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To Bot or Not to Bot? That’s the Customer Service Question.

Nick Delacamp By Nick Delacamp
Oct. 5, 2017

As enterprises increasingly automate contact centers with chatbots, the question is: what's the balance between proactive customer service & human interactions? In the least, it’s certainly a question for many contact center managers as they seek to compete and differentiate on customer experience. They ask: “Do I dare trust a “bot” with my customer relationships?”

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Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. In many cases, chatbots can do a more efficient job, respond instantly, and operate at a lower cost - freeing up time for humans to concentrate on more complicated interactions that require a higher touch. But, just as you wouldn’t send your newest employees to meet customers without a safety net, it is critical to ensure that your customer is not left frustrated if your bot gets wonky.

The rise of bots for business

Bots have come a long way since the advent of Eliza in the 1960’s. There are many powerful tools that enable you to create bots in minutes, leveraging years of development and the latest artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. Just have a look at Microsoft’s QnAmaker; it allows users to quickly create a friendly bot to replace the oft-overlooked frequently asked questions (FAQs) section on websites. It is, in fact, “smart,” e.g. if asked a yes or no question, it considers variants in your response and interprets it. So, instead of ‘Yes’, you can say ‘Sure’ or ‘OK’ and it gets what you mean. Neat, right?

Will customers engage with a bot instead of a live service rep?

At what point does a chatbot become unacceptable? Is it too risky to hand over responsibility for your frontline customer experience to a machine learning or AI interface?

These are some of the questions I’ve been considering as I prepare for Quantiq’s TEQDay event – Rise of the Robots – at the Science Museum in London next week.

There’s no doubt that bots are going to play a significant role in customer engagement. And, in the omnichannel world in which we operate our businesses, customers expect self-service. They expect to be able to transact in the middle of the night on the device they choose through the channel they prefer. They may not want to talk so they can relax, cook, or watch TV whilst they deal with something on their tablet or phone. But they also expect help when they get stuck. So, that help needs to be there when it’s needed and a  bot can help you meet that customer expectation.

The potential benefits of chatbots in customer service are clear; they...

  • Reduce the cost of repetitive tasks like answering customers’ basic questions

  • Provide an instant and informed response to customers 24x7

  • Free up staff to handle more complicated and/or value-added engagements with customers

  • Empower employees by collecting information to streamline processes and help with decisions

Bots are your friends but there are keys to success

AI and bots are still developing. At a recent conference in Dubai, Forrester characterised them as “puppies.” They are great fun, quite cute and return love to anyone who pays them some attention. But they *can* misbehave and *do* have the occasional accident. Take, for example, the translation bot I recently tried. All was going well until I translated back into English. I thought I was ordering a “Hydraulic Ram” but the bot thought I wanted a “Water Sheep.&rdquo

Also, what happens when the bot runs out of answers? Or what if it doesn’t understand customers and they are getting frustrated? How businesses anticipate - and implement contingency plans for - anomalies can make or break a customer relationship. The moment a real person should jump in and take over requires planning. But, you can’t just have a bot throw the problem over the fence and leave the agent to pick up the pieces.

For certain, it is critical that the chatbot is feeding your customer relationship management (CRM) system with the verbatim of a ‘conversation’ as if it were transcribed by a live rep. An interaction with a bot is just as important as any email or phone exchange. Maintain a 360° view of the relationship.

Similarly, just as you treat a customer who is being escalated from an advisor to a supervisor, respect and empathy are key to turning that customer from a detractor into an advocate. Wherever possible, avoid asking them who they are (again), understand the conversation they’ve had with the bot, and the context of that engagement.

Chatbot integration for Microsoft Dynamics 365

For customers using Microsoft Dynamics 365, CaféX makes it safe and easy to use bots with total confidence. Businesses using CaféX Live Assist for Microsoft Dynamics 365 are able to treat bots as one of the team and easily provide their customers with an escalation path and  human touch when needed. Are you looking to use a bot alongside your people to lighten the load? Does your existing bot just need someone to turn to when things get a bit hairy? Please visit the Live Assist website or get in contact with me directly; I’d love to help.