The Future of AI-Powered Live Chat
The recent explosion in AI technology has led many contractors to wonder how artificial intelligence like OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4, Google’s Bard, and Bing’s AI will affect their business. Most of the coverage is heavily focused on these large language model (LLM) chatbots’ writing applications and ability to generate content—which is pretty impressive. But their potential uses go a lot further than that.
During a recent webinar, we explored the role that these AI tools might play throughout the different stages of the customer journey, imaging how the “live chat” feature on a contractor’s website might evolve with the help of more advanced AI. Here’s a look at what live chat is like today and what it could become in the not-so-distant future.
How Contractors Are Utilizing Live Chat Today
A live chat widget is a pop-up box embedded on a website that can either direct to a very basic chatbot or a real person in an office. The more sophisticated chat products have for years had some “light” AI built into them, but it has largely been on staff to write questions and prompt automated responses . Most contractors choose to have the chat routed to someone in an office during business hours and supplement a bot on nights, weekends, and holidays. However, the bots that most contractors are using (if any) are more akin to a virtual answering machine than a real person, and are generally loaded with canned responses that link to a contact page with a blanket “we’ll get back to you” statement.
Some contractors have elected to outsource the first touch to third parties, with mixed success, we hear. But regardless of the sophistication of the chatbot, an inevitability in the world of high performance contractors and building science is that the conversation very quickly escalates to technical questions that typically require a trained person.
The Future of Live Chat in the Building Science Industry
Could the advanced AI we see being used in ChatGPT be integrated into the “live chat” tools on your website? Could the intelligence being shown by AI chat tools replace the need for technical people to be available? As we’ve seen with our interactions with ChatGPT, AI can already speak fairly convincingly about building science, and it’s likely to soon be able to deal with more high-level and complicated issues.
We believe that future AI-powered “live chat” tools will not only enhance how a customer interacts with your business and website, but will also free up your human workforce for other tasks. From data entry to troubleshooting, here’s what we think AI-powered “live chat” for the average contractor’s website might look like:
Advanced Data Collection
Soon, chatbots will be able to help with collecting more detailed information from your customers to allow you to have a better understanding of their problems. In addition to taking their basic contact information, chatbots will gather information like:
Type of home or business (single-family, Cape Cod house built in 1875, office building, etc.)
Details of their issue (uneven temperatures, mold in the attic, HVAC repair, etc.)
Availability & scheduling for appointments or phone calls
Identify Customer Problems
One of the best features of an AI chatbot is that you will be able to train them. Once a chatbot is familiar with your business, it can talk with your customers directly and address their needs. Future chatbots may even empower customers to troubleshoot and solve simple problems themselves—like checking the thermostat if their AC isn’t working.
AI Makes Chatbots More Human
One thing we can expect to see from chatbots in the near future is more human-like conversation. With growth in sentiment analysis and natural language processing, chatbots will be able to reflect your business and values with ease.
Many customers, especially those with accessibility issues, prefer to talk with someone over the phone or online and AI-enabled chatbots will likely be able to guide them through their problems in real time with a voice of their own.
But What About Hallucinations?
Trusting AI generated responses to accurately represent your company, and provide accurate information, is obviously critical. We’ve all seen and heard about “hallucinations” where the AI, trained on content in the world that may or may not be accurate, gets things flat wrong. But witnessing the improvement from GPT3 to GPT4, we’re of the mind that these tools are improving at an exponential pace. We think they’ll get there.
Energy Circle’s AI Task Force
At Energy Circle, we think AI has an integral role to play in the building science industry and will become increasingly relevant to contractors as it continues to progress. We're thinking a lot about the different applications for this technology and how it might be used—so much so that we've created an AI task force. Stay tuned as we report more in the future on our progress!