COVID-19 through a Conversational AI lens

A high level look at how we’re witnessing COVID-19 impact our customers globally across news orgs, governments, travel, sports/esports, events and tech through the lens of a Conversational AI and real-time conversations.


The general theme we are seeing across the board from all organisations irrespective of their industry or business model is how to do more with less. Whether it’s because their business revenue has suffered significantly due to the mass lockdowns, the services they provide are scaling up due to changes in demand or a combination of a few different factors causing a pivot in their core business model.

How to do more, with less.

We have pulled out some of the themes we are seeing and the levers a Conversational AI can give organisations to adapt to the fast paced changes.


Breaking News & Disruption Messaging

The need for timely information is in huge demand as people seek to understand how events will impact them personally. As much as Conversational AI is about pull, people reaching out with enquires. The push mechanism has become a priority for those who are a trusted sources of news and information.

Governments, transport operators and news organisations have stepped up their adoption as they look to keep the public informed. Being able to distribute messaging to tens of thousands of people within moments of breaking news or disruptions.


Customer Service

Service channels have seen volumes of customers reaching out for support increase upwards of 5 times the daily numbers compared to previous periods. In part due to a general need for help in these times, but the increase in text or messaging channels is also being driven by the inability to service phone queues as call centres are closed temporarily as we quarantine.

The importance of asynchronous communications in times like this is becoming vital to be able to allow a customer to reach out with a request and agents respond in due course, some time later without losing continuity in the conversation.

Typically a Conversational AI in a customer service context will be the first responder to a customer. The key here is to find that fine balance between knowing when to respond and help or switch off and let people take over. A conversational AI is best used as a value-multiplier working along side people. This is how an AI is best placed to help handle the load:

  • Triage - Do we understand the request coming in? What rules do we have to best handle the conversation?
  • Prioritise - Based on our understanding, what level of importance and priority do we allocate to this conversation?
  • Automate - Can we provide a level of automation to solve for this if the confidence threshold is high enough?
  • Pre-qualify - If this conversation is best handed by a person, what questions can we ask to make the conversation more efficient before handing over?
  • Delegate - Hand over to a person, enriching the conversation with as much metadata as possible to provide insight and context.

These steps above are processed by the AI in under half a second. Happening in real-time just before actioning the next steps to give the customer in need a near instant response, even if to set an expectation the help may take a little time.

What Conversational Al gives you in a situation like COVID-19 is a series of levers you can pull and adjust to cope with the change in requests and demand. It could be as simple as tweaking the escalation/handover threshold on negative sentiment, training for new entities to be handed to a specialist team or expanding the natural language knowledge base with new frequently asked questions.


A Pivot in Strategy

What COVID-19 has done for everyone is drive a re-think in strategy, approach and in some cases a change to their core business model. Conversational AI gives a level of agility in your real-time customer conversations that allow for concepts and ideas to be tested as well as quick pivots while events continue to change.

We have seen organisations ramp up resources behind asynchronous channels in an effort to provide a similar level of customer experience. While others pivot from in person events to leveraging AI to power second screen experiences running side by side with the now livestream only events.

The question that is sitting with us as we see events continue to unfold on a daily basis, will we see everything eventually return to normal or will the change that has been forced upon us by COVID-19 remain in place to a certain degree?

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