The Impact of The Covid-19 Pandemic on Conversational AI
As a direct result of Covid-19, enterprises are advancing their plans to digitize and automate parts of their business not just to achieve better operational efficiencies, but to protect themselves from disruptions.
During the pandemic, many companies experienced significant increase in pressure from customers, while their number of available employees decreased. Many contact centres were unable to cope with demand or closed because of lockdown restrictions, leading to long delays in customer service queries, which dramatically affected the customer experience.
It is already clear that the Covid-19 pandemic will result in a seismic change in work and life culture globally. But more than anything, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on areas of weakness within enterprises. For example, even the most conservative contingency plan was unlikely to include a worldwide shutdown affecting workforces, supply chains and customers.
As businesses develop a more strategic approach to their ongoing business that delivers resilience into operations through flexibility and scalability, while at the same time working to improve operational efficiencies, so Conversational AI is rising to the forefront of technology enablers.
Conversational AI is a form of artificial intelligence (AI), that allows people to create a dialogue with applications, websites and devices in everyday, humanlike, natural language via voice, text, touch or gesture input.
Even before the pandemic, Gartner stated in July 2019 that “By 2025, customer service organizations that embed AI in their multichannel customer engagement platform will elevate operational efficiency by 25%.”
The research firm said that:
Conversational AI technology is reshaping the customer experience (CX) in two ways. Firstly, some of the more routine customer touchpoints are taken over by the CAIP (Conversational AI platform), freeing up human agents to engage in more value-adding activities that improve the customer outcome. Secondly, the move to a CAIP actually drives improvement in the CX1.
A fully scalable Conversational AI system removes the risk of bottlenecks occurring in such a situation, pre-qualifying live interactions and resolving issues automatically to maintain quality of service. It allows businesses to transform customer and employee touchpoints into fast, meaningful, rich interactions.
Although automated, they enhance the customer experience by resolving even complex issues in a timely manner and in the customer’s preferred language. Capable of seamless integration into backend systems to deliver highly personalised, accurate information, Conversational AI allows the customer to get the answer they need 24/7 over any channel.
Published market analyst predictions for market growth vary with a conservative outlook provided by MarketsandMarkets, who estimates that the global Conversational AI market size will grow from USD 4.2 billion in 2019, to USD 15.7 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 30.2% during 2019-20242.
The major growth drivers for the market include the increasing demand for AI-powered customer support services, omnichannel deployment and reduced chatbot development cost.
According to International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Semi-annual Cognitive Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide, the spending on cognitive and AI systems will reach USD 77.6 billion in 2022, which is more than three times the USD 24 billion forecast for 2018. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for 2017-2022 forecast period is estimated to 37.3%3.
While shocks to the economy frequently accelerate change, the changes themselves are often less of a surprise and were already well on their way to being more than just a trend.
Conversational AI is no different.
Already companies are accelerating their digital transformation strategies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic as they look for new ways to respond effectively to the customer needs and see an opportunity to differentiate from their competitors in a new channel.
Conversational AI is a key component of this digital transformation. It enables organizations to manage a fast-moving landscape as they transition to the next normal by providing the flexibility, scalability and intelligence required for sustained growth, while automating human and technology interactions for greater efficiencies.
As enterprises try to reimagine what their company will look like in a digitally transformed world, the ability to communicate in a meaningful, intelligent – yet automated – manner with customers will be a key priority.