A few months ago, I shared some thoughts inOS or Android device, not everything is changing, but the pace of change is fast and we all need to keep up, no?
A conversation is the most straightforward, easy to describe, form of communication. Very few people, if anyone, will raise an eyebrow and say ‘conversation, I am not sure what you mean’. This is an important distinction when compared with an interaction, a relationship or engagement, terms we use and overuse. In the world of technology more often than not we make what should be straightforward regards to my views on engagement, specifically conversations. Since I come from a technical background, consider this an ‘update’ to the post. Like an update to an app on your i
concepts and bend them, morph them, break them, turning simple concepts into nearly unrecognizable shadows of their former selves. Like developers and scientists, business people need to break concepts down into small, atomic components; objects, that can be worked with, understood, isolated and used to build more complex systems. Conversations are the foundation, the object to be used.
Update: Conversations need to be easy, comfortable and feel familiar – this is why messaging is set to dominate the mode in which conversations take place.
While the concept of a conversation is simple and straightforward, there is no universally accepted definition. However, there are two loosely held axioms; a conversation is verbal and it is between two people. As a technologist and someone who is preparing for the future, I am going to stray from these axioms; a conversation does not need to be between two people, nor does it need to be verbal. My working definition is as follows: A conversation is a synchronous exchange of messages, verbal or written, between two entities, intended to achieve or drive towards an outcome. The formality is important so that discussions regarding personal or business communication have this common baseline. Using conversations as the core object, we can extend it; designing and developing systems of engagement, enhance customer journeys and build powerful service and self-service platforms.
Update: Synchronous may be too much of a burden for the modern definition. Continuous is more fitting. Where message based conversations might be synchronous, they may break for periods of time (think commute, air travel, mealtime). Conversational messaging will take place across platforms and will be time flexible.
Historically, conversations were simple, no technology required, just air; two people sitting at a table ‘having a conversation’. Fast-forward to 2018, conversations are complex, two machine based (artificially intelligent or not) bots, ‘having a conversation’, negotiating a contract on behalf of their human counterparts. Yes, this is possible. Increasingly, conversations will include non-human actors; a human on one side, a system (or systems) on the other side. Conversations that involve a person on one side and a system on the other that is my focus, that is going to be my main area of research and analysis for at least 2018 and likely beyond. What an enterprise requires to be ready, that is my purview, my charter. From Alexa and Google in the homes, to Chatbots and Intelligent Assistants, organizations are going to need to be prepared, smart and prepared to scale.
Update: With customers on the one side and brands on the other, each will require the capability to hand off a human-to-human interaction to a system based actor (Bot). At first, this will be on the brand side, but in the future, customers will require this capability as well (think commerce transaction, schedule, etc.,..) This intra-conversation transition will take time and design.
This discussion is about Conversational Intelligence. In the business world conversations between company and customer are sometimes simple but more often complex. The complexity involves many different elements; context, timing, information, permission, and even legal issues (HIPAA, GDPR). There is so much to know about each conversation, each customer, employee, prospect, each service request. Stated most simply, this is the intelligence that you (as a business) need to know about the person on the other side of the conversation. This Intelligence must be woven into the fabric of your organization, become part of your DNA. This is more than analytics or personalization, this is about understanding customer needs, understanding what jobs customers are trying to get done and driving positive outcomes. There are right times to have a conversation and there are wrong times to have a conversation. There are right and wrong conversations to have! Conversations are inputs into customer engagement, customer journeys and each customer interaction.
“A customer is any individual who wants something, anything, to get done (e.g. an employee is a type customer, a customer of HR). There are many types of customers and using a conversation as an object allows this discussion to be both horizontally broad and vertically deep. Abstracting a conversation allows for discussion of sales, service, marketing, employment, collaboration, assistance, and guidance.” Mitch Lieberman
Where a discussion about conversations differs from other communication types such as interactions, engagement or experiences, is that a conversation is foundational to customer-company communications. When taking the customer point of view, there should not be an intent to have a ‘next conversation’. If the customer journey is a set of epics, with marketing, sales and service representing their own unique segment of the journey, a conversation is a story about one point in time within one part of that journey. Conversational Commerce will transform how your customers communicate and do business with you. Conversational Intelligence will transform their experience, by adding context to their journey and enhance their experiences.