NLP: Revolutionising how businesses interact with customers

NLP: Revolutionising how businesses interact with customers

Natural Language Processing technology is gradually finding its way into enterprise applications for greater productivity and RoI.

A year ago, HDFC Bank, one of India’s leading private sector banks developed an application called HDFC Bank OnChat. It is an AI-based conversational application hosted on Facebook Messenger that interacts with customers without them having to download an app on their mobile. This application uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand customer requirements based on text inputs given by customers on Facebook Messenger.

Making computers intelligent enough to imitate humans is an effort that has been on for decades now. NLP is one technology that is going to get us closer to getting algorithms for the many tasks that only human beings are capable of today. From speech recognition to speech synthesis, NLP has evolved over the years. In its nascent stages, NLP was mostly powered by statistical techniques. Today, deep learning techniques have taken centre stage, making way for numerous innovations.

Now, the technology is making inroads into enterprises, changing the way they communicate with their customers and other key stakeholders. The number of enterprises experimenting with NLP-based solutions for greater productivity, RoI, and cost optimisation has increased.

Innovative uses of NLP
A very common NLP application is Named Entity Recognition (NER). This involves separating various entities based on what they are. For example, Hollywood Boulevard is a street and the Taj Mahal is a monument and they need to be categorised accordingly. There are techniques like semantic parsing, where question-answering systems answer various types of questions. Then there is the paraphrase detecting technique, which distinguishes the meaning of two different sentences. With techniques such as these and the new capabilities that NLP is acquiring, machines can pretty much think the way humans do and interact with human beings in a meaningful manner.

Consequently you already have email service providers intelligently detecting and separating spam, and using predictive text services to help draft emails. Content generation is another area that NLP will revolutionise moving forward as ‘thinking’ algorithms can generate, edit and provide intelligent headlines and blurbs that will be SEO friendly.

How will NLP transform enterprises?
NLP will revolutionise mundane tasks like recording personal details and related information. NLP-based applications will provide an interface where intelligent algorithms will communicate through voice and capture relevant information. Enterprises will increasingly deploying conversational assistants powered by AI, who will perform the role of humans handling customer-facing tasks. With more advances NLP will power a whole range of systems that can extract analytical insights and share them with sales, operations, HR and other personnel needing decision support capabilities. NLP applications can be deployed by organisations to drive down costs while significantly enhancing productivity. They can also help organisations optimise processes while achieving a greater degree of automation across the enterprise.

What to expect, moving forward
Accessing information with ease and accomplishing numerous talks without drudgery or costs are the reasons enterprises will deploy NLP in numerous ways. Deploying NLP requires skills and vision. The skills are scarce and IT budgets are limited. But then, this is a technology that will help overcome business challenges and drive down costs. The RoI will be worth it if enterprises can effectively deploy it to solve business challenges.