Conversational UI has captured the imagination of consumers and has given businesses a valuable tool in creating personalized Customer Experiences. Conversational interfaces come in many different shapes and sizes, and not all interfaces are created equal.
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Let’s take a closer look at conversational interfaces, understand what this technology is, look at the different types of conversational UI technology in use, and explore how businesses can use this technology to their advantage.
What is a Conversational Interface?
A simple definition of conversational interfaces is a technology that mimics human conversation. The philosophy behind conversational UI is to replace inhuman interactions like clicking on icons and entering syntax-specific commands with speech so that humans can interact with machines in a more natural manner.
The major upside to conversational interfaces is that there is no learning curve since users already know how to speak or, in other cases, type. Sophisticated conversational interfaces use Artificial Intelligence to recognize natural language patterns and respond accordingly. However, not all conversational UIs use AI. More rudimentary conversational interfaces may follow a rules-based approach.
Over time conversational user interfaces have improved significantly to the point where if you have a smartphone or a computer, it would be shocking if you have never interacted with one.
Different Types of Conversational UI Technology
Today, conversational UI comes in two distinct forms:
- Voice assistants
The major difference between these two types of conversational interfaces is the way in which we communicate with them. We speak to voice assistants, and we text or type to chatbots.
While many people would assume that voice assistants are a more advanced example of conversational UI at work, they would be wrong. Both chatbots and voice assistants can be simple or complex depending on how they are made.
Voice assistants have become very popular due to devices popularized by Amazon featuring their assistant Alexa. However, Amazon is far from the only tech company getting involved with conversational interfaces.
If you’re an iOS user, you’ll likely be familiar with the voice assistant Siri. Additionally, Google and Microsoft both have popular voice assistants that are included on mobile devices and home voice devices.
Voice assistants are sophisticated examples of conversational UI that rely on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and voice recognition technologies in order to provide the sleek User Experience that many people come to expect. However, if you’ve ever used a voice assistant device or Siri on your iPhone, you know that this technology is still far from perfect.
A more primitive version of conversational technology that you may have experienced is the bots that help answer and direct phone calls. Sometimes these bots can help answer user queries, but often they are only good for directing callers to the appropriate department.
These bots follow a rules-based approach and don’t have the sophistication to recognize natural language patterns and voice commands that go outside of their programming. Many users are quickly frustrated by these bots if they don’t quickly connect them to a human being.
Chatbots have been around a lot longer than voice assistants. The earliest, most primitive forms of chatbot followed a simple rules-based approach. However, while many people may still assume chatbots are simple, they have gotten quite sophisticated in recent years.
The most sophisticated chatbots are powered by Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing. In some cases, chatbots will also use Machine Learning too. There are many nuances to human language, and many times when people type, they use slang or implications to convey their meaning.
For example, a user could conceivably use a variety of different words to convey the simple answer yes. Words and phrases like, you bet, certainly, true, why not, and sure, could all be used in certain contexts to answer a query in the affirmative, and these are not even all of the possible affirmative responses.
Chatbots that employ Machine Learning in addition to the other tools can get more accurate and add more words to their understanding. Chatbots that don’t require specific inputs in order to gain understanding and provide assistance provide a much better User Experience. It is important to use good chatbot technology since this is a common facet of UI design for websites and apps.
Rules-based bots can be extremely complex too, but they can’t step outside of their programming. In theory, a skilled programmer could code a chatbot for every single possible conversational scenario, but the complexity of language and its constant evolution make this task virtually impossible.
How Can Businesses Use Conversational Interfaces to Their Advantage?
Conversational UI is an exciting, interesting technology, but how can it be put to use in a practical manner to further your business goals or aid in your daily operations? Conversational interfaces can help businesses big and small, from eCommerce websites to multinational corporations. Here are the advantages conversational UI can provide:
- Better use of resources
- 24/7 availability
- Reach customers on existing platforms
- Differentiate your business
- Save customers time
Better Use of Resources
Simple, repetitive tasks like lead qualification and customer support can be automated by chatbots. One of the most common examples of chatbot automation is lead qualification. A website or application will have a chatbot that collects basic lead qualification data. This gives your sales team more time to pursue prospective leads that score high in your system without wasting time on low-quality leads that won’t lead to fruitful gains.
Customer service is another repetitive task. The majority of customer queries will be simple with basic answers. Chatbots can free up customer service employees by taking simple questions out of their queue. Customers with complex issues get real human help faster as a result. This reduces customer frustration and improves your Customer Experience.
One of the strongest selling points of conversational interfaces is their ability to be there 24/7. Most organizations do not keep staff on around the clock. Mostly because there is little demand, and it doesn’t make financial sense.
However, some customers or potential clients might try to contact you outside of business hours. Conversational UI helps them with their problems, concerns, and questions and can play a vital role in helping you acquire a prospective lead. Late responses to customer queries seriously hurt your ability to generate leads.
Reach Customers on Existing Platforms
It can be difficult to convince potential customers to come join you outside on a platform they are not already familiar with. Did you know that chat interfaces can be embedded in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and other popular platforms?
You can use chatbots to reach your prospective customers where they already are. This is a much easier and effective way of communicating with them because there are already a lot of other things vying for their attention. Chatbots allow you to go to the platforms that have already won the battle for user attention.
Differentiate Your Business
Conversational interfaces give your business the chance to demonstrate your own brand identity, quirks, and creative flourishes. Many businesses fail to see the value a personalized chatbot can bring to their website or app.
These conversational interfaces give organizations a chance to communicate their beliefs and values. Plus, they give you the ability to craft a persona that can connect with and delight your target audience. Personalized connections forge a stronger User Experience and make your brand stand out from the crowd.
Save Customers Time
A customer’s time is one of the most valuable commodities in the digital age. Attention spans are short, and if people can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they are likely to leave your website or app.
Conversational interfaces save users time by helping them find what they are looking for. Being able to deliver personalized information is a crucial component of modern business, and conversational UI can do that more effectively than ever before. Saving your customers time is key in holding their attention long enough to generate a lead or make a sale.