Chatbots For Customer Service: 5 Factors You Must Consider



Brian Cantor
08/28/2018

Before actually investing in chatbots, astute organizations consider the objective behind the initiative.  Why are chatbots relevant for the organization and its customers?  What results do they ultimately hope to achieve?

By establishing that vision, they improve the efficacy of the sourcing process.  They increase the odds of finding the best possible solution.

Purchasing the best solution does not, however, ensure the success of the initiative.  It does not automatically produce the desired results.

The efficacy of bots hinges greatly on the environment in which they operate.  If the organization does not cultivate the best possible scenario for the new technology, it will not be able to fully realize the solutions’ potential.

Its adoption framework will have, in a sense, been for naught.  The organization will know what it was hoping to accomplish, but it will not actually achieve those objectives.

Elements pertaining to people, process and the overall contact center environment greatly impact the impact of bot technology.  To heighten the chances of a positive impact, CCW Digital has laid out relevant environmental considerations.

Journey mapping: Bots are not their own contact channel. They are tools for enhancing the experience offered at touch points that either already exist (or should exist) in the customer journey.

To ensure they actually live up to that promise, the organization needs a detailed, real-time map of its customer journey.  It must know where customers prefer to handle certain issues.  It must also know where customers tend to endure the greatest amount of “friction” throughout the experience.  Using this insight, it can determine the best way to deploy bots.

Upon deploying bots, the business must continue monitoring and mapping the customer journey.  How is channel utilization changing?  Which issues tend to give bots the most trouble?  Is there a shift in the types of interactions that are escalated to live agents?

“The journey to [successful AI adoption] starts with an honest assessment of the areas of opportunity,” said David Baker of CenterPoint Energy during a CCW Online Q&A.  “What are the highest-volume activities?  What are the lowest-first contact resolution activities?  What are the longest calls?

“Once you’ve analyzed that and determined that, you can start to solve the problems and determine what data is going to be needed.  Then you can start to streamline the interactions.”

Operational transformation: In addition to focusing on how bots impact the customer experience, organizations must turn their attention to the impact on the operational landscape.

All bots – customer-facing or business-facing, rule-based or conversational, proactive or reactive – carry ramifications for the contact center.  They, quite simply, change the way the organization engages customers.

From a customer experience delivery standpoint, the business will need to consider factors related to performance metrics, escalation and routing processes and voice of the customer collection.

It will also need to consider ownership of the bot technology.  Who handles administration of the technology?  Who dictates the rules and standards to which the bot must adhere?  Who evaluates performance figures and makes decisions about where best to implement bots?

Assuming bots perform well, some organizations will then need to consider the impact on the human workforce.  If bots handle the majority of support inquiries, organizations will not require the same live agent workforce.  This will not necessarily entail terminating workers, but it may involve altering their roles within the operation.

Knowledge well: Bots are only as good as the intelligence driving their operation.

Cultivating knowledge, accordingly, represents a pivotal component of bot strategy.

AI-based bots obviously have a great foundation on which to gain knowledge – they learn based on their actual interactions – but the organization still plays an important role in tuning and expanding upon that knowledge.

The organization determines the systems to which bots are integrated, the types of interactions bots handle (and can thus learn from) and the range of questions bots ask (which, in turn, determines what information it gathers from customers).

The organization also plays a role in driving the AI engine.  By approving and rejecting certain responses, the human hand conditions the robot’s behavior.

The “data challenge” has always been a contact center concern:  where can we get the “voice of the customer,” how can we turn that data into usable intelligence, and how can we communicate that intelligence to agents?  Organizations must begin to ask those same questions but with regard to “bots” rather than just live agents.

Agent re-training: If bots have a role in customer engagement, they necessitate a degree of agent re-training.

Believing bots will handle most simple, transactional matters, some organizations believe agents will primarily focus on complex, nuanced ones.  Agents must be properly trained for this new dichotomy.  They cannot simply be “support representatives” but must instead possess the expertise, comfort and personality needed to think critically and connect emotionally.

Organizations that envision a more complementary role for their bots still must consider the agent element.  Agents must be trained on interacting with – and potentially educating – the bot technology.

Scalability: By replicating, automating, simplifying and/or enhancing tasks, bots inherently allow the organization to perform beyond the limits of its human workforce.

Scalability, indeed, is a fundamental tenet of bot technology.

Instead of relishing in that benefit, leading organizations focus on ways to extend the impact of bot technology.

Based on results for one channel or one issue, they develop game plans for expanding the scope of their bots.  They are constantly thinking about how bots can contribute to other elements of the customer experience journey.