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Why are Enterprises Moving to Instant Messaging? Top Conversational AI Platforms for 2021

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Not so surprisingly, people today are more active on messaging platforms than on conventional mediums like on Email or call. According to the Gartner report 2021 Planning Guide for Customer Engagement, Enterprises and SMBs need to focus on the adaptation of cloud-based AI-driven technology to drive the effectiveness of self-service.

Today, more than 2.1 billion people use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Messenger every day. WhatsApp recently announced that it had in excess of 2 Billion users — the majority of user reside in India.

Messaging platforms are popularly used to interact with acquaintances, particularly friends, family, or co-workers for informal and formal interactions.

If you’re in Indonesia, you’ll notice meeting updates and other annoying details of it are shared on WhatsApp. It is also customary for your cab driver to connect with you on WhatsApp. Business and ease, all mixed up on a messaging platform.

While a large number of media companies and marketers are still investing in legacy platforms like e-mail and ticketing systems to engage with employees and customers, here are some noteworthy points that will potentially change the game:

  1. Monthly Active Users (MAU) on messaging apps like Whatsapp, WeChat, etc are massive and this number is growing rapidly due to the ease of availability of data and devices.
  2. 66% of consumers want to interact with brands on messaging apps (The app of choice depends on geography). People believe this is a faster medium to get immediate resolutions – Twilio
  3. Initially, the messaging apps were focused on increasing their user base. More recently, we’ve noticed that new features such as payments and even a built-in NLP capability have been added so the apps can standalone.

Regardless of the device used, Android or Apple, people prefer to keep limited applications on their smartphones since it is cumbersome to keep switching from one channel to another. Take, for example, the Facebook Canva which is a landing page facility used by marketers inside the Facebook app. It disallows drop-offs that may be caused during the transition from Facebook to an external website for the sake of lead capture, thus reducing a step in the user acquisition journey.

Messaging apps are becoming vital for businesses to better connect with prospects, offer seamless support, and provide quick service.

Companies also use enterprise messaging apps like slack, hangouts, etc to better manage their employees. Employees can schedule meetings, apply for a holiday, request reimbursements, and more with the help of a virtual assistant.

Organizations have to modernize not just their customer engagement technology but also the way the team interacts, to not only keep up with the customer expectations but also to adapt to the “new normal� of distributed customer service teams. Modernizing both customer and agent capabilities is key for those organizations to reinvent themselves or rescale to new heights.

The benefits of automation reflect almost immediately and dramatically. It is estimated that by 2025, 10-15% of jobs in three sectors (manufacturing, transportation and storage, and wholesales and retail trade) will have a high potential for automation. There is a good deal of automation firms today working on groundbreaking technologies to build chatbots beneficial for the growth of enterprises. Particularly, we’ll take the following 4 popular players in the field and put down some key features they possess and lack.

#1. IBM Watson

Named after IBM’s first CEO and founder, Thomas J Watson to answer queries on the quiz show Jeopardy, Watson was created as a question answering (QA) computing system. It uses advanced natural language processing and machine learning technologies for fetching information, knowledge representation, and automated reasoning, to the field of open domain question answering. Watson has been one of the earliest to automate various business functions however it is missing some of the most crucial integrations today, for example, Microsoft teams, slack, and even WhatsApp. The support for multilingual languages and the capability of sentiment analysis to route to an agent when necessary aren’t provided either.

Humanizing the bots today is one of the important features that people say conversational AI lacks. With missing capabilities, enterprises that need to jump off the books will have to consider their options.

#2. Yellow Messenger

Yellow Messenger is a cognitive engagement cloud, offering various cognitive business functions like customer engagement, customer support, enterprise automation, and HR management. They have a range of channel integrations from Whatsapp for business, Google Assistant, Alexa, to Slack, PowerBI, and more.

With multi-lingual support, pre-built contextual response, prediction modules, self-learning systems, and many other sophisticated, proprietary tech, Yellow Messenger has successfully catered to clients across the globe. Founded in 2016, in Bangalore, India, Yellow Messenger is a horizontal platform that takes on unique use cases for businesses. Recently funded by Lightspeed venture capital firm Yellow Messenger aims to utilise the funds for developing better products and sourcing new talent.

Also, named the leading Conversational AI Platform in Gartner’s 2021 Planning guide for Customer Engagement.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yellow Messenger has also launched a chatbot in association with the National Health Authority to distribute the right information about the virus.

#3. Intercom

Founded in 2011 in San Francisco, CA, Intercom has come a long way in building customized bots for various companies focused on targeted answers. They helped House Call Pro grow from the time of its launch to 10,000+ customers today. Expensify, another client of theirs, found improved support and sales. Similarly, Baremetrics increased their billing by 30% with intercoms innovative products.

Conversational AI is transforming the way brands interact with consumers. Which process according to you, can be automated in your organization to save your expenses and maximize growth? Comment below.

#4. Dialogflow

Dialogflow by Google, initially called and Speaktoit, was best known for its virtual assistant created for smartphones. While their voice assistants are supported across a bunch of devices ranging from wearables to phones, their language support is limited. It lacks self-learning capabilities. It cannot search the database for answers to queries for resolution. With their new chatbot release, Meena, we hope to see a wider spectrum of competence since it is open-sourced. Meena boasts to be the very first humanized AI.

2020 was a crucial year for AI. Automation will truly take off and conquer cubicle jobs in 2021. It will save a tremendous amount of revenue and time for organizations. How will you use automation to solve pressing business problems? innovatively?

Image Credit: tim samuel; pexels

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How Traditional Banks can Stay Ahead of Fintech Firms with Conversational AI

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FinTech firms present a credible threat to incumbent banks. Leveraging a combination of technology, consumer-centric service, and flexible business practices, fintech firms reduce the cost of doing business, extending their customer base, and taking market share from established traditional banks.

Despite this threat has been present for some years now, many banks believe they are still unprepared to compete properly. However, to respond to the challenge, banks should adopt Conversational AI technology that can help them to compete with the fintech firms that threaten them.

According to a survey, 53% of banks and 69% of credit unions view technology giants like Apple and Google as their top competitors in 2020 and believe they will become the hallmark of well-managed credit unions.

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, banks saw a rise in online banking activity and a decline in trips to brick-and-mortar branches. Europe is the prime epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, with nearly 75 percent of new cases reported globally on March 18th. The impact of the crisis was huge on the banking system and on the bank-customer relationship in the European region. In fact, the pandemic has made the banks believe that the Conversational AI transformation is not only beneficial but it’s also crucial for their survival in the competitive market.

How will traditional banks stay ahead of fintech?

Conversational AI is the only means by which banks can stay competitive in the market, retain their customers, and find and pursue new leads. For example, Gen Y, Gen Z, and many who find the traditional way of banking monotonous and tedious need only one real solution — AI. Nowadays, people don’t want to be visiting branches to make deposits and transfers — and very few people are mailing paper checks anymore.

What is needed from modern-day banking?

Quickly get up to speed with conversational banking, including adding a payee, bill payments and Peer-to-Peer (p2p) transfers. Many options can be added across multiple channels and in the language of customers.

Now let’s break down why banks need to embrace a technology like Conversational AI to sustain, including everything from creating new revenue sources to adapting to changes in consumer demand.

What do customers really what?

1. Customers Want Quick Contactless Payment Methods

One of the top drivers of Conversational AI adoption in banking is customer preferences. The increased health concerns and a need to avoid physical contact because of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused customers to drift toward digital payment options.

A recent Mastercard poll found that contactless payments grew twice as fast as traditional payment types in-between February and March of 2020.

The same poll revealed that 79% of respondents typically use contactless payment methods. In response, tech companies like Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay have started offering contactless payment apps.

Leveraging AI assistants that are available 24/7, through multiple channels like Telegram, Facebook Messenger, or email and more will be a win-win situation for both customers and the bank. From a millennial’s perspective, simple requests such as password reset or adding a payee, or making an international transfer can be done instantaneously. There’s no need to visit the bank or spend an hour in the IVR puzzle menu to speak to a human agent. Banks adopting AI are, in fact seeing increased customer satisfaction rates and sales.

2. Legacy Systems Costs Banks Huge Chunks of Money

Banks’ legacy systems deserve special attention as they are costing banks a lot of money and have led to expensive failures in getting new leads and customer retention. They’re simply not capable of supporting the market’s changing expectations and may soon expose banks to additional risk and liability.

Also, the operation and maintenance of these legacy systems are becoming more difficult. Imagine the bank’s data records are all in papers, but with Conversational AI, every record will be saved in Cloud. Cloud technology has the potential to transform a bank’s operational efficiency because it obviates investment in infrastructure – what’s needed is ready and available in the cloud.

3. Offering Omnichannel Banking Services

The Omnichannel approach came to the forefront in retail in the early 2010s. Since then, it’s been making its way into industries like telecommunications and media, and banking. Traditional banks allow digital banking but not omnichannel banking. For example, Sara wants to perform her transactions via mobile and web channels.

She wants to send money, apply for personal loans, add payees, pay her bills, and more, all through channels like Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, or Telegram. And this cornerstone feature can only a bank with Conversational AI adoption avail her.

4. Conversational AI is a Key to Increase Revenue

Another reason banks should embrace Conversational AI is that it offers new outlets for following leads and increasing revenue. As customers increase to interact with the AI-powered assistants, it becomes easier for banks to track their behavior patterns.

They can see what resources customers look up frequently, and they can send pop-up survey alerts to find out more details about users’ financial needs and reasons for using the assistant. Banks can then make personalized product recommendations based on that gathered data.

By 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per year on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development – Gartner

5. Conversational AI Adoption is a Survival Imperative for the Banks

Leveraging Conversational AI-powered assistants like the ones powered by the platform that is fully functional, omnichannel, and domain trained assistants can handle more than 80% of the queries asked by your customers through Mobile/ Web channels. The AI assistants can also be customized to add more use cases based on what your customers frequently ask for, unlike the live agents who need to be hired and trained for each scenario.

6. Banks can Avail Enterprise-Grade Security

Leveraging enterprise-grade Conversational AI-platform builds security into your banking operations to boost banking confidence and growth.

For example, when you chat with a bot or a live agent, they get to know your bank details and can track all your personal details. Just imagine they can father all your confidential information. But here’s the catch. Virtual Assistants built on Enterprise-grade Conversational AI platforms like focus a great deal on ensuring the most critical aspect of any business security.

7. Conversational AI Helps Banks Adapt Quickly

It is crucial for the banking industry to remain not only agile but also be able to adapt to changing economic circumstances quickly. Having a robust technological setup means a bank can rapidly respond to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks need to unexpectedly shut down their branches, operate with fewer staff members, or limit in-person services.

Conversational AI adoption in banking also enables the banks to respond rapidly to changes in demand. Conversational AI-powered assistants come with cognitive intelligence that helps businesses roll out new offers and respond to customer requests or market changes.

Not only does Conversational AI better help banks respond to economic crises, but it also helps them react to industry changes and stay competitive.

Competition in the banking sector will likely intensify the post-pandemic, requiring the banks to transform themselves into an innovation unit to not only survive but thrive in the future banking landscape.

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How Will No-Code Impact the Future of Conversational AI

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Over the past few years, conversational AI chatbots have become part of our personal lives. More importantly, they have become assets in many business workflows, from customer service to marketing. Admittedly, the adoption of this technology has been much slower than the hype would suggest. However, little by little, it’s been attracting more and more interest.

Recently, there have been two factors fueling an unprecedented acceleration in the adoption of conversational technologies.

  • First, the worldwide epidemic that pressured companies to automate and digitalize to keep up with demand.
  • Second, far less dramatic, the no-code movement that opened the door to conversational AI to all.

In this article, I’ll offer an overview of the current state of conversational AI, the no-code movement, and ways the latter is likely to shape the future of this technology.

The State of Conversational AI

Conversational AI is just a peck in the AI universe spreading across the supply chain. Yet, recently it has taken the spotlight. COVID-19 crisis, having shut down call centers and businesses worldwide, showed us that the future of business communication could not do without it. That is even though AI and its user experience are still in its infancy and subject to occasional failures.

The chances are that if you’ve tried interacting with a chatbot before, you’ve had at least one bad experience. However, these failures are not a piece of evidence that creating useful assistants is not possible. It merely shows the nuances and complexities of the task we need to consider.

More importantly, despite these failures, both businesses and consumers are becoming more and more open to the idea of virtual assistants. Thus, when it comes to the future of chatbots, the question isn’t whether or not to make a chatbot but when.

What do the Stats Say?

For instance, even before the world pandemic crisis, Salesforce’s State of Service Report of 2018 revealed that 53% of the surveyed service organizations expected to use AI chatbots, amounting to a 136% growth rate. This is not only because 71% of consumers expect brands and businesses to communicate with them in real-time but also because of the undeniable benefits of conversational automation, such as significant cost savings.

A Word from the Experts…

These tendencies have intensified since the COVID-19 crisis hit the world… Like many others, I also used quarantine to pursue a few projects. One of them was a series of anti-podcasts with experts and seasoned professionals in the area of conversational AI. The topic of discussion was the future of chatbots, and the impact COVID had on the industry. While the options differed from person to person, there was a consensus around two topics:

  • Acceleration of adoption
  • Opportunity for innovation across both the public and private sectors.

Public Sector Is Catching On

For example, Cristina Santamarina from Mediktiv draws attention to conversational AI breaking the ice with the governmental institutions: “…not only chatbot creators and companies but official institutions like governments and city halls and big organizations. WHO went on and created chatbots for different channels.â€�

Opportunity to Showcase Good Automation

Brandon Fluharty, Strategic Account Solutions at LivePerson, sees the abrupt need for user-conscious automation as a huge opportunity as the shift to conversational AI has exploded: “…we are seeing a huge spike in demand. Obviously, this is, I think, for our industry […] this is a great time to showcase good automation.â€�

Time to Revision Ecosystems

Lauren Nham, product development manager at Sutherland Labs, too, believes that the supply shock COVID sent through the entire customer support industry opened doors to all things digital and sees it as a huge opportunity for us to use conversational AI and “re-envision what the overall customer experience ecosystem looks like.�

Exposing Outdated Infrusturtes

Chris Messina, technologist most known for the invention of the hashtag, emphasizes how the crisis uncovered that “the existing infrastructure and systems one weren’t really set up for this type of spike� and that services that relied on conventional strategies turned out user-hostile and no longer to meet people where they are at with the demand for speed, simplicity, and personalization.

Getting Comfortable

What’s even more interesting, Roger Kibbe, developer evangelist at Samsung, points out: “… voice application usage has gone way up during COVID-19.â€� Why? He ventures that voice communication is so inherently social; it has become more attractive in times of isolation.

Or, as Adam Cheyer, the inventor of Siri (Apple) & Viv (Samsung), it might be that the pandemic has broadened the technology comfort of many people and so more individuals are OK using it: “…for the first time, many people are getting comfortable speaking to machines often to people, like we are doing now […] And I don’t think it’s much of a leap now that they are comfortable talking to a computer, now, to start to talk to an automated assistant, not just another human.â€�

Despite all the shortcomings and challenges, COVID-19 showed us that conversational AI is not just here to stay but to transform and innovate the way we communicate both on a personal and business level.

The No-Code Movement

However, conversational AI is not the only tech taking the spotlight these days. The crisis brought forward another “hero� of the hour, no-code platforms. Thanks to no-code solutions, not only businesses but also communities, NGOs, and individuals could roll out emergency solutions quickly and efficiently at a fraction of the cost in the most significant time of need. And while no-code goes beyond conversational experiences, it was the no-code chatbots and assistants that took to the stage.

What Is No-Code?

Since the age of the internet came about, online tech innovation has strictly in the hands of web developers. That’s bad news since only 0.5% of the world’s population is capable of coding. Furthermore, regardless of how smart these coders are, creating something worthwhile still takes weeks, months, and even years of learning and programming. However, over the past few years, the no-code movement started to change the landscape of innovation.

Today, just about anyone with a laptop and wifi can build and publish a website, an app, or a bot. In a matter of hours or days.

The Cons

Naturally, most developers consider no-code lazy and even cheating.

Yes, there are some drawbacks such as:

  • Limitations – the maker is always limited to what a particular tool can do. They can excel in some areas and lack in others.
  • Learning curve – although it’s no-code, each platform still has its learning curve, which can still be a hindrance if you are in a hurry.
  • Lack of control – what if the tool that has become essential to your business stops offering its services?

And so, coders usually complain about the lack of freedom and control. However, from a business perspective, this argument falls apart. After all, how much freedom do you have under the pressure of cost, time, and labor demands? How much control do you have if you don’t understand the system your business depends on, and each simple change is delayed by the path of command?

The Pros

Thus, to many, no-code is far from being lazy. To the contrary! It’s an opportunity to unlock the automation solutions. Solutions, that would have stayed exiled and exclusive to corporations with large budgets.

Using no-code tools, for instance, to develop conversational assistants allows for:

  • Rapid prototyping – You can get something working within hours or days.
  • Cost efficiency – You can develop sophisticated solutions and workflows at a fraction of the cost when building something similar from scratch.
  • Accessibility – No-code tools have a very low hurdle to get started (cost- and skill-wise)
  • Control – It allows you to make changes, updates, and run maintenance directly, and on the go, no need to wait for someone else to take care of the issue.
  • Direct experience-to-solution translation – with visual no-code tools, you can have your conversational AI assistant designed by people who know best such as your support team, your marketers, or conversation designers who understand what the bot needs to do and how it needs to behave in a specific use-case better than a developer.
  • Learning to think like a developer does – last but not least, these platforms bring coders and no-coders closer together, allowing non-technical people to learn about the “lawsâ€� of coding without actually having to deal with code.

Impact of No-Code on Conversational AI

People perceive conversational AI as something too complex, something beyond reach. However, the more it’s being used, the less complicated it’s becoming to build these types of assistants.

Even companies like Samsung or Google are trying to provide developers with as many simplifications as possible. Apart from the tech giants, there is a wide variety of no-code tools and platforms which work hard to empower makers, marketers, businesses, and individuals to design assistants. The result? More and more people are capable of designing bots. Anything ranging from simple data collectors or FAQ bots to incredibly complex conversational workflow managers!

And so, the simplifaction of conversational assistant development is one of the key elements that will shape the future of this industry. Despite its limitations, no-code has the capacity to contribute by:

  • Speeding up Conversational AI Adoption

By lowering the cost of development, labor intensity, and time demands, no-code platforms are making conversational AI more accessible. Smaller companies and even individuals are able to create what was only possible for high-level developers. Hence, no-code movement is likely to play a key role in the adoption of chatbots and conversational AI.

  • Fueling Innovation

Another advantage? No-code opens chatbot development to professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds. Marketers, writers, customers support agents, sales representatives, health professionals, psychologists… In other words, people who think differently and have a varied skillset from your usual developer. Such intermixing of skills is likely to result in innovative ideas that will push conversational AI forward.

  • Breaking the Stigma

Still today, there are stigmas surrounding chatbots and so, standing in the way of wider adoption. “Translating� the code into something simpler and easy-to-understand is likely to help debunk many of these misconceptions. By making something understandable, we not only more likely to forgive mistakes but also to correct them.

Looking Forward

Both conversational AI and no-code movement are here to stay. Better yet, they have the potential to improve each other. And so, open doors to innovative products and workflows that will shape the business for decades to come.

Image Credit: miguel á padriña; pexels

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