Capabilities of conversational AI are more far-reaching than ever as personal assistants become smarter, transforming customer service.

Virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa are now well integrated and accepted into our homes, with millions of smart-speakers being sold around the world.

Researching information, ordering food, and playing music via a smart-speaker has become normal, but now technology is so advanced companies are using it to interact with customers. Many consumers are conversing with these voicebots without ever realizing it was a robot.

Customer service calls can be fully automated, and Google has demonstrated that its Duplex technology can even be used to book a hairdressers appointment or a table at a restaurant over the phone. Amazon is also working on AI systems to streamline customer service departments.

Developers have even programmed systems to say “um” and “ah” and sometimes even laughter to make the voice more natural and human-like. The technology can even be programmed to ask conversational questions and respond to the answers given.

A theory known as the ‘uncanny valley’ suggests people have an increased affinity towards more human-like robots, but only up until a precise point at which they are deemed too human-like, making people feel uncomfortable. Companies are treading a fine line, but as has been seen multiple times before, if the technology is used enough, people will get used to it.

Major potential for cost cutting is core attraction for big businesses, driving development

Amazon suggests the bot technology streamlines customer relationship management (CRM) but its true value to the company is the costs that it saves. Amazon employees over 600,000, meaning salaries are a huge cost to the company. Voicebots could significantly reduce the number of customer service employees, saving billions of dollars in wages, recruitment costs, and sick pay.

Additional benefits include 24/7 availability and the option for a variety of languages, potentially improving the customer experience for large numbers of consumers.

Given the importance big retailers place on customer service standards, the technology offers the prospect of meeting customer demands for accessible services at a far reduced cost than if human labor was required.

Google and Amazon powerful enough to bounce back if customers dissatisfied

Problems arise when the language processing does not work as intended, which could happen if customers have nuanced problems. Customers who choose to phone customer service are likely to already have a grievance.

By forcing customers to speak to a computer some may become even more agitated. However, Amazon and Google are so powerful that there is little chance that customers will completely be put off.

It is scary to think that consumers may be unaware that it is a robot on the other side of the phone, but if their problem is solved and the outcome is the same as if it had been a real person, the voicebots’ job is done.

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