Further, it can automate follow-ups with users who showed interest in a product or a service but couldn’t purchase and direct them to a real person when needed. Chatbots and their 24*7 availability, which happens to be their biggest selling point, can boost conversions by allowing round-the-clock access to information and recommending complementary products that might interest customers. Moreover, they can double down on the efficiency of target marketing and advertising efforts by analyzing conversations and purchase history, and help salespeople understand what customers really want.
- Customer Service and Retention: Using conversational AI via assistants, companies can deliver service continuity to customers and retain them for a long-term. Through web portals and automated phone lines, these assistants can provide value-added content to the users, facilitating brand value in the competitive markets.
Things to Consider While Planning a Conversational AI Strategy
According to a report, the global conversational AI market is expected to grow at a CAGR of +31% during the period 2019-2025. The rise of this technology will plant seeds of new disruption, sweeping the business landscape. To avoid going off course, it’s important that companies must plan their intended course of action by keeping the following aspects in mind.
- Define a focused use case: Conversational AI isn’t necessarily right for every business and brute-force approaches are rarely efficient. Leaders must identify business aspects that are ripe for disruption with conversational AI and likely to deliver turnkey value for success.
- Decide whether to collaborate with a partner or use a platform to build your own interface: It is important to build short- and long-term strategies and decide how and what to build and reach on a mutually agreeable division of assets in question, including data.
- Discover opportunities for personalization: Adopting conversational AI instinctively will lead companies to build solutions that the target markets aren’t ready for. By focusing on personalization, companies must look to build platforms that suit the needs of the users and keep them engaged.
Conversational AI: A Panacea or a Problem?
Conversational AI might have experienced a passive beginning but at present, the technology is on a roll. It is opening floodgates of opportunities for enterprises to automate and streamline activities, improve productivity, and transform CX. However, we cannot be blindsided by its rosy picture.
AI has ethical implications that can’t be ignored. Arguments continue to abound as to whether we are leaving humans behind in the AI-driven world. At such a juncture, it’s important that business leaders pursue a meaningful change. They must seek ways to implement conversational AI without endangering opportunities for their employees. Developers of conversational interfaces must commit themselves to transparency and let their stakeholders know, though implicitly, that they are interacting with a conversational system. No matter how uniquely human an AI interface is, there should always be a real person calling the shots.
Indeed, these conversational systems are rewriting many a rule for society as a whole but a cautious approach will effectively dodge the existential crisis.