2017's battle of the bots

Nuance Communications

By Robert Schwarz
Wednesday, 12 April, 2017

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With chatbots growing in prominence, it’s important to get the basics right.

If 2016 will be remembered for ‘the rise of the bots’ — a year that saw endless chatter about all things chatbot — Nuance predicts that 2017 will mark ‘the battle of the bots’. It will be a year in which good bots will begin to be separated from the bad, where some bots will succeed while others fail, and during which best practices will be established. Gartner even predicts that by 2019, 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps and that by 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.

But, not all bots are created, or perform, equally. What are the critical ingredients for building a ‘good’ bot? It all comes down to customer experience. This sentiment is echoed by Forrester Research: “Today’s customers reward or punish companies based on a single experience — a single moment in time.” To succeed, chatbots need five things.

1. Conversational artificial intelligence. To be successful, a bot must be capable of holding an intelligent, two-way conversation with a consumer, maintaining context as the consumer changes subjects or uses colloquial expressions. Currently, some bots can successfully respond to a basic inquiry, such as, “What is the temperature in Sydney?”, but will struggle with the follow-up, “How about Beijing?”.

2. Cognitive artificial intelligence. AI can be applied to data alone — where patterns can help inform future action, even without human engagement. For example, by looking at patterns of previous customer interactions, prediction AI can identify where new customers might be more likely to respond to a product offer, or where the system can anticipate a customer care need.  AI can ‘read’ content and connect questions to answers, reducing or eliminating manual processes.

3. Human-assisted artificial intelligence. By using human customer service agents as partners with bots (what experts call human-in-the-loop machine learning), machine learning is accelerated and, importantly, bots learn ‘the right things’ from humans rather than making potentially critical judgment errors that make headlines.

4. Omnichannel integration. Successful bots will not be standalone applications, but rather a set of common tools that operate like a central brain that can be deployed across all of the channels consumers use. An integrated, omnichannel strategy will ensure customers have a consistent experience regardless of the channel. It also reduces the cost of siloed technology stacks.

5. Intelligent authentication and security. Voice biometrics enable consumers to easily authenticate their identity by simply speaking a short passphrase. This eliminates the need for hard-to-remember PINs, or worse, a series of security questions. Furthermore, voice biometrics significantly improve security and lower the risk of fraud.

With chatbots growing in prominence, it’s important to get these basics right. AI offers businesses the opportunity to provide customers with dynamic and engaging customer experiences, tailored to their needs and available at all times.

Robert Schwarz is Managing Director, Enterprise & Mobile ANZ at Nuance Communications.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Vladislav Ociacia

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