Having spent a few decades in the Human Centered Design / Research Consulting / Design Thinking realm, I have become a bit of an advocate for high touch, in-person ethnographic methods to derive insights and build relevant solutions based on those insights.
Never did I anticipate the day it would be possible to replicate the function of a facilitator in Market Research with a chatbot. That day has not yet arrived fully, but advancements in Conversational AI bring us one step closer. Is it perfect? No, but the pros are starting to get very, very interesting.
Since I joined a short time ago, working with my Australian peers at The Evolved Group has felt a bit like being in the future. They are a bunch of Researchers, Data Scientists and Programmers, and they have been pulling the future of Market Research to the present as fast as they can for over 11 years.
Short for Evolved Verbatim Engine, EVE is a Conversational AI chatbot that exists in the digital realm in place of a facilitator. This is no small feat. It has open-ended conversations with people. Lots of people. Whenever they want. EVE can discuss a variety of topics and learns over time to ask better questions. EVE doesn’t need coffee, is very social, and loves talking to lots of people at scale.
We program EVE in several ways to set her up for success. She uses dictionaries and language that makes sense for probing specific topics from employee insights to customer experience and quality of store cleanliness to superannuation benefits. One thing we have observed – when a chatbot is not acting like an idiot (like many customer service bots out there) people actually like talking to robots. At least, they really seem to like talking to EVE.
Once we have unleashed EVE into the world, data starts flowing into our systems.
From data to insights
We’re able to integrate these conversations with other data sets, including operational data, social data or behavior logs.
How do we do it?
- Step 1: Work with our clients to curate these data flows and create rivers of data for analysis.
- Step 2: We then need to make sense of it and distil it into information we can use.
- Step 3: Apply a myriad of analysis methods to surface specific kinds of insights.
- Step 4: Then onto designing the system, tweaking the analytics and crafting the visualizations of what flows onto dashboards once we have data still very much relies on humans to make it make sense.
Once we set it up, it can be revolutionary for businesses to have that kind of real-time feedback. How incredible to have the ability to know what is going on in a marketplace, in employee mindsets, in students or citizenry!
We are getting much better at designing these systems in this regard. Having better knowledge about the world is in its essence what this process provides… but to what end?
Conversational AI as a core business function
My intuition tells me that if what we are really enabling here is “Insights as a Service”, it may be the beginning of a migration of marketing functions to that of a core business function. Maybe this is really a “yes, and” answer, but I’m seeing some early indications of a tectonic shift.
Research is still important as research, but I am seeing the use of this system go much deeper into the core operations of the business than I ever expected. And these systems directly inform actions on a regular basis, which is actually new for a research function. This doesn’t mean that an insights platform is not useful to marketing or for development. It still is. It just means that it’s possible to leverage and integrate these systems within an organization in much larger ways that have implications to such varied departments as HR, demand planning, or operations. In essence, more varied users of insights and research consulting outputs than ever before…
I am excited to think about what amazing things might happen when transparency is more enabled, and insights are automagically shared across a company to make more aligned choices based on the same sets of knowledge. What amazing new value could be unlocked in our world?