The Complete Guide to Conversational AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a routine part of everyday life. People worldwide are already using 4.2 billion voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and others. AI is also redefining how companies do business, including marketing, sales, and customer service.
Conversational AI and other tools utilize machine learning to accurately respond to customer queries, generate leads, and drive conversions. Use this conversational AI guide to learn more about this tool and how you can use it to garner new leads and improve your business.
What is Conversational AI?
The standard conversational AI definition refers to technology that facilitates automated messaging between customers and digital agents. The technology is configured to conduct a human-like dialogue with the person on the other side of the keyboard.
Conversational AI has evolved since its inception, and it offers natural digital conversations. There are many tools available, but most of them are based on the following:
- Machine Learning: Machine learning refers to programs that improve themselves with each interaction. If you’re using a conversational AI tool as part of your sales funnel, it will improve its algorithms with each call to better answer questions in the future.
- Automated Speech Recognition (ASR): ASR technology involves converting spoken input into text. It recognizes words and translates them so the machine can read them and generate the proper answer.
- Natural Language Processing: This refers to how AI tools talk to people. A user asks a question or makes a statement. The natural language process analyzes this language to generate a response from its database and past training. Like machine learning, this type of AI improves over time based on each interaction.
How Conversational AI Works
Conversational AI and virtual agents are more complex and can give personalized answers to detailed inquiries. It works by using a database of words and other components to respond to each interaction. Each time conversational AI interacts with a person, its database grows. With this, it can answer future questions more accurately.
When you first launch your conversational AI program, you will create some initial inquiries. Start with your most frequently asked questions. Once your platform has launched, whenever a customer interacts with it, they are inputting data into the system. Input can be text-based or voice-based depending on the interaction.
After a user inputs data through a question, comment, or another form of inquiry, conversational AI begins analyzing it. It pulls out words and uses algorithms to generate an answer. The analysis is either based on Natural Language Understanding in the case of text inputs or ASR if the inquiry is voice generated.
Once the conversational AI tool recognizes and analyzes the inquiry, it creates a reply either through a machine-based voice or through text. The reply will mimic natural human speech patterns, leading to an easy conversation with the person on the other end of the transaction. They can follow up with another question, which starts the input phase again.
With each interaction, conversational AI analyzes the inquiry and the response, expanding its database. This improves its ability to generate answers to similar requests.
Over time, responses sound more human and less robotic. Each interaction also improves your virtual agent’s ability to effectively answer multiple customer inquiries.
Conversational AI vs. Chatbots and Other Marketing Channels
Conversational AI and conversational marketing are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Conversational AI refers to programming and tools that allow chatbots, virtual assistants, and other channels to mimic human language and respond to customers.
Chatbots are one platform that can be used to implement conversational AI programming, but they don’t always use AI. Some chatbots are simpler and only use pre-programmed answers to common queries. If you have a chatbot, you can program it to respond to frequently asked questions and escalate more complex issues to a human agent.
If your chatbot is programmed with conversational AI, it can use machine learning to identify and respond to complex queries. This allows it to have conversations with your customers without necessarily escalating the caller to a human agent.
How Conversational AI Can Boost Your Sales
Some of the most common uses for conversational AI are for marketing and sales. Conversational AI tools let potential and existing customers reach you anytime, day or night.
One benefit to these tools is that you don’t have to have your sales staff report to work in different shifts. They can, instead, monitor AI chats when they are at work to track leads and follow up. If your company works with clients all over the world, this can help with availability across time zones. Or if you use a solution like Aktify’s conversational AI over SMS, your team doesn’t need to monitor chats at all. Aktify will activate the sales leads and connect them as inbound calls with your team.
Improved Customer Insights
Your company can use conversational AI tools to analyze customer behaviors and interactions. Several salespeople may be responding to leads with the same issue, but unless you have a centralized tracking and lead management system, these trends aren’t readily apparent.
You can use your conversational AI analytics to track customer chats and better refine your products and sales techniques. For example, you might notice an uptick in customer service calls following a massive product update. You can look through the conversations to recognize patterns and identify specific glitches with the software. Using this strategy helps you stay on top of product quality.
You might also notice a high volume of calls related to a certain feature of your product. Knowing this can help you train your sales reps to better explain these features during an initial call. You could also use the data to make a social media video demonstrating how to properly use different product features.
Conversational AI tools can be used to engage prospects as soon as they are interested. If someone is on your company’s website after business hours, they can engage in a dialogue with a virtual agent. It can answer their questions and begin building a relationship.
For example, if you’re an insurance provider, potential customers might not have time to research different policies while they’re at work. Or they could get into an accident and start rethinking their coverage in the middle of the night.
Conversational AI tools facilitate the initial discussion of what’s available and how different policies can benefit them. You can have your sales agents follow up later with information. But, people are more likely to buy a policy when it’s on their mind rather than waiting until office hours to talk to a live agent.
Even if they aren’t ready to buy at that moment, they will have the information they need to have an informed conversation with an agent.
Improved Experience Down the Funnel
Conversational AI improves the sales experience for your customers through the entire funnel. A chatbot or other AI-based channel will handle the initial discussion, answering any questions that come up. If the customer isn’t converted through the chatbot, they may be more excited to discuss your product with a human agent. As a result, they’ll have more informed questions to ask during the discussion.
Your chatbots and other AI tools can ask targeted questions that help ensure that each lead is sent to the right salesperson. Once transferred, your sales reps can look through the initial conversation to prepare for the in-person discussion. They will have a general idea of what each lead is looking for and can tailor their sales pitch to address a potential client’s specific needs.
Better Customer Service
Since conversational AI can be used to handle basic inquiries, your human agents will have more time to manage their existing customers and target new leads. As recently as 2019, 34% of customers stated that they were frustrated by not being able to find basic answers on a company’s website.
When a customer’s relationship with your firm begins with frustration, they are not likely to return and complete a purchase. Conversational AI makes these answers accessible, adding value to the overall customer experience.
Not only can your prospects find the answers to basic questions, but they can also make specific inquiries and receive tailored responses to guide them through the decision-making process.
Even your best salespeople can’t handle as many prospects as a digital agent.
Chatbots and other virtual agents can be programmed to handle thousands of concurrent inquiries. They are cheaper and easier to scale than a human sales team. And your sales reps will be free to manage higher quality leads. They can boost their conversion rates by having more time to prepare and focus on their own customers.
If you’re gearing up for a large undertaking like moving into a new market, you can easily deploy more chatbots to round out your sales team. Your conversational AI tools can handle initial interactions and manage multiple inquiries.
Challenges Associated with Conversational AI
While conversational AI is constantly improving, there are still a few challenges associated with using these tools. Some common challenges include the following:
It is relatively easy for most conversational AI tools to recognize text input. Unless the string of words contains multiple spelling and grammatical errors, your virtual agents can often sift through the query to find a reasonable answer that fits the question at hand.
Voice recognition can be trickier, however. Some people don’t speak as clearly as others. There are also other factors including regional dialects, accents, and background noise. You can program your virtual agents to recognize multiple languages, but if someone calls in with a heavy regional accent and uses a lot of slang, their inquiry may go unanswered.
New Privacy Regulations
The primary method conversational AI uses to generate responses to inquiries is customer data. But more companies are trying to find ways to make this data more secure. If you are using conversational AI, use tools that don’t put customer data at risk for breaches and other security issues. Keep all of their information confidential and secure.
Lack of Customer Trust
Some people haven’t fully gotten on board with AI in general. For many reasons, they may be distrustful of machines. One of the biggest concerns people have with AI is that it may be used to harvest personal data they don’t feel comfortable sharing. In a survey of company executives, 33% indicated that customers had reasons to worry about how companies are using their data.
From companies using AI gathered data for unethical purposes to common technological frustrations like being stuck in an automated phone tree, customers have reasons to distrust conversational AI. Yet, because AI use is becoming more prevalent, some agencies are working on regulations to address ethical issues. It’s likely that over time, your existing and potential customers will begin to feel more at ease with conversational AI.
How to Implement Conversational AI in Your Company
If you’re ready to put conversational AI to work for you, take these steps to get started on your program.
Set Your Goals
The best way to make conversational AI work for you is to have a set of clear goals and objectives. If you just launch chatbots and virtual agents with no goal in mind, then you can’t program them to collect the right type of data that lets them work best for your customers.
You might want your virtual agents to handle initial contacts with potential prospects, answering frequently asked questions. Or you might program them to answer after-hours queries for your existing customers. Analyze your company goals to identify pain points you can address using conversational AI.
Get Your Employees On Board
If you’re transitioning to virtual agents, your salespeople might get scared and think they are being replaced by machines. Take some time to talk to your team and explain why you’re using conversational AI and how it will benefit them.
You might find that some of your employees have experience with these tools and can help you input better data to get the best results for your needs. Once you’ve had the initial discussion, create a vision and overall strategy. Let your human sales and customer service team know how they fit into the process.
Strategize About Your Best Platform
You might not be ready to jump in and program your own chatbots and virtual assistants. So, look into various platforms and the architecture associated with programming and launching them. You can evaluate your existing technological capabilities to determine how much help you need from the company in charge of programming and launching your conversational AI.
Although conversational AI will likely save you time and money in the long term, it can be costly to set up and deploy. If you aren’t the company owner, you will have to sell decision-makers on why they should be investing the time and money to install these platforms.
Evaluate your initial investment in terms of financial and time costs. Determine how the technology can be used to understand customers and improve sales functions. Showcase how conversational AI can be used to help your salespeople perform better. And find examples of how conversational AI can help increase revenue.
Once your executive team has bought in and you’re ready to launch your conversational AI programs, you will need to create a persona for your chatbots and virtual agents. The persona should be consistent with your company’s branding. A virtual agent acts as a brand ambassador and serves as an extension of your brand. So be sure to match the tone and language with your website and social media.
You’ve probably already created a brand personality to guide copywriting for sales, marketing, and other corporate communications. Refer to this when you’re programming your chatbots and virtual agents.
Monitor Your Conversational AI
When you’ve deployed your conversational AI tools, monitor these interactions for customer insights to improve the customer service process. At first, you might run into programming issues that keep your customers’ needs from being met by virtual agents. Use customer data to tweak the program so customer interactions closely mirror those with your human agents.
Use metrics and call data to improve your sales and marketing. You can also use this data to help you sell your product(s) more effectively. What’s more, you might use the data to identify a target market you’ve never considered before. This data can, thus, help you create new ads and offline marketing to appeal to these potential customers.
Aktify is Ready to Help You
Conversational AI can seem overwhelming at first. But, with Aktify’s help, you can take it one step at a time.
First, determine how these tools can benefit your company and strategize the best way to use conversational AI to supplement your in-person sales and customer service team. By doing so, you can improve the customer service experience and free up your sales reps’ time so that they focus on higher quality prospects.
Aktify’s conversational AI is made to drive sales by interacting with your customers in a responsive and friendly manner. Our clients have seen improved conversion rates while delivering more meaningful customer experiences.
If you’re ready to see how Aktify can help you, contact us and schedule a demo.