What is Conversational AI?

Interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has boomed as people (and businesses) look to find ways to supplement their lives and reduce their toil whether at home or on the job. As this interest in AI has grown, many businesses and organizations are now scrambling to understand how AI can impact their companies and what AI tools they need to invest in to better their businesses. In this article, we’ll dive into conversational AI specifically and discuss what conversational AI is all about, how it differs from generative AI and why it’s become the pivot point of user experience for many organizations.

What is Conversational AI?

Conversational AI is all about making interactions with computer systems as natural as talking to a human – like a conversation. Instead of clicking through countless pages or filling out cumbersome forms, users simply converse with an AI system, issuing commands, asking questions and receiving responses in a structured dialogue.

At its core, conversational AI is a blend of natural language processing (NLP), linguistic and personal context understanding and machine learning, which constantly seeks to enhance and personalize the conversation over time. This AI is not merely programmed to return a subset of responses based on predetermined questions. It factors in the nuances of speech, intonation and even the emotional state to provide a more engaging experience, unlike any other.

Understanding the Nuance: Conversational AI vs. Generative AI

Conversational AI and generative AI, while sharing roots in machine learning, serve distinct purposes. Conversational AI is more specific to structured conversations with users, where the AI model is trained on predefined responses to set queries. On the other hand, generative AI is more about open-ended creativity, where it uses extensive datasets to generate entirely new, coherent content.

In simple terms, if generative AI is an artist that creates fresh masterpieces, conversational AI is a methodical conversationalist, discussing within the scope of known topics and pre-set guidelines. One builds and extends existing knowledge, and the other instantly engages, comprehends and responds to users’ input.

The Problem with Traditional Chatbots

In the world of business, AI has many applications. Most people interact with AI in the form of chatbots. But conversational AI chatbots are a little different. How? To start, traditional chatbots aren’t inherently smart. They lack the “brain” or natural language processing (NLP) that conversational AI chatbots have.

Instead of understanding a person’s intent when a question is asked – a traditional chatbot is programmed to follow a very linear path and any deviation from that path (usually due to the inputs from an end-user or customer) can cause that chatbot to fail. And when a chatbot fails it’s often a frustrating experience and can add to the ticket volume of your IT service desk.

According to a market study, few companies are satisfied with their current chatbots. The study found that traditional chatbots have a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of negative eight—far from a ringing endorsement—and 65 percent of those surveyed said their solution is not widely adopted by their customers. The addition of conversational AI, however, makes a huge difference— using a conversational AI chatbot increased the adoption rate of the overall chat solution from 16 percent to 50 percent.

It’s unsurprising then that 75 percent of respondents said they planned to migrate to a new chatbot software in the next 12-24 months.

The Conversational AI Advantage for IT Leaders

For IT leaders looking to optimize user interactions, conversational AI offers a suite of benefits:

  • Enhanced Customer Engagement: By providing a more natural, human-like conversation, users are more likely to engage and spend more time interacting with your self-service portal.
  • 24/7 Availability: Conversational AI systems don’t sleep. They offer round-the-clock service, ensuring your customers’ queries are addressed when it’s convenient for them.
  • Efficiency in Service: Being conversational, these AI models can handle multiple user queries simultaneously and provide quick, relevant answers, drastically reducing wait times.
  • Analytics and Personalization: Through advanced user data analysis, conversational AI allows for highly personalized interactions, catering to individual preferences and user history.

In a world where convenience rules, conversational AI is not just another tool in the IT arsenal—it’s a strategic advantage. By utilizing machine learning to simulate natural conversations, leaders can build more human-centric, effective digital experiences, transforming how we engage with technology.

Embracing the Conversation

As IT leaders, the shift towards conversational AI is inevitable. It’s a technological step forward that promises to offer more than just efficiency; it promises a leap toward more intelligent, intuitive interactions. The ripple effect of this shift is bound to touch user experience across industries, making responsive, interactive, and personalized engagement not just a goal but the new norm.

Many organizations face challenges in delivering an effective self-service experience due to:

  1. Poor user interface and navigation
  2. Outdated or irrelevant knowledge base articles
  3. Lack of personalization and contextual understanding
  4. Inability to handle complex queries or escalate issues efficiently
  5. Time-consuming manual processes for ticket submission and resolution

These issues can lead to increased frustration for users and higher reliance on traditional support channels, negating the benefits of a self-service portal.

This is where conversational AI chatbots come into play. By placing a conversational AI chatbot on your self-service portal you get:

  • Ease of Use – With intuitive interfaces and smart responses, conversational AI chatbots make it easy for users to find the information they need.
  • Reduced Complexity – Conversational AI chatbots can break down complex processes into simple steps, making it easier for users to complete tasks.
  • Improved User Experience – Conversational AI chatbots can offer real-time assistance, improving the overall user experience.

Let’s take a real-world example. An employee comes to the portal because they want to find out how much PTO they have. They start by asking the chatbot how much paid time off (PTO) they have left for the year. A first-generation chatbot may not be able to answer that, instead offering a link to the employee knowledge base article about how much PTO each employee gets annually.

A conversational AI chatbot tied to a well-connected integration and automation layer could personalize the response leveraging Single Sign-On, and then access the employee’s data from another application to deliver an accurate, fast response. In this case, the response may say, “Currently, you have 12 days of PTO left this year.” It might even follow up with a question like, “Do you want to know how many of these days will roll over next year?” or, “Would you like to request time off?” If the end-user response is to request time off, the solution would present a form for the request to be entered and then pass that data back to the PTO tracking platform.

Tips for Implementing Conversational AI Chatbots

As you start to identify the right conversational AI tool for your organization, you’ll want to plan for the implementation of the new tool, as implementing conversational AI chatbots in your IT Service Management (ITSM) processes requires careful planning and execution.

Here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Define Use Cases: Identify the specific use cases for chatbots in your ITSM processes, such as incident management, password resets or software installations. If you plan to expand to use cases outside of IT (for Enterprise Service Management), then you’ll want to plan for those use cases as well – things like PTO requests, benefits enrollment, etc.
  2. Choose the Right Platform: Select a chatbot platform that aligns with your organization’s ITSM processes and integrates with your existing IT systems.
  3. Train the Chatbot: Train the chatbot to understand the language and context of your IT systems, and to respond to user queries accurately and efficiently. This part is critical to the success of your chatbot user experience.
  4. Monitor Performance: Monitor the chatbot’s performance regularly to ensure that it is meeting user needs and achieving the desired business outcomes.
  5. Continuously Improve: Continuously improve the chatbot’s performance by analyzing user feedback, identifying areas for improvement and updating the chatbot’s algorithms and training data.

Incorporating a conversational AI chatbot into your self-service portal is a smart investment that can significantly enhance user experience, reduce resolution times and cut down on IT support costs. By leveraging the power of conversational AI, you can transform your self-service portal into an efficient, user-friendly support tool that meets the needs of today’s digitally savvy users.

If you’d like to learn more about traditional chatbots vs. conversational AI, check out: Chatbot Frustration and the Promise of Conversational AI.

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