AWS Touts Partners’ Conversational AI Solutions

‘It’s super hard to build a natural conversation that is truly enjoyable in digital channels, so we invest heavily at Deloitte in the conversational AI design,’ says Sherry Comes, managing director of Deloitte Consulting’s applied AI practice and conversational AI leader.


Amazon Web Services is putting the focus on partners’ conversational artificial intelligence (CAI) solutions that could spell the end of organizations’ customers screaming “representative” to an interactive voice response phone system or getting stuck in a dead-end or circular digital chat loop.

AWS is highlighting solutions from consulting partners including Cation Consulting, Deloitte Consulting, Quantiphi and TensorIoT and technology partners including NLX, ServisBOT and XAPP AI that allow organizations to deploy chatbots, virtual assistants and interactive voice response systems that incorporate AWS artificial intelligence and machine learning services. Their solutions employ services including Amazon Kendra, a machine learning-powered search tool that allows users to search unstructured text using natural language; Amazon Lex, a service for building conversational interfaces into applications using voice and text; and Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech service that converts text into lifelike speech.

The new partner initiative comes as the demand for CAI interfaces continues to grow, according to Arte Merritt, who leads AWS partnerships for contact center intelligence and conversational AI. End-customers increasingly prefer to interact with businesses on digital channels, and businesses want to increase user satisfaction, reduce operational costs and streamline business processes, Merritt said in a blog post.

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CAI solutions go beyond customer service to use cases across industries, including triaging medical symptoms, booking an appointment, transferring money or signing up for a new account, Merritt said.

“Building a high-quality, highly effective CAI interface can be challenging for some, given the free-form nature of communications — users can say or write whatever they like in many different ways,” Merritt said. “Implementing a CAI solution involves selecting use cases, defining intents and sample utterances, designing conversational flows, integrating backend services, and testing, monitoring and measuring in an iterative approach.”

Deloitte’s CAI Work

Deloitte has been working with AWS on “huge” CAI engagements in the background for years and is onto second-generation implementations with Fortune 10 clients, according to Sherry Comes, managing director of Deloitte’s applied AI practice and conversational AI leader.

“Our largest implementation has been in the area of billing enquiries, payments, collections,” Comes told CRN. “So anytime you owe a bill, you want to know how much you owe and you want to make a payment...we use AI (and virtual assistants on AWS) to do payment arrangements, that kind of work. It’s really innovative.”

Deloitte also has a new pharma sales play on AWS.

“Imagine if you are a pharmaceutical (company), and you are calling to say that you have an adverse event from either taking a pill or shot or something that the pharmaceutical company makes,” Comes said. “We handle the front end of that discussion and get that to the right live agent so that it can be handled in a proper manner.”

Deloitte uses “extreme personalization” to try to prevent those scenarios where organizations’ frustrated customers are yelling “representative” into their phones, according to Comes. Research shows, for example, that it typically takes an over-80 caller about four minutes and 15 seconds to pay a bill versus 15 seconds for a 20-year-old, she said.

“Before that conversation, during that conversation and after that conversation, we use extreme digital innovation so they don’t scream ‘representative,’ she said. “If we know you’re over 80, we can slow down, we can use a male voice, which people over 80 like. We can repeat, we can use gentrified language. We can speak in a frequency that is easier for people over 80 to hear, because we know there’s hearing loss — things of that nature to personalize during that conversation. Tonal analysis, speech analysis, sentiment analysis — we can use all this tech to make it a better experience.”

After that conversation, Deloitte will take the data-driven insight to improve customers’ next experiences.

“It’s super hard to build a natural conversation that is truly enjoyable in digital channels, so we invest heavily at Deloitte in the conversational AI design,” Comes said. “Cognitive scientists, linguists, script writers, people who study language and can understand how to have a two-turn conversation that’s natural — the people that are designing our conversations are not technologists. They’re truly conversational specialists. A lot of these companies’ (systems)…where you’re screaming, ‘agent, agent, representative,’ they were designed by technologists. They made the tech work; they didn’t make it a natural conversation.”