The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Connectivity, data, and processing power have come together to make disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence possible. While we are just scratching the surface on what we can do with AI, we’re seeing more and more companies – from fledgling startups to large corporations – begin to offer specialized AI applications.

Conversational AI is one type of specialized AI that has gained quite a bit of traction in recent years. But what exactly is conversational AI? Some people may know it in the form of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and website chatbots that provide customer support help. While these are more commonly known use cases, conversational AI is also being leveraged by companies to optimize business processes.

Read on to learn more about what conversational AI is and how businesses can leverage this technology to operate more efficiently and increase revenues.

What is Conversational AI?

Conversational AI is the technology that enables people and computers to communicate with each other in a way that mimics a natural, back-and-forth conversation (via text or audio). The ability to communicate in this manner is a huge advancement from how we’ve been able to interact with computers thus far, which up until recently has been one-way and via text only.

An integral part of conversational AI is Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Generation (NLG). According to Conversica Chief Scientist, Dr. Sid Reddy, this entails having a system that can precisely classify intents and entities. By intent we mean the intention of the end user – what is the customer trying to do? Entity provides context for that intent. In other words, an entity refers to the information that is helpful in answering the user’s request.

Another critical component of conversational AI is machine learning, which refers to a computer’s ability to learn without being explicitly programmed, and get “smarter” with more information it receives. Human language is incredibly complex – whether you speak English, Spanish, Mandarin, or any of the 6,000-plus known languages in the world, human language is nuanced and constantly evolving.

Just think about the different ways you can ask for information. For example, if I need to get to a specific restaurant, I could ask, “Where are you located?” or “What’s your address?” or even “Where can I find you?” The variations of this question all have the same intent, even if the entities differ. If you’re considering adopting a conversational AI solution, it’s a good idea to look for applications that incorporate machine learning, NLU, and NLG capabilities.

In addition, you may want to ask potential conversational AI providers if they:

  1. Have vast amounts of data (information shared by people in conversations). The conversational AI solution will use this data to improve language understanding and language generation, in addition to providing valuable analytics.
  2. Allow you some degree of control to customize conversations.
  3. Integrate with your existing technology stack. If you use a CRM system or marketing automation tool, make sure the conversational AI solution will work together with those systems, so you have a single source of information.

Conversational AI in Business

Businesses ranging in sizes and industries are looking toward AI and specifically conversational AI to optimize key functions. One traditional aspect of business that’s getting a technological boost is sales – rather than leaving it up to a human workforce to reach out and follow up with interested prospects, conversational AI is automating this crucial, yet repetitive task.

It’s important to note that using conversational AI to handle initial contact and lead engagement does not replace human workers, but rather allows them to manage their time better. According to, sales reps only spend 37% of their time selling. This means that most of a salesperson’s time is spent on non-revenue generating activities such as administrative tasks (dealing with internal policies and approvals) and researching target accounts and contacts.

As consumer expectations continue to rise, companies must meet or exceed those needs in order to earn the customer’s business. It makes sense then, to invest in a solution that will provide prompt, personalized attention at scale. The good news is that we’ve reached a point where we can use conversational AI to help customers feel that they are being listened to and their needs are being addressed. And that’s a competitive advantage your business can’t afford to miss.

This article was originally published in Smart Selling Tools and is reprinted with permission by the author. 

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