Investor and Board Member of AISERA, Inc., an AI Service Management (AISM) Company
Chatbots have taken a quantum leap forward in user support, contributing substantially to the emergence of the modern service desk. Even in their earliest form, they heralded the promise of versatile new advances to come, such as sentiment tracking, NLP and machine learning.
As chatbots evolve, we are seeing a continuum of progress that will soon make it nearly impossible to tell the difference between human and artificial intelligence in service desk and customer service functions. I believe it’s enlightening to understand the chatbot journey, as it has evolved from the first generation to next-gen conversational AI that is unsupervised and context-aware.
First-Generation Chatbots Leave Room For Improvement
As chatbots began to evolve, their popularity and ubiquity revealed some deficits. For one, lacking true AI capabilities at this stage, they offered scripted and robotic user experiences. These rule-based chatbots worked acceptably for simple FAQ content, but even at this stage, a new horizon of functionality was opening up: Chatbots could potentially do a lot more. Early versions were also burdened with a long time to value — at least nine to 12 months to build and deploy.
As an emerging technology, chatbots initially called for a specialized skill set requiring data science and engineering expertise. The cost of a dozen or more experts and chatbot-dedicated software engineers, as well as the time required, made first-generation chatbots less cost-effective than they could be.
Traditional chatbots also required manual training, which could take six to nine months and again require engineers and experts. Because they could not learn autonomously, chatbot training was not a one-time event but rather an ongoing, continuous process.
The Demand For Personalization
Thanks to the digital revolution — and to Apple, Google and Amazon driving expectations — today’s users expect no less than a consumerized, personalized experience, with services available at the push of a button on any device. This includes contextual understanding at all times. It quickly became obvious that only sophisticated AI could provide that quality of user experience. Organizations working to apply AI to their customer support and service desk risked falling short on key user expectations.
Covid Presents A Demanding New Landscape
Covid-19 has altered the business landscape, perhaps permanently, affecting countless aspects of the work experience itself, including the role of chatbots. Remote work was once reserved for family exigencies, new construction, weather emergencies and so forth. But now, most organizations have had to adopt a remote workforce at blazing speed to survive, let alone thrive and grow.
As a result, the remote office has now emerged as “the new normal.” Artificial intelligence, with its capacity to scale support for remote work has swiftly moved to the forefront as an in-demand technology, spurring chatbot evolution toward third-generation capabilities. AI can address the need of remote workers for self-service and enable them to autonomously resolve requests and sustain employee productivity in the pandemic.
In this relentless environment, and to meet rising user expectations, organizations are now leveraging AI and machine learning (ML) into a revolutionary new paradigm of semantic understanding that seamlessly integrates with ticketing, knowledge, and IAM systems.
When a highly scripted robotic chatbot can’t predict user intent or engage in meaningful, dynamic dialogue, user interaction suffers. That’s why the momentum of evolution is toward a new golden age of voice driven by natural language processing (NLP) to create an intelligent user engagement hub. AI-infused virtual assistants can actually respond to human interaction by predicting and accurately identifying what users want and then formulate personalized, specific responses. They learn from each interaction and preserve information for the human service desk agent.
Satisfying Customers And Users During And After the Pandemic
In the beginning, remote work put heavy pressures on organizations: Wait times expanded from a few hours to days and weeks, call center costs soared and social distancing and changing expectations added their own challenges. Buying more service desk and customer support licenses was not the answer to these problems.
Creating a more agile approach called for out-of-the-box, instantly usable AI. That’s why there are now virtual agents and virtual assistants that enable enriched user engagement; concierge solutions and new platforms can understand and do the job autonomously.
Under the pressure of Covid-19, technology has evolved rapidly into conversational AI that not only learns continuously but relies on its own taxonomy and cognitive AI search to provide users with self-service resolutions. This latest generation of AI-driven chatbots uses unsupervised NLP, NLU and NLG to respond to a vast array of user requests couched in complex vocabulary.
The Wave Of The Future: Zero-Day AI On The Fly
As business emerges from the pandemic, expect organizations to continue investing in conversational AI. Most organizations will look to AI to open up new avenues to revenue, cost savings and business growth, as well as nurture innovation and ease the adoption of new business models. Conversational AI allows organizations to cost-effectively retain and expand their user and customer base, engage people in a new business model and compete aggressively.
The outcome of the chatbot evolution is to dramatically diminish or even eliminate the need for historical data, experts and data scientists. The new technology requires no AI training, no complex manuals or professional services and no prep work such as data cleansing. Deploying AI chatbots need not take weeks and months; the solution can actually be found online within hours and immediately start to deliver automated, continuous value.
Chatbots have now arrived in the new AI era. As it comes of age, next-generation AI has evolved to be not a black box but a convenient, transparent, turnkey solution.
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