What are Conversational AI Agents?
Conversational AI agents, also known as virtual assistants or chatbots, depending on their level of sophistication, are technologies with text and or speech recognition capabilities that provide human-like responses to human inquiries.
For a conversational AI agent to function efficiently, it needs to understand the meaning behind the request from the human user and then match this meaning (or intent) to its database of prepared responses. Advanced conversational AI agents are capable of learning from these requests over time to respond in more improvised ways. They can do this through a subdivision of AI called Machine Learning.
The aspect of Artificial Intelligence most directly related to the functionality of Conversational AI agents is Natural Language Processing – a hybrid of linguistics and AI that aims to teach computers the capacity to understand text and provide spoken words just as a human can. When spoken words, rather than text, is the input that the computer receives, the technology that enables the computer to understand the input is more specifically called Automated Speech Recognition.
Conversational AI vs Chatbots vs Virtual Assistants
These terms are often used interchangeably. However, they mean different things and are defined in terms of their complexity.
Chatbots are the most superficial level of Conversational AI agents as they mostly function as “question-and-answer” systems designed to provide exact responses to question matches.
Virtual AI agents are in the middle bracket. They not only provide answers to questions but they also have a wider functionality range such as small talk. Common examples are the technologies we interact with daily e.g. Siri, Alexa, Cortana.
Virtual Assistants occupy the uppermost level and are designed to go beyond isolated conversations to ensure a smooth flow of interactions. They are also built for specialized purposes and typically have a dedicated database that handles specific conversations with a higher level of advancement.
The Rise of Conversational AI
Conversational AI agents are becoming more popular today. We live in a fast-paced world where everyone wants quick solutions. A survey by PSFK discovered that no fewer than 74% of consumers turn to chatbots in the search for quick answers.
Existing economic forecasts favor the continued ascension of this technology as Markets and Markets projects that the global Conversational AI market will reach $15.7 billion in 2024 from $4.2 billion in 2019. Much of this spending will be directed towards the development of chatbots which is estimated will be worth $7.5 billion by 2024 from $1.2 billion in 2018.
Conversational AI and the Hospitality Industry
Perhaps more than most industries, the hospitality industry is a very customer-driven sector. Even with a high volume of guests, hotels are expected to deliver lodging experiences that are seamless and yield high customer satisfaction levels. While conventionally, hotels have managed to keep up with human workers, AI can take service delivery to new heights, helping to clear desk traffic and delivering personalized services through conversational AI.
Conversational AI agents can be deployed right from the pre-booking stage. The chatbots can be trained to respond to basic requests about the hotel – its location, pricing, reviews, proximity to city landmarks, etc. More complex inquiries can be routed to human customer service agents.
The actual booking process can also be facilitated by conversational AI agents providing guests with information on room availability and images of selected rooms. During the booking process, data about accessibility or special needs can be collected ensuring that the facilities are in place right before the guests ever set foot into the hotel.
In-stay experience can also be enriched through conversational AI. Customer service requests, food orders and monitoring can be processed through the chatbot. In the case of very big hotels, the bots can provide guests with directions for how to access the different facilities within the hotel.
Post-stay check-out, reviews can also be directly run through the bot ensuring that the guest has their own personal hotel guide through their stay while human help is provided only when absolutely required.
Furthermore, the Conversational AI agents can be trained to personalize their interactions with customers. Every interaction is a learning process for the bot with respect to that particular user. Using machine learning techniques, they can learn more about their users (with consent) and deliver customized services and responses to the users.
Even better, these services can be delivered in multiple languages to break down communication barriers further adding to the seamless flow of service delivery.
Conversational AI agents bode well for the overall tourism industry too as all of the above applications can be employed as part of strategies to improve the experience that tourists have whenever they visit a country.