DIY vs Vendor

Implementing an Intelligent Virtual Assistant: Understanding “DIY” vs. Vendor Approach

February 6, 2019

There’s no question that companies who implement a conversational AI solution for their customer care strategy are making the right choice. Per a recent PwC survey of 1,000 business executives who’ve already invested in AI, 46% expect AI to create better customer experiences while 38% expect it to offer significant operational cost savings. Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) have proven to transform customer care while reducing operational costs for companies in a variety of industries.

When it comes to implementing a conversation AI solution to fuel the customer care strategy, companies are challenged with the ‘buy, build or partner’ problem. The ‘why’ is almost always clear, but the ‘how?’ not so much. Companies need to ask themselves a variety of questions before choosing an implementation strategy, including: do we have the right AI-talent in house? If not, can we hire the right people? Do we have an AI strategy? How does a conversational AI solution fit into that? Is it related to our core competency?

While there are many DIY options to implement basic chatbots or virtual assistants, there are also full service vendors who offer an end-to-end solution with proper support before, during, and well after implementation. So, what are the pros and cons? And, perhaps more importantly, what makes the most sense for your company? Here, we’ll discuss the advantages of going with an expert and the disadvantages of trying to implement an AI-powered customer care solution on your own.

DIY may be fun for arts and crafts but not when it comes to an IVA
With a variety of tools available, implementation may seem like an easy process, but the truth is far less simple. Just the technical expertise of application development and API integrations are not enough to satisfy the requirements of setting up an IVA. Scientific expertise in Automated Speech Recognition, Natural Language Processing and machine learning is necessary to maintain the intelligence of a solution. Technologists and scientists with extensive experience in building speech recognition models, language and intent models and machine learning algorithms are an integral part of a successful implementation. In fact, to use any tool available successfully, an application needs to be built that’s tied to your company’s complex business rules. This level of customization requires a team of speech, NLP and IT specialists—all of which are in high demand.

Leave it to the experts
Working with a vendor has a distinct advantage that goes beyond the obvious lifting of the burden from your own in-house team. A vendor is able to offer much more support during the design of the AI application, as well as during implementation. Most are also ready to offer continuing support after the fact, ensuring that your team always has assistance available and your technology is always up to date.

As an added benefit, vendors can build custom AI models that incorporate your brand’s voice and jargon, ensuring that conversations flow more naturally. For example, while “file” is a noun, referring to something that holds important documents, a tax company may use it differently. When the term “file” is used there, it’s a verb used to describe the process of submitting forms and more. Vendors are able to customize an AI application that can understand that “file” is used as a verb by your customers.

This expertise in applied AI, the vendor’s vast access to anonymized data for continuous tuning and quick start up and a deep knowledge of user experience design all play a huge advantage in the choice between a vendor and trying to do it yourself. Moreover, the time to launch will likely be diminished, and the launch itself and subsequent interfacing with customers and live agents may run more smoothly—thus adding to the cost effectiveness of the solution.

So which one should you choose?
When it comes to AI, going at it alone may not yield the best results overall. Your company is an expert in your industry for a reason. The same is true for a vendor that specializes in implementing conversational AI solutions for customer care. This ensures that you’re employing experts to seamlessly integrate live agents with AI to make the most of your time and cost.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customers will manage their relationships with enterprises without engaging a human. In 2019, we will see more companies adopting conversational AI solutions and ditching the do-it-yourself method.

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