Conversational AI is estimated to mature into a $13.9 billion market by 2025, with no signs of slowing down. Companies are noticing the strategic impact of conversational AI on their market share and want to invest now to get a competitive advantage. If you’re reading this article, you might be a problem solver at a company like that, looking for hints on how to find an expert that can help you accelerate the adoption of conversational AI. With so much noise and hype around AI, it’s not an easy task to figure out where both the right technology and the know-how is.
So how do you find a vendor who will be a knowledgeable partner throughout the entire process and one that will become a trusted extension of your own team? Here are 7 key areas that can help you see if the vendor is a good fit:
1. Flexibility for the future
The bigger your business is, and the more the tools and platforms your business uses are integrated, the more difficult it is to change the virtual agent vendor later on. Even though it is clear that the current one doesn’t fulfill even the essentials needed for the project to succeed. Of course, you can only pick a vendor based on the information you have, which means a vendor the seems like the best choice in Q1 might not be what your business needs in Q4. The answer to that problem is high vendor flexibility, so even if your needs change, the solution can be customized and quickly adjusted to encompass new information that couldn’t have been discovered back when you first started the project.
How can you check the level of flexibility a vendor can provide? Here’s are a few questions worth discussing with the vendor:
- Can you build custom conversational experiences from scratch without coding?
- How big the initial investment has to be to see results?
- Can you make changes or extend solutions already on production without coding / hiring?
- Is your platform limited to specific industries or use cases?
- Can you switch telephony providers or operate multiple?
- Is it limited to specific NLU platforms or AI engines?
2. Time to market
If your company is growing rapidly, waiting months or years for a solution to go live makes no sense. A year has passed, and the solution you wanted back then doesn’t satisfy your business needs now. When choosing a vendor, consider the average time it will take to have your solution ready for the market. It would be best if you looked for one that offers to deliver your solution in smaller batches, so you can quickly go live, see results and grow from there instead of rolling out everything in one go (after working on it for a year or two).
Vendors have both different approaches to delivering solutions and different technical capabilities. Here are questions you might want to ask to check their implementation speed:
- Does iteration/improvement to production require coding?
- Is there any additional infrastructure required to design and deploy?
- Does it support any telephony providers?
- Does it have libraries and templates, for creating conversational applications?
- Does it support collaboration, working on one solution using the same platform??
- Can traffic/success be easily monitored?
- Does it support easy integration and setup for 3rd party services?
- How long does it take to be trained to design and deploy complex conversational applications?
- How long does it take for a trained person to deploy complex conversational applications?
3. Channel proficiency
You want to be where your customers are and communicate using the channels that they prefer. It is important to have a vendor that supports channels you need to serve customers right now and one that quickly adapts to emerging ones and doesn’t lag behind. A starting point in a conversation with any vendor is checking if they support the channels you need right now and how quickly they adopt new channels. It might seem appealing to choose a vendor specializing in one channel for a quicker time to market. The thing is, customers often use different channels for different needs, so if you only automate one, benefits might be outweighed by the confusion in the experience for your customers who need to switch between self service and human support constantly.
4. Easy of use
When choosing a conversational AI platform, businesses often focus on technology and forget that building a successful conversational AI solution is only half of the process. The other half, equally important, is its maintenance. You must understand whether you and your team have the right skillet and resources to take over the operations. Your conversational applications’ success will ultimately be decided by adoption not only by your customers but also by business users inside your company.
Fortunately, more and more virtual agent platforms allow employees without a technical background to manage and improve existing virtual agents and even build new ones—all that with basic training and short, initial hand-holding. When picking a vendor, ask them to guide you through the virtual agent platform you and your team will use to manage the solution. It will help you learn at an early stage whether your current resources will allow you to manage virtual agents after production effectively.
5. Bottom up and top down hand off to human agents
Conversational AI doesn’t replace humans. It takes over part of their responsibilities to provide a better experience for both customers and employees. It doesn’t matter how mature the vendor you pick is; the technology should be implemented to work hand in hand with humans, not replace them. For this reason, you need to make sure that the platform takes into account cooperation between humans and machines. Is the process of routing a call from a virtual agent to a human agent smooth for both customers and employees? Can customer service reps easily access any information that has been collected in the conversation with the machine? Ask these questions to the conversational AI vendor to see if they understand that the solution needs to fit your existing work procedures.
In the same way, human agents need to use many tools to support customers, so do virtual agents. When looking for a vendor, find ones that can easily integrate with tools and solutions like CRMs, billing tools, helpdesk, and other systems your employees use daily. Gather information from your team and discuss with the vendor how they will approach integration with all the tools necessary for the virtual agent to operate smoothly.
7. Analytics and reporting
Virtual agent monitoring starts when the solution is ready to be tested and continues as long as the virtual agent serves your customers live. At first, reporting features help you find what needs to be improved and added for the solutions to be successful, and later on, it will help you monitor its performance when widely used by customers. Make sure vendors provide both qualitative data like call recordings and chat transcripts as well as quantitative data. You will see the actions customers’ take when interacting with virtual agents and gain actionable insights into their behavior.
With the excitement that accelerates the adoption of AI technology comes hype that might make it difficult to choose the right partner to lead you through virtual agent implementation. We hope that this quick guide gives your a starting point to figure out what you expect from your conversational AI platform and ultimately what you expect from the vendor. If you want to learn how conversational AI can be implemented in your business, let us know at email@example.com, and we’ll take it from there.