How AI will disrupt communication – Insights from Web Summit 2019

In the following article, I will talk about the insights we gained at the Web Summit 2019 in Lisbon, specifically in the field of conversational interfaces and how a "build once - use forever" mentality does not work for bots.
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In the following article, I will talk about the insights we gained at the Web Summit 2019 in Lisbon, specifically in the field of conversational interfaces and how a “build once – use forever” mentality does not work for bots. In the following blog I will share my learnings on automating communication through bots.

Web Summit 2019, Lisbon, Portugal Web Summit is the world’s largest tech conference, where 75.000 people from all around the world come together to connect, network and most importantly get inspired!

One of the first observations I made was that most participants fit into one of the following 2 categories:

  1. The “I’m here on a mission and got my to-do list ready” type
  2. The “let’s see what this is all about” type

My personal approach was to find a good balance between the two!

I invested 2 days talking to a variety of different people with the clear goal to understand their struggles and pain points related to the automation of communication flows.  Our aim was to understand how we can help them automate communication through bots!

On the third day, we represented BotBase at our own booth.

How AI will disrupt every aspect of communication

After listening to many talks by industry experts and talking to some highly driven individuals, I have put together my top 3 most important conclusions on the topic of AI and communication.

1. AI will disrupt how business communicate

We all have experienced at least one of those chatbots on websites or Facebook-Pages, right? As great as the idea sounds, many conversational interfaces from the last years could not live up to user expectations. Instead of providing value to customers, they often left them irritated. For this reason, many managers I spoke to associated buzzwords like “Chatbot” with negative experiences.

However, through leveraging AI it is now possible to build a new generation of intelligent bots that can really understand user needs through applying Natural Language Understanding (NLU) techniques. When combining an in-depth understanding of users desires with integrated access to enterprise data sources, bots are empowered to provide intelligent and very bespoke answers. This obviously leads to a high level of customer satisfaction as a consequence.

This new opportunity opens doors to automate many communication flows that up until now needed to be done by humans.

It will affect how businesses and brands communicate with their customers. In the same way it will revolutionize how internal communication processes within large enterprises will evolve.

2. New enterprise solutions are needed to build outstanding conversational experiences

Most communications experts argue that the way we currently interact on digital channels is very badly aligned with natural human behavior. Most businesses still communicate entirely one-directional to customers by putting content on their company website or running marketing email campaigns.

WHY is it like this? – Well… here is what people at Web Summit 2019 told me:
It is way simpler for them. And for most of them it worked pretty fine until now. On the other side, efforts to implement conversational interfaces have caused a lot of pain.

In the past the tools available to automate communication, especially towards customers, have either not convinced business decision makers yet or failed to meet their expectations. Although this still holds true today, many of them admitted that they are open to testing new approaches that promote more bi-directional communication. The trend will definitely go in this direction and the solution that will hit the most relevant pain points best has a huge potential to gain significant attention in the enterprise segment.

Many people from functional departments like Customer Support, Marketing or Human Resources explicitly mentioned that they would actually prefer having easy-to-use tools at hand that help them in creating and managing conversational interfaces.

I felt their deep desire to move fast and constantly monitor interactions of external or internal users with their intelligent bots to keep making them smarter. All within their specialized departments without much dependency on IT departments.

3. Intelligent bot solutions require continuous optimisation

One misconception I could spot on many people’s mind was related to how conversational interfaces should be managed. A fundamental reason why most implemented solutions are not successful in a sustainable way is that the constant need for adaptation is not considered. It was specifically interesting to hear from Felipe, a representative of a small south-american bank, that exactly the lack of continuous advancement of their bot solution was the key reason why their project was had to be stopped at last.

A “build once – use forever” mentality doesn’t work with bots.

This is because the way we communicate as well as the channels we use are undergoing constant change. When companies conduct one-time projects to automate internal communication or part of their communication with customers, this frequently causes problems. Companies need to maintain the possibility of constantly adapting these interfaces.

Specifically in an agile organization the requirement to respond flexibly and fast to changing user behavior is key.

This comes with the need to optimize automated communication flows based on real-time analytics.

AI is only as good as the data it is trained on. User interactions provide new training data on an ongoing basis.

To summarize…

Communication is at the heart of success in any business and yet I’m still convinced that it is an undervalued topic by many business owners.
A vast majority of people I talked to agreed that the trend goes increasingly towards conversational communication flows. Most of them mentioned that they are currently open to take steps in this direction.

It was great to see peoples’ huge interest in BotBase, our own solution to automate enterprise workflows and communication.

We are currently working very hard on advancing our enterprise solution.

The great enthusiasm in our approach in providing an all-in-one platform for building, monitoring and optimizing intelligent bots and receiving constant valuable feedback from our clients is proving that we are on the right track.

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