Gulf News webinar explores conversational AI’s impact on customer service

Ensuring customer satisfaction is paramount for any business to prosper, and now conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping revolutionise the customer experience, according to a Gulf News webinar. The webinar, organised in association with Uniphore Software Systems, was held on Tuesday, June 14, with two experts from the field discussing the technology’s advantages and potential to transform businesses .

So what exactly is conversational AI? During the webinar, Anil Kumar, Senior Director, Uniphore, Dubai, explained more about the $350 billion product.

“People ask what exactly conversational AI is. Is it a chatbot? Is it somebody talking to a robot? The human conversation has been around forever. Slowly the word conversation AI started to creep in. The AI part of it is what makes it interesting. In the last 30 years, we have been talking to Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Press one for this and two for that; it can be frustrating. When we start looking at the AI side, every email and every conversation to a call centre are being recorded. You agree to this when you hear, ‘your call is important to us; your call is being recorded for whatever purposes.’ When that becomes data, and this data is analysed, that becomes something we can respond to. This becomes the voice of the customer. AI is getting smarter, and having this data is what makes it smarter.”

The other expert panellist, Awais Ahmad, Head of Technology, Solexplus, Saudi Arabia, explained, “The top priority is customer experience for every industry. The customer is the important part. Let’s say there is a huge number of calls incoming. People are getting frustrated. Your customers are not happy. AI can automatically detect the customer’s experience, their intent and how they feel. This huge leap is happening right now, which is mostly used in the call centre industry.”

With the data feeding back to make conversational AI work efficiently, Ahmad said that human interaction with AI-based programmes is increasing at a tremendous rate. “The revolution came when the smartphone age started. In 2001 SmarterChild, one of the AOL chatbots, was a turning point in the revolution of the history of the conversation. Between 2010 and 2016, there were further huge developments in AI. We entered the modern era with Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. It changed the whole industry. The programmes could identify your sentiments and intents.”

It seems astonishing that AI can detect these things, but it is an incredibly smart concept,

Kumar added. “The whole idea was to create a human alternative. To be able to think like a human being and answer like a human being. But also be able to process humungous amounts of data. The chatbot experiences that we have today are often not the best. Data elements are not being harnessed to understand what the customer is saying. A customer may ask the same thing in different ways. If you look at a bank, you may have about 250-300 intents on why you’d call a bank. If you club all of that together, you have ready answers, can fetch the customer’s data, and go into the bank account.”

Whilst harnessing the data will improve the AI responses, language and different dialects are another aspect being worked on. Kumar said that having built their own Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) engine, Conversational AI now has 110 languages on record.

With these different language options available, AI is suitable almost anywhere and for any business. Ahmad explained, “Where humans are talking to each other, it can be replaced by conversational AI. It means a lot of data and a lot of training, but the time is going to come. It can be used in so many places.”

Finally, another benefit discussed in the webinar was that conversational AI could reduce the load on the workforce and improve the bottom line.

“Conversational AI is reducing customer service costs. It is doing the task that normal humans are doing. Most importantly is the boost in employees’ mental health and their morale. They will have less workload, and you can use them in other work in the company to increase your revenue growth,” said Ahmad.

With more customer interaction occurring digitally than ever, various AI applications are in use. From banks, airlines, and healthcare to supermarkets, AI is all around us and is constantly evolving. The expert panellists were in agreement that the possibilities for conversational AI are boundless.

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