We live in a fascinating period where almost every day technology is becoming a more significant enabler. This is creating opportunities for all of us to enrich our lives. In the business world, this allows us an opportunity to provide a level of service that simply hasn’t been possible before. The use of technology brings in to sharper focus the dangers of failing to provide great quality service!
But with change comes great trepidation, genuine risk, often a healthy dose of jargon, and let’s be honest plenty of exaggeration. As there’s always a tendency in business to jump on the latest ideas and claim them as your own. The key is to remember the most effective innovators are those who understand the human element of change. It’s how we interact with technology that creates the biggest impact on our lives.
These basic observations have never been more relevant than in the latest “revolution” in customer experience. Which is the emergence of the combination of artificial intelligence and process automation. Or as we now progressively know them, bots and virtual agents.
Despite all the hype about artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing (NLP) and other terms you may have heard, there is no doubt that the way in which companies interact with customers is about to change for ever.
The bots are coming and the landscape of customer experience for businesses will never be the same again. How we are impacted by bots will be shaped by how and where we interact with them. For example, as a customer, an agent in a contact centre, or as a Director of an organisation looking to embrace this brave new world.
What are the implications for companies that serve customers?
What do we mean by a bot, and more importantly are these bots genuinely smart? Here there are two key elements to consider. Firstly, creating a basic bot is actually fairly simple. Secondly, to smarten a bot means providing it with real time access to customer data and more importantly customer interactions.
This second point has focused the minds of businesses to an age-old conundrum that really should have been grasped a long time ago. That is how to obtain a true real time view of your customers. A problem that we thought we were going to solve with the emergence of CRM applications in the early noughties – and didn’t!
What is a bot?
By definition, bots are simply a series of automated steps with smart capabilities that convert voice to text or the other way around. They can also convert strings of text to sentiment or intent – i.e. what does that string of text really mean? If you have this functionality you can create a basic bot (check out AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM etc), and then over time the bot can even learn to become better at that simple task. But for a bot to become really smart, it needs to reach beyond one task to understand data in multiple systems. In the context of customer service, to comprehend in real-time how as a customer you are actually interacting with a company, i.e. are you on their website, in a web chat, waiting in a voice queue or complaining via social.
Trying to interact effectively using automation without having genuine access to all of this data proves either limiting or just plain self-defeating. The bot will simply follow the rules it’s given and will not be cognisant of data it doesn’t have. So, whereas a human agent in a contact centre can interact with multiple systems and make a guided judgement, a bot simply cannot compare without having integrated up-to-date data.
Are bots a big part of customer experience?
Yes, and they will change all of our lives. But if there’s one core task companies wishing to maximise their opportunities must complete, it has to start with the use of real time customer data and customer interactions. Without this businesses rush into the world of bots at their peril!
In my next blog I’ll consider just how all of this affects agents in a contact centre, and I’ll explore if bots really are a threat to our jobs or alternatively the biggest possible boost for our success?
Woven has been created not only to transform the BPO sector, but also to expand the scope and simplicity with which our clients can create and deliver amazing customer experience. We are determined to set new standards, and to achieve this we embrace innovation as part of a culture where constructive thinking is encouraged and positive change the norm.
Written by Andy Griffin, Chief Innovation Officer