Retail

Chatbot Tracker: Uncovering True Customer Intent?

Mom and Pop stores once ruled the retail world in America.

Consumers could walk into their local butcher shop and be served their favorite piece of steak for their weekly family dinner. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen retail shift to big box stores that provided a one-stop shop for running errands. While seemingly convenient, these big retailers lack in providing what today’s consumer is reverting back to desiring — a personalized experience from someone who understands preferences from past interactions.

As such, it’s no wonder we’re seeing chatbots slowly move the needle back toward tailored consumer experiences.

While we all know that chatbots are becoming increasingly good at communicating with consumers, there may be room for improvement beyond this feature.

As artificial intelligence (AI) and natural-language processing have become the main staples behind chatbot operations, there are some that would argue it’s still not enough to satisfy the appetite of today’s instant gratification society. Similar to that of an automated voice call, consumers can sometimes still feel like they are talking to a robot rather than an actual person (which can serve to only further irritate already tense situations).

When it comes to truly understanding what the customer wants and what is in their best interest, speaking with a real person can sometimes be viewed as the superior alternative. Typically, a live person on the phone not only has access to all of a consumer’s records, but they have the ability to both understand the consumer’s situation and help to immediately redirect if necessary. In the meantime, chatbots may only have access to what’s occurred during the current conversation, which likely leads to less-than-stellar customer service.

One company that’s taking chatbots to the next level of achieving true customer understanding is Personetics, which specializes in cognitive applications for the financial services industry. Just last week, the company announced it’s taking a step in the direction of providing a fuller picture of consumers’ information for a more personalized conversation.

Because of this data-driven interpretation of customer intent through natural-language understanding (rather than natural-language processing), the company was awarded a patent for its new unique approach to chatbots. More specifically, Personetics developed this new chatbot for the finance world. Through its use, financial institutions will have the ability to decipher the intent behind customer conversations. The way this works is that the more data Personetics has about a particular customer, the better the interaction will be, thus enabling a more strategic conversation about specific personal finance situations, accurate responses to service requests and tailored guidance provided ahead of potentially harmful customer incidents.

Rather than focusing merely on the processing part of chatbot conversations with consumers, Personetics’ Chief Technology Officer, Danny Vatnik, shared the importance of elevating natural-language understanding in the customer service arena. “Natural-language understanding is a necessary requirement for any bot that is currently being built, but it’s not sufficient on its own to truly be helpful to the customer. In order for a bot to deliver value, it must be combined with real-time data analysis to provide an accurate picture of the customer’s financial situation and needs,” Vatnik said. “Without the data, it’s like having a banker that can speak the language of the customer but doesn’t understand how banking works or what the customer’s financials look like.”

Companies like Domino’s Pizza and ATB Financial, who both announced partnerships with Facebook’s Messenger app earlier this year, are using natural-language processing over truly trying to understand consumer intent. While these companies are still in the nascent stage of chatbot development, it’s likely that we’ll see an evolution occur. More companies may be looking to utilize Personetics’ patented natural-language understanding technology to help boost their offerings.

Given Personetics’ new patent and consumers’ appetite for efficient and personalized customer service, retailers that are dipping their toes in the water of chatbots may now move in a more strategic direction within the next five to ten years. In Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle For Emerging Technologies, the analyst firm confirmed this trend by sharing that conversational user interfaces are likely to be adopted into the mainstream within the next decade.

As technology continues to evolve and consumers become more comfortable with businesses having their information, true understanding of consumer intent will become more important to retailers, and they’ll likely inch closer to real-world implementation.

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