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Jun 24, 2022

Chatbots Are Not the Future. They’re Right Now!

By [24]7.ai

Ever feel like your world is moving at warp speed? Consumer purchasing habits and modes of communication are evolving almost as quickly as the digital platforms on which they buy goods and communicate with businesses. Online interactions have transformed from the days of simple digital sales to today’s need to offer the full digital experience, with customers now expecting more than ever.

Savvy companies are adapting to this changing landscape to keep customers satisfied. They are transforming their business models to take advantage of the digital world. In the sphere of customer experience, artificial intelligence and chatbots offer unparalleled services when it comes to creating a friction-free digital experience for customers.

 Companies have no choice but to become fundamentally digital and harness the power of today’s technology. Businesses need to think about leveraging newer forms of technology and intelligence to drive the next level of customer experience or risk falling behind their competitors at an accelerated pace. 

Why Chatbots? Why Now?

Chatbots have been around for decades. But today, they’re more necessary than ever because the way consumers communicate is creating a shift in how companies provide self-service and customer experience. It’s no longer about simply accessing data. It’s about how quickly customers can get their tasks done and how seamless and frictionless that experience can be.

Consumers are increasingly becoming conversational through the use of client applications, websites, apps, messaging services, and myriad devices. This means modern communications should be less about a single conversation through a single channel, and more about having a multi-channel conversation, leveraging interest, and leveraging data to drive the next level of interaction.

Today’s customers are looking for speed and convenience in each and every transaction. It’s up to you to provide them with a personalized experience that anticipates their needs. It’s time to stop asking, “How can I help you?” And it’s time to let chatbots change the conversation by taking the guesswork out of the process and knowing how to help.

Artificial intelligence and chatbots can help you by figuring out who the customer is, what their tendencies are, and providing an avenue for more personalized transactions. Leveraging data for problem solving, decision-making, learning, and speech recognition can all take customer engagement to the next level. 

How Chatbots Can Benefit Your Business

There’s more benefit to business than simply happy customers (which is of course, vital for your success). Employing a chatbot improves experience and impact for customers and business alike. For example:

Cost optimization

With every self-service technology, we look at how to reduce costs through increased automation. Since virtually every answer is possible through a self-service bot, it is counterintuitive to transfer these types of interactions to a voice agent. Therefore, in-channel agent escalation allows bots to save money by handling multiple sessions at one time — something a voice channel simply cannot do. 

Unconstrained voice of the customer

In the digital world, you gather a huge amount of data that you can use to better understand critical data points and gain competitive insights. This data makes it easier to identify friction points within the customer journey and figure out how to help customers complete their interactions with as little hassle as possible. 

Customer and agent experience

Making sure agents are well positioned in the new digital world and ensuring they can work alongside this new technology is important. Chatbots can take on the task of handling lower- value interactions, allowing agents to focus on high-value jobs and increasing employee satisfaction. Additionally, being able to escalate customer issues along with the entire context of the interaction to an agent when needed can help increase both customer and agent satisfaction. 

What’s the Best Chatbot for Your Company?

It’s important to figure out how chatbots fit into your company’s customer engagement environment, why chatbots are the future of market research, and how they’ll best be used. What level of engagement do you need?

Responses

If your company needs basic information provisioning, or a solution for a single question-and-answer session, you can use a bot that offers natural language in order to provide a simple, straightforward response. Example: What’s the shutter speed on this particular DSLR camera?

Personalized answers

The second level of chatbots helps companies leverage data about the customer in order to provide more complex responses. If a response is dependent on a customer’s profile or other back-end information, this type of bot will gather the information before providing a reply. If someone is logged into a customer portal, for example, the bot will be able to use their data to determine the correct response. Example: What’s my overdraft limit?

Guided transactions

This advanced level of chatbots is more about helping customers complete their journey than providing basic answers. These chatbots can help execute transactions on behalf of the user when there is complex intent with particular topics and goals. This is best for non-linear, conversation-based transactions. Even if the interaction must be escalated to a web agent, that agent will have the entire context of the conversation and will be able to complete the customer’s journey with minimal friction.

Example: What’s the best credit card for me?
Can you help me apply for the credit card and answer questions along the way?

Using Chatbots to Get Ahead

You’ve decided the time to get on the chatbot train is yesterday. Great! Now what? Now, learn how to put everything together and deploy chatbots in line with the customer engagement framework. How? 

Anticipate

Thinking ahead helps businesses derive intent from data, context, and natural language. Understanding customer intent can help you decide how to interact with them, and can help chatbots figure out how to engage with customers based on those intentions and needs. Rather than interrupting customers with a bot as soon as they access your website, you’ll be able to use analytics such as profile, interaction, and relationship to better understand what the customer is looking for and act accordingly.

Simplify

Once you understand what the customer intent is, it’s important to figure out how to engage customers with the best experience possible. By using the same data points, including profile, interaction, and relationship, you can figure out when to prompt the customer in order to resolve the interaction. Should you interrupt the customer while they’re shopping, engage them on the existing channel, or perhaps continue the process later on a different channel?

Essentially, chatbots should be able to provide the best channel treatment and offer an easy escalation path to chat with an agent, when appropriate. Bots should be made for multi- channel engagement and should be able to follow customers across time and channel with context. 

Learn

It’s important to consider how you can use machine learning, analytics, and crowdsourcing to help your business in the future. Thanks to their self-learning capabilities, bots can identify new trends and intents based on today’s trends and those of the future. A particular pattern of interactions, for example, provides self-learning mechanisms that improve intelligence, as well as offer the customer the next level of experience in the future.

Chances are you’re thinking about implementing a chatbot, or have already done so. If not, your competitors likely are. Even if you’ve already started down a path, it’s important to know where bumps can arise. [24]7.ai can help you work out what the best chatbot strategy is for your business.

Chatbots: Understand and embrace the change

As leaders think about how AI will impact their businesses in the next few years, there are several key questions they should consider:

  • How can AI (specifically chatbots) reduce labor costs and improve customer experience?
  • What can businesses do to reduce the risk of automation on the workforce?
  • What new jobs can be created because of automation?
  • What are the macroeconomic global ramifications of further automation?

One of the most obvious areas that AI will impact jobs in the next few years is in customer service and sales, especially in the contact center. Because of advances in AI, businesses can use artificially intelligent chatbots as virtual agents that replicate the effectiveness of their best human agents.

However, it is essential to remember chatbots are still an outward-facing extension of the brand, and even though they are not human, consumer expectations around their performance will be high.

Moreover, a robot does not have the empathy to handle a frustrated customer, or the creativity to drum up a solution to a particularly unique issue. These uniquely human capabilities shouldn’t be underestimated—they’re essential to the workforce of the future, particularly the customer experience of the future. And if companies are incentivized to invest in the platform development and training to empower humans and machines to work together, automation can be less of a risk, and more an opportunity.

Contact centers: shifting and pivoting, not disappearing

Today, there’s little distinction between someone designing conversations vs. handling customer queries, but in the near future, many of the routine activity that agents handle will go away. The agent of the future will be more educated, more sophisticated and apply principles of psychology to handle high-value, complex conversations with customers.

Automation will affect every industry, but the vital role of humans working behind the veil of AI should not be underestimated. The notion of fully autonomous AI is still a thing of fantasy for now.

For the foreseeable future, businesses will need humans to teach machines to work smarter, and bridge the gap where AI falls short—particularly when it comes to the complexities of human emotion. Human labor remains a key component of the AI loop, and as we’ve seen with just about every other major technological advancement, some jobs will be lost but many more will be created to fit this new reality.

Humanlike Chatbots: Chatbot Ethical Issues in Personality Design

The question of just how humanlike to make your chatbots has both practical and ethical consequences. Humanlike chatbots encourage connection and greater engagement, but are we deceiving users?

Thanks to advances in technology, it’s possible to create chatbots and voice assistants—as well as virtual reality, augmented reality, and photorealistic animations—that are nearly indistinguishable from humans.

Humanlike Chatbots: Embedding Empathy, Emotions, and Respect

How helpful should a chatbot be when facing queries outside its purview? Expert opinions vary as to whether a chatbot, which can’t be truly sorry, should even say “sorry” when it can’t help.

Nearly all humans have some capacity for empathy. That’s why yawning and laughter are contagious. Chatbots don’t have empathy or emotions; is it wrong to design them to imply they do? 

The ethical considerations of how technology is shaping the next generation, are staggering in number.

Should we treat chatbots as if they have feelings? Should our children say “please” and “thank you” to what is essentially a brilliant piece of software? A related consideration: How do we design chatbots to respond to verbal abuse? Is it unacceptable when directed at “only” a chatbot? Should they ignore it? Shut down? Call for human help? Return fire? These might seem like minor things but on both a practical and ethical level, the implications are real.

Ethics of Chatbots: Perpetuating Real-World Issues

Turns out, all these personality design issues have serious societal consequences. The growing ubiquity of AI means if we code such things as misogyny and racist attitudes into chatbots, or allow these evils to be perpetuated against chatbots, we contribute to real-world problems. Personalities must be designed to react accordingly and appropriately.

Chatbots are here now and are here to stay. How we chose, implement and guide these bots will determine their value and benefit to their users and owners. Denying they are the future will leave those businesses behind and, in short order, a thing of the past.

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