How to use NLP for empathetic customer service messaging

Natural language processing (NLP) is coming to SMS, RCS and MMS messaging inboxes – making interactions more efficient and empathetic

AI-powered mobile messaging blog series: post 1 of 3

OpenMarket – July 19, 2019

Conversation has driven sales since the dawn of trade – from the market stall owner recommending his wares, to a retail brand answering customer requests about stock availability on Twitter.

Today, many of these conversations are automated – with wildly varying levels of effectiveness.

We’ve all experienced substandard and ultimately frustrating interactions with voicebots powered by NLP (a form of AI).

And we know from our experiences with Siri, Alexa, Google Now and the rest of the voicebot gang that they’re not quite there yet. There’s something infuriating about having a disconnected conversation with a voicebot.

NLP-powered customer service

But imagine an NLP-powered conversation with a company via your mobile messaging app that goes like this:

Customer: My car’s broken down and I’m stuck on the side of a motorway

Business: Can you describe what is wrong with the car?

Customer: The engine won’t start

Business: Where are you?

Customer: Stuck on the side of the M25 near Chelmsford.

Business: Are you in your 2015 Ford Fiesta?

Customer: No I’m in my wife’s car

Business: What sort of vehicle is it?

Customer: It’s a Peugeot 205. It’s a 2014 model.

Business: Thank you. One of our roadside emergency team is in the area. He will call you in the next five minutes.

This conversation might seem beyond the realms of feasibility and practicality for a business to set up. But it isn’t. The AI is connected with backend systems via APIs and can extract information such as who you are and what car you drive. Companies can then train the AI to recognize certain phrases and likely audience intentions.

A new beginning

The good news is we’re all about to find out how this new communication technology changes the business-to-customer communication dynamic.

OpenMarket is building an AI into its business-to-consumer messaging offering. The service will give businesses the smarts to answer customers’ questions, engage them in conversation, and help them do what they want to do.

We explain in more detail how machine learning and natural language processing can power conversations in our new ebook: A strategic guide to AI-powered mobile messaging.

Intelligent SMS, RCS and MMS

The great thing about mobile messaging is we’re all comfortable with the channel and interface. Research shows most of us read just about every message we’re sent (unlike emails). And we’re happy regularly dipping in and out of our messaging inboxes or chat applications.

It’s one of the reasons business-to-consumer messaging has proved so effective.

We’re also forgiving of messaging as a medium of communication. We’re more than used to conversations going wrong as we message back and forth in chat apps:

Jane: How’s it going?

Peter: Fine

Jane: Are you at home yet???

Jane: Have you told your mum????

Peter: Yes and no

Jane: And your dad?

Jane: Yes your mum’s around or yes you’re at home??

Peter: Yes

Peter: Yes to my dad I mean…

Peter: I’m at home and my mum isn’t around so I haven’t told her

Jane: Thanks for explaining – lolz.

Peter: 🙂

This acceptance of messaging errors, together with the right-time, right-place convenience of using mobile messaging, could make it the perfect platform for AI-powered customer service.

Augmenting humans

AI-powered conversational commerce will ensure automated interactions between brands and consumers become a bit more natural and “human”. But the killer benefit is the efficiency introduced to the interaction.

Used wisely, AI-powered mobile messaging can reduce the number of steps and the time it takes for a business to help a customer. It removes friction, creates flow, and enables businesses to interact more empathetically than ever before.

This post is number one in our NLP texting series. Check out the other two:

Post 2 – SMS and AI: Goodbye to the ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you’ era
Post 3 – How AI-powered SMS and RCS messaging works

For a deep dive into how to plug NLP into your SMS, MMS and RCS messaging read: A strategic guide to AI-powered mobile messaging.

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