Conversational AI: the customers’ new best friend

With its quick and personalised service, conversational AI is helping companies retain customers and boost customer loyalty as well as driving customer satisfaction.

Conversational AI: the customers’ new best friend

Wednesday June 19, 2019,

6 min Read

When we step into a clothing store at a shopping mall, we are often greeted by the sales people, who will direct all their attention to us. They ask if they can help us with anything, or whether we’re looking for something in particular. Whether or not we require their services, it’s nice to know someone’s on standby to help us through our purchase. It’s good to know whether we need it or not, someone has got our back.

Bringing this feeling to the online world is conversational AI. Today, most websites and apps have conversational AI solutions to serve as a ‘helpful’ friend to their customers. You’ve probably noticed the “Hi, how can I help you?”, or a variation of the same, in the chat pop-up that opens the moment you land on certain websites or mobile apps.

AI - human

Image credit: Aditya Ranade

However, there’s a difference. While human teams have a relatively smaller bandwidth, even a single chat bot or voice bot can make it possible to handle thousands, even millions of different queries at a time. In addition to this, bots can store and retain complex information, which help tailor one’s interaction with them. This is why customers are increasingly becoming happy with the quick and personalised service they receive using conversational AI.

People use some form of chat everyday

It’s hard to think of a person who goes a day without using WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and other messaging platforms. From the moment you’re up, there are notifications on social media waiting to be checked. There are also at least a couple of messages from friends and family, and potential plans to be made. All of these are majorly carried-out over chat.

This growing dependence on conversational AI platforms is also a big part of why chatbots and voice bots have become part of several companies’ customer relationship management strategies. For companies, having their service representatives available to customers is important to facilitate communication for information dissemination or troubleshooting. But smart, technology-driven bots can reduce time between responses and address at least basic, routine queries and FAQ’s without intervention from human employees.

It is only when the customer’s problem reaches a more complex or specific level that the bot may transfer the chat to a customer service representative. According to a recent research by Salesforce, 64 percent of agents in companies, which have deployed a conversational AI solution, are able to use the majority of their time to solve more complex problems, and offer a more personalised experience to customers, as opposed to the 50 percent of agents in companies that do not have AI-powered chatbots.

A virtual companion

A trip to the mall would usually mean a day out with friends. But an online shopping session usually means countless screenshots exchanging rates, discounts, combos, etc., sent to friends on messenger, without any consensus to show for it. Similarly, when you want to know more about a product or service, say, while booking a holiday, it can be frustrating to sit and wait for a customer representative to come on the phone or reply to an email.

A lot of times, people want the information instantly, or a decision needs to be made within minutes even when friends aren’t available to give you their opinion. This is where conversational AI steps in. Chatbots and voice bots give instant replies with accurate information, which they have learnt by being programmed with a lot of relevant data from a company’s archive.

For example, several large travel portals in India have started sending e-tickets to passengers via WhatsApp chatbots, in addition to email and text messages. Within a few days, or closer to the date of your flight, the bot sends follow-up messages on the same chat, asking you to book a seat in advance, with interactive options such as numbers and emoji.

If a customer has any basic flight-related queries, they can simply reply on the same chat where the e-ticket was sent to them, and the chatbot will reply instantly. This makes for extremely easy access for the customer to get answers directly, or be redirected to the right place by the bot. If you happen to ask something and leave mid-conversation, some of these bots even send you a friendly follow-up message along the lines of, “you’re probably busy right now, but you can start a new conversation anytime you need help”. It is this level of interaction and a certain degree of novelty that draws customers towards chatbot problem-solving as opposed to human representatives.

Human-like qualities, with increased efficiency

Conversational AI functions based on a combination of information gathered on a daily basis and the previous data fed into the system, and are programmed to function in specific ways. So, they are able to become smarter with every new piece of information they receive. They can learn an individual’s interests and preferences based on keywords within the communication and natural language processing. This is how AI is driving personalised suggestions that are made to consumers.

The learning phase of conversational AI also accounts for some funny exchanges. Take for example a customer who reported a delayed order on food delivery platform Zomato. The customer used a competitor’s name a few times in his chat, threatening to stop using Zomato for them, but maintained a humorous tone. The chatbot read this, all the while reassuring the customer that the issue would be sorted out.

However, it began using the same casual tone and even used emojis! In addition to this, it gave the customer free credit to use on the app, and kept the witty conversation going even after sorting out the issue.

Overall, conversational AI has helped companies boost customer loyalty and retention, by driving customer satisfaction.

In a survey conducted by Usabilla on end-users, 54 percent of the respondents said they would always pick a chatbot over a human customer service representative, if it saved them ten minutes of their time. Though some conversational AI features and capabilities are still being built and worked upon to avoid certain mishaps, this relatively new phenomenon has worked for customers and companies alike phenomenally till now, contributing to both customer satisfaction and company growth.

So the next time you wake up to a brand notification offering you deals that make your day, it may well be from your new best friend, conversational AI.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)