Conversational AI: Start With What You Know

Erin Abler
Publication Date
30 October 2019

Conversational AI: Start With What You Know

Today we all use a proliferation of channels – including conversational AI platforms like chat and voice. Given the speed of this shift, it’s not surprising that conversational AI is gaining traction in digital marketing, product design, and communication circles. 

But when do these channels make sense for your business and customers? What business challenges can they help solve? What’s the best way to get started? And how do you avoid random acts of digital that could fragment your customers’ experience?

As someone steeped in user experience and conversational design, I’m passionate about focusing on users rather than a specific channel or device. We use that frame of reference at Mobiquity for all our work, including serving clients who are exploring how to put conversational AI to work for their organizations. 

Over time, we’ve found a process for reliably uncovering great use cases. It involves four key steps:

  1. Start with what you know.
  2. Find a meaningful opportunity.
  3. Determine scope.
  4. Plan for the future.

In this blog series, I’ll share some insights on each of these steps, with the goal of helping you consider when and how conversational AI can work for you. This post will focus on the first step.

Start with what you know

There is such a thing as a business that is literally designed around conversational AI – for example, a “lawyer bot” that helps you fight a parking ticket and collects a fee if you win. In those cases, the business exists because of the technology. Without it, the business model would be completely different. But for most businesses, conversational AI represents a new opportunity: a different way to complement existing channels or operations. That means the technology needs to align with your business strategy – not drive it.

As you look for use cases, consider where the benefits of Conversational AI align with your strengths. Conversational AI is great at automating routine tasks, organizing complex data into an easily searchable format or, in the case of voice skills, allowing users to access information in a hands-free way. How could these benefits enhance the strengths of your business?

You might have a highly successful marketing program or campaign that you could extend with a conversational engagement. Or maybe you’re sitting on a whole list of product-related information that you could make available to customers more easily via voice or chat. Regardless of which assets you decide to leverage, look for ways to align conversational AI with the work you’re already doing. The constraints of your existing strategy can actually form useful guardrails as you figure out when, why, and how to use a new platform.

Here are some questions to get you thinking in terms of priority, scope, and cost:

  • Does your idea address an increasing need?
  • Have competitors made inroads?
  • Is conversation a better fit than current options?
  • How many people will you try to reach?
  • What are the benefits? What are the risks?
  • What’s the investment?
  • What kind of results can you reasonably expect?
  • And, finally, what’s the cost of not doing this?

Another important clarifying question: Are you pursuing a conversational AI use case as a learning opportunity or as a functioning, deployed solution? If you’re hoping to understand platform capabilities, assess potential revenue streams, or demonstrate industry leadership, you’re probably conducting an exploration. If, on the other hand, you’re aiming to enhance your omnichannel strategy, reduce operational costs, or address gaps in your existing service model, you’re looking to deploy a solution – and that requires a significantly more mature channel strategy. It’s absolutely critical to know from the beginning which of these two things you’re doing. If not, you risk setting yourself up for failure by tying specific ROI metrics to an early-stage experience that hasn’t yet proven its value. 

Remember that not every exploration will yield a solution, and that’s okay. Any thoughtful learning exercise should help you identify and crystallize the value that conversational AI can deliver as part of your broader strategy. By pursuing exploratory projects in a fast, lightweight way, you’ll arrive more quickly at potential solutions where you can really dig in and aim for value.

In my next post, I’ll share more thoughts on how you can find a meaningful opportunity to move forward with a great use case.  

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