7 min read
Adapt or Die: Why All Business Owners Must Consider Conversational AI
Conversational AI is one of the most powerful tools in a business owner’s arsenal to engage with customers, streamline complaints and inquiries, and better manage their enterprise. According to a 2019 Gartner report, “by 2025, customer service organizations that embed AI in their multichannel customer engagement platform will elevate operational efficiency by 25%.”
Additionally, Gartner predicts that “40% of mobile communications will be overseen by smart agents by the end of 2020. ” It’s clear that we’re in the midst of an enormous shift in how businesses do customer service. We also know that adapting conversational AI can majorly benefit businesses.
But some companies are wary of riding the conversational AI wave. They worry that customers who expect live voice support from an agent will be turned off by interacting with conversational AI. People want to speak to people, not algorithms, so why bother?
Not Your Grandma’s Chatbot
Some business owners may not realize exactly how excellent of an experience conversational AI provides to customers. Rather than a “Press 2 for X” approach, conversational AI has learned to interpret an extensive variety of requests, as widely phrased and diverse as the human experience, in order to give customers the information that they need.
Conversational AI works so well because bots are able to understand both tone and context. By breaking down requests into individual words, and analyzing where those words are placed in the sentence, the bot can gather the emotional impact of the request.
Cogito, a conversational AI application meant to be integrated with live customer service agents, uses algorithms to detect frustration in customers’ voices. Giving agents instructions and suggestions in real time on how to best handle emotionally-charged customers, this technology helps make sure that customers walk away from the interaction feeling good.
This is not the automated voice chirping “I don’t understand” while a customer grows increasingly irritated. We’ve moved far past this stage — especially when it comes to bots that interpret and respond to text.
Millennials Hate Phone Calls
Another factor business owners must consider is the generational gap. Research shows that 75% of millennials (born between 1981 and 1995) prefer to communicate via texting, rather than speaking on the phone.
76% of millennials say that text is “less intrusive” and appreciate the flexibility that comes with being able to answer on their own time. Privacy is important to millenials, and communicating through text messages means that there’s no risk of another person “overhearing” a conversation.
Businesses that care about engaging younger customers need to consider that as people who grew up using laptops and messaging apps, millennials are often less insistent that they speak with a human agent.
If they can get the answers they need without dialing a phone number, they’re satisfied with a text message conversation or webchat.
Not Just for Big Corporations
Many small business owners haven’t considered integrating conversational AI into their enterprises, but this is a huge missed opportunity.
A vinyl record shop isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a lucrative business. Yet one shop that implemented an AI chatbot was able to make $1 million in just 8 months. The bot gave customers personalized recommendations based on their musical preferences and alerted them via text when records they’d likely purchase came into stock. That example isn’t the norm, but it shows the power of conversational AI to give a serious competitive advantage to early adopters.
In a national survey of consumers who interacted with chatbots in the last year, half of millennial users reported that they would be interested in using conversational AI to communicate with local businesses.
That attitude fits perfectly with small businesses today, whose strongest suit is often a personal approach to customer service, which can’t be fully replicated, but can be greatly enhanced by a bot.
While bots will never replace the human touch completely, they provide a system to field their concerns, no matter the time, and to identify and elevate high priority or complex issues quickly.
The Way Forward
Conversational AI doesn’t have to be a major financial investment. There are a large number of applications available to business owners, including no-frills, basic versions for businesses on a budget.
What business owners must realize, however, is that whether their foot dragging is due to a fear of financial commitment or a belief that customers won’t respond well to conversational AI, they must embrace the change or risk being left behind.
In our rapidly changing world, being the first to embrace new technology like conversational AI can mean the difference between growing your business and sliding into irrelevance.