conversational user interface

A conversational user interface is the ability of artificial intelligence-supported chatbots to have verbal and written interactions with human users.

Although the technology's capabilities are fairly limited when compared with the human capacity to communicate, a conversational user interface enables companies to nonetheless perform customer service duties around the clock. A chatbot's near-human responses allow it to handle basic- and somewhat intermediate-level customer queries in communication channels.

Types of users include financial institutions, retailers, travel agencies and even pizza delivery services who use varying levels of a conversational user interface to engage customers, answer questions, or direct customers to another technology portal and/or connect them to a human representative. Companies can reduce the staffing costs of human customer service agents by using chatbots as a first line of customer contact or relying on them during overnight hours and weekends.

Two types of chatbots using a conversation user interface:

  1. Chatbots that follow programmed scripts have limited conversational scope because they follow only predetermined paths. Humans thus have great sway on which direction the conversation turns because they choose from a script of programmed options.
  2. Chatbots with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) backing can "comprehend" free-form human input via voice or text. These types of chatbots perform more ably than those that follow scripts but they also have limited capabilities. They still cannot "understand" context or ambiguity in conversation.

A conversational user interface holds great promise for companies and organizations aiming to strengthen customer engagement efforts. On a basic level, it strives to shorten wait times for customers and give them the sense their questions and concerns are on a fast track to resolution. On a deeper level, conversational user interfaces attempt to deepen customer engagement by impressing consumers with seemingly advanced functions such as reminding them their checking balance is approaching zero.

This was last updated in December 2017

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