I keep hearing that 2017 will be the year bots really take off. There is no question that they offer numerous benefits, especially when it comes to reducing costs and improving customer service. Bots offer significant costs savings by providing 24/7 support, answering many routine questions immediately and decreasing average handling times by prequalifying customer inquiries.
More and more brands are waking up to the benefits bots deliver for enhancing customer engagement platforms. For many of the most common inquiries, delivering responses either through enhanced text messaging on mobile applications, through secure presentation of customer information and records, and through voice recognition and automated voice response can deliver a much faster and more satisfying experience for the consumer, while also dramatically lowering the cost to serve customers as fewer agents, and less infrastructure are required.
Will bots replace humans? That isn’t the goal; instead bots are growing as cost-effective human helpers. They can assist agents who need to respond in live conversations by analyzing the consumer’s question, for example, and pulling up an account balance or travel itinerary for the agent, based on voice to text translation, search, and presentation software innovations.
What should companies think about when they are considering evolving their service platform to include bots as part of their customer engagement strategy? A few considerations follow.
First, look at your customers’ entire online journey and envision how bot functionalities fit in. For example, we at Kandy often advise our customers of the impact that live agents can add to the end customer experience.
Live agents can serve as experts on specific products and services, with the bots helping to route the conversation to exactly the right person – even before the conversation starts via an embedded application, for example, that lets the bot know which web page the consumer is calling from, building immediate context around the incoming call.
Bots can also pull up consumer contact history, greeting premier customers personally, finding out which agent has developed a relationship with that customer, seeing if that agent is available, and connecting two “brand friends” in seconds.
Second, understand the role that analytics play in a bots strategy. Simple APIs can allow bots to consume powerful analytics, while improving outcomes with better insight into customer behavioral patterns. Kandy is working with companies including IBM and their Watson cognitive platform to evolve increasingly intelligent and even sensitive bots, able to become digital team members for brands who recognize that not only are we becoming more comfortable with our own “personal assistants” like Suri, Alexa and Cortana, but that some actually prefer the digital alternative!
Third, consider the Return on Investment (ROI) of employing a bots/live human support customer engagement strategy can bring to your organization. Well-known brands like IBM and other global systems integrators are investing heavily in bots technology and are leading the way with advanced cognitive solutions that can significantly reduce contact center costs. We are partnering with these leaders to seamlessly add the “human element” to bot-enabled technology to help organizations better serve their customers while reducing costs.
There are so many creative ways bots and humans can work together to solve problems, to enhance products with better, more personalized service, and even enhance the relationship of smart things in the Internet of Things (IoT) world with bots who help with installation of a product, maintenance, and even sell value added services (for example, add a video monitoring solution to your existing home environmental control system).
In a decade we may look back and wonder what we did without brand bots (supported as needed by human engagement)…having to dial a phone number, wait in queue, get frustrated, finally get our questions answered, all the while having to pay premium prices for products and services as a result of the expense associated with legacy customer service approaches. Blending automated messaging solutions and live experts sitting in what used to be referred to as “call centers” is the wave of the future.