The AI Payoff: Reaping the Returns of Natural Human Engagement

While artificial intelligence (AI) continued to ride high as a leading technology trend in 2018, true investment and market growth fell below year-end expectations. When asked about their confidence in AI projects, many CTOs cited the steep investment and uncertainties around ROI as the major hurdles to AI adoption.

But not all AI domains are created equal. We’ve seen language-based technologies that drive Conversational User Experiences (UX) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) make huge strides in recent years, in both adoption and ambition.  

Many companies are successfully using NLP-powered chatbots to streamline some of the work that would usually fall to customer support, providing significant efficiency advantages. In fact, Juniper Research predicts cost savings from AI-powered chatbots in the financial and health sectors to continue growing exponentially — projected to hit $8B per year in 2022. They predict that call centers enhanced with these platforms can shave off an average of four minutes per conversation, directly reducing overhead.  

At the center of these chatbots are deep learning models built with NLP algorithms — trained using text data from past conversations between support agents and customers. As the underlying methodology is tested and perfected in real-world applications, the science driving these tools continues to improve. For example, on average, banking chatbots have improved from a 20 percent success rate in 2017 to a projected 93 percent by 2022.  

 

Elevating the customer experience

Technical support routing is proving to be the perfect task for NLP technologies that can interpret, categorize, and extract insights from naturally spoken language. High-value customers can have an intuitive support experience by speaking naturally, and still get connected to the right resources for troubleshooting complex issues. NLP tools can accelerate response speed, resulting in lower costs and less wait time.   

Financial firms have a similar B2C challenge for clients looking to manage and ask questions about their investment portfolio. AI-powered chatbots can understand intent, then answer questions or take simple actions on that customer’s portfolio. These virtual investment managers can also simultaneously provide that value at any time of the day and without wait time. This frees up portfolio managers to focus on higher-order investment strategies and spend more time nurturing the client relationship.  

Not surprisingly, according to Gartner, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than two percent in 2017.

 

Easing the adoption hurdles

NLP technology is complex and fast-moving, creating uncertainties for many companies about how to take full advantage of it. Fortunately, the expansion of increasingly powerful, easily integrated cloud-based NLP services that can drive these intelligent experiences has significantly lowered the barrier to entry. Additionally, organizations have learned how to better leverage  their treasure trove of data to train these cloud-based NLP systems, opening up a new array of possibilities to understand, monitor and ultimately improve the customer experience.

Companies have taken notice. Expanded investment in this more mature area of artificial intelligence has coincided with a boost in ROI:

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Analysts have situated NLP at the higher end of this curve, setting expectations of up to a five-fold return on spend in this domain of AI investments.

Early adopters in the B2C space have seen notable results in ROI metrics key to steady, continuous growth: customer satisfaction, retention rates, and sales conversions. Results are most striking in existing digital experiences, where research indicates that applications updated to support voice search will grow digital commerce revenue by 30 percent through 2021.  

 

A seismic shift for CX teams

NLP and ConvoUX systems, working in tandem, can combine to empower existing personnel and provide a huge lift to the bottom line. Realizing the value of NLP and ConvoUX is no easy task. It’s easy to create systems that lack sophistication, human connection, and don’t integrate with existing, successful enterprise operations. This is why Solstice does not solely focus on artificial intelligence, but also the human intelligence aspect of these solutions — hence our practice of Augmented Intelligence.

Even in an era where speech recognition consistently surpasses 95 percent accuracy and every company is swimming in data, these results aren’t possible without personalized, intuitive solutions that offer human-like engagement.

Thanks to advances in NLP technology, CX teams are pushing the envelope of possibilities — creating AI-powered conversations that can reveal trends, capture sentiment and learn from interactions. With the ability to understand customers in their own language, NLP offers immense opportunity to automate and effectively transform the customer experience.

But with immense opportunities comes a complex journey; let Solstice help guide you and lead you on your next tsunami of change. Is your business ready for the next wave of transformation? Chat with Ryan Maguire, CTO of Emerging Technologies: AI, at rmaguire@solstice.com, to see how we can help.