Today, conversational experiences such as voice assistants and chatbots are ubiquitous. According to a recent Modev report: “The market has accelerated from post-hype to a growth market…” The report states that funding raised by companies in this space in 2022 is expected to “significantly” surpass 2021 funding. (Conversational AI Supply Chain Report — Q1Q2 2022, Modev).
What Are Conversational Experiences?
Conversational experiences allow users to interact with digital systems using natural language through speaking or typing. The hands-free approach that voice assistants enable and the 24/7 availability of text-based chatbots are just a couple of advantages of conversational AI technology.
While companies may be bullish about conversational AI, users aren’t necessarily convinced: a recent US survey found that nearly 73% of participants would not use a company’s bot again after a bad experience with it. A few months ago, Christoph Boerner published an insightful article on CMSWire about people’s reluctance to use chatbots. He mentions that customers believe that bots aren’t as effective as companies claim they are, that customers want to be clear that they are conversing with a bot, not a human, and that many customers believe that chatbots simply can’t be as effective as a human.
Despite user sentiment, conversational experiences are here to stay. Yet, for the sake of customer satisfaction and the future success of conversational experiences, it is critical that chatbot and voice assistant builders focus on the customer and their experience. Along those lines, certain myths need to be debunked:
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Myth 1: Get an MVP Out ASAP and Then Iterate
An MVP (minimum viable product) refers to a first version of software that typically is released with limited functionality. It is certainly a good idea to start small.
Unfortunately, MVPs are often an excuse to release a product that is far from robust: the language model is not based on data collected in a responsible manner such as through sample collection or mining existing relevant sources, but instead the conversation designer may just come up with a handful of utterances. Compound that by not having a proper testing strategy in place, and the result is a conversational experience that users can’t really use and hence certainly don’t love.
Organizations may have the best intentions to review the live product’s analytics to iterate and improve the product, but with over 70% of users stating that they won’t use a bot again after a bad experience, the future user base has just been severely cut down due to this approach.
A more desirable approach is to focus on the quality of the user’s experience before MVP launch, while still committing to improving the product based on data gathered from the live system. Focusing on quality pre-launch requires adhering to proper process, which leads us to myth number 2.
Myth 2: Conversational AI Can Avoid Tried and True Software Development Principles
It is true that conversational AI development is a little different, just like mobile app development differs from web development. Conversational AI calls for certain skill sets that are not typically needed in web or mobile development, such as conversation designers, AI trainers and data scientists. It requires product managers, developers and QA testers to understand how to define, build and deploy conversational AI applications.
Yet, at the end of the day, the processes, frameworks and best practices that we’ve adopted in software development still apply. Properly defining the product functionality and gathering user feedback during the pre-release stages research are integral to creating great user experiences.
Myth 3: Any Web or Mobile App Functionality Is a Good Candidate for a Conversational Experience
Not all user tasks are suited to conversational interfaces, and the channels available to users when interacting with a digital system need to take the strengths of each channel as well as the user’s context into account.
As an example, a voice interface may be very helpful for tasks such as adding items to a shopping list as it allows the user to do this in a hands-free manner. But a task where a large amount of information, especially information shared in several steps, is shared with the user may benefit from a text-based interface instead.
It is important to evaluate an end-to-end customer journey and determine which channels are best suited at any touchpoint the customer has with a brand.
Conclusion: Learning to Live With Conversational Experiences
Conversational experiences such as chatbots and voice assistants are here to stay. Which means we need to treat them with the level of maturity in the design and development process that we’ve come to expect in software development.
If we don’t, we’ll continue to create conversational experiences that customers find unacceptable. And in an age where customer satisfaction is a critical factor in a brand's success, brands have no choice if they wish to thrive.