• Guest Blog: Rich Grohol: Should small businesses ignore the chatbots fad?

    961 1024 Stuart O'Brien

    Rich Grohol is the Chief Executive Officer of Telsis. Telsis partners with Network Operators to develop services such as real-time fraud prevention, nuisance call screening, inbound call management and a range of other solutions for network operators and enterprise customers.

    Yorkie: Not for girls. That was the provocative slogan for one of Yorkshire’s popular chocolatiers. And if contact centres had one? Chatbots: not for small businesses! Why? That’s because innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven chatbots and even certain apps have mainly been the reserve of large, wealthy enterprises. Silicon Valley behemoths Facebook, Amazon and Google have released an army of chatbots. In fact Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella believes that “chatbots are the new apps”.  Chatbots are no longer the preserve of sci-fi fantasies like Dr Who.  But is it just a fad, a plaything of the rich, when we know that real humans can always do it better? It’s time to separate fad from fiction!

    Here come the millennials

    Another famous slogan: it is good to talk. That was perfect for the ‘90s when voice dominated telco revenues and brick phones were the in-thing championed by the likes of Gordon Gekko. That all changed ten years ago when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007 and revolutionised how humans communicated with each other. When was the last time you bought a mobile phone purely for its voice calling capabilities?

    One in four smartphone owners don’t even make a single call in a week. That’s especially true for millennials. Most would rather use apps, Instant Messaging, social media or text to interact with not just friends, but also businesses. A few contact centres are evolving to meet changing consumer behaviour. But, not fast enough for millennials’ appetites.

    Many small businesses have shied away fearing high price and high complexity. Yet keeping up with the millennials and delivering an outstanding service with new mobile-related technology and AI-based chatbots can be simpler than many businesses fear. Technology readily available today does makes it easy and cost effective for contact centres to provide an intelligent, bespoke service. The service can be tailored from day to day depending on what device, screen size, network coverage and WiFi network the customer may be using. It can take into account noisy or quiet environments or whether the customer wishes their communications to be public or private.

    There’s got to be an app for that

    For people with (very) little time to spare, an app could provide access to information faster and deliver a better user experience. It could be easily be integrated into the business’ customer care system, including the contact centre.

    If a customer wanted to speak to someone, they could call via the app. The caller would have cleared security online and the agent would not need to go through a laborious security procedure. The app could also integrate video. The customer can show the agent the nature of a problem. No more long calls explaining a flat-pack furniture conundrum!

    By using analysis on the type of queries a business receives, a chatbot can be fine-tuned to deliver an even better service. This can be done with an easy and non-technical interface that can train the chatbot to develop its skills, understanding and repertoire.

    Three things need to take place to make this type of technology accessible to all businesses:

    1. Contact centres need to migrate from monolithic on-premise call centre solutions. These are archaic and not capable of easily integrating new services. They are certainly not cost efficient. Instead, look towards hosted solutions that are continuously being enhanced. They can provide the latest capabilities and technologies from the cloud
    1. Contact centre providers must deliver application toolkits to help their customers – large and small enterprises – easily integrate new contact functionalities and capabilities, including apps, video and AI chatbots
    1. Once the technology has been embedded within the app, the framework needs to be automatically configured to deliver the latest updates via the app store

    Contact centres must be designed to make life easy for consumers from the very first touchpoint – we know that. And it is increasingly clear that building expensive add-ons on top of archaic on-premise call centres cannot be the way ahead.  Small businesses have one major advantage over large ones – and that’s their agility, their ability to change things quickly as the market changes. And the market has most certainly changed. When hosted, cloud-based communications are in place, new technologies can be easily integrated. And that means launching new, integrated customer service technologies such as chatbots and apps does not need to cost the earth. The cloud gives small businesses the opportunity to leapfrog their larger rivals. And after all, wouldn’t your customer prefer to be messaging with your intelligent chatbots rather than listening to your rival’s hold music?


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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