Customer Service Bots: the Future of AI Assistants

I usually make a stop in Amsterdam when flying with KLM between Minneapolis and New Delhi. I typically return to my family home in Minneapolis after completing my research assignments.

Schiphol is one of my favorite stops on the journey, and I know it like the back of my hand. However, in 2019 summer, things were turned upside down when I missed my connecting flight to New Delhi.

I was fatigued, hungry, drowsy, and the customer-service counter at my prior gate was closed. I had to make a long trek to customer services at the next airport or utilize my phone; so I tried it out on my phone.

I messaged the KLM WhatsApp number and carried on a conversation with a representative over my options. I was on the next flight within minutes, with my boarding pass in hand.

It was only after I got home that I discovered I’d been interacting with next-generation artificial intelligence – an illustration of conversational commerce in action.

Soon, you will. For example, some retailers are providing voice-enabled purchasing capabilities to their customers.

Customers in the United States can use Google Assistant to add items to their virtual shopping carts and analyze their purchases with Walmart shoppers.

Google has similar agreements with two other supermarket megaconglomerates: Target in the United States and Carrefour in France.

Amazon, on the other hand, provides voice-enabled purchases to Ocado’s online consumers in the United Kingdom. Last month, Walmart acquired Botmock, a conversation-commerce specialist, to extend its services in this area.

There are now more than a billion consumers utilizing text and voice-based conversational platforms to interact with companies.

Conversational commerce is expected to generate worldwide sales of 41 billion in 2021, increasing to 300 billion by 2025—according to predictions. So, how has this industry changed over time, and what does it imply for our purchasing habits?

Coffee lovers and hyper-personalization enthusiasts

Conversational commerce may still be under the radar for many people because most growth has happened in China, Japan, and South Korea.

All the same, it’s appearing all over the world. If you’re chatting to your girlfriend or boyfriend on Facebook and decide you’d want to send them flowers, you don’t have to leave the conversation.

You go to 1-800-Flowers.com with a conversational AI tool integrated with Messenger and describe what you want. If you use Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay, you don’t even need to provide card information.

Maybe you enjoy coffee, like me. I used to wait in line for a morning latte, but not any longer. When I get to my local shop, my coffee is ready, courtesy of the My Starbucks Barista app’s chatbot.

Deep learning, complex natural language processing, voice recognition, and cognitive computing – which is a type of machine thinking that mimics human thinking – are the AI foundations for these improvements.

But the main draw – besides convenience, comfort, and shopping whenever and wherever you want – may be the potential to transform a customer’s retail encounter into much more individualized.

Customers may soon be able to interact with an AI who understands what they want in specific detail, according to the experts.

We already have major businesses providing personalized items to attract customers – for example, Nike and Adidas allowing individuals to create their own trainers.

Customisation and personalisation, on the other hand, may be taken to a whole new level with advanced AI. Customers will get personalized advice in their own language, making the process easier and adding to the pleasure of the experience.

They might end up spending more money as a result of this – not because they are being compelled to do so, but because they feel like they are shopping with a buddy.

Customers will be more engaged with the brand, which should improve conversion rates.

Additionally, marketers will have new information on consumer behavior. Yes, this raises privacy issues, but it also helps fine-tune a product. This should result in lower returns and greater income for investors.

What the future holds

Conversational commerce reminds me of the movie Her, which was set in a post-singularity future and starred Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore.

When it turned out that Samantha, an AI-based virtual assistant, was having intimate relationships with thousands of men, the relationship became untenable. She then joins forces with other AIs to perform an upgrade that results in them withdrawing from human contact.

We are still a long way from falling in love with chatbots, but there are questions about ethics.

The technology must not harm individuals or infringe on their individuality. Microsoft recently limited its voice mimicry technology, for example, because it makes it easier to create deep-fake films.

And, in some countries, the debate over whether or not to legalize is just beginning. In Germany, for example, which has a long tradition of cannabis usage and tolerance, there have been many discussions about how best to regulate the plant’s legal status in order to protect its users from being charged with crimes.

A number of advocacy groups are fighting for safe access policies that maintain government control while reducing harm caused by law enforcement agents who abuse their power.

Several people harmed by unfair prosecutions argue that they should be compensated financially because they were victims of discrimination based on mental illnesses related to drug use.

In the future, conversational commerce may become more frequent in the Metaverse, the virtual reality reflection of the internet, with voice-enabled shopping potentially accounting for 30% of all e-commerce sales by 2030.

It appears likely that we will be interacting with AI avatars in virtual reality shops, or chatting to bots in real-life supermarket aisles via augmented reality glasses in the near future.

What may appear foreign to our generation is likely to be second nature to future customers. There are advantages and disadvantages to this technology, but I have a feeling that what comes next will seem antiquated in comparison with what I just had talk about.