Natural Language Understanding: What Is It and How Is It Used In Customer Support?

By Ruth Favela

So, you want to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in the world of customer support? 

You’ve seen the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) in helping customer support teams take their productivity to new heights and you’re wondering, “What’s next?” 

Then you stumble upon it—Natural Language Understanding (NLU). 

And if you’re like the rest of us, you might feel yourself wanting to be confused. But don’t worry, it’s simpler than you think. 

Not only is NLU easier to understand than you’d imagine, but it’s also vital to understand where the world of AI for customer support is headed. 

Today we want to explain just what NLU is, how it’s being used, and how you can benefit from it for your customer support team. 

What Is Natural Language Understanding?

Natural Language Understanding, in simple terms, is reading comprehension for machines. It is a subtopic of Natural Language Processing that uses the incredible computing power of AI to comprehend text or speech as a human would. While NLP is concerned with how computers are programmed to process language and facilitate “natural” back-and-forth communication between computers and humans, NLU is focused on a machine’s ability to understand human language. 

NLU enables computers to understand humans both in writing and speech. It is a large component of computers being able to seamlessly interact with humans. 

How Does NLU Work?

Natural Language Understanding enables machines to understand a set of text by working to understand the language of the text. This understanding depends on certain language rules the same way we do; it is based on syntax, grammar, semantics, vocabulary, and so on. NLU ultimately works to identify the intent of a message coming in as well as the speaker to further parse the meaning of what’s being said. 

In short: NLU uses a series of rules or algorithms to process language. 

What Currently Uses NLU? 

NLU is being used all over the place. In customer service it’s being used in artificially intelligent chatbots and assistants, so that they can triage customer tickets as well as understand customer feedback. Forethought’s own customer support AI uses NLU as part of its comprehension process before categorizing tickets, as well as suggesting answers to customer concerns. 

NLU certainly isn’t limited to customer support however. There are a plethora of voice assistants out there and they’re all using NLU to better understand and assist you. The most prominent of them being Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.

Besides that, NLU can also be seen in almost any of the modern day word processors like Microsoft Word, Google Docs and others, that correct for grammar, spelling, syntax as well as other common mistakes made in written language. 

We could go on, but you get the point, NLU is everywhere.

Making The Most of NLU

Natural Language Understanding is set to be an integral piece to the advancement of AI. We see it in the technology we carry with us everyday as well as in new technology making its way to the public. We should be aware of the dominance AI is having in our world and how we can leverage it to make our lives easier

AI companies will continue to launch us forward and organizations should welcome any advancements that can create productivity, efficiency, cost-savings, and more. 

So, who should be using NLU? Anyone who wants to stay on top of the incoming tidal wave that is AI. 

And if you’re looking to implement an AI tool that can keep you on top of the AI game, then you should consider customer support AI and the positive impact it can have on various organizations. 

If you’re ready to take your support team to the next level by using NLU-driven AI for customer support, consider booking a demo

Still have questions? Browse through our customer case studies to see how AI has changed organizations such as Route and Typeform. 


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