Gone are the days of waiting on hold for hours on end to reach a customer service rep in a contact centre. Today, AI-powered chatbot technology allows businesses to offset a significant amount of customer support operations, in favour of savvy machine agents. In fact, Gartner predicts that by the end of 2022, 70% of global interactions will be handled by AI, which includes chatbots. So, is this the future of customer experience? Will Gartner’s 70% reach 100% by 2025? Our CEO Tim Mercer explores this further…
While contact centre innovations were once limited to advancements in interactive voice response (IVR) systems – to route callers to the right department – the last few years have seen the phenomenal rise of machine agents. Designed to reduce the amount of human contact time needed to address a caller’s query, the implementation of such technology usually results in enhanced contact centre productivity and a better customer experience.
Initially, basic voice recognition came into play. But in recent years, we’ve seen some really sophisticated examples of Natural Language Processing (NLP) in action, which enables bots to interpret and action voice commands. Natural Language Understanding (NLU) is even emerging now, which sees a machine able to interpret sentiment and meaning.
Historically, only organisations the size of contact centres have been among the few able to justify an investment in such tech. With so many day-to-day transactions and interactions, the resulting efficiencies have paid for the solution many times over.
For example, without this automation, a customer may typically experience a long holding time while an agent finds the correct account and manually looks into an issue – leading to poor satisfaction levels and causing frustration towards the company. But now, if a chatbot knows why the individual is calling, it can go and locate an account instantly, so that when the customer is connected to an agent, they have everything they need for a valid discussion to take place. If the call relates to a contract cancellation, for example, the agent can concentrate on trying to add value and understand any problems, in the hope of preventing the cancellation or at least preventing future recurrences. In this instance, the machine agent isn’t replacing the human, as many critics would suggest. Instead the technology is enhancing the role of a person.
Chatbots are becoming more affordable
It is encouraging to see chatbot automation becoming increasingly entwined in businesses of all shapes and sizes, not least because we’re accustomed to interacting with them as consumers – take Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri for example.
Chatbot suppliers acknowledge this and want to make the tech more accessible, no matter what the budget. Therefore, you can imagine it will evolve to be another Software as a Service (SaaS) sell for vendors. The value – and complexity – of a chatbot deployment (from the supplier’s perspective), will continue to come from understanding the flow of information and specific processes relevant to each individual organisation. But after an initial piece of upfront consultancy work, everything else should be extremely accessible.
Naturally the success of a chatbot project depends on the sophistication of the technology and the people sitting behind it, ready to lend their services when needed. As with all tech, if it doesn’t work properly, it’s going to naturally cause frustration. But if it works, the value quickly becomes clear.
Chatbot use cases
Take fast fashion ecommerce businesses with low margins as an example – these businesses rely heavily on automation. Chatbots have also already infiltrated the insurance sector for the better good, with the retrieval of policy documents. If a human agent knows where a document is stored,, and that environment is secure, why not use automation to redeem it? It’ll give contact centre specialists time to spend on more customer-centric work, particularly as there may be some calls when the human isn’t needed at all.
Look at other industries, such as finance or real estate, that are black and white, heavily process-driven sectors – chatbot automation could be a game changer here too when it comes to the completion of step-by-step paperwork.
Motor retail is another sector, among many, which could hugely benefit from chatbot technology. Businesses have operating hours, but consumers don’t – they aren’t limited to searching for a car between 9–5. But with a savvy chatbot on their website, customers could access much-needed information to search for the vehicle they want, as well as booking a test drive or kick-starting a finance application process. Consequently, opportunities aren’t missed, the process is transformational for an end customer, and forecourt salespeople have mundane work taken off their hands.
What’s next for chatbots?
Chatbots, with varying scales of sophistication, can be disruptive for many organisations – and not necessarily just companies with deep pockets.
Futurologists foresee that we all will soon have a pocket PA – a savvy Alexa who will help us with even more in the world, whether it’s proactively reminding us of an upcoming birthday and contacting a local florist to complete a payment, or prompting us of an insurance policy renewal and beginning the hunt for quotes.
The challenge will come at the other end, in terms of the businesses that aren’t compatible with the tech. But we will get to the point, I’m sure, when customers push back if organisations don’t progress this opportunity. They’ll challenge why companies don’t accept Alexa payments, as they did when people grew to expect shops to accept ApplePay and contactless methods, as standard.
Organisations throughout the business space therefore need to realise the benefits of chatbot technology and ready themselves for the automation revolution, or risk getting left behind by unsatisfied customers.
Could a chatbot advance your business? Get in touch with us to discuss your specific needs.