Reginald Tang, Senior Product Manager, AI
Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.
Aside from sounding like a passage from the Tao Te Ching, the above passage—usually attributed to astronomer and systems analyst Clifford Stoll—does a good job of succinctly describing a ladder of value in resolving customer support issues, especially in self-service channels. Customers want actionable responses to their natural language questions, not reams of search results or an endless FAQ page.
Another quote, this one definitely from Clifford Stoll, drives home the above point and lays out the criteria for a truly satisfying customer support experience:
“Information, unlike data, is useful. While there’s a gulf between data and information, there’s a wide ocean between information and knowledge. Knowledge—not information—implies understanding. And beyond knowledge lies what we should be seeking: wisdom.” [Emphasis mine.]
Wisdom is probably a long way off for AI. But what technologies are at hand that can layer understanding onto mere information—and thus provide actionable knowledge on demand?
NLU technology, whether used by a chatbot or an intelligent search box, makes it possible to take a customer's query (the "utterance") and figure out its intended purpose (the "intent").
Customer utterance: "How do I get there?"
System response: "Our address is 114 Main Street." (System displays map and link to directions.)
Such goal-oriented interactions hinge on first figuring out intent. An NLU-equipped system doesn't require customers to explicitly navigate menus or issue specific commands such as “NEED LOCATION.”
By contrast, a keyword-based (non-NLU) system would probably come up empty (since the question lacks unique words or phrases) or, worse, might return thousands of matched results ... results a customer would consider useless noise. Rest assured, if a customer did type "NEED LOCATION" into a chat or search box, NLU would respond with a single, helpful street address.
Because NLU is so valuable compared to static FAQs or standard website searches, the market for NLU-based customer support solutions is very competitive. Herewith some guidance.
Consider systems that supply the following capabilities …
NLU enables your use of another transformative technology: The knowledgebase, or KB.
A KB adds structure and classification to assets—such as articles, support tickets, forums, and documents—for easy search and retrieval. Using NLU to expose this impressive collection of institutional know-how is a game changer for customer support. Why?
The above combination enables virtual agents to supply the appropriate, actionable information customers need to achieve their goals.
Such a system is valuable only to the extent it easily and quickly combines knowledge and understanding and deploys it to the right customer channels. Given how fast information changes in large enterprises, deployment should be measured in days, not months.
Therefore, when shopping for a KB system to power a customer support solution, be sure to look for the following features …
7 Answers, a foundational 7.ai Engagement Cloud product, accelerates how you create and share knowledge to support your customers.