In the past four years, Opus Research has tracked exponential growth in the number of “Intelligent Assistants,” positioned as chatbots, message bots, and automated virtual agents. We’ve chronicled at least 100 success stories at banks, airlines, phone companies, cosmetics purveyors and online merchants. It is now time to address the challenges confronting executives at companies—perhaps the majority of implementations—that are neither successes or failures; just older, wiser and more experienced. Today, we stand at the dawn of the third decade of a new millennium. A self-selecting group of customer care professionals and contact center operators reap benefits from cloud-based technologies. Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) providers led by Amazon, Twilio and Vonage and bolstered by Salesforce, Microsoft and IBM offer unprecedented levels of “openness” and flexibility along with consumption-based pricing.
Each platform provider rounds out its offer with a “marketplace for microservices.” They give enterprise employees, charged with designing chatbots or automated intelligent assistants, the ability to shop around for the AI-infused resources like analytics, enterprise search, natural language processing or dialog management that they need to bring competitive advantage or foster conversational bonds with customers or prospects. As a result, enterprise developers are not locked into any single service provider. They can lean on Amazon Lex, Microsoft LUIS or Google DialogFlow for basic understanding.
Then they are free to use IBM Watson to search and retrieve relevant answers from an “unstructured data” that resides in Word files, PDFs, PowerPoints or databases that are under the control of CRM, ERP, order entry, reservations or any number of automated processes. They can also expand to any other service-compliant system to tap into heretofore unknown power and operational capabilities.
Choice can quickly evolve into too much of a good thing.
With so many combinations and permutations of resources, and so few companies with long-term experience, success strategies are just beginning to emerge. Here are some words to the wise for companies contemplating the do-it-yourself approach to chatbots and intelligent assistants in the age of CPaaS.