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Can chatbots deliver on the increasing expectations of your customers and employees?

Chatbot CX 

Dr. Venky Krishnaswamy, Founder & CEO, Koopid

Conversational interfaces have been gaining a lot of attention lately, particularly in a world where digital interactions are becoming more common through chatbots and virtual assistants. However, there's still a way to go before chatbots reach their full potential.

At a time when customer expectations are at an all-time high, many businesses are drawn to the promise of delivering digital-first customer service using chatbots. A well-designed chatbot can resolve a customer's issue quickly and efficiently, delighting the customer while also reducing cost for the business. However, there is a significant gap between the potential for chatbots and today's reality.

As a result, when it comes to chatbot use cases, customers often have limited expectations; and many organizations have scaled back ambitious chatbot plans to focus on automating simple processes, such as answering basic questions, collecting contact information or booking appointments.

There is indeed value in automating the more routine, easily definable aspects of customer service. Accenture found that chatbots can reduce low-end, repetitive tasks by 20%, which certainly has a positive impact on overall efficiency. But when customer care use cases get slightly more complex, humans are still expected to do the heavy lifting. This is not the most resource-efficient way to manage a modern contact center-particularly during crisis times, when these become a virtual lifeline for people who need to urgently change travel plans, access information on their mortgages, cancel deliveries and so forth. 

Here are three key areas where chatbots tend to hit a wall:

1.  Flexibility

Businesses are dynamic entities with products and services that evolve continuously. Customer service processes must, therefore, be perpetually refined to meet new business and customer needs. As chatbots tend to automate responses based on pre-set rules or decision trees, they can't adapt on the fly. This can lead to chatbots being rigid and unresponsive, causing customer frustration. Many customers will acclimatize by consciously side-stepping a chatbot because of a poor prior experience with one.

2.  Contextual understanding

While today's chatbots have become proficient at deciphering the text of a customer's request, they are not yet capable of interpreting conversational content with the nuance required to serve the customer contextually. That means that there is a lot of insight on customer behavior and interaction history that falls by the wayside, which can impact service quality, and cause a customer to grow frustrated and move to a different channel (often a human agent via the phone) to reach a resolution.

3.  Human-like judgement

Many chatbots attempt to mimic a human conversation, relying on a natural language interface to "converse organically" with a customer. Unfortunately, human language and communication is richly nuanced and proper interpretation often requires human-like judgement. Today's AI algorithms are deficient in this regard; hence many of today's chatbots are error prone.

While these gaps do need to be addressed, they shouldn't derail your plans to deliver a seamless digital customer journey.

It's time for a new way of thinking 

Many brands expect chatbots and virtual assistants to instantly plug holes in the customer experience, fix fledgling employee satisfaction and elevate overall performance. The fact is, conversational AI on its own is not the universal antidote to these multidimensional problems.

Rather than viewing conversational AI as a cure-all, see it has a critical part of a multi-pronged intelligent automation strategy that draws on a consolidated portfolio of digital and human capabilities. Chatbots and virtual assistants can help meet a much wider set of customer and business expectations when their automation strengths are converged with other technology capabilities, such as sophisticated AI and machine learning, and process orchestration tools. 

The outcomes are even more transformative when these resources are woven together on one virtual platform that intelligently pulls in the most relevant capability at the right time, including human agents. The dream is to give customers or users effortless access to the resource that can serve them best in that moment, on their digital channel of choice. Done well, this approach can solve the problem of having fragmented technologies and channels working at cross-purposes that spread data and insights (such as the customer's interaction history) too thin.

Ideally, you want a solution that securely ties together data from multiple sources, and quickly extends to accommodate new data sources as needed. If digital and human agents always have access to the customer data and insights they need, they will be able to contribute to a contextual, continual customer experience. For this to happen, you also need the ability to easily integrate all digital resources into the existing contact center ecosystem, including enterprise systems, with advanced security and privacy controls.

This approach allows you to increase efficiency gains end-to-end, right from the initial point-of-contact all the way through to task completion and resolution. The results are greater productivity, reduced costs to serve, and human agents that have more time to focus on the cases that need a human touch or require human judgement. 

Most importantly, uniting the power of all these technologies creates a customer or user experience that is as digital, efficient and convenient as possible. When all your digital capabilities are blended well, with a seamless mechanism for pulling humans into the loop, you can get much closer to creating a natural conversation, imbued with context and continuity, than you ever could using conversational AI on its own.

Focus on delivering seamless & efficient customer experiences

If your dream is to support your customers, employees and other stakeholders seamlessly and efficiently on their choice of digital channels, this is possible. It's just not feasible to expect conversational AI to manage this alone, nor fair to expect your customers to hop from one touchpoint to the next looking for a resolution.

To keep the customer conversation going and avoid friction, it's time to consolidate disruptive technologies like sophisticated AI and machine learning with chatbots and other contact center resources, such as digital self-service, messaging and human-to-human voice interactions. Done securely and intelligently, this will move your customer experience and productivity forward in leaps and bounds. 

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About the Author

Venky Krishnaswamy 

Dr. Venky Krishnaswamy is the founder and CEO of Koopid, a venture-backed SaaS company based in Silicon Valley and Bangalore, India. Koopid's AI-powered customer engagement platform simplifies consumer-to-business conversations, delivering frictionless engagement across channels and speeding up resolution. Venky was previously worldwide head of Avaya Labs, with responsibility for incubating new products and solutions for Avaya. He is recognized as an industry pioneer in the enterprise communications industry and built the earliest known Voice-and-Video IP phone in the industry. He holds over 50 granted US patents and is the author of numerous scientific publications. He is a two-time winner of the prestigious Thomas Edison Award presented by the R&D Council of New Jersey for his influential patents on the use of AI techniques in Unified Communications and Contextual Communications in Contact Centers.

Published Monday, March 08, 2021 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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