9 conversational AI trends impacting customer service

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week
AI assistant chat

Conversational AI trends are moving faster than a lightning bolt splitting the sky. Nobody can predict with certainty what’s going to happen next week, let alone next year. Consumer retail spend via chatbots is expected to reach $142 billion by the end of this year ― an increase of $139.2 billion in only 4 years. Researchers say 60% of even the smallest contact centres plan to implement AI (40% of them in the next year) to benefit from cost savings and improve efficiency and accuracy.

The future of AI is already here

Ground View Research found the “global chatbot market size was estimated at $5,132.8 million in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 23.3% from 2023 to 2030.”

“Things are not slowing down,” says Ethan Mollick, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who studies innovation. “Things are only going to accelerate further from here.”

In a few years, it’s highly probable the majority of websites will have an AI assistant working alongside customer support to deliver a new level of service. Six months ago nobody expected to be having conversations about AI around the dinner table, yet here we are, with millions of people trying out ChatGPT and thousands of other new AI tools every day.

The explosion of ChatGPT usage at the tail end of 2022 captured everyone’s imagination. The conversational AI model gained 100 million monthly active users in just two months, making it the fastest growing application ever. Now the whole world is talking about AI, what does it mean for your customer experience (CX)?

Barking & Dagenham Council (B&D) used an advanced AI assistant to immediately automate 6% of their customer calls and, in six months, it saved them the cost of manually answering 10,000 customer enquiries. At the same time, they announced a 67% uplift in customer satisfaction, and when customers are happy, they stay loyal to your organisation, make repeat purchases and recommend you to others. B&D’s experience shows you can use conversational AI to cut customer service costs now as well as increase profits in the future.

These 9 trends in conversational AI can help you get ahead in CX and we believe they’re here to stay:

1) Buy don’t build conversational AI to act fast, affordably 

Can you imagine trying to create your own ChatGPT style AI? By the time you have enough expertise on board and enough budget secured to get started, you’ve already missed the boat. By the time you’ve produced something that’s truly successful and working well for you, so much more time will have passed. Your AI is then already becoming a legacy system you’re stuck with having just spent so much time and resource on creating and integrating it into all your other systems. That’s why buying in from an established provider makes more sense for conversational AI. It’s faster and far cheaper to get a part-built AI assistant and it’ll save you time, resource, and effort. Bonus: You’ll be able to keep up with the latest developments in AI through your supplier too.

2) Make use of much-improved NLP to offer a superior service 

Years ago, rules based chatbots resulted in poor customer experience with a lot of “Sorry I don’t understand” type responses that infuriated the people trying to use them. Now, natural language processing (NLP) has revolutionised automated responses. Thanks to NLP, an advanced AI assistant can understand natural language, ask clarifying questions to check it understands the question before giving the answer, and handle digressions and follow-on questions, just like in real life. Now NLP technology lets us talk to machines, you can take full advantage of it to automate more tasks. 

AI assistant asking a clarifying question

3) Meet demand for convenience with self-service

Using AI, you can offer 24-hour customer service support. Service is instant, and accurate too, because an intelligent AI assistant will always give the right answer ― that never changes, unless you change the answer. It can answer tens of thousands of customers all at the same time, any time of the day or night. While your AI assistant is doing that, your team can be getting on with more beneficial or profitable work that grows your business.

4) Offer real time support on social media using automation

There’s a reason why 52% of marketers are already using real time customer engagement. They’re using conversational AI to reach customers at a time that’s convenient to them and in places where they already feel comfortable, surrounded by their friends and family or trusted connections. It’s more personal, for a start, and 70% of people spend twice as much if they feel a strong connection to a brand. It’s also a great way to build trust and loyalty, simply by being there for your customers where and when they need you, and it’s an easy system to introduce using a smart AI assistant.

5) Resolve queries quicker with multiple modes of contact

Advanced conversational AI systems are multimodal, which means your customer can start a conversation with you using any device or service and switch easily between them ― it’s seamless. Let’s say you run an eatery and a customer asks Google Home to help them find your nearest restaurant. They’re sent a location map to their phone and a link to book a table. They might get an SMS to confirm the booking and a QR code over WhatsApp, so they can order as soon as they’ve seen the menu. One next-generation AI assistant can handle all of this, taking your customer to the exact thing they need, when they need it. Connecting all the channels so they act and sound the same has proven to be the real challenge, but with AI, you can rapidly improve your omnichannel experience, since one AI assistant can store all your data from every channel in one place. It’s the best opportunity there is for a consistently brilliant message.

6) Use AI to recognise how your customers are feeling so you can keep them happy

Customer satisfaction is always top of the list in customer service goals because happy customers mean good business, and conversational AI is a great way to measure that. You can use it to perform sentiment analysis, which simply means finding out how people are feeling. Did they have a good customer service experience? Are they happy with the way you handled their enquiry? Are they likely to recommend your service to others? Using an advanced AI assistant, you can collect this kind of feedback instantly at the end of every conversation, then use it to inform your direction in future.

Customer satisfaction is high

7) Use LLMs like GPT-4 to supercharge the creation of a valuable AI assistant

There’s been a lot of excitement around the launch of generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney, which help anyone who’s not creative generate written content and images, but the real benefits for businesses lie within the LLMs (large language models) that sit behind these tools. One of the world’s leading financial institutions with £0.5 trillion in managed assets reduced customer support calls by 12% in just six weeks after going live with an AI assistant. Now, they (and you) can benefit from the gigantic knowledge pool of LLMs which are being used to come up with instant training data for AI assistants to learn and grow from, so you can train it even faster.
nb. Find a trusted provider to apply these latest developments for you safely, so your data is fully protected, and you only use tools and advanced AI they know you will directly benefit from.

8) Use integrations to tailor AI to your specific needs

When it comes to offering your customers the best service, there’s a problem with LLMs. They know all there is to know in the world, but they don’t know your business like you do. Even more crucial, they don’t know your customers like your support team does and it’s their knowledge that’s key to keeping your customers happy. That’s why advanced AI assistants are swiftly replacing rules-based chatbots. An intelligent AI assistant can be quickly and expertly integrated with all the business systems you already use to manage customer relationships. Calendars, booking and payment systems, and your CRM are just a few of the most common, but every industry has its own niche or self-made systems. The most advanced AI assistant will be able to use them all, just like you do.

9) Use conversational AI to support your team, not replace them

If you worry conversational AI encourages a loss of human contact, rest assured the most savvy AI providers are keeping a human in the loop. That’s a real person behind the scenes checking your AI assistant is serving your customers as well as your best team member ever has. Information an AI assistant provides is instant and accessible 24 hours a day, but must also be reliably correct, helpful, and solve a query from beginning to end without any input from your team. For more unusual queries or sensitive topics, your AI assistant should pass people to a real person using live chat, so it needs to be intelligent enough to know when an automated response isn’t possible or relevant or appropriate, and that’s why your team is more important than ever. They’re the ones who train your AI assistant to do the work they need it to do, so they can focus on more meaningful, profitable or rewarding work that helps grow your brand, your profits, and your stellar reputation.

You might have heard ChatGPT is able to pass law and business exams, so we know AI is now operating at a level that can feel like a threat to people, but it’s important to keep a steady head.

ContactBabel found few people in contact centres believe AI will replace customer service teams. They recognise how important it has become, but to support and assist teams like yours in providing a better service to customers.

How can customer service teams embrace AI disruption?

Conversational AI isn’t just a fad. You’ll need to prepare for the AI landscape to change regularly, and our best advice is to recognise that you can’t ignore it.

CX leaders are following conversational AI trends to stay ahead of their competitors on both price and profit, reducing customer support costs while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction.

If you plan to join them and want some pointers, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

A next-gen AI assistant helps you get the most out of conversational AI trends:

  • Affordable for any size budget since you only pay for what you use. (If you need buy-in, we’ve got your back with this cheat sheet.)
  • Your customers can start to self-serve and stay in touch with you from any place at any time from any device.
  • Behind the scenes, your AI assistant is no different to any other member of your customer service team, except it answers queries instantly and 24 hours a day.

Add a next-gen AI assistant to your team and automated conversations with customers will be more human-like than ever. Conversations are instant, but also more efficient and accurate to help your whole customer service team excel.

“I think the only way to prepare for the future is to get as comfortable as possible with the AIs available today,” advises Ethan Mollick, and “understand their uses.”

The best news is, you can learn as you go ― you don’t need any technical skill to dive into advanced conversational AI today.