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What It Is. The Benefits. Examples.

Understanding Conversational AI

Punch cards, keyboards, GUIs and even touch screens are all representations of communicating with computers on their terms. Conversational AI changes all of that and is initiating a complete rethinking of all forms of technology user interfaces. In practical terms, Conversational AI is a category of emerging smart technologies which finally enable an innately human form of interaction between people and machines – natural language

More sophisticated than hard-coded, text only chatbots, the AI technologies in full featured Conversational solutions include automated speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning and increasingly image recognition, semantic and sentiment analysis and smart analytics. 

Conversational AI represents the most significant advancement yet in how people interact with technology and its impact is just now coming into focus for digital commerce leaders, chief marketing officers and CIOs.

Consumers today expect always available access to research, advice, commerce and support from any device, platform or channel they prefer. Conversational AI helps companies meet that expectation — providing interactive, knowledgeable, finely personalized and virtual sales and service across an increasing array of connections. Examples of Conversational AI are appearing in all manner of products, including cars, speakers, appliances and kiosks as well as services such as retail, travel, banking and health care.

  • What defines a Conversational AI solution? Consider these characteristics:
  • Applies AI-based language processing, machine learning and smart analytics
  • Handles both structured and unstructured data
  • Reach extends across multiple channels, including voice, video, chat, messaging, social, etc.
  • Incorporates “perceptive” capabilities (i.e. sentiment awareness, emotional recognition, conversational context)
  • Resolves customer requests autonomously
  • Security and privacy compliant

Conversational AI Benefits

Conversational AImake it easy for customers to engage with websites, apps, mobile devices, smart speakers and a growing list of other objects in the same way they might interact with a salesperson or customer service agent. It represents a powerful new capability for marketing, CX and digital commerce leaders to enhance brand awareness, improve retention and further personalize their services. The benefits of Conversational AI include: 

Reducing the friction for both commerce and customer care interactions. Think of the ease of ‘one-click’ purchasing made even more convenient when extended across a multitude of devices and activated using natural language voice commands.

Creating a more personalized user experience thanks to contextual awareness, sentiment analysis and emotion recognition. GPS may inform your app where your standing, but taps and clicks alone cannot convey buying signals, urgency, delight or frustration.

Producing volumes of rich, highly contextual data where today it may not even exist at all. Interactions with customers, prospects and other users across Conversational AI channels creates a digital flood of information to further enhance machine learning algorithms, feed smart analytics and improve predictive models and business intelligence. For customers it continuously improves and personalizes their interactions with their favorite brands and services.

Provides the launch pad to digital transformation and the era of AI-powered commerce and customer care. While today voice is the new UI, coming soon are a growing array of personalized and interactive technologies, including powerful image and video recognition, gesture control, biometric authentication and augmented and virtual reality.

Putting Conversational AI to Work

At Cognizant, our Conversational AI practice helps our clients evaluate, design, deploy and support cognitive solutions built on the most advanced smart technologies available. As such, we work with AWS, Google, Microsoft, Watson, Artificial Solutions and many other specialized providers. As part of our process, we also employ customer journey mapping, conversational UX design and customer experience expertise. Finally, to ensure our solutions are secure and fully compliant with regulatory and privacy requirements we have developed our own testing and QA procedures, authentication and security framework and templates for enterprise application integrations. 

Examples of projects we are delivering include:

  1. Restaurant Virtualization – a solution automating the entire Quick Serve Restaurant customer ordering process with Conversational AI technology built on Google’s Cloud AI services. Includes integration with digital displays, image recognition and kitchen, POS and customer loyalty systems.
  2. Intelligent Mortgage Advisor, a cognitive agent designed on Amazon Alexa, AWS machine learning and a range of APIs. Offers customized research and loan recommendations, initiates the mortgage application process and delivers post-closing updates
  3. Voice enabled Magic Mirrors providing concierge-like services in retail, hotels and offices. Uses Amazon Alexa voice commands to activate visual content such as facility services or amenities and to display and engage airline, ride sharing, restaurant and other apps on the Magic Mirror surface.
  4. Personalized virtual agents for mutual fund and money management firms. Built on Teneo from Artificial Solutions, these virtual advisors automate fund and account FAQs, facilitate transfers, sales, purchases and other transactions, and respond to a variety of other customer requests. 
  5. For consumer goods manufacturers we built a voice and image driven virtual agent on Microsoft’s Cortana and LUIS natural language service to provide how-to and care recommendations on household appliances and products.
  6. To improve automotive sales and service engagements we designed a virtual agent allowing vehicle shoppers and owners to ask questions about features, capabilities or dashboard notifications, book appointments and schedule other services via Alexa and Facebook Messenger.

Where Next for Conversational AI

To really explore where Conversational AI is going is a subject deserving of its own dedicated post. But at high level, consider this perspective from a recent Wired article,Inside the Alexa Prize, discussing Amazon’s vision for the future of this technology. “One day, Amazon believes, AIs will do much more than merely control lights and playlists. They will drive cars, diagnose diseases, and permeate every niche of our lives. Voice will be the predominant interface, and conversation itself—helpful, informative, companionable, entertaining—will be the ultimate product.”

What happens between now and this ultimate reality is going to be a thrilling and sometimes elusive test of creativity, skills and foresight for the innovator within each of us. Buckle up, and let’s keep the conversation going. As always, I would love to hear what others think and predict. Thanks for reading!


About me: I run Cognizant’s Conversational AI practice and love sharing ideas with others in this space. Feel free to provide your thoughts on this post and let’s connect here, on LinkedIn, or over on Twitter