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The Future is Conversational (AI)



Digital | Emerging Tech | Small Business | Tech

By Robert Schwarz

The progression of conversational artificial intelligence (AI) has completely transformed the way consumers engage with businesses. Recent breakthroughs have led to a new generation of Virtual Assistants (VAs) – these could be specific to your bank, telco and even your pizza ordering.

As the Australian business landscape becomes increasingly more competitive – particularly as international trailblazers revolutionise not only retail, but the traditional customer experience – enterprises need to embrace new technologies to adapt traditional models and behaviours.

Conversational AI does just that, it enables continuous customer engagement. Yet, the key question for Australian enterprises is… How well will local businesses deploy conversational AI and use it to create an efficient, personalised and seamless customer experience?

Efficient customer service

A Virtual Assistant is a software agent designed to provide an intuitive and automated experience by engaging with consumers in natural conversations using text or voice. VAs must deliver fast and accurate services, which are more convenient than available alternatives, they should be designed with pre-loaded, industry and business-specific knowledge, as well as be able to use past experiences to deliver answers with a wide range of knowledge, all through “natural language conversations.”

What’s more, VAs (if designed properly) possess a high level of confidence – some can even assist with more complex and domain-specific activities. For example, Jetstar’s AI-driven VA on Facebook Messenger “Jess”, uses natural conversation to quickly solve customer enquiries across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Jess can achieve an impressive 85 per cent first-contact solution by identifying the customer’s intent and quickly responding with the correct information.

Personalised interactions

Through conversational AI assistants, brands now have the power to personalise conversations with users by understanding their intentions and even anticipating their next questions. Powered by Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Dialogue systems, VAs permit customers to engage with brands the same way one would with friends – in a messaging app, through SMS and even inside your banking and telco apps, allowing AI to become a natural bolt-on.

With consumers’ expectations of personalised and targeted interactions increasing, businesses need to start considering where conversational AI can most easily be applied.  By analysing and detecting customers’ engagement patterns over time, including past interactions across other channels, conversational AI is facilitating brands to anticipate specifically what the customer needs.

Seamless integration

The tools used in the customer engagement process are key – a seamless experience ensures the quality of services customers expect, while a clunk one will have users looking elsewhere.

This is the very reason why VAs must offer integration across all digital channels – web or mobile browsers, inside your app, via SMS, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or home speakers.

Brands must also integrate into human-assisted engagements by either consolidating with a human coach or transferring all important data when switching to live chat, ensuring the user experience is never interrupted. The application of contemporary technologies has supported the migration to digital engagement with customers through the successful introduction of the virtual assistant ‘Alex’ at IP Australia. Alex gives customers another way to access trade mark information, tools and resources by answering questions about all four IR rights such as patents, trademarks, designs and plant breeder’s rights, and can learn from conversations while being continually monitored, reviewed and improved.

Conversational AI is changing every aspect of customer service and enterprises need to get on board. As a result, businesses need to invest in the digital tools which bring more human-like interactions, allowing them to interact with consumers to engage with the brand as they would with their friends. These tools must be able to provide customers with real-time conversation and they must work seamlessly across all channels.


About the author 

Robert Schwarz leads the Nuance Enterprise team in Australia and New Zealand. He is responsible for helping large organisations and government departments deliver intelligent customer self-service solutions that drive enhanced customer experiences and provide cost effective outcomes. He has more than 25 years’ experience in IT and Telecommunications.

Robert joined Nuance on September 2014. Prior to that, he held the role of Director Ecosystem with SAP between 2013 and 2014. Robert was also CEO at The Distillery Software, and managing director of Damovo Australia and Hong Kong. He has also held senior strategic and management roles at IBM, Business Objects and Oracle.

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