Digital transformation is not only providing new technologies for companies to connect with customers, but also changing the way customers engage with companies. Customers, who were previously happy to engage with customer service agents telephonically, are increasingly shifting to text-based, online chat services across multiple platforms. While some companies are still playing catch-up, other organisations have seen the change coming and have implemented or begun implementing the necessary tools to meet customer expectations. A key tool for dealing with this shift in expectation is bots.
The benefits of bots to customer experience
Bots, which were once known as heavily scripted, rule-based chat programs, have evolved into very different tools today. Before we get into the different types of bots, here are some of the benefits that they provide your organisation and how they help with customer experience:
Bots are a low-cost solution that can help you reduce costs further by improving the overall efficiency of your customer experience.
They don't sleep
Bots, unlike people, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
They can be integrated into various services
Whether you're running your own website or a service on Facebook, bots can be effortlessly added to your online service.
They easily gather data
Bots can be designed to gather data on all of their interactions, helping identify customer trends or behaviours, or issues with back-end processes. In turn, this allows you to improve your systems.
They can improve your leads
Bots can improve your leads by being instantly accessible at any time, automating the initial stages of contact with a client, providing customers with frequent updates and gathering information so you can better understand your customers.
They’re easy to implement
Chatbots are very simple to get running in your organisation. It’s important to note that virtual personal assistants and back-end bots are more complicated to set up due to the reliance they have on your existing systems and processes.
Now that we understand how bots can benefit your organisation, here are three types of bots that you can assist you with customer experience:
There are two types of chatbots: rules-based chatbots, and machine-learning based chatbots. Rules-based bots are very simple: they require specific inputs and create specific outputs.
Chatbots that are machine-learning based are a massive evolution over the simple AI systems people communicated with in the past. These chatbots use machine learning technology that not only allows them to understand language (thanks to Natural Language Understanding APIs), but to evolve as they engage in conversations with customers - these chatbots learn from experience. They are usually designed around a specialised purpose, such as assisting you with a sale, booking an appointment or helping you troubleshoot an issue, and are built for a specific platform, like Facebook or Slack.
As advanced as machine-based learning chatbots are, even they are unable to handle some tasks. In these situations, the chatbot will redirect the user to a human for assistance.
Front-end virtual personal assistants
These virtual personal assistants are not to be confused with the virtual assistants that Tim Ferris talks about in The Four Hour Work Week. These are not real people who work for you via the Internet, but bots. These bots are based around conversational Artificial Intelligence, with some of the more popular examples including Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant. These virtual personal assistants are designed to help you access information and to drive interaction with each company’s services. For example, you can ask Alexa questions about the weather, or you can ask it to order products directly from Amazon.
Another type of bot that can assist with customer experience is the back-end, or back-office, bot. This type of bot falls under Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and takes advantage of cognitive automation in order to improve back-end efficiency. These bots are used to automate tasks that people would normally do, but without many of the inefficiencies associated with a human being. These are mainly operational tasks, including inter-departmental communication, workflow management or ordering of supplies.
At this point you may be asking how this differs from traditional automation processes, but there is a key difference. Where software tools are traditionally used to speed up these processes, back-end bots are taught how to interact with the software, much like a human would. This allows them to perform the task as a person would, but much quicker and far more accurately.
Back-end virtual personal assistants
Virtual personal assistants aren’t only forward facing, but can also run on the back-end. This type of virtual assistant is designed to help corporate clients improve efficiency in their organisation by completing some of the tasks normally assigned to the employee. For example, a contact center agent who is dealing with a client can use a virtual assistant to diagnose an issue or provide the next best action. This is accomplished by the agent asking a series of questions, the responses are typed in and the bot will provide the correct response or diagnose the issue. This allows the agent to focus on communicating with the customer, removing the burden of diagnosing from their shoulders and placing it on the bot’s. This means that the agent training time can be reduced yet quality and accuracy are improved.