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What is Conversational AI and Can it Work for SMBs?

May 11, 2022 Six Consulting

There was a time when only the largest corporations had access to advanced technology solutions.

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There was a time when only the largest corporations had access to advanced technology solutions. The digital revolution has changed that permanently. Today's small-to-medium businesses have access to many enterprise-level technologies and platforms, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) applications.

That access can help SMBs level the playing field between them and competitors, including much larger companies - both in staff and revenue. Conversational AI is one of the technologies that can support growth and customer experience, regardless of your organization's size.

To strategize how best to use Conversational AI in your SMB, you'll need to understand what it is, how it benefits you, and where you can turn for solutions that fit your SMB's needs and budget.

What is Conversational AI?

Have you ever had a conversation with your Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple Siri? Then you already have an idea of what conversational AI is - but a more formal definition is a program that incorporates automated speech recognition (ASR), natural language processing (NLP), advanced dialog management, and machine learning to create human-like interactions.

But what does that really mean? In essence, a conversational AI uses modern technology to understand the words and intent of a person combined with the knowledge available to the AI to create personalized, relevant, and contextually appropriate answers to the questions and requests made of it. Or, put more directly - customers can interact with a company's conversational AI to get questions answered, make requests, and generally get personalized help, dynamically and similarly to what they would expect from a human customer service agent.

While the examples above fit the bill, conversational AI isn't restricted to just voice assistants. Like a chatbot, conversational AI can "chat" with a customer on a website or social media channels. Where conversational AI and chatbots differ is the dynamic and personalized nature of the responses and actions it can take.

For instance, a chatbot is programmed to look for specific keywords and phrases and can only give pre-programmed answers. It’s also session bound - a simple chatbot doesn’t have a customer’s context beyond the current conversation.

However, a conversational AI can recognize a broad range of semantically similar statements, bring in customer data such as order or account information, and create a response on the fly. It can also determine when it's reached the end of its ability to help a customer and pass them along to a service agent.

How can Conversational AI Help an SMB?

Any advantage that an SMB can get regarding creating a better experience is worth exploring, especially considering that two-thirds of companies report competing on customer experience. In what ways can conversational AI help a business get a leg up?

Scale customer services

One of the most significant benefits of conversational AI is its ability to scale customer service without adding more agents. A cloud-based conversational AI used with Salesforce's Service Cloud is not resource-bound like an individual agent, meaning that the AI can consecutively handle any number of contacts.

For many customer needs, the AI agent can engage, answer, direct, and complete a customer interaction without assistance from a human. The result is an increase in customers that can be served at a time without an associated increase in resources to manage the calls and chats.

Improve speed and quality of the customer experience

A conversational AI can answer many typical questions independently with broad access to customer information, history, and account data. These bots can also direct customers to self-service options, allowing them to complete their needs quickly without being placed on hold for long periods or filling out a form and waiting for a callback. A customer's needs can be met promptly, at any time, day or night.

Prime agents for customer calls

When a conversational AI starts an interaction with a customer, it’s able to run through a list of possible actions to assist. As mentioned above, this diverts a lot of calls away from human agents.

Some customer queries, though, require an agent. In these cases, the AI can gather information from the client and combine it with customer data to prep the agent for the call. Sentiment analysis can also prime the agent for the customer’s state of mind, identifying words and phrases that could signal that a customer is particularly agitated. This way, an agent can join a call without being blindsided by an angry customer who must repeat their questions and frustrations.

Answer employee questions

The use of conversational AI doesn’t stop at customers. AI agents can also help provide answers to staff, as well. In an environment where hiring is becoming challenging, having a path to employee self-service with the assistance of a conversational AI agent can make a small business an employer of choice.

Six Consulting Can Bring AI into Your Small-to-Medium Business

Salesforce Service Cloud makes AI accessible to businesses of all sizes. This makes it possible for even small companies to compete with enterprises in one of the most critical arenas - the customer experience. Beyond that, conversational AI can also level up your internal operations, improving the environment for agents and even providing a means of self-service for employees.

With extensive experience bringing Salesforce platform solutions to SMBs, Six Consulting can help your business compete on customer experience with your biggest competitors. Contact us to learn more about how AI can be incorporated into your organization with your current Salesforce implementation or how you can add Salesforce to your business to accelerate growth and profitability.

For many customer needs,

the AI agent can engage, answer, direct, and complete a customer interaction without assistance from a human.

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