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May 14, 2019

The Real Deal with Chatbots: 3 Takeaways from Industry Trends

Categories:
Chatbots & AI

industry trends cx chatbots

With so many trendwatchers out there commenting about the implications of AI, automation, and bots for the customer experience, it can be difficult to sift through the discussion and figure out your strategy.

We've recently shared complimentary access to three Forrester reports that explore these trends:

As a customer engagement software provider with a chatbot solution of our own, we want to share our own takeaways from these three reports. By combining expert insights with our experience working with leading consumer brands, we've distilled the following insights:

1. The bot backlash has begun.

Much as they did when IVRs first came on the scene, consumers are beginning to push back on chatbots. The internet is full of screenshots of frustrating and sometimes comical interactions with chatbots.

chatbot with poor nlp

In their "2019 Predictions" report, Forrester analysts said:

"In 2019, the inflated expectations of AI in customer service and sales will fall back to reality. The idea that robots will replace humans in these roles will be quickly met with tactful skepticism accompanied by cocked eyebrows and crossed arms."

Why the backlash? In a drive to cut costs and, in extreme cases, even replace agents with chatbots, companies are forgetting the customer experience. And at a time where consumer skepticism of bots is high, there is more pressure than ever to demonstrate your bot is better. Since it's nearly impossible to deliver the quick response times and accurate, personalized answers across channels without automation, choosing the right bot (and the right technology partner) is absolutely critical.

Your next move: Before jumping on the bot bandwagon, take a step back. Consider your overall objectives, your broader digital CX strategy, and the impact on current systems. Remember that a bot is a means to an end, not the end itself.

2. Companies should focus on augmenting agents and giving customers options.

Having bots take the place of all your human agents is a recipe for disaster. As Forrester analysts explain in "Stop Trying to Replace Your Agents with Chatbots," many organizations are taking the wrong approach when it comes to the relationship between agents and bots:

"Our clients tell us of their ambitious goal for automation: Reduce the need for human intervention and live agent contacts. They focus on cost, rather than the customer experience. The widely touted idea that chatbots will take over most customer service work leads brands astray."

Although 88% of companies surveyed by Forrester saw reduced contact volume after deploying a chatbot, only 12% saw improvement in their transactional Net Promoter Score. Customers want choice. Companies that make it too difficult to reach a human agent and force all customers to use a bot, regardless of the issue, will ultimately cause frustration that damages the brand and drives customers to competitors. Customer experience is becoming a more important differentiator than even product or price, and human agents still have a vital role to play.

Your next move: Create a model that allows your customers to "choose their own adventure," offering a chatbot to handle self-service interactions in a convenient, conversational way while also providing an easy way to escalate to a live agent. Ensure that escalations pass along all the context of the interactions, reducing the need for customers to repeat themselves.

3. It's time to rethink AI's role.

If you reframe the conversation away from replacing human work and towards augmenting via automation, your next question might be, "How?"

In their "Five CRM Trends" report, analysts from Forrester concluded:

"AI and automation offload repetitive tasks and allow frontline customer personnel to concentrate on nurturing customer relationships. Companies that master the interplay between AI, automation, and human relationships will dominate their industries."

Much like the concept of "co-bots" in manufacturing, where robots and humans work together to complete tasks, AI and automation should be viewed as tools that help humans do their jobs better. For example, customer service chatbots and automation within a case management system can assist agents by offloading the mundane, repetitive questions and data entry tasks, freeing them to focus on what humans are especially good at: building relationships and offering empathy.

Leaving the simpler cases to a self-service chatbot also lets agents learn and develop in their careers by owning the more complex customer cases. (But don't forget that an embedded agent knowledgebase can give them the tools to master even the toughest cases.)

Your next move: Consider where your current service operations have opportunities for automation, like completing known case fields, suggesting responses and enclosures, and delivering answers with customer-facing chatbots. Resist the temptation to automate something for the sake of automation. Instead, make sure there is a strong business case for making a change.

The analysts at Forrester provide a wealth of information for CX professionals seeking to make sense of the most recent trends. We hope our takeaways and insights have demystified the issue of bots and automation. Our team is always happy to discuss your unique business challenges and create a plan that provides the most value for your team – feel free to contact us anytime.

 

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