How to Transform the Customer Experience with Chatbots
2016 is shaping up to be the year of the Chatbot. From Jarvis, Mark Zuckerberg’s Iron Man-inspired assistant, to Microsoft’s rather unfortunate Tay experience, chatbots have been making the news this year—not least in how they are playing an ever bigger role in customer service.
While there has been a lot of speculation about how chatbots are going to replace human agents in contact centers, we are still a long way from that scenario. Rather, chatbots are freeing up humans and, somewhat counterintuitively, helping to deliver a more personalized experience. Automation in customer experience is all about making things faster, easier and more streamlined for customers so we don’t have to repeat ourselves multiple times, and explain our problems to different agents every time we contact an organization.
Pretty much any organization today has some sort of customer experience process in place, and that process has evolved along with technology. From the traditional call center, with rows of agents handling multiple calls, we have moved on to the contact center and multichannel communications, which encompass traditional and digital channels.
As organizations embark on digital transformation initiatives an essential part of the journey is delivering a multichannel experience—allowing for consistent customer experiences from multiple touch points, and enabling customers to make contact via the mediums of their choice. Customers today expect to receive an always-on personal digital experience. Meeting that expectation is no longer optional.
The problem that customer experience professionals face is that there are just so many experiences—more than we poor humans can keep up with. Chatbots are increasingly being used to take away menial tasks from agents, allowing agents to focus on the human element that is so crucial to driving customer satisfaction and enabling them to provide better and warmer collaboration with their customers. This will not only increase CSAT scores and boost customer loyalty, it can help improve motivation levels for the agents themselves, which will help reduce churn and eliminate the need to keep training new staff.
This will also allow organizations to essentially retain and boost service levels with fewer agents and reduced costs on the overall contact center infrastructure. Today, a contact center’s costs are predominantly for agents and real estate. Technology and process design and operations come in a late second from a cost point of view. With a multichannel contact center, the biggest challenge in delivering an awesome customer experience is gluing the pieces together: linking the various knowledge and functional teams to customer service, delivering new capabilities and features that eventually enable us as customers to call one time and see our problems solved. This first-touch resolution wasn’t possible before and vendors that put together tools and technologies to achieve that still lag behind.
And at heart, businesses are still providing customer service the same way: you initiate communication with the contact center, and they respond, albeit now that can be done via phone, e-mail, text or social media. And, let’s face it, people still don’t like contacting customer service. We are still really reluctant to make that initial contact—we don’t get the immersive experience we seek as consumers.
Brave New Digital World
The application of artificial intelligence to deliver on the combined objectives of first-touch resolution and immersive experiences is almost complete. Avaya is leading this transformation with an upcoming evolution in its technology, where chatbots are only the beginning of this brave new digital world. Our R&D and customer experience folks are perfecting a digital persona that is intelligent enough to learn from experiences, predict your preferences and resolve your problems – almost before you know you have them.
Ultimately though, whatever happens with the technology, one element is always going to remain human: the customer. We are all unique individuals, even if we tend to have similar issues and problems. The best service—the kind that boosts CSAT scores, inspires word of mouth reporting, and ensures loyal, happy customers—will therefore likely require a unique, human response. Chatbots and automation will play a key role in delivering that service by freeing up agents’ valuable time to provide it.