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Jan 26, 2017

Hey Chatbot, How Can I Avoid Creating Another Silo?

customer service chatbots should not become another silo, like these

[Estimated read time: 3 minutes]

A lot of companies are looking into the possibilities of implementing chatbots for customer service. Many people believe, and I am one of them, that chatbots will be a new channel for a lot of companies and that consumers will use this channel more and more. In this article, I will not go into detail about why I believe this or why it is important to have self-service channels. In this article, I want to caution you against creating another silo.

How and why are chatbots used for customer service?

Chatbots, or virtual agents (as some people prefer to talk about them), are used to provide consumers with a way to interact with a brand in a conversational interface. Basically, they should offer the same experience to your consumers as if they were having a conversation with a service agent or an in-store rep.

Let’s take one step back… why does a consumer want to interact with a chatbot, and about what topics? It is all about getting an answer to a question you have NOW on the channel you prefer. A question about the brand, location-based questions (where can I find the closest shop), order-related questions (when can I expect delivery), product-related questions (do you have the red coffee machine in stock; do you have gluten-free products) -- customers can get all types of questions answered without the need to download an app. They can also have more diagnostic-related conversations that result in a specific action, like an appointment, an order, a complaint, and so on.

Chatbots are all about answering a consumer's question on the channel he or she prefers.

How should we implement a service chatbot?

From a consumer perspective, chatbots are actually just another self-service channel, like some organizations already offer on their websites. Many ecommerce websites already have a virtual agent that can respond to order-related questions; product- and ingredient-related questions are answered by a knowledgebase, and live chat is offered to respond to more comprehensive questions.

channels drawing from a common knowledgebase can help avoid silos when using chatbots for customer service

So, if chatbots can be viewed just another self-service channel, why don’t you use the technology from a smart knowledgebase that already underpins the existing self-service channels (like web and support for your agents) and expand it to “new” channels like in-store, mobile, social, and messengers like Facebook Messenger and WeChat? Do not create a separate silo again, but leverage existing technology from knowledge management.

Here are some reasons that support this approach:

  • The same knowledge is needed for all self-service channels anyway
  • The knowledgebase already has a natural language processing (NLP) engine to understand the intent behind customer questions and the narrow AI to generate a well-crafted response based on the right context
  • The decision engine in the knowledgebase understands where to find the right response, whether from a third-party system like an ordering or ecommerce system (for order-related questions), or directly from the knowledgebase itself (for product-related questions)
  • When more self-service channels are added, you will get a better and more comprehensive insight in the questions of your consumers, per channel, language, topic etc. Using machine learning capabilities, you will improve the accuracy of your knowledgebase and therefore better able to serve your consumers across all self-service channels
  • The knowledgebase application already has an escalation method which you want to leverage across channels. Consumer interaction should not be stored separately per channel but centrally in order to build complete consumer profiles

Chatbots have huge potential, both from a consumer perspective as well as from a brand perspective. Technology is catching up to deliver on this potential based on company use cases. In the meantime, focus on answering the question, rather than creating another silo.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.


Robert van de Steeg
by Robert van de Steeg

Robert van de Steeg is a Senior Solutions Consultant at Astute Solutions, based in our Amsterdam office. His previous experience includes account management and solution consultant positions at Oracle in the customer experience area. 

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