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QA Must Evolve with the advance of CX Conversational Platforms

Written by Jim Chickadel, QA Practice Director, DecisivEdge™

Digital transformation affects businesses in many ways, but customer experience (CX) may be the area that stands to benefit the most. The concept of a “customer journey” is relatively new and is in contrast to customer support models that focus on encounters as individual transactions. However, the “customer journey” experience seeks to influence a customer’s full lifecycle.

One notable area where customer experience and digital transformation intersect is in the use of conversational platforms. The manner in which we interact with software and web applications will change with conversational platforms.  Just as people have used keyboard interfaces with apps and browsers, artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) will soon be ubiquitous and play a major role in how we interact with applications.

Conversational applications

Conversational platforms have already begun to creep into everyday life for many people.  IVRs (integrated voice response), Chatbots, SMS text, and more recently, the explosion of voice activated digital assistants are all examples of conversational platforms.  For example, Amazon’s digital assistant – Alexa, allows users to obtain information, control appliances, search for media and interact with businesses, just by speaking to an internet-connected device.  Alexa technology is based on Amazon’s AWS platform and its collection of AI web services, but it is only one player among many in the conversational space.

AI and NLP technology work with chatbots and machine learning-enabled programs that reside in platforms, such as Slack. In Slack, an enabled chatbot, called a slackbot, can provide value-added information and services. For example, a slackbot can be set up in a Slack channel for collecting team lunch orders.

In our fast-paced and tech-savvy world, users expect responsiveness in their applications, and if a website or mobile app takes too long to load, it will be left behind for another site or product. Similarly, if a conversational app fails to appropriately act on a request, it will be simply abandoned.  

But as conversational technologies are rapidly evolving, one question is commonly overlooked…

How will businesses test their conversational apps?

The majority of our current solutions for testing are geared toward web based or client server based UI applications.  Additionally, we have also shaped our approach to testing on the tried and true tenet of “expected results… should equal actual results”.  

There will always be a place for testing this way, but it doesn’t fully account for conversational technologies which could result in a near infinite array of queries and results.  So testing the way we have been doing over the last few decades will not work for the new wave of conversational apps that are likely to proliferate in the next 10 years.

A larger focus will need to be placed on the testing of APIs and web services and less emphasis on the UI aspects of applications.  Additionally, even though we can control our test input data, AI results will tend to be less predictable, therefore we will need to devise tests that have acceptable or reasonable “result boundaries”.   

We’ll also need to rely on (and likely increase) our use of exploratory testing.  Exploratory tests are unscripted cases that allow for the freedom of the tester to learn the behavior of an application, determine how it performs, and whether it’s results are acceptable.  From an automation perspective, testing software vendors will need to take advantage of AI and machine learning for the very purpose of systematically developing automated exploratory tests or “smart tests”.  If so, they will be well positioned in the coming “conversational age”.

What is our solution to this testing challenge?

Cyara, an automated software testing vendor, provides a functional testing, monitoring and performance testing solution for CX and conversational applications. Cyara’s unique spin on testing is to adopt an active customer perspective. As conversational technologies continue to advance, DecisivEdge believes that they offer the industry’s most sophisticated solution.  So much so, that we became a partner with them in 2018 in an effort to ensure we are positioned appropriately and strategically for handling conversational platforms and to provide superior CX testing services for our customers.  

About The Author:

Jim Chickadel has over 25 years of leadership experience in the areas of Quality Assurance, Project Management and Software Development.

Jim’s previous leadership positions include SVP and Sr. Director of Systems Development for several prestigious fortune 100 financial institutions such as JPMorgan, Chase Manhattan Bank, MBNA America and Bank of America. He is currently a Senior Vice President leading the Quality Assurance Practice for DecisivEdge.

Jim holds a Master’s in Accounting and a BS in Business Administration/Finance from the University of Delaware.