We live in a fascinating period where almost every day technology is becoming a more significant enabler in our lives. This is creating opportunities for all of us to enrich our lives and in so many different ways. In business, the emergence of the combination of Artificial Intelligence and Process Automation (or as we now progressively know them, Bots or Virtual Agents) has created the scope to provide a level of service that simply wasn’t possible previously. Alongside that there is also a much sharper focus on the implications of failing to offer great service (and rightly so most of us would say!)
We are in a period of enormous change and with change comes trepidation, genuine risk, the need for big decisions and hopefully lots of opportunities for those that grasp the moment and innovate effectively. The key is to always remember that the most effective innovators are those who truly understand the human element of change and appreciate that, it is how we interact with that very technology that has the potential to impact our lives so much. This basic observation has never been more relevant than with Bots who replace and/or enrich what to date has been a very “human” interaction!
As experience tells us, change also comes with a healthy dose of jargon, plenty of exaggeration and in the world of business always a tendency to jump on the latest and greatest of ideas and claim them for your own. But despite all the hype around Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Natural Language Processing, and other terms you will have heard there is no doubt the way companies deal with their customers is changing for ever.
The Bots are here, developing rapidly, and the landscape of customer experience will never be the same again…
How we are impacted by Bots will depend on how and where we interact with them and what we are using them for. And this will be both in our roles as consumers as well as that of employees and business leaders.
Let’s take some time to think about what this means for companies serving their customers, what do we mean by a Bot, and more importantly how we can make these Bots genuinely smart so they are capable of delivering exceptional customer experiences.
Bots in the context of customer service are effectively software programs which simulate human conversations across either voice or text. In reality, this is a series of automated steps which convert strings of text to intent (what does that string of text really mean?) and often sentiment (what is the humans state of mind) and then applies intelligence to respond. A Voice Bot does this but will also have the scope to convert voice to text and then text back to Voice. If you have this you can create a basic bot (check out AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM etc) and it can also learn over time to become better at deriving Intent. This is seriously impressive technology and continues to advance at pace, but intelligence is nothing without access to data.
In the domain of customer interaction to really become smart the Bot has to reach beyond an IVR, website or social network and understand data in multiple customer systems. And even beyond that to know how the customer is interacting with the company at that point in time i.e. are they on their website, in a web chat, waiting in a voice queue or complaining via social.
There are two key facts here that we don’t often consider. Firstly, creating a basic bot is actually fairly simple and secondly, making them smart is really all about providing them with real time access to customer data, and more importantly customer interactions.
This is focusing the mind of businesses on an age-old problem which we should really all have grasped a long time ago…a true real time view of your customers! That problem we all thought we were going to solve (and didn’t!) with the emergence of CRM applications in the early noughties.
What will happen without a real time view of your customers?
Bots have huge natural advantages; they work 24/7/365, never take a day off work, always follow the rules, can process huge amounts of information at pace, can scale up and down instantly as customer volumes flex. And in some cases, they can even make a judgment on how the customer is reacting emotionally to the flow of the conversation.
However, trying to interact effectively through automation without genuine access to all of your customers data will severely limit the scope of the bots and potentially be self-defeating or even dangerous. The Bot will just follow the rules it has been given and can’t be cognisant of data it doesn’t have. Whereas an agent in a contact centre can look at multiple systems (although inefficient) and make a guided judgement there and then, a bot simply can’t do that without that data being integrated, and more importantly up to date.
In conclusion, Bots are a big part of the customer experience and will change all of our lives. But if there is one core task for companies who wish to maximise this opportunity, then it is to start with real time customer data and customer interactions. Rush into the world of Bots at your peril without this!
In my next blog I will consider how all of this affects agents in a contact centre. Is the bot a threat to your job or about to become your biggest aid to success?
Woven has been formed to transform not just the BPO sector but also the scope and simplicity with which our clients can create and deliver amazing customer experiences. We are determined to set new standards, and to do this we will embrace innovation and create a culture where positive change is the norm and no constructive idea is scared to be given and ever received badly.