Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Reinventing the Customer Service Model Using Bots and Brains

January 16, 2018
By Special Guest
Lauren Kindzierski, VP, Solutions and Capabilities, HGS -

Digital disruption is revolutionizing industries across the globe, and customer service is no exception. According to Gartner, “By 2020, 85 percent of all customer service interactions will no longer require the support of a human intermediary.” A plethora of disruptive tools—from chat, SMS-text and social media to natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), automation and bots—present opportunities to transform retailers’ capabilities.

In “A Survey of 3,000 Executives Reveals How Businesses Succeed with AI,” published by Harvard Business Review, only 20 percent of respondents were using AI at scale or at their business core. With many bricks-and-mortar companies competing with online retailers such as Amazon, it is time to integrate AI, bots and automation into the customer experience (CX) for a much-needed edge. Yet, the big question that remains at the forefront is, “should robots replace our agents?” Not entirely. It’s a matter of finding the right mix between bots and brains—choosing complete automation or a hybrid of machines and humans.

When deployed correctly in both the front and back office, bots have major advantages—higher issue resolution rates, increased conversions and reduced average handle times. Bots make answering mundane and routine inquiries easy for both agents and customers. Agents can now work faster because bots are populating and predicting the right reponse, and all they have to do is either approve or personalize it. Customers benefit from chatbots, as they can now receive support 24/7 and resolve their issues immediately without having to pick up a phone.

A good starting point when designing your strategy is to look at your data and analyze the top contact center drivers. Then, determine which of those you can address using a bot, a brain or a mix of both. The key is having analytics and a data analyst on the back end to track resolution rates. If customers are not getting their issues resolved as anticipated using a bot, the experience needs to be redesigned.

Here are three main CX drivers to keep in mind when designing your bot and brain experience:

Customers are comfortable talking to bots. Households have already embraced AI interaction. Think “Hello, Siri.” According to a Google study conducted by Northstar Research, more than half of teens and 41 percent of adults in the U.S. use voice search daily. A CX that bridges channels is important for Generation C—a demographic of connected customers with today’s mindset. When designing your experience, don’t forget to consider speechbots, which increasingly provide a sense of availability, consistency and ease of use critical to meeting customer demands.

Conversations are driving commerce. “Conversational commerce” is a term coined by bot enthusiast Chris Messina, formerly of Uber and Google, pertaining to the intersection of messaging apps and shopping. Conversational commerce interfaces (e.g., Slack, WhatsApp) have become mainstream, enabled increasingly by AI and bots. In the UK, a nutrition and sustenance company drives commerce with new parents using WhatsApp because customers perceive the messaging channel to be more accessible and user friendly. Agents like it because they can pull accurate, consistent information from knowledgebases quickly during sensitive conversations or while helping parents purchase products.

Bots are assuming more menial tasks, enabling humans to focus on higher-value work. Combining empowered human agents with efficient bots, be it the front-end bot or bot-assisted agent, can reduce customer effort, contain costs and generate revenue. Bots free up human labor for higher-minded, complex decision making. It lets humans be human. According to Horses for Sources, automation is changing the workforce—with highly skilled positions in the service industry increasing by 56 percent, and medium-skilled by 8 percent.

Today’s CX demands accuracy, speed and an authentic connection. Competitive retailers must adopt a unified, omnichannel approach and find a human-machine balance. Early adopters are already experimenting with next-generation techniques. Leveraging customer data, journey mapping, and partners who have experience with these technologies can lead to automation that drives smarter CX. It’s not too late to embrace AI, bots and automation to differentiate your brand.

About the Author: Lauren Kindzierski is VP, Solutions and Capabilities at HGS. Her passion for customer experience has driven her to develop innovative engagement solutions for clients with smart integration of Bots&Brains™. In 2016, she received a Silver Stevie® Award for being a Women Leader in Business, Executive of the Year. Lauren holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Walsh College.

Edited by Mandi Nowitz