chatbot | 5 min read

A Deep Dive Into Conversational User Interface

Published by Bhumish Sheth on 23-Jun-2021

Let’s rewind some 20 years. If you would’ve predicted that we’d have virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, people would’ve thought you’re crazy. Not because we didn’t anticipate a major breakthrough in artificial intelligence. We definitely did. But we didn’t expect their ability to replicate human interactions closely. Conversational User Interfaces are becoming more and more popular as they can address communication gaps between businesses and consumers and more so because they provide information in this highly information-driven world. 

Before I jump ahead to talk about conversational User Interfaces in detail, you first need to understand what they are. Conversational User Interfaces are those interfaces that facilitate computer to human interaction using voice or text, paving the way for a human-like conversation with machines. 

Conversational User Interfaces have taken personalised conversational to a different level. Corporate giants predict that conversations are going to drive future business activities. Conversational User Interfaces allow businesses to provide insightful responses to consumers through more advanced technology that articulate messages and ask questions. 

Conversational User Interfaces- Then to now

Previously Conversational UI achieved goals using syntax-specific commands, but it has come a long way since then. From where people had to learn to communicate with conversational UI, now it is conversational UI that is learning to communicate with people. Previously, we relied on Text-Based Interfaces that used command Line Interface that requires syntax for the computer to comprehend user input and needs. It used commands with a strict format where the programming only happens according to the codes written. 

The text-based interface gave way to Graphical User Interface that allowed users to interact through text and icons, graphical objects, and tabs with a touch-based system. Graphical User Interface also addressed the limitations of a text-based interface where not everyone is required to learn to code. 

Conversational UI is the latest addition to the user interface. While it is similar to a text-based interface, here, the user is getting a one-on-one reply to the conversation on the interface of a mobile or a web. Conversational UI is a highly personalised and two-way interaction allowing a more humanised interaction.

Type of Conversational User Interfaces

If you go back to the definition of Conversational UI, notice that conversational UI is facilitating human to machine interaction using voice or text. Conversational UI interfaces are divided into two types-

  • Chatbots that facilitate text-based interaction 

  • Voice Assistants that facilitate voice interaction

Chatbots

Chatbots are software applications that stimulate automated chat-based conversations on websites, messaging apps and other platforms. They have a visual interface that has instant messaging conversations with customers through rule-based or AI-based conversational flows. Chatbots have become highly popular mainly because of their easy framework and setup. Chatbots are further divided into:

Rule-based Chatbots

Standing true to their name, rule-based chatbots are powered by a set of rules that a conversation follows. It has a decision tree where the user has to choose between options for the conversation to continue. Rule-based chatbots are widely popular across industries as they don’t require any coding or technical expertise. Conversations on a rule-based chatbot are used for generating leads and offering generic support questions which have only a handful of solutions that are already mapped out. 

AI Chatbots

AI chatbots utilise Natural language processing technology to derive answers to customer queries. NLP recognises the user intent and utterances in the human language and responds accordingly. Another significant component of AI chatbot is their machine learning mechanism. AI Chatbots learn and pick up the nuance in human language, and over time, they can respond and recognise intent on their own. As a result, AI bots ensure higher accuracy in text-based bot conversations and are used by businesses to empower more personalised conversations at scale. To understand more about AI chatbots, check out this article: A Guide to Understanding AI Chatbots. 

Voice Assistants

Voice assistance uses AI and NLP to recognise voice commands and provide responses through voice recognition technology. They operate similarly to chatbots but communicate with users through audio. The core technologies upon with voice assistants function are Automated Voice recognition, Natural language Understanding, Business Logic, and Context.

Design Principles for Conversational UI

Conversational UI doesn’t just follow the rules of machine communication but the rules of human communication, which is why your conversational UI design needs to be more elaborate. Your design should resonate with the users and be built in a manner that enables a socialised conversation. Some of the top things to keep in mind are:

Remember, Empathy is the Key

The main idea of a conversational user interface is to establish a simple communication flow between customers and business. However, it isn’t just the technology that makes conversational UI what it is but also its conversational flow design that ensures emotional intelligence. Without the familiarity of speaking to a human, conversational UI is as good as text-based interfaces. Chatbots and voice assistants actually allow you to incorporate many underlying themes of human interaction, such as compassion, humour, sarcasm, and friendliness. 

Go Ahead and Give Your Conversational UI a Personality

You can use conversational UI to give your brand a personality that best represents your brand image. Think about it, how would your brand be perceived if it was a human? Define all parameters and leverage conversational user Interface to build a platform that encourages customers to speak comfortably with the brand.  

Identify the Bot Purpose

Determine the purpose of your bot and stick to that purpose. This will help you define the type of conversational UI you should adopt, the kind of bot you should incorporate, and the type of conversational flow you should design. Furthermore, be precise. The trick is also not to provide too much information and too little information. Keep your questions interconnected to best understand the customer and further give the correct answer. 

Identify Bot Boundaries

The goal of Conversational User Interface is to address customer needs and enhance customer engagement through conversations. It’s isn’t to make bots do something humans cannot do. Every bot has its limitations, be it technical limitations or its lack of ability to replicate human interactions. You need to realise that a bot can only do so much. In such cases, it is ideal transferring the chat to a live agent instead. It doesn’t necessarily mean your bot failed; it simply means that a bot has boundaries that the customers don’t want to cross. To conclude, have a live chat solution to exemplify the conversational UI experience for your customers. 

Capacity to Handle Errors

How many times have you interacted with a bot like Siri and received an answer like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that”? How much patience do you think your customers have until they completely lose it if the interface cannot respond correctly? Preparing for the worst experience can actually lead to providing the best experience. Although you ensure and double-check all factors to build an excellent conversational UI experience for customers, you still may not be entirely successful. Keep a window on how to deal with errors. Nobody wants to be in that situation, but it is inevitable. Understand the limitations of conversational UI and accordingly design it for any possible misunderstanding in every step. 

Conversational UI in practice

Companies are already using conversational UI to scale their customer conversations. However, a majority of them use chatbots due to their zero code setup. Listed below are some of the top companies making the best use of conversational UI. 

Conversational UI in Healthcare: Zydus Hospitals

Zydus Hospitals automated their lead generation from the website and provided a platform where visitors can check symptoms, schedule doctor appointments, and put up admission requests. This helped reduce the call volume that Zydus received on their customer support centre, leading to reduced operational costs for the company.

Conversational UI in Real Estate Industry- Zaveri Realty

As far as industries go, real estate is the top industry profiting the most from conversational user interfaces like chatbots. It is because bots can significantly reduce the task of lead qualification and appointment scheduling. This gives teams to focus on the latter part of the buyer’s journey which requires more effort in real estate. For example, Zaveri Realty- a real estate group, deployed a lead generation bot on their website that guided visitors through their projects and provided detailed information about their properties.

Conversational UI in Manufacturing Industry: Ozone Wallcam

As a leading manufacturer of security products, Ozone Wallcam addressed three key operational areas in their manufacturing process: product inquiry, customer service, and distributor information. With the chatbot interface, the company pipelined its sales inquiries and scaled its customer support. 

Why does Conversational UI matter?

While effective communication has long been a part of a successful business strategy, it wasn’t until conversational UI that businesses started leveraging automated conversations through two-way written and spoken communication. It allows a lot of flexibility and accessibility to them to reach out to brands in their time of need. Some of the top reasons that businesses should consider adopting conversational user interface are:

It’s simply convenient

Conversational UI covers a larger spectrum of communication technology and provides more options to users to communicate with the brand. At first, we thought emails were convenient, but they didn’t offer real-time support. We then had a live chat, but they have time limitations. Conversational UI interfaces allow the users to connect with the brand in the mode of communication they prefer and at the time they prefer. 

It improves Customer Engagement

Conversational UI has opened up new avenues for customer engagement. Just imagine, it got customers to talk- something brands have been trying for years. It’s always easier to send a quick text or a voice note, and customers know they’ll get fast responses and are motivated to converse further. It helps brands make a connection with their customers and also enhance their image. 

It helps you provide better customer service

Yes, it does. Consider the core components of good customer service- clarity, time, and speed. Conversational UI like chatbots addresses all these elements while being cost-effective as well. You can deploy bots on multiple platforms, provide a 24/7 service, provide quick responses, and most importantly, provide the correct responses after accurately understanding the customer query. Conversational UI also covers an extensive range of customer service issues. So you can be assured that even if the customer is simply wanting answers to FAQs or wanting to know the status of their purchase- your bot can handle it all. 

It encourages personalised conversations

Despite talking to multiple users at once, conversational UI still can personalise every conversation. It also allows businesses to embed their personality into conversational UI, encouraging customers to forge an emotional connection with the brand. Highly advanced bots can target a range of human conversational elements like compassion, humour, and empathy.  A conversation UI platform blending all these elements can ultimately lead to a wholesome customer experience. 

To conclude…

Although their hype is real, conversational UI still has a long way to go. They still have limited adoption because AI and voice bots involve a deeper understanding and complex setup. Furthermore, conversational UI platforms that involve AI also learn with time. Therefore, they may not bring immediate results and require patience from businesses’ end to reap their benefits. However, considering the pace at which conversational User Interfaces are getting embraced, it suffices to say that they will be ruling the realm of virtual conversations in the near future. This makes it the perfect time to start with conversational UI and leverage it to their best capabilities. 

Where does WotNot fit?

WotNot is the perfect place for you to get acquainted with conversational UI. With WotNot’s no-code bot-building platform, you can build rule-based and AI chatbots independently. In addition, WotNot has partnered with leading NLP engines in the market- Dialogflow and IBM Watson. Using their advanced NLP technology coupled with WotNot’s DIY framework, you can quickly build and deploy AI bots on multiple platforms.

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