Multi-Experience Enablers Part 4: AI and Conversational User Interfaces
Recent advances in general and conversational AI allow companies to dramatically reduce their customers’ effort and blur the differences between touchpoints and channels. Orchestrated by Predictive Analytics and combined with contact centre (CC) and unified communications (UC) synergy, these technologies will bring far-reaching changes to customer care and engagement. Customer journeys will become natural, effortless, and independent from physical channels and touchpoints.
Let’s consider the following use-case, which illustrates the point:
Here we can see a customer using multiple touchpoints and channels, successively or even simultaneously, seamlessly. We can see the UC-CC synergy, as well as smart use of biometrics and virtual reality – all important building blocks of multi-experience-based customer care and engagement systems.
We can also see something much more important. Maybe it is not obvious at first glance, but note that Nathan communicates with the bank, car dealership and travel agency without having to use any websites or smartphone applications. Nathan communicates with his bot using voice commands and the bot then connects with the people or applications required to deliver the information he needs.
A New Internet
This represents the beginning of a ‘new Internet’, which will be entirely different from the Internet we know today. This new Internet era will see chat and voice becoming the primary user interfaces for quickly, efficiently and securely accessing information and services. These conversational user interfaces will gradually replace the graphical user interfaces that are currently in use. Why? Because speaking is easier and faster than typing. This is where terms like ‘Conversational Commerce’ and ‘Conversational User Interfaces’ are coming from.
Traditional websites will be replaced by robots and automated agents based on AI and natural language processing. These bots will be used to access information (i.e. “When was my last deposit?”), fill out forms (medical, financial, etc.) and more.
Smartphone applications will continue to exist but will disappear from device screens, being moved to the background to provide services to personal assistants (bots) or messaging platforms (like WhatsApp, WeChat and similar) via APIs.
Indeed, WeChat represents a great example of the first steps being taken in the conversational commerce direction. What started as a simple messaging platform has evolved into a place where tens of thousands of businesses interact with customers, advertise their products and services, make transactions, and provide service support. Through WeChat, consumers can order food, buy movie tickets, shop for all kinds of goods, book doctor appointments, pay bills and more. Using WeChat, consumers don’t access services or engage with organisations via traditional websites or smartphone applications but rather through messaging in natural language.
The reality is that traditional apps are becoming convoluted and frustrating to use. There are simply too many of them, and each requires installing, updating, identification and verification. Notifications are scattered around dozens of different applications, making using apps increasingly ineffective. In addition, apps are creating functional siloes that affect the digital customer journey. Case in point: needing one app to locate a restaurant, a second one to make a reservation, a third one to order a taxi and a fourth one to tell your friends that you’ll be 15 minutes late.
Rise of the Super Apps
For this reason, existing mobile apps will become APIs for messaging platforms (or personal assistant bots). And messaging platforms will, in this way, become ‘super apps’. These will enable consumers to use natural language (written or spoken) to access any service they could possibly imagine.
This rise of conversational commerce—driven by conversational user interfaces—and super-apps will have direct implications for the contact centre. From a contact centre perspective, these super-apps will become super touchpoints and super communication channels. It’s not a matter of if, but when organisations will step up to meet this growing trend.
Some may think these predictions are too radical. But the truth is that we have seen countless similar changes over the decades. As recently as 10 to 12 years ago, companies like Snapchat, Instagram and Lyft were either just being launched or had yet to be founded. Products we relied on 20 years ago, like clocks, radios and voice recorders are now virtually irrelevant, having been replaced by smartphone applications. We live in an age of innovation that’s moving us forward faster than ever before. And as always, the solutions are always evolving.
This evolution will, through reducing customer effort and focusing on the delivery of meaningful and memorable experiences, lead us into a brave new multi-experience world.
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