What is the difference between Conversational AI and a chatbot?

Conversational AI applications can be programmed with varying levels of complexity resulting in dramatically different end products, which can be used as personal assistants, to facilitate conversations between customers and businesses, and within businesses to automate operations.

The simplest example of a Conversational AI application is a FAQ bot, or bot, which you may have interacted with before. These are basic answer and response machines, also known as chatbots, where you must type the exact keyword required to receive the appropriate response. In fact, these chatbots are so basic that they may not even be considered Conversational AI at all, as they do not use NLP or dialog management, or machine learning to improve over time.

The next maturity level of Conversational AI applications is Virtual Personal Assistants. Examples of these are Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home. They serve a general-purpose and are linear, and do not carry context from one conversation to the next. These assistants use ASR and NLP but have simple dialog management.

Next, we have Virtual “Customer” Assistants, which are more advanced Conversational AI systems that serve a specific purpose and therefore are more specialized in dialog management. You have probably interacted with a Virtual customer assistant before, as they are becoming increasingly popular as a way to provide customer service conversations at scale. These applications are able to carry context from one interaction to the next which enhances the user experience.

On the same level of maturity as Virtual Customer Assistants, are Virtual Employee Assistants. These applications are purpose-built, specialized, and automate processes, also called Robotic Process Automation. They are used in businesses to streamline enterprise operations. Both Virtual Customer Assistants and Virtual Employee Assistants often use the most advanced Conversational AI technologies and are well integrated into the companies back-office systems to provide a contextual and personal experience to customers and employees.