These days, customer care professionals are besieged by tech-infused buzzwords and buzzphrases. The proliferation of smartphones drove demand for a “Mobile Strategy,” to which the word “Social” was quickly appended. Then it became a global challenge to assimilate “Big Data & Analytics” in order to ingest the zettabytes of data and metadata surrounding customers activities, preferences and intents.
Then came an onslaught of solutions and platforms that introduced “Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning” as a cure for common CX problems. In brief, they promised rapid recognition customer intent. Quick on their heels came integration of Deep Neural Networking and Cognitive Computing. Aside from bringing more buzzwords into the CX fray, their advent got both Contact Center and Customer Experience professionals wondering whether they needed to staff up with computational linguists and knowledge management aficionados.
Intelligent Assistants are reversing this trend. In spite of the linguistic fog, thousands of firms have charged ahead with an Intelligent Assistance strategy. In a report entitled “Decisionmaker’s Guide to Enterprise Intelligent Assistants” published mid-2017, Opus Research documented that over 1,200 firms around the globe had implemented over 2,300 virtual agents, chatbots or other forms of Intelligent Assistants at their companies. The message: If you or your company is looking investigating the idea of virtual agents in your organization in order to ‘stay ahead of the curve,’ you’re too late.
After the FAQs: Redefining Self-Service
Admittedly, many of the earliest implementations were little more than a glorified FAQ – meaning a natural language front-end to a static list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). But that is no longer the case. For the past three years, Opus Research has convened five Intelligent Assistant Conferences where enterprise customer care, customer experience and digital commerce specialists can meet with technology and solutions providers with platforms to support Intelligent Assistance.
Spokespeople from The U.S. Army USAA, ING Bank, Domino’s, FedEx, Telefonica, Hyatt Hotels, Coca-Cola and dozens of others have shared the wisdom they gained from the experience of designing and implementing an Intelligent Assistance strategy in their organizations. The unsurprising, overall finding is that these firms proved that increased automation rates correlated with increased levels of both customer satisfaction (usually measured in Net Promotor Scores) and employee satisfaction (measured in retention rates).
The technological miracle that is underway amounts to nothing short of “redefining self-service.” It used to be synonymous with “automated handling” and “call avoidance” (for expensive agents, at least). Now it means customer control and lower effort expended, in short “serving one’s self.”
Today “It’s all about the Bot” (and the Metabot)
As a sign of industry maturity, solutions are getting much simpler and less expensive to implement. In the interest of simplicity, thousands of companies have followed the well-worn path to Facebook door in pursuit of a “Bot Strategy.” The giant social network provides both marketing and customer care professionals with a path of least resistance for brands to reach the1.2 billion people who have registered for Facebook and/or Facebook Messenger.
Hundreds of millions of those users have “Liked” one or more company page and they have become platforms for building both communities and conversations around brands, offers and transactions. A growing percentage of those involve Messenger Bots. Given that the preponderance of communications, commerce and transactions on Facebook are carried out over mobile phones, the Messenger Bots represent an approach to Intelligent Assistance that spans all potential buzzwords: social, mobile, conversational
Providing A Consistent Responses At Scale
The word “Bot” evokes the image of a simple, automated resource to carry out a specific task or function for a user. There are tens of thousands of them associated with brands, both large and small, that have Facebook pages. Thus a Messenger Bot can be seen as yet-another-digital-channel in a company’s omnichannel strategy or, alternatively, it can be seen a microcosm for a holistic approach to Conversational Commerce.
What does Opus Research mean by a “holistic approach”? Whether you call them “Bots,” “Virtual Agents,” “Chatbots” or some variation of the term, Intelligent Assistants have proven their ability to provide consistent answers to a plethora of questions at scale and across a multiplicity of communications channels. Thanks to judicious use of Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, they enable customers or prospects to communicate “in their own words.” Thanks also to the fact that many of these implementations have been in the field for more than a decade the quality of conversations have improved. These systems have heard and successfully responded to more queries and have used that data to improve accuracy and recognize when more information is needed in order to satisfy an individual’s core intent.
IAs handle complexity so that individual customers (and computational linguists) don’t have to. That has been the key to recent success in key verticals like financial services, retailing, travel & hospitality and entertainment. It is also showing the way to expand into more verticals around the globe in the near future.
Dan Miller is lead analyst and founder of Opus Research and coined the term “Conversational Commerce.” For more information on the Intelligent Assistants Conference (Sept 18-19) visit http://www.IAConference.net