If you aren’t part of the chatbot buzz, you aren’t paying attention to an important trend impacting contact centers in all industries. Business value from conversational interfaces is increasing in measure, but many companies find it can take time to mature from basic “infobots” to more complex use cases. I attended both the ICMI and Customer Contact Week (CCW) conferences this past year and there were an overwhelming amount of sessions highlighting both lessons learned and successes with virtual agents. Chatbots never call in sick, don’t take lunch breaks, scale with peaks in your business, work 24×7, and deliver consistent answers.
Regardless of the channel or delivery medium, successful companies are grounding themselves in these focus areas:
- Design: You need to develop conversational design and UX competencies. Like the evolution of the web to mobile, the skills needed will be different.
- Enable Customer-Facing Processes: Integrate bots into your end-to-end processes, from ideation to build to run. Create the methods for regularly evaluating and prioritizing use cases. You can’t just stand up a bot and expect it to work perfectly all the time, it needs to be monitored, managed, and tuned. Your processes may need to change, and this should be treated as a new capability, not a new channel.
- Align with Data and Technology: Intelligent bots rely heavily on data. You will need to develop data access capabilities for delivering personalized value to customers. The technology stack is evolving and vendors are emerging as leaders, but the landscape may take time to settle.
So where do we start? Critical first steps:
- Evaluate Self-Service Mix: Look at the effectiveness of self-service within your organization to determine the call deflection from agents you are already able to achieve. Industry studies from organizations like Benchmark Portal suggest companies are containing nearly 50% of calls in IVRs and still just a fraction of that via Web Chat. Consider how much opportunity there is to increase self-service as a factor in substantiating your business case.
- Establish Methods for Evaluation: Many vendors in the space are proving value from enabling very targeted and specific use cases. These include informational bot inquiries and responses to more complex and personalized interactions. These interactions are typically within an authenticated environment and rely on the integration of data. Set realistic expectations that value will come in time as your bot(s) mature and deliver more engaging interactions. Your metrics will evolve over time as the bots grow in capabilities.
- Identify Pilots: In the evaluation of your use cases, consider those that may be lighter in data integration, have fewer technology dependencies or are high volume / short calls into your contact center. Consider piloting these targeted use cases before investing heavily in technology platforms or channel specific vendors. These use cases allow the bots to test and learn opportunities. This allows your organization to be smarter about future opportunities for chatbot implementation and the associated business and customer value.
Chatbots represent an exciting and powerful evolution in self-service. Customers continue to expect self-service for every task, and automation represents an effective extension to existing channels for delivering consistent and scalable interactions.
Act now, advancements to technology are coming to your industry and customers are starting to interact with this technology daily. Your organization must start investing in foundational focus areas, skills, and pilots today. Contact me to discuss how chatbots might be right for your organization.