4 trends for Conversational in 2020

• 7 minute read • 05/11/2019
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Conversational is perhaps the container concept of 2019. Sprinkle a little AI over it and you’ll quickly grab the attention of many a communications professional. If you ask me, it’s just a question of old wine in new bottles. Conversational, or conducting a conversation, is the most natural form of communication between 2 people or entities. The shape of Conversational, in particular, is continually changing. Which brings us to 4 trends that will have a further impact on this concept in 2020.

Technology has always been a driving factor in connecting people and organisations. However, the channel or resource doesn’t matter as much as the conversation in helping your target group reach the target. The number of interactions by and with smart machines is expected to grow explosively in the coming years, and will focus primarily on marketing, sales and customer service.

In 2018 we were already writing about the hype surrounding chatbots, where the high expectations of these chatbots had to be nuanced. This brought with it the necessary challenges, such as chatbots that didn’t understand the question and thus created an infinite loop for the customers, without a handover to a human expert.

Since then, organisations have gained the necessary experience, and most of the findings have been applied to improve the current generation of chatbots. Customer service remains the primary domain in which chatbots and voice applications are deployed, but in the near future chatbots will become mainstream within various applications.

It is important here that the experience is tailored to the wishes and needs of the customer. Only then can you create real value for a conversation, whether or not it’s via chatbots, social media, voice assistants or messaging apps. The first steps have been taken and the trends that are listed below will play a major role in this.

Trend 1. Broad application of Conversational within organisations

A chatbot for easy and fast service questions, a voice assistant for after sales or a proactive live chat window in the shopping basket? Conversations are being used for more and more purposes, supported by lightning-fast technological developments. Whether it’s about communication, marketing, sales or customer service, organisations are increasingly fine-tuning the conversations for a more personal experience for the customer.

The value of data will continue to grow in 2020. Voice assistants and chatbots are using valuable insights from CRM, knowledge bases, DMPs, marketing automation and social engagement to track and support a customer throughout the customer journey.

Trend 2. The time of non-committal pioneering has passed, where is that ROI?

There’s no longer any innovation to innovate, since we’re beyond the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” according to the Gartner Hype Cycle. In the coming years, the use of voice assistants, messaging, chatbots or AI will increasingly serve a clearly defined purpose:

  • Resolving a challenge for the customer, such as better accessibility, faster and better service or support in the use of products and services. Efficiency is the magic word here.
  • Process optimisation, such as simple changes to the system, for example, address data or newsletter subscriptions. If the chatbot doesn’t get it then many times there’s a handover to a human expert.
  • Generate sales by proactively making a commercial offer within a purchasing process.

“Who pays, decides” will become increasingly common in 2020 and beyond. Conversational applications, platforms and projects will have to deliver a real ROI, depending on the goal set; whether it’s about new business, a higher NPS, improved efficiency or lower costs.

Man and machine need to work more closely together, in particular to fill the lack of empathy from machines with, for example, human creativity.

Trend 3. Technology works for us, not the other way around

Not necessarily a new trend, but an upcoming turning point for many organisations will be the extent to which we adopt new technology and successfully apply it. Research by Trustpilot shows that trust and satisfaction with regards to chatbots is still low on the customer side. Is this just a case of “one only loves what one knows” or does it have to do primarily with the quality of the conversations?

In 2020, AI-driven chatbots will be more and more aligned with the existing processes and they will increasingly be directed and trained by conversational designers in order to ensure that quality meets the high requirements set.

Meanwhile, the smart speaker and voice applications are gaining ground worldwide, while according to Kantar TNS the Netherlands is lagging behind with ‘only’ 5% of households that own a Google Home or similar device. Research firm Canalys predicts that the use of smart speakers will go beyond 200 million in 2019 and will rise to 500 million in 2023.

In addition to technology, social media platforms and channels will also play a crucial role in 2020. Customers will long need to have contact with companies and can now do this through social media, messaging channels, review platforms, live chat or other ways. It’s all about tailor-made experiences through personalisation and automation, in which the customer determines the success based on a qualitative conversation. In this case it doesn’t matter if there’s contact through a chatbot or a person, as long as the customer is helped quickly, personally and in the best way possible.

The major publishers are continuing their efforts to facilitate a rich conversation, such as the WhatsApp Business Solution and Apple Business Chat.

Trend 4. From simple interactions to actual ‘experiences’

“Low-hanging fruit” are simple interactions, which will become increasingly automated through the use of conversational AI. Linking systems and the smart use of data will offer more room in 2020 for the development of a more personal experience. Conversational interfaces are now often limited by limitations in IT system integrations, but system APIs are becoming more compatible with each other.

So while more and more interactions are being handled by a combination of man and machine, the way in which we measure behaviour, performance and results is also changing. New KPIs are seeing the light of day for measuring conversational success and identifying areas for improvement:

  • Number of completed chatbot flows, whereby any failed occurrences indicate a potential improvement for conversations.
  • Complete lead time of a customer case, from the initial contact with the chatbot to the transfer to a live employee.
  • Number of resolved cases without employee intervention.

2020 will be another year in which the combination of data, AI and personal experiences determine the success of conversations within our target group. Which trends and developments will you be dealing with in 2020?

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