Jan

Social selling for businesses

Social selling is one of the hottest buzzwords in the technology market. The popularity of social networks made the customer interaction and buyers hunting easier than before. More and more consumers are using social media to find deals, research products and make recommendations.

From the seller’s perspective the efficient use of social media is based on the mastery of following two major steps:

1. Finding the relevant audience,

2. Engaging with that audience.

The first step should be automated. This is exactly where the promise of Big Data, or Smart Data, as they now begin to call it, is supposed to come into fruition. Finding relevant information in the ocean of social data is the poster example of how Smart data can help businesses in the new world defined by computerized systems and networks. The companies should be able to use programs and solutions that accurately and efficiently deliver relevant data. If the company is spending time to sift through the ever increasing informational stream without automating the process, it is wasting precious time thus compromising its business growth and eventually losing competitive edge.

 The second step however is inherently manual. it is not a good idea to automate the engagement process. Social networks are designed to build trust, and trust cannot be won automatically. So it requires time and effort and knowledge. It also requires patience - trust cannot be built in minutes.

It is important that businesses looking to add social media into their arsenal of revenue channels, and we believe that all businesses should do just that, grasp this two-steps process. A clear understanding of the nature and requirements for each of the steps helps to plan strategically, manage the resources properly and avoid costly mistakes.

 

                               

Interested in reading more? Check out our other blogs:

Meet Eliza, the Mother of AI

                                                             

Meet Eliza, the Mother of AI..

Today, Artificial Intelligence seems to be the buzz of every major enterprise. Salesforce is formally announcing Einstein this fall, IBM has worked on Watson for years now, and after 20 years of working with AI, Microsoft has made a few attempts to bring the technology to the market. With all this activity, you may be asking yourself what kind of impact AI will have on you and your business, and where you might want to look to investigate the possibilities Artificial Intelligence represents.

Before we discuss how AI will impact customer support and consumer experience, and how you may leverage it in your contact center, I thought it would be fun to take a look where AI got its start.

The term AI was coined by computer scientist John McCarthyin 1956 who subsequently went on to create the Dartmouth Conference to advance the ideas and technologies associated with machine intelligence. While this collective of thought leaders and scientists made huge advancements through programs at MIT and others, most of their work was only circulated in academic fields.

Not many people were aware of Artificial Intelligence, how it worked or its potential uses, until around 1964 when MIT computer Scientist Joseph Weizenbaumwrote Eliza, a program based on Natural Language Processingthat was able to successfully question and respond to human interactions in such a way as to almost sound like a real human being. Eliza, with almost no information about human responses was able to use scripts and pattern  matching to simulate responses that might occur between two people.

The most famous of these simulations, highlighting  AI ability to intersect with modern needs and technology, was DOCTOR. DOCTOR was able to question and respond to a human in such a way so as to almost sound like an actual psychotherapist. As the human subject made statements, DOCTOR asked questions and made statements relevant to the conversation as if it were a present and conscious being… almost.

Over the years  computer scientists, whether academics or industry professionals,  have worked tirelessly to improve upon these developments with the hope of delivering a computer program capable not only to ask and respond, but to understand the context of a conversation. A program that can relate relevant data to responses, thus providing value to the human it’s conversing with, while helping to chart the course of the conversation, just as if you and I were talking over a cup of coffee or across a conference room table.

Why is this important, you may ask? With the introduction of Chatbots, we began to see some of the potential in Artificial Intelligence. Companies could now front-end customer chat interactions that allowed the company to be more responsive to its customers while shortening wait times and deflecting inquiries from the call center, which as we all know are hugely expensive.

The one problem with Chatbots? Customers hated dealing with limited technology that was cold, often incorrect, and frustrating. People are accustomed to dealing with the cold, sterile nature of technology when they type numbers in a phone to be routed but expected a human to be chatting with them. These negative experiences have made a number of companies a little gun shy about implementing true Artificial Intelligence. The last thing a business wants is a customer complaining, especially on Social Media, about a poor customer experience due to a bad interaction with technology.

There is a significant difference between Chatbot technology and true AI, consequently the outcomes and customer experience are proving to be very different. Where a Chatbot is more like an IVR, answering simple questions and routing customers to the correct agent, Artificial Intelligence is aware of the conversation and able to present relevant responses, thereby providing a faster response and shorter customer interaction times and better customer service. I mean, if Eliza’s DOCTOR could simulate a psychotherapist in 1964, what can AI do for your contact center in 2016?

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What Is AI Engine and Do I Need It?

Chatbots and assistant programs designed to support conversations with human users rely on natural language processing (NLP). This is a field of scientific research that aims at making computers understand the meaning of sentences in natural language. The algorithms developed by NLP researchers helped power first generation of virtual assistants such as Siri or Cortana. Now the same algorithms are made available to the developer community to help companies build their own specialized virtual assistants. Industry products that offer NLP capabilities based on these algorithms are often called AI engines.

The most powerful and advanced AI engines currently available on the market are (in no particular order): IBM Watson, Google DialogFlow, Microsoft LUIS, Amazon Lex.

All these engines use intents and entities as primary pnguistic identifies to convey the meaning of incoming sentences. All of them offer conversation flow capability. In other words, intents and entities help to understand what the incoming sentence is about. Once the incoming sentence is correctly identified you can use the engine to provide a reply. You can repeat these two steps a large number of times, thus creating a conversation, or dialog.

In terms of language processing ability and simplicity of user experience IBM Watson and Google DialogFlow are currently above the pack. Microsoft LUIS is okay too; still, keeping in mind that Microsoft are aggressively territorial and like when users stay within their ecosystem, it is most efficient to use LUIS together with other Microsoft products such as MS Bot Framework.

Using AI engine conversation flow to create dialogs makes building conversations a simple, almost intuitive, task, with no coding involved. On the flip side, using AI engine conversation flow limits your natural tendency to make conversations natural. The alternative, delegating the conversation flow to the business layer of your chatbot, adds richness and flexibility to your dialog but makes the process more comppcated as it now requires coding. Cannot sell a cow and drink the milk at the same time, can you?

Amazon Lex lacks the semantic sophistication of their competitors. One can say (somewhat metaphorically)  that IBM Watson was created by linguists and computer scientists while Amazon Lex was created by sales people. As a product it is well packaged and initially looks pleasing on the eye, but once you start digging deeper you notice the limitations. Also, Amazon traditionally excelled in voice recognition component (Amazon Alexa) and not necessarily in actual language processing.

The space of conversational AI is fluid and changes happen rapidly. The existing products are evolving continuously and a new generation of AI engines is in the process of being developed.

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