With so many conflicting opinions and predictions it’s hard to tell what the real state of chatbots is, even if it is all the talk around customer service, experience and care these days. Service providers are trying to figure out how they can best leverage the bot opportunity.
The bot race
Tech research firm Forrester recently conducted a survey on behalf of Amdocs, polling 7,200 consumers worldwide, and 31 decision makers from Tier-1 service providers. It reported that 86 percent of consumers regularly engage with bots, while 65 percent of service providers are investing in artificial intelligence (AI) to create and deliver better customer experiences and in chatbot infrastructure and capabilities.
AI research firm TechEmergence notes that chatbots are expected to be the top consumer application for AI over the next five years, while tech analyst company Gartner explains the anticipated acceleration of adoption:
“Chatbots are entering the market rapidly and have broad appeal for users due to efficiency and ease of interaction.”
As such, the firm issues a powerful call to action:
“Customer interactions are moving to conversational interfaces, so marketers need to have a bot strategy if they want to be part of that future.”
In a Forbes article, Shep Hyken, who speciializes in customer experience, supports these predictions and suggests the benefits of chatbots to the enterprise include they fact they:
- are available 24/7 – making ‘working hours’ irrelevant;
- don’t make customers wait for an answer, dispensing with hold times;
- personalize customers’ experience by delivering only relevant information; and
- make friends and build brand.
However, as most consumers know by now – this isn’t always the case:
- If the chatbot is available, but doesn’t understand the inquiry, availbility is irrelevant and how many times have you head or read “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that”?
- If you don’t have to wait for chatbots, if they cannot process your request or handle more complex engagements, and you have to transfer to a live agent, then hold times are back in play (and you’ve had the added frustration of an extra step in the process).
- If they can connect customer data to the engagement, but haven’t got a 360 degree view of the customer, the response might be neither contextual nor timely (again, causing friction);
- How can they act as the customer’s ‘friend’ if they don’t really understand their request and so cannot sufficiently and effectively fulfill their needs? Or, if they can’t engage in a way that’s naturally conversational, intuitive, and personalized?
So, while BusinessInsider believes that “a chatbot’s usefulness is limited only by “creativity and imagination,” we know there’s more to it than that. Namely, service providers that want to leverage chatbots and reap the promised rewards of taking customer experience to new heights while decreasing costs, will need to:
- Ensure that personalization does not rely solely on CRM data, but is based on a 360 customer view which includes behavior history, channel preference and journey patterns.
- Ensure the right balance between virtual and live agents, seamlessly transferring the engagement to a live agent as needed, in a way that is transparent to the customer.
- Make sure that the chatbot understands intents specific to telecoms so they can more accurately address the needs of service providers’ customers.
- Integrate chatbots with the relevant business systems to make all the required data readily available.
- Make sure chatbots can turn every care engagement into a commerce opportunity, by presenting the most relevant and timely marketing offer to customers.
- Optimize each engagement by learning from past interactions.
Accordingly, a successful chatbot strategy should seek to ensure that a bot:
- uses intelligence and machine learning;
- is designed for communications and media industries;
- understands telco-specific intents; and
- is fully integrated with core back-end systems.
Learn more about how to achieve each of these critical capabilities in TM Forum’s recently published Quick Insights report, How an Intelligent Chatbot Can Revolutionize the Virtual Agent Experience (page 26).