Navigating COVID-19 With Conversational AI At the forefront of creating deep and engaging conversations via rich-media interactions, Conversational AI has proven itself to be of immense value in the current crisis with vast potential as a new powerful form of two-way communication

By Kartik Walia

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Since COVID-19 has become a global issue of large scale, it needs an effective solution on an equal scale to build awareness, bust myths, and educate everyone. The solution needs to be customized to cater to the audience being spoken to in different parts of the country, and even the world. The Government & Health Organizations have to play the big responsibility of keeping the public informed and drive education of preventive measures, a guide on the next steps to tackle infection, and enforce lockdown rules on a large scale as it is the need of the hour.

The sudden and fast-spreading crisis has put all organizations and their communication measures to test. It has encouraged Govts and agencies to think beyond traditional media (radio, TV, print) and basic one-way information disseminating websites and to fully leverage cutting-edge technology that will reach and engage audiences from metros to rural cities using smartphones and the internet. And one such technology that has enabled authorities to build awareness and enhance their responsiveness to this mega-crisis is conversational AI.

At the forefront of creating deep and engaging conversations via rich-media interactions, Conversational AI has proven itself to be of immense value in the current crisis with vast potential as a new powerful form of two-way communication. It enables brands to overcome the difficulties and limitations that they face while communicating digitally with their customers and always be accessible and consistent across multi-platforms.

The Need

Information about coronavirus has been spreading faster than the virus itself. This has also led to a lot of misinformation, which further gave rise to concerns, questions, and requests for more information. It made its way to the top of search terms and trending topics on social media and has created a low-level hum of paranoia everywhere. Nefarious parties on social media add fuel to the fire with the escalated spreading of misinformation. There was a need to put an end to misconceptions regarding the outbreak and its risks, symptoms, and statistics and disseminate real-time, up-to-date information on the ways to tackle it. It is very clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has strangely changed our work & life culture globally.

Traditional forms of communication or mass-broadcasting were not as effective as the reach was still restricted with publications slowing down or even closing during the lockdown, call centers employees being restricted to their homes for safety purposes and also, the speed of disseminating relevant information as the news and updates kept changing quickly and what was being shared became stale very quickly. Even text-based notifications executed by certain local authorities were not effectively reaching their target audience, leaving a large part of the population living amidst outdated or erroneous information. Apart from this, many companies faced problems while communicating with their customers amidst the lockdown restrictions.

The Solution - Conversational AI rises to combat the crisis

The importance and effectiveness of Conversational AI have always been spoken about in the ecosystem. In fact, even before the pandemic, a Gartner report stated in July 2019 that "By 2025, customer service organizations that embed AI in their multichannel customer engagement platform will elevate operational efficiency by 25%." Conversational AI platforms have also helped authorities in disseminating information and solving crises across borders in real-time, enabling the pro-active distribution of real-time information, receiving feedback, evaluating needs, and anticipating outbreaks. These platforms are not restricted to linguistic barriers and support healthcare authorities and Government in engaging in meaningful conversations and offering emergency services in times of the pandemic.

The best use of technology is when it can help enhance a human's productivity and efficiency. In these unprecedented times, Conversational AI has also enabled call centers to deploy minimum human agents to maintain social distancing norms while functioning itself at the forefront of this battle. To fight back COVID-19, the Indian Government deployed a conversational AI-based virtual assistant through MyGov, the world's largest government-to-citizen digital infrastructure, with more than half a billion users. This unique engagement solution is discoverable on the main MyGov website ( via webchat, on Google Search and Maps & Facebook platforms across; Facebook Feed, Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp. Not only were these services accessed by millions of users across India, but they were also accessed by people around the world that were monitoring the rapidly changing pandemic.

Moreover, brands are also leveraging Conversational AI to redefine the way they communicate with consumers as their focus moves further into digital with always-on, real-time, and interactive experiences. These changes spurred on by the pandemic will become part of the new normal for digital communication. This shift is happening across the customer journey, from driving user acquisition to sharing updates about their orders, products, and promotions, conversational AI superpowers are enabling natural language-driven, self-service engagement.

Conversational AI has been a powerful tool to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It has proven it's utility at scale, working to address the concerns of millions of citizens around the world, all while personalizing the experience along the way, keeping them informed, at ease, and more importantly, safe. It has brought about a digital revolution in healthcare services and citizen to government engagement. There is a lot of opportunity for Government and healthcare authorities to tap into the power of conversational AI to vastly improve the dissemination of important information and to engage constituents in interactive experiences that will enrich and empower citizens around the world.

Kartik Walia

Head of Operations India --

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