5 conversational AI trends and predictions to watch out for in 2022

AI continues to grow in leaps and bounds. See how developments in conversational AI will augment the way you work

Ernest Lee

Marketing and Communications, AI Rudder
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Ever since the young British polymath Alan Turing explored Artificial Intelligence’s mathematical possibility in 1950, we humans have been fascinated with the concept as science and inventions become deeply integrated with our daily lives since the 20th century. In fact, we’ve been interested in man-like machines for far longer than that.

Turing hypothesised in his paper (Computing Machinery and Intelligence) that if humans can use available information and reason to solve problems and make decisions, why not machines? He suggested that a computer program was capable of interacting with humans, and even despite the technological limitations that almost halted his research, he broke through with the first chatbot software — Eliza, created at MIT.

From there, the expansion of funds and algorithmic tools accelerated AI research. Soon, computers and machines cultivated deep learning techniques, allowing them to comprehend and become more intelligent through data. Systems mimicking the human decision-making process were also introduced and by the early 2000s, experts had achieved several of their landmark goals, and AI thrived.

Fast forward to 2022, AI has progressed by leaps and bounds. We can expect more disruptive trends that will transform the way brands and businesses communicate with their customers. What are the present-day advancements, and how will these shape the future of conversational AI? Let’s take a look.

Conversational AI developments paving the way

Today, AI has become an indispensable and formidable tool. Integrated into our day-to-day lives, voice recognition and conversational algorithms are now routine–from online services to e-commerce and digital banking.

Further, cloud computing’s non-stop development and easy integration have enhanced AI use in enterprises across various sectors. These factors are quickly transforming and influencing the world through data collection, analysis, productivity, interactions, and, most of all, efficiency. With that, machines and robots are gaining the ability to speak, think, and act like humans, thus edging out outdated forms of communication.

As Covid persists and forcibly alters the business landscape, remote work has emerged as the new normal. With more people working from home, AI has swiftly moved to the forefront as an in-demand technology with its capacity to scale and support remote work while automating mundane and basic processes to drive operational efficiency and productivity. Organisations are also beginning to leverage AI and machine learning (ML) at scale, taking it into a revolutionary new paradigm to meet rising user expectations.

With the pandemic accelerating digital transformation, we’re now in the age of big data, reinvented mobile apps, and the metaverse. AI is at the frontier of analysing extensive information and establishing quality, personalised interactions within virtual spaces. On the CX front, conversational AI has the potential to dramatically improve efficiency, quality of service, and customer experience. Real-time multilingual translation and voice-command controls for avatar movement in the metaverse are also just the beginning of how AI will be integral in leading the fourth industrial revolution into the virtual world. Moreover, Gartner’s AI and ML Development Strategies Study even forecast 2023 as the year when 80% of consumer apps will become “voice-first”.

But conversational AI’s developments don’t stop there. Here are the leading trends you can expect to influence your business this year.

Trend 1: Custom voice assistants to supercharge customer satisfaction and experiences

The pandemic has upended lives and uncovered several new challenges that demand new ways of operating. Social distancing protocols prolonged customer wait times at brick-and-mortar while offices are being emptied out to cut back on overhead costs.

Despite the ongoing challenges customers expect no less when it comes to brand experience. They expect and demand a consumerised, personalised experience, with services available at the push of a button on any device, including contextual understanding. With that, organisations are faced with demands that outdated CX software like Interactive Voice Responses (IVR) can’t meet. And replacing these with a newer iteration of the same technology amidst the rising costs would only continue to slow down a $30Billion market riddled with inefficiencies.

To keep pace with demands, service more customers, and resolve inadequacies, businesses will realise that they need to adopt sophisticated conversational AI to automate processes and improve efficiencies all while still providing an enriched and satisfying customer experience (CX) and increasing user engagement.

The solution? Expect advanced AI technologies to offer multiple advantages across different sectors, from higher productivity and increased accessibility to more cost savings, superior level of service, and easy scalability.

Trend 2: More intelligent and proactive voice AI assistants

Data and AI are companies’ new currencies. Through these, they compete to supercharge their customer-centricity. Using richer customer data, Voice AI becomes more proactive and reliable.

In 2022, expect conversational AI to rely on its own taxonomy and cognitive learning to provide users with resolutions. It does this by determining the next best interactions, in what contexts, on what channels, and who or what in your organisation should be delivering these resolutions.

Because of the powerful combination of data and AI, we’ll see more organisations further automate CX interactions with voice AI to create consistent digital-first experiences for their customers. Concurrently, ML technologies will also improve business processes through workflow management tools, trend predictions, and analysis that will drive productivity up. Not only will voice AI become more intelligent, users will too.

Trend 3: Global business-process automation adoption

Voice AI will revolutionise the banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) industry and more businesses will embed innovations into their systems. Fintech apps will be conversation-led, voice bots are becoming increasingly hyper-personalised, and virtual assistants are developed to handle routine tasks to help customer service teams focus more on complex enquiries. 

Industries like retail and healthcare will also service customers better through smarter, more emotive and persuasive conversational AI tools. In automotive, AI voice assistants can provide real-time recommendations, alerts, vehicle controls, and more, providing drivers and passengers with a more convenient commute. In food services and restaurants, AI will fill in labour shortages and meet consumer demands for faster services through automated order taking and upselling – powered by natural language understanding. Companies will look to AI-powered automatic speech recognition (ASR) to gain valuable customer and employee insights in real-time, which will allow them to address valuable feedback and optimise performance quickly, leading to overall customer satisfaction and increased revenue.

No more trading accuracy for speed or lower costs. Conversational AI will help organisations retain and expand their customer base cost-effectively, engage in new business models, and compete aggressively.

Trend 4: Operating cost savings as businesses scale with Voice AI

We’ve been seeing an unexpected exponential upsurge in customer call volume due to the pandemic. Hiring, training, and setting up customer support agents will roughly cost you 80% of the overall cost. And how fast can you sustainably scale your workforce to keep up with demands without requiring existing agents to take up more work? Salesforce data shows three in four customer service professionals are finding it increasingly challenging to manage more cases since the pandemic.

The answer lies in Voice AI. Juniper Research expects businesses to save about US$8 billion by 2022 using AI-powered chatbot technology. With Voice AI taking up routine tasks, which can comprise anything between 35% to 60% of total contact centre calls, employees can focus on more important jobs, improving employee performance and satisfaction along the way. Data also shows that 77% of customer service agents say that automating routine tasks frees up their focus on more complex tasks.

Voice AI isn’t an expense but an investment. With it, expect to save on operating costs as you support manpower, minimise infrastructure expansion, and save on utility usage. As contact centres embrace this truth, the year will see more companies scale with Voice AI.

Trend 5: More focus on privacy

AI and ML have reinvented the way societies use devices to learn, work, and function. However, with more people interacting with apps and living online, privacy has become a rising issue where cybercriminals constantly seek opportunities to steal information. These attackers will also leverage AI and ML for their schemes. AI-driven attacks may be better at avoiding detection, mimicking normal system communication and even bypassing authentication. They’ll use voice, video, and image deep fakes to gain unauthorised access.

The hybrid working model also poses considerable risks for company data to fall into the wrong hands. An estimated 47% of employees will work remotely in 2022. Alarmingly, 64% of workers in Singapore have admitted to sharing sensitive company data using online collaboration tools. For businesses, they’ll have to be on top of educating the workforce and find ways to manage endpoint devices better.

Regulatory legislation will have to be one step ahead of criminals. As AI goes into the mainstream, expect governments to regulate policies that protect voice data. Using AI and ML to power security, it’ll be a machine versus machine scenario.

But what does this mean for your business? And do you need to comply with these new regulations? In particular, these regulations will look into data processing and retention, where generic services collate voice data to profile consumers for e-commerce and advertising purposes. Your plans to retain voice data’s value to grow customer relationships and brand loyalty must work around these new rules that regulators will highly enforce.

A profitable and productive future for businesses that leverage Voice AI

In 2022, Voice AI will become more human-like than ever with a robust database of interactions, making customer support in the digital and virtual space more intuitive. As industries continue to scale up, this will also create an upsurge in job vacancies for coders, designers, and data science professionals that will only allow this technology to advance further. (You can also visit our career page to view available openings!)

Conversational AI will continue to constantly evolve into a convenient, transparent, turnkey solution that will grow the quality of information delivered, smooth communication, and seamless experience for those who use it.

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