Conversational AI in 2020: With Cognigy CEO Phil Heltewig


Consumer demand for instant, 24/7 support is at an all-time high. With the current COVID-19 crisis resulting in more customer queries than ever before, combined with advancements in AI and natural learning, more businesses across Australia and around the world are turning to Conversational AI to maintain and improve relationships with customers. 

Cognigy is a leader in the Conversational AI (aka chatbot) space, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to completely streamline customer interactions across multiple channels. This sophisticated, omni-channel integration is one of the many reasons Cognigy is Revium’s chosen Conversational AI partner.

Last month, we (virtually) sat down with the platform’s CEO Phil Heltewig, who took us through some of recent developments in machine learning and how Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing how businesses respond to their customers.  

A Growing Demand for Chatbots 

One of the biggest recent shifts in Conversational AI has been its presence in an ever-growing number of communication channels. Today, individuals carry a variety of channels with them at all times. As Heltewig highlights, “Conversational AI software is now living on many different channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Line Messenger, web chat or telephony”. 

As a result, more businesses are leveraging technology to allow them to meet consumer demand across all these channels enabling them to fulfil requests and answer queries around the clock. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons that the global chatbot market is projected to increase from AU $3.62 billion dollars in 2019 to AU $13.1 billion dollars by 2024 (a CAGR of 29.7% during this period).*

There’s a growing consumer expectation for instant support and large businesses relying solely on ‘traditional’ forms of communication such as customer support centres and email with longer delay times may get left behind. 

The Impacts of Coronavirus 

The urgency around investing in these platforms has grown exponentially in recent months given the current COVID-19 pandemic. Heltewig explains the impacts the crisis continues to have on companies across the globe. 

“Firstly, the number of customer (employees, or citizens) queries has dramatically risen, putting immense pressure on call centres or on contact centres. At the same time large parts of those contact centres are emptied out due to the Coronavirus measures. Still, companies need to stay in close contact with their customers, which presents challenges.”

The solution? To leverage the same channels consumers are using for their daily personal interactions. Heltewig has seen a growing number of businesses tap into existing channels consumers are using every day such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or WeChat.

“Brands that successfully engage with their customers through these channels are the ones that will have a strategic advantage that leads through a crisis like this.”

To view a video demonstration of the power of the Cognigy platform you can check out this video of their Cognigy v4 product launch

Automation is Key

The brands that been able to use these newer channels effectively have recognised the need for a much higher level of automation. As Heltewig points out, “these channels imply a much faster response time than traditional channels like email.”

When implemented correctly, Conversational AI presents an opportunity to not only answer higher volumes of queries than its human counterparts, but also frees up internal support teams so that they can focus on responding to more complex customer needs. 

Businesses heavily impacted by the pandemic have also turned to Conversational AI platforms in order to continue their daily operations. Heltewig explains a recent example of a utility provider that used automation effectively to avoid a potential crisis. 

“The pandemic led to a situation where many end-customers asked for payment extensions on their utilities bills. Wholesale water suppliers supported by the government agreed to more flexible payment schemes, yet under strict conditions. For instance, they had to be able to show which customers got extensions and which ones didn’t. To make matters worse, the company had to furlough a large fraction of their employees, making it very hard – if not impossible – to deliver service under these conditions.”

The utility provider had to find a way to reach their customers on a mass scale while also being able to resolve any concerns that arose as a result. The company achieved this by sending out text messages to their customers informing them about the payment extensions and used conversational AI powered bots to automatically answer questions without any human involvement. 

Natural Language Processing

Another factor contributing to the rise in chatbots has been the major improvements in Natural Language Processing (NLP). These chatbots can have a significant, positive impact on customers as they can mimic human interaction more accurately than in previous years.

“Most importantly, we are seeing major improvements in natural language understanding, meaning the ability of machines to decipher human language and assign meaning to words, which consequently improves customer satisfaction.”

These sophisticated chatbots use Machine Learning (ML) to train their knowledge base to better understand topics, allowing them to become more useful overtime.  

A Competitive Advantage 

The rise in Conversational AI has allowed businesses to respond to customer requests immediately across more touchpoints than ever before. But the businesses paving the way are those that have successfully integrated the various interactions to form a seamless, centralised customer experience. 

There are a small number of Conversational AI platforms that can provide a true omni-channel experience. The best-in-class implementations utilise a single core chatbot that can interact with customers via website chat, Facebook Messenger, Virtual Assistants as well as telephone using text to voice and voice to text technologies.

This allows the conversation between the chatbot and customer to continue seamlessly across different channels. This can also improve customer satisfaction as it avoids a lot of the frustrations that arise when an individual must explain their issue multiple times, essentially ‘starting over’ each time. 

Cognigy.AI is one of the few true omni-channel chatbot platforms that enables businesses to integrate with other third-party systems they use in-house. “Another highly important attribute is that our product features an integration framework that comes with dozens of prebuilt integrations for platforms like Salesforce, ServiceNow, Microsoft and many more.” 

In Summary

Having a well implemented chatbot can significantly improve customer satisfaction and business productivity. Cognigy’s Conversational AI platform has easy-to-use user interfaces so that even businesses without data or IT experts can manage their automations.

“This enables business stakeholders and other SMEs (subject matter experts) help themselves in terms of their automation needs, by being able to train their own conversational AIs without requiring technical expertise. So, our recommendation would be to just get started. Business leaders don't need to fear the technology or think that the technical skills in their companies might not be sufficient.”

Cognigy is a global chatbot platform working with a broad partner network as well as certified developers and designers. Revium was one of Cognigy’s first fully accredited Australian agency partners and we have been working with them since 2017.

To discuss how chatbots could benefit your business, please feel free toreach out to our team today.

*Markets Insider 2019