Why Bots and Virtual Agents Are Changing Business
Andy Griffin, CTO with disruptive BPO Woven, considers the unstoppable impact of AI on customer services interaction.
In an era where technology is becoming a more significant enabler, new opportunities are being created for all of us to enrich our lives.
In the world of business, this allows companies an opportunity to deliver a level of customer service that until now has not been possible. But it also brings into sharper focus the dangers for business of failing to provide great quality service.
The latest revolution in customer experience is the combination of artificial intelligence and process automation, or in short ‘bots and virtual agents’.
Transforming customer interaction
The bots are coming and the landscape of customer experience for businesses will never be the same again.
How we are impacted by bots will be shaped by how and where we interact with them.
But what are the implications for companies that serve customers, what do we mean by a ‘bot’ and are these bots genuinely smart?
First, creating a basic bot is actually fairly simple, and secondly, to smarten a bot means providing it with real-time access to customer data and interactions – the ‘brains behind the bot’, if you like.
This second point has focused the minds of businesses to an age-old conundrum that really should have been grasped a long time ago - that is how business can obtain a true real-time view of their customers.
It's a problem that we all thought we were going to solve with the emergence of CRM applications in the early noughties - but didn’t!
By definition, bots are a series of automated steps with smart capabilities that convert voice to text or the other way around, and which can also convert strings of text to sentiment or intent.
If you have this functionality you can create a basic bot and then over time the bot can learn to become better at that simple task.
But for a bot to become really smart, it needs to reach beyond one task to understand data in multiple systems.
In the context of customer service, this means that the bot is comprehending in real-time how as a customer we are actually interacting with a company - are we on their website? In a web chat? Waiting in a voice queue? Or perhaps complaining via social?
Trying to interact effectively using automation without having genuine access to all of this data proves either limiting or just plain self-defeating.
The bot will simply follow the rules it’s given and will not be cognisant of data it doesn’t have.
So, whereas a human agent in a contact centre can interact with multiple systems and make a guided judgement, a bot simply cannot compare without having integrated up-to-date data.
In conclusion, business must harness real-time customer data to maximise the benefits bots can bring to the customer service sector – or risk being left in the dark. Bots are a big part of the customer experience and will change all of our lives. But if there’s one core task companies wishing to maximise their opportunities must complete, it has to start with the use of real-time customer data and customer interactions. The most effective innovators are those who understand the human element of change, and appreciate that it’s how we interact with technology that creates the biggest impact on our lives. Without this understanding, businesses rush into the world of bots at their peril.