Business leaders who always strive to improve customer experience already know about artificially intelligent chatbots. But bots aren’t the only solutions that make use of conversational AI. In fact, you can use conversational AI to improve CX in any communication channel.
Chatbots are great, but why not apply that same technology across your CX suite? There are a few steps an application designer can take to incorporate conversational AI into any CX channel, but first we should cover the basics and definitions.
This article is part of the Inside CX series from Intrado, through which we’re creating a detailed, focused and actionable library of CX content. Use this player to hear another version of this content designed for podcasts and subscribe to future episodes.
What is Conversational AI?
Conversational AI is the technology that supports conversation design, which endeavors to create automated solutions that communicate based off real-world human conversations. And although most people think immediately of a chatbot when you say “AI,” it can be applied at different levels in many different channels.
Interactive virtual assistants are examples of bots that use conversational AI in the voice channel. It can also be applied to SMS or other care channels to increase performance.
Challenges of Implementing Conversational AI
To begin, you need a plan for how you want to use conversational AI to improve customer experience. It’s truly an orchestration that involves partnerships and technologies to reach the experience you’re looking for.
Sometimes a business lacks that orchestration. But more often, simple verbiage choices keep an interaction from becoming conversational. Over the years, issues like verbose and ineffective language became all too common.
A classic example is “Please, listen as our menus have changed.” Your customers don’t remember your menus before the change, so that statement is simply overlooked and doesn’t add real value. At Intrado, we talk to end users. When it comes to automation and self-service, they most commonly ask us to make it simple, make it easy and make it quick.
Another problem may sound odd. It’s the desire for consistency. Instead of end users, we hear about this from our clients. Some businesses think they need to drive customers through the exact same menu options and create the same, consistent experience for everyone. In reality, dynamic responses based on what the user said makes the conversation feel more natural. So the more personal and less repetitive you get, the better.
We often see this with error handling and end-of-line-type menus. Consistency helps in some specific areas, like how your system functions or the use of brand and style guide practices. But remember that a personalized experience performs better than a one-size-fits-all solution.
Steps to Apply Conversational AI
For anyone trying to get started, this may sound intimidating. How do you know a conversational AI solution creates personalization instead of just adding complexity?
It starts with the partnership you share with your solution provider. You should work together to define and achieve your business goals, and your provider should always keep the customer’s experience at the forefront. Beyond that, there are seven steps to follow in the design process.
1. Understand Your Current State
The first step is taking a close look at the state of your current applications and how they support your business. Start by reviewing sample conversations, customer-facing conversation logs and service-training materials. Whatever is available to understand your culture.
Also, consider your brand. Your service channels are the front door to your company, so they serve as an important reflection of your brand. So understand your style guides and your experience goals, and align the conversational experience with the image you want for your business.
2. Do Market Research
Many people overlook or forget this step, but you want to be informed about current trends in your industry and the technology world in general. The best solution today may not be the best solution in two or three weeks. Staying up to date makes innovation possible.
3. Determine Your Customers’ Contact Preferences
Think about how the end users want to be contacted. Should you call? Text? Email? Do customers typically reach you on your website? Or do you need to use some combination of channels? It’s about reaching customers where they currently are and making the experience as easy as possible.
This evaluation process reveals the appropriate channel to start with conversation design. As you continue to develop, your channels blend to create better experiences that enable customers to achieve the outcomes they want. This step shows who your audience is and the type of channel they prefer to use. It makes a difference.
4. Gather Performance Data
Next, work with an analytics team and contact center experts to measure current performance in your CX channels, specifically your digital channels. This reveals areas for improvement and helps ensure you make the biggest impact for your business and your customers.
5. Test the Design
Before you invest in development, test your design with people from different channels. This can be done a few ways. Here at Intrado, we typically suggest “Wizard of Oz” testing. With that, we test either the whole experience or limited functions before moving forward in development. This way, you receive the direct feedback from customers on the proposed design before implementation. You can make relatively easy adjustments and align the plan with your expectations during the design phase of the process.
Testing with customers and getting their direct feedback brings immense value. You see what they think works and what doesn’t, giving you confidence to implement the right changes and move forward.
6. Train the System
During development and after implementation, your application designer should train the system to learn new words and phrases based on how users respond to it. Customer expectations change over time. Consider how we talk to any other device. The words you used a year ago may not be the same words you use today. So training continues the development process to keep it up to date, just like any other product.
At Intrado, we’ve noticed many users expect much more from their voice and chat interactions than ever before. So data and speech science go a long way in aligning conversational AI with user expectations. We’ve kept up with this process and have seen great results with our clients.
7. Build a Roadmap
Last but not least, avoid thinking about only the “right now.” Build a roadmap to prioritize high-value changes. Use agile and lean principles to continually improve both your solutions and your process. And rely on research and testing to learn from your end users. Ultimately, all this keeps your business goals in mind and provides direction and innovation for your solutions.
How to Manage Conversational AI Down the Road
After following these steps, you have a conversational AI solution in use. But after it’s been in place for a while, how do you know the application is still the best solution in the long run? Of course, you have your roadmap to keep pace with the industry. But even that roadmap was set at a single point in time, so how do you ensure the application still meets your needs?
It’s a continuous process in an ongoing cycle. There are always new products and features to offer customers, so continued testing, evaluation and implementation helps you keep up. At Intrado, we encourage our clients to run champion-challenger tests, sometimes referred to as A/B testing.
Testing helps you continually improve the application’s performance. But keep in mind changes don’t happen overnight. This is a permanent piece of the prioritization roadmap. Maintaining a vision of what’s possible will help achieve great results for your business and your customers.
To learn more about conversational AI, call Intrado at 800.841.9000 or visit us at www.intrado.com/Customer-Experience. Look beyond chatbots and create truly engaging experiences wherever customers find you.