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Bots that work by design: How to implement conversational AI with intention

Bots are a big buzzword in the lexicon of most organizations these days. Along with voice assistants and IVR, text-based bots have demonstrated the ability to increase sales conversions, enhance omnichannel customer support strategies, and improve customer service metrics all at the same time. The evidence is so strong that 70% of businesses report they plan on leveraging AI as a way to “drastically improve ‘their customers’ overall experience this year.”

The potential advantages of including conversational AI in your customer experience strategy are undeniable. From reducing call volume in the contact center, to improving the overall efficiency of your organization, bots can significantly reduce the burden on humans while enhancing both customer and employee experiences. Plus, these days it is often the preferred communication channel for many customers.

However, here’s the catch. In many cases, deploying a bot can be as easy as turning on a feature in an existing communications platform your organization already uses. But to make bots conversational — with an experience that actually works for your customers — requires good strategy, design, execution, and evaluation.

Developing an effective conversational AI strategy can be challenging. And the stakes are high. As advances in technology continue to change the way customers interact with your brand, their expectations continue to rise. According to a report from PwC, 59% of customers will walk away after several bad experiences, even if they love the brand. The same study showed that an alarming 17% will leave the brand after just one bad experience.

Today, your customers don’t expect to just have access to a bot, they expect to have access to a bot that is designed to meet their needs. Failing to incorporate strong CX design and orchestration into your strategy can turn these tools into a huge source of frustration for anyone interacting with your brand. In fact, regarding conversational AI as just another “checked box” in your CX tech stack can result in disaster for your brand at a time when poor experiences are driving customers away in droves.

Understanding Chatbots and Conversational AI

Implementing bots the right way requires a clear understanding of your current channel ecosystem (and legacy systems), your data, and most importantly, each customer’s unique needs and preferences. It also means understanding some of the differences between traditional chatbots and those supported by conversational AI technology. In a nutshell, traditional bots are based on a set of rules. When a customer asks a question, the bot searches for the right rule, and responds with a scripted reply based on a set of known keywords. These are “dumb bots.”

“Conversational AI combines natural language processing (NLP) with channel automation like chatbots, voice assistants, or an interactive voice recognition system to help customers through either a spoken or typed interface.”

Conversational AI, on the other hand, uses text or voice to facilitate a conversation that is not limited to keywords or scripts. As the system “learns,” bots offer increasingly personalized sales and support interactions that can incorporate real-time data and predict the next best step in the customer journey. Those predictions and eventual decisions include when it’s time to connect with a real human on your team and how to escalate and de-escalate support to maximize agent efficiency.

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Using Conversational AI to Create Memorable Experiences

To be memorable, customer and employee experiences must be delivered effortlessly at the point of conversation across every channel—from your website, to search, voice, mobile, within social media, via email and apps and of course, using chatbots. The best experiences boil down to three things:

  • Know me. Your organization must understand the business, and more importantly, how each customer and employee desires to interact with your brand at any given time, and in any given situation.
  • Help me. The best brand experiences resolve potential issues before they become problems, and that means getting the answer right the first time.
  • Value me. Customers need to feel that your company truly values their business, and that you want to keep doing better—from an initial interaction all the way through to customer support.

Building strong CX design and orchestration into your conversational AI strategy can help your brand achieve all three of the above goals, resulting in continuous, seamless omnichannel journeys that exceed expectations at every turn. When your customers feel that all three of these needs are being met, long lasting brand loyalty will naturally follow.

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Larry Mead

About the Author

Larry Mead

Vice President, Experience Transformation

Larry drives exceptional customer and employee experiences globally, emphasizing CX strategy, operations excellence, and business transformation.

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