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June 22, 2021

Conversational AI: Chatbots Were Just the Beginning

Chatbots Were Just a Beginning… Conversational AI Opens Doors to Endless Business Opportunities

Julia Litvak

Sr. Manager, Solutions Marketing, SaaS

How it All Started...

The first chatbot [CHATting roBOT], named ELIZA, was created many decades ago in the mid-1960s by scientists at MIT. But it was not until after 2010, when Apple launched Siri as a voice-enabled virtual assistant, that humans started seeing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies as not just a tantalizing Sci-Fi movie marvel, but something that they can use in their everyday life.

Fast-forward to the early twenties of twenty-first century, and here we are, wondering how we could live all this time without Alexa, interactive chatbots, voice-enabled GPS and cars that understand our voice commands, self-check in or check out, automated re-ordering of our groceries, and “oh-so-very-many" types of nothing less than artificial intelligence integrated in our daily lives.

Quick Chat or Intelligent Conversation?

Chatbot programming is a subset of AI technology, and specifically, a subset of Conversational AI. Today, both conversational AI and chatbots have proven their enormous worth to many businesses worldwide. Conversational AI delivers rapid, context-based responses to customers – providing better experiences, shorter wait times, and more nuanced support – while chatbots provide ease of implementation, affordable service, and dependable query-and-response performance depending on the business need. 

Both markets are exploding as customer preference grows for seamless self-service, hyper-personalized support, and around-the-clock attention. Each solution can be a best fit to a business depending on a scenario that the business has at hand. If you’ve ever wondered how these software systems differ, what organizations they work best for, and what they deliver, read on. 

First, Let’s Have a Quick Chat!

Chatbots are tools within the realm of conversational AI, but they perform more bare-bones functions. They follow scripts, can only respond to designated keywords, and cannot intelligently “understand” what a customer is trying to say. Yet chatbots have their place in customer support, especially if a business is looking for an affordable solution to self-service and one that can be deployed quickly. In fact, a study Avaya conducted recently found that chatbots were the most-used form of AI in the contact center for their ease of deployment and manageability. Chatbots are great for systems that want to direct customers through a menu-based navigation, prompting them to give specific responses that allow it to provide pre-written answers, or process information-fetch requests.

Chatbots features include:

  • Ability to handle hundreds of customer intents (an intent is a customer’s need that is communicated to the chatbot using a specific set of keywords).
  • Automated responses based on a set of keywords determined by a business.
  • Quick system onboarding, integration, and implementation.

Now, Let’s Have an Intelligent Conversation

Conversational AI can respond to a user that talks (voice input) or types (text input) questions or statements to an AI software interface. In a business context, conversational AI refers specifically to advanced communication software that can learn how to improve its responses to customers over time through repeated use. It can eventually gain the intelligence to decide when to hand over an interaction to a human better equipped to deal with different customers using intelligent routing. This immensely powerful technology uses natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU), which is a scripting process that gives the software the ability to grasp a user’s context in addition to his or her intent. In contrast, chatbots rely solely on a predetermined list of keywords to respond to customer questions and needs.

For example, if a customer types “My product arrived defected, I want a refund,” the chatbot would act on the keywords “defected” and “refund.” Conversational AI, on the other hand, can read full sentences and then potentially verify the customer’s purchase by asking if the item was bought on X day, arrived at Y time, and cost Z dollars. With time and continuous usage, the AI software can also address the need in real-time with the customer and improve its ability to handle more nuanced customer interactions. 

Conversational AI features include: 

  • Intelligent processing of nearly endless customer intents and supplying responses to customers at various stages of their order process.
  • Multi-language compatibility allowing it to work in different languages at the same time while keeping its core logic and functionality.
  • Automated constant testing to ensure a business is continually meeting objectives after implementing the AI.
  • Training systems enabling agents to review the results from the NLU and provide feedback, which helps the software continuously improve its responses over time.
  • User-friendly interfaces that allow for easy onboarding with all employees that interact with it.

Business Power of Conversational AI

According to PWC research, COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the widespread business efforts in adoption of AI, with more than half organizations increasing their strategic investments in this area. Companies can leverage Conversational AI to drive better customer relationships and improve productivity and efficiency. An absolute majority of companies recognize that adopting AI to improve their customers experience is a must-have necessity if they expect to compete and succeed in today’s business environment. Some major brands have already demonstrated the power of AI in enabling a better customer experience, for example:

  • Atento, one of the world's leading business process outsourcing companies, is using Avaya Conversational Intelligence to drive measurable increases in its customer satisfaction score. The Conversational AI solution automatically transcribes customer voice interactions into a usable format to capture conversations more accurately, better support more high-demanding in-call applications, and increase agent productivity by reducing after-call work.
  • At the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, the Arizona Department of Economic Security launched chatbots to help answer an unprecedented increase in inquiries, from 15 thousand to over 2 million in just a few days. In a similar matter, the Texas Workforce Commission used a chatbot to automatically answer top ten (and shortly after to top one hundred) questions that citizens kept on asking when calling to this government agency, significantly reducing wait and processing times, and helping over two million citizens receive so desperately needed unemployment benefits promptly and without delays.

Next Steps: AI-Enable Your Business with Avaya

Avaya OneCloud™ is an AI-powered experience platform. Together with Avaya, businesses can use this platform to create memorable, in-the-moment experiences that matter. Avaya can help you choose the modular cloud-based apps and AI components your business needs and your customers want, then compose and combine communications capabilities to achieve any outcome. Contact Avaya to get started or learn more about our chatbot and conversational AI solutions.

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