Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Bots are no longer just market hype. They are real, and clients are planning for, and implementing, them. They hold the promise of “deflecting” volume through self-service as well as improving user interfaces that boost authentication and optimize routing.
If you take off your contact center hat and wear your “customer of other companies” hat, your enthusiasm for AI and Bots may take a dive. You might have had some experiences that cause flashbacks to IVRs – clunky interfaces, difficulty getting to a person, persistence in trying to force self-service, not understanding what you are saying or asking for…
While this next generation of IVRs – through voice and chat bots – is in its infancy, it’s a good time to think about how to do it right so that customers embrace your bots rather than curse them!
Like any technology, bots are best pursued in the context of strategy. Ideally, you’ll want to tackle voice and digital channels with the same tool and consider all the touch points with other capabilities – e.g., omnichannel routing, knowledge management, analytics, and robotic process automation (RPA) or agent assist. And given there are many ways to purchase them – part of a full CCaaS solution, standalone from niche vendors, or from big platforms vendors like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM – you should think about how it fits with your other technology procurement commitments or plans.
As you get into the detailed planning, consider the end-to-end flows and how the bots fit in that flow. Important considerations include:
- Channels offered – voice, chat, messaging, text/SMS
- Bot’s role in authentication and the means of authentication (e.g., biometrics)
- Use of natural language understanding and AI
- Integration to backend systems with customer data, information, and transactional capabilities, as well as personalization of the user experience
- Integration to knowledge management solutions
- Data delivered to the agent desktop when assistance is needed – e.g., journey, authentication status, and agent assistance/next-best-action
- Analytics’ role in real-time and in ongoing optimization
You also need to define how development and continuous improvement will be managed, and by whom. There are a number of models from which to choose:
- Vertical-specific applications and providers that release new capabilities to tap
- Vendor-provided expertise – to get you started… and ongoing
- Drag and drop user interfaces that trained users can tap for the “simple” stuff
- More involved design and development from third parties or in-house IT/development staff
As companies pursue bots to improve customer experiences with 24×7 access and more personalization, our hope is that they take a new approach that considers the power of the platforms and applications, but keeps the customers and the agents at the center of the planning and design process. We like to think of it as the concierge – solving problems, pointing people in the right direction, with a “white glove” type of service that is appreciated and viewed as a success by all!