It’s a very exciting time for AI, and always intriguing to wonder where it might go next. However, it’s important not to ignore the very practical applications it offers us right now, like conversational AI. Browsing the web through the websites of businesses, you have no doubt come across chatbots. They’re a useful way to gauge the interest of the website’s user, before a real person comes in to better serve them. The use of AI for sales and support in an interesting conversation, and there are many components to consider when incorporating it into a broader strategy.
So, where is AI currently being employed in sales and support? The example above is an obvious one, and in regards to business can lead to either sales or support depending on the intent of the user. If your laptop or computer breaks, you might find yourself sent to a bot for solutions first before Apple or Microsoft will divert a real technician towards your needs. This is a very useful way to conserve manpower, allowing for more time dedicated to more complex issues.
These chatbots are fairly simple applications, and the real exciting developments in this area have their foundations in smart speakers like Alexa and Siri. By being able to speak directly to a bot, instead of through text, the experience becomes more streamlined and less distant. You may come across this type of chatbot through the telephone, but there’s still the option communicating through the numbers on your phone instead in case it doesn’t work accurately.
Using it Effectively
You can’t just send conversational AI out into the world an expect it to operate effectively; it’s important to ensure its employed in the proper way. Start by readying it for the main FAQs you’re likely to receive; this is the best way to cut down wasted hours spent answering the same questions over and over. As the bot gets more experienced, it will gather data about what the users are asking about. Using this data to optimise the bot allows for a much more successful AI system.
You also need to know where the AI’s limits are; when a user’s query requires the subtle expertise of a real human. Being trapped in an AI loop where it has no answers for you can be frustrating, so systems need to be in place for an easy transition. As of right now, there will always be cases too detailed or specific for a chatbot to handle, so you still need someone on the line to handle tough queries. Who knows where the future will take us, however, and we may yet come to a point where machine learning is advanced enough that there is no need for that role.
It’s always important to ensure you have an understanding of the legality of conversational AI if you want to use it. One thing to think about is data protection. Chatbots gather a lot of data while they work, and of course this data needs to be treated securely. To be on the safe side, you’ll want to be explicit that the chatbot isn’t a person - if it presents itself as an expert and gives advice that leads the user to financial loss, it can lead to legal troubles. You also need to consider how it learns to communicate through its interactions. If the bot is taught to emulate other users to communicate more naturalistically, it has the potential to pick up anti-social habits. You need to make sure it is always friendly and professional, or it can damage your reputation.
Where might it go next?
It’s clear that in the immediate future, conversational AI is going to flow better and become even more efficient at communicating. In the present, there are a number of small annoyances that people have with chatbots, but that are being improved on constantly. It’s not too difficult, then, to imagine that in the near future, AI will be preferable to a real agent for its ease of use and understanding.
We don’t like our robots to be completely indistinguishable to people, but as they better learn to serve more niche and specific instructions, we might find that they become the option consumers want to navigate sales and support. Already AI is getting better at understanding what people say and speaking more smoothly back at them - if you compare what it is capable of now compared to 10 years ago, the difference is already staggering.