By Brent Leary
Conversations eat apps’ lunch. Twilio founder and CEO Jeff Lawson made this statement. It happened at the company’s annual user conference, Signal. The statement stayed with me for a while. A few other remarks from his talk stuck with me too. And eventually led to an article I wrote. It served as part of a thought leadership series the company is currently featuring.
It focuses on how more of our interactions with companies seem conversational in nature. And those conversations shape the path of our customer relationships. Modern communications technology saw to that.
While at the conference, I spoke with Dan Miller. Miller founded and serves as lead analyst of Opus Research. He pioneered research into communications technology. The research looks at how this technology transforms the enterprise. For example, take the call center. Customer service provides another opportunity for communications technology. Dan shared his thoughts on how technology helps companies. He explained the need to be conversational when interacting with customers. And we discussed the impact this has on the relationship going forward.
Check out the edited transcript of our conversation below. And watch the full conversation in the video or click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.
Defining the Customer Engagement Model
Small Business Trends: What is conversational AI?
Dan Miller: So if you generalize and say, “Oh, there’s $60 billion being spent on conversational AI”, then you get the, “Well, what the hell is that?”
Small Business Trends: Well, what the hell is it? Because there are a lot of people using that term. And sometimes it’s like one person says it and it has a completely different kind of meaning than someone else’s.
Dan Miller: Absolutely. Right.
Small Business Trends: What do you say? What is it for you?
What is Conversational AI?
Dan Miller: Well, so we put the technologies that we cover under a huge umbrella called conversational commerce. And then within that, as you look at the application of elements of AI and probably the most important really is machine learning. That’s what’s revolutionized the ability for computers to understand us. Whether we’re typing or talking.
A lot of the early recognition of what some people were saying happened on the voice channel. So there’s some early work done with slow neural networks. That built essentially operational dialogues. There’s a constant tug of war between what’s going on. With intelligent virtual agents that use natural language understanding. Which is part of the machine learning family. And constant improvement in the ability to understand what we’re saying.
And what does that have to do with IVRs (interactive voice response) and investments that companies have made in these systems that answer the phone and do automated handling today of people calling in for customer support to get a question answered. Increasingly And in response to a promotion, that’s how it all started. And increasingly to maybe buy something. So that’s what we’re figuring out.
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