Four Kitchens

What’s up with conversational interfaces?

3 Min. ReadDigital strategy

Conversational interfaces, be they chatbots or virtual assistants, are rapidly taking over many of the day-to-day interactions between businesses and their customers. From the simplest phone menu to cutting edge VR and IoT assistants, understanding the role and impact of automated conversational responses can set your company apart in a rapidly changing marketplace.

ChatBots Empowering Humans

There is an increasing market of B2B companies that build customer service bots for other companies. With the integration of chatbots to Kik and then Facebook Messenger, there has been a boom and diversification in use of these interfaces.

There are chatbots that let you manage your finances, like MaiKai, which allows you to text the bot and ask things like “How much did I spend on coffee last month?” and not have to feel judged for your latte habit by the smiley-faced AI. Or you can remind yourself of things with Jarvis, find the perfect movie to watch on Netflix with a bot called—appropriately—And Chill (chill provided separately), even search for a job and apply for it right from Facebook Messenger with Job Pal.

While some chatbots do the same thing you’d expect from their automated customer service predecessors, many companies are finding that AI is useful—perhaps ironically—for connecting with their customers in a more human way.

Talking to Your Customers

Chatbots have already been established as a tool for customer service. Starting from the now archaic phone systems (“say two for the automotive department”) and growing into smart, and occasionally snarky, assistants on shopping websites, these bots can lead you through most of the steps needed to complete a particular user task flow. This saves human beings a lot of time from asking things like “Have you checked to see if it’s plugged in?”

Some of the most interesting chatbots are being used for brand-adjacent purposes. For example, Casper is a company that makes mattresses, pillows, and dog beds. They have fashioned themselves as not only a retailer, but a company that encompasses the entire “culture of sleep”. This holistic approach has lead to some unorthodox business and marketing strategies, the latest of which is a chatbot designed not to sell you a mattress, but to keep you company when you can’t sleep.

Talk vs. Text

The most cutting edge conversational interfaces are removing text from the equation entirely. The rise of voice assistants like Amazon Echo, Siri, and Google Home brings a new frontier of conversational AI.

Consider Patron’s virtual bartender: By saying something like “Alexa, ask Patron to find me a spicy cocktail” you can access Patron’s cache of knowledge and content, blended seamlessly into the voice service. Once Alexa suggests a cocktail, it can also walk you through how to make it using the data that Patron has provided. Similarly, Four Kitchens built the first Amazon “skill” for a broadcast TV network when we created the NBC skill back in June of last year. This integration and customization of information will be key in the next era of content distribution.

So What?

By pairing certain key phrases to automated content, conversational AI has created a new way to explore your digital presence. The strategy to create a conversational interface that doesn’t just chat, but gets to the heart of what your customers or clients are looking for, calls for a keen—and distinctly human—understanding of your customers’ experiences at every step. Companies that understand the advantages of this rapidly changing technology will be able to keep their clientele impressed as these integrations quickly become the norm. Just like the explosion of the mobile app era, customers will soon expect every company to be no more than an “Alexa, tell me about…” away.

“What’s Up with Conversational Interfaces?” was written by guest author Felix Morgan.