In order to provide an outstanding customer experience, many companies are responding with omnichannel customer engagement platforms that meet their customers wherever and whenever they happen to be — across social, mobile, web and brick-and-mortar stores.
This omnichannel approach also means adopting the very latest technology to offer a truly differentiated customer experience. In 2016, one of these technologies — artificial intelligence (AI) — went from being a cutting-edge and niche to of main stage importance.
As such, it was one of the hottest topics of discussion at this year’s World Economic Forum, proving it’s having a big impact in the business world.
Nowhere is this more true than in the world of customer experience. As new AI-based technologies enter the mainstream, they present a number of opportunities to businesses looking to further enrich the customer journey.
One development in particular is the rise of the chatbot that can quickly resolve customer queries autonomously. Facebook made headlines last year when it announced it was working on turning Messenger into an entertainment and retail platform — with chatbots at the centre.
Chatbots can be implemented in a variety of different ways — but the most common is through an application of artificial intelligence in some form, where software can analyse and assess a customer query expressed in human form, either through text or voice.
Some brands, like Bank of America, are applying AI tools within text-based bots. When it launches later this year, Bank of America’s bot aims to be a fully-automated customer service assistant that will handle common customer issues that don’t require any human intervention.
In fact, research conducted by Forrester concluded that more than 70% of customers prefer to resolve issues by themselves whenever possible.
Businesses have taken note of this trend and are implementing chatbots as a new way to provide an alternative means of communication to their customers, whilst taking the pressure away from their human colleagues.
As an example, let’s take a look at an internet service provider where technical difficulties are preventing its human agents from serving customers. If that company had deployed chatbot technology, customers would be able to initiate a conversation with their provider right away.
The bot would then be able to analyse and assess the situation to recommend solutions and steps to resolve it, all without human intervention.
Merging bots and human agents to automate customer service is the approach of the future. With bots able to handle common, simple issues, such as setting appointments, managing service status enquiries, and troubleshooting technical details, more time is freed up for live agents to deal with complex and nuanced issues that need a human touch.
You can’t train a robot for all eventualities — at least not yet. But if we can design a chatbot experience that addresses 80% of all inbound customer queries, that’s immediately an incredible transformation within the contact centre. Of course, there’s still that 20% you can’t plan for — and that’s where a combined approach succeeds.
In this type of situation, a customer interacting with a bot whose issue needs to be referred to a human agent is transferred seamlessly within the same user interface.
At the same time, the underlying AI can continue to assess the interaction and proactively share suggestions and resources with the human agent to further contextualise the case.
This integrated approach to AI adds a new layer of intelligence and agility to the contact centre; one that makes the most out of the abundance of resources available to it.
It avoids, too, the common pitfall of ‘siloed’ communications, where the customer journey becomes fragmented as different channels of communications within the organisation fail to integrate and share information effectively.
>See also: Why 2017 will be the year of automation
With a singular, omnichannel customer journey, customers are able to seamlessly interact across an organisation’s array of touchpoints, whether they are AI-powered or not.
However, this blended approach has to be constantly monitored. A robot could potentially give poor advice. Imagine the consequences if a bot started providing incorrect advice for, say, a big financial institution or a bank to customers.
If people act on that bad information, it could be very costly. In order to prevent these kinds of accidents, a human team also needs to be aware of everything the chatbot is doing by interacting with the AI almost like a colleague.
AI and chatbots have tremendous potential in the world of customer experience, from automation of mundane tasks like setting appointments and troubleshooting problems, to empowering customers to serve themselves.
There’s no doubt that this technology will enable businesses to transform their customer experience efforts.
However, humans will always be critical when it counts — from stepping in when bots can no longer handle the query to providing a real voice or friendly face to customers. It’s for this reason that a blended approach to AI in the contact centre is best.
Sourced by Chris Connolly, global director – digital solution strategy at Genesys