When tech-savvy consumers have a question, their first impulse isn’t to call your customer service line. They know what awaits at a traditional call center: long delays, confusing menus, and the struggle to reach an agent. Instead, these customers look for AI to talk to online. To meet this expectation, many companies are turning to AI chatbots and voicebots—conversational AI systems that listen and respond, providing 24/7 access for customers through your website, mobile app, automated phone system, and more.
Chatbots may be the solution to your customer service challenges—and even workflow bottlenecks—but it helps to understand the technology before you invest. Here’s what every business owner should know about AI chatbots and voicebots, including what they are, how they can help, and how to make sure they express your brand identity.
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What Is an AI Chatbot?
Chatbots are a form of conversational software that provides responses based on user input, all through language. More simply, they’re computer programs that listen and reply, either through text or out loud. In the latter case, we call them voicebots. If you’ve asked Apple Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa to answer an open-ended question, you’ve seen how voicebots can perform.
When they use artificial intelligence, we call conversational platforms AI chatbots or, sometimes, intelligent chatbots. (See boxed text below for a comparison between AI chatbots and non-AI conversational software.)
Distinguishing AI Chatbots from Rule-Based Systems
It’s fair to wonder why chatbots need the descriptor “AI.” After all, is there any other kind? In fact, AI chatbots are just the latest evolution of automated chat systems; there are also rule-based chatbots that don’t use artificial intelligence to power their conversations.
A rule-based chatbot follows a pre-written decision tree. If you’ve ever called an automated customer service line, you’re familiar with the decision tree. It’s a list of menu prompts and static responses that—hopefully—guide users to an appropriate outcome. Thanks to NLP technologies, AI chatbots have an advantage. They allow users to ask questions in their own words, without being bound to a pre-set list of options. That creates a much smoother user experience.
That’s not to say there’s no place for rule-based chatbots. They provide a user-friendly alternative to FAQs, and can be programmed to respond to the most common customer requests. But if the goal is to create a conversational framework, in which users dictate the terms rather than choosing from a list of inputs, only AI chatbots can help.
So how do AI chatbots work? They use one or more of the following AI technologies to respond helpfully to complex queries:
- Natural language understanding (NLU). A subfield of broader natural language processing (NLP) technology, NLU translates the user’s raw speech or writing into structured data. That allows software on the backend to “understand” the query and determine an appropriate response.
- Machine learning. This branch of AI involves software that improves by experience in a loose imitation of human training. It allows chatbots to respond to a wider variety of queries than any programmer could possibly code by hand.
- Natural language generation (NLG). This is the AI technology that allows chatbots to compose original, relevant responses. Voice assistants use NLG to “think” on their feet, generating human-like comments rather than reading directly from a database.
With AI, software gains the power to behave more like humans, listening meaningfully to users and responding in kind. This capability for human-like conversation allows companies to instantly scale communications, whether that’s between the HR department and an employee or between a brand and consumers, examples that hint at two powerful ways businesses are using AI chatbots.
Two Major Business Uses for an AI Chatbot Online
Chatbots automate communication itself, so it makes sense to break down their business uses by the two broadest categories of corporate communications: internal, within the company, and external, with customers. Here’s how to get started in either context.
AI Chatbots for Customer Service
If you’re ready to introduce an AI chatbot online, there’s good news: You don’t have to build one from scratch. Third-party chatbot providers can plug directly into your communications channels, training with your unique company data to create a personalized service. Here’s a brief sample of conversational platforms that can help you build the best AI chatbot for customer service.
Regardless of the platform you choose, chatbots provide 24/7 availability in industries from banking to healthcare to retail. This last example is poised for significant growth; Insider Intelligence estimates the value of consumer retail purchases through chatbots will grow from 2019’s $2.8 billion to more than $140 billion by 2024. But, as we’ve mentioned, consumer interactions aren’t the only way AI chatbots provide value.
AI Chatbots for Internal Communication
Chatbots are taking the customer service world by storm because they’re easy to use. It’s simpler to ask a question in your own words than it is to navigate a website or dial through the 1,001 menu options of an automated phone system. That convenience also holds great value for internal communications, particularly in high-volume areas like technical support and human resources.
Help desks can use AI chatbots to give instant, automated responses to common tech questions. They can recognize issues that exceed their abilities, automatically generate a ticket, and forward it to an IT specialist. Chatbots are also powerful tools for answering HR policy questions, or for navigating an extensive company intranet, streamlining the hunt for specific files.
To introduce these chatbots to your organization, work with a conversational AI platform built for enterprise. Here are just a few of the providers that can help you build the best chat robot for your business:
Whether you’re considering AI chatbots for customer service, internal systems, or both, this technology provides some powerful benefits—but it isn’t all-powerful.
The Benefits of AI Chatbots—and Their Limitations
The key benefit of chatbots and voicebots in customer service is freedom of access. With well-trained AI chatbots, companies are no longer tied to work schedules to offer support. Their customers can get answers to their questions 24/7, without overnight staffing. This always-on customer service tool is particularly useful in global business, where customers are reaching out from all over the world—and from all different time zones.
But AI chatbots aren’t a comprehensive solution for managing customer inquiries. They’re just one part of omnichannel customer service. Text-based chatbots help customers through websites and mobile apps. Voicebots on conversational IVR and IVA systems answer the phones any time of day. And, crucially, experienced human agents staff the contact center for calls that go beyond the capabilities of automated systems.
Of course, these channels all work in concert. An AI voicebot can collect information about a call so the human agent is fully prepared when the transfer goes through. Text-based chatbots can forward conversation logs so customer service reps can reach out through email.
Despite these advantages, however, chatbots are not poised to replace the human workforce. Even an AI-powered system that uses natural language generation to compose original responses is limited by its dataset; people still need to handle more complex queries. Don’t rely on chatbots—even AI chatbots—to provide very detailed answers, specific to the individual consumer, at least not yet.
Still, chatbots are indispensable for automated communication at scale. You can expand access to your chatbots by giving them the power of speech—but to get the most benefit, that speech must be tailored to your brand alone.
Preserving Brand Identity in Voice-Enabled AI Chatbots
To truly take your automated customer response systems omnichannel, you need an audio component—and that’s provided by machine speech, through a technology called text to speech (TTS). Thanks to an advanced machine learning tool called deep neural networks, TTS voice models from ReadSpeaker AI are remarkably warm and natural. And a voice like this is ideal for automated customer interactions on audio channels like IVR systems, web- and mobile-based voicebots and voice assistants, and even interactive voice ads on audio streaming services.
However, there’s a hitch. Just as you keep your brand logo and color schemes consistent across visual channels, you need a TTS voice that’s consistent across all your audio customer touchpoints. In other words, you need a recognizable, unique, and high-quality voice that’s specific to your brand.
While brands are quickly breaking into the Internet of Voice through smart speaker apps, interactive voice ads, and more, platforms and device manufacturers are maintaining their hold on the sound of those experiences. Most Amazon Alexa skills speak in Alexa’s voice. That’s like stamping an Amazon logo on your print ads. Even brands that build original speaking chatbots often rely on the same stable of familiar TTS voices from Microsoft or Google.
To protect your brand against competitors and platforms, stake your claim in all your voice-first communications at scale—including speaking AI chatbots. Contact ReadSpeaker AI to start building your own custom branded TTS voice.