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Martin Taylor

Why 2020 will mark the death of the chatbot (as you know it)

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Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru, explains how the convergence of written and verbal chatbot functionality will bring about an entirely new Conversational User Interface (CUI)…

It’s no secret that 2020 has been an unusual year for customer communication. With international lockdowns limiting person-to-person interactions, many companies have turned to digital channels to continue relationships with their customers. Automation, and the trusty chatbot, have proved invaluable to many companies attempting to field the vast amount of customer queries caused by pandemic-induced uncertainty.

However, increased social isolation has put a premium on human interactions. Businesses that can deliver a joined-up customer journey, where the speed and convenience of automated customer service meets on-demand agent attention, will find themselves profiting from increased customer loyalty in the coming recession

Chatbots are dead. Long live chatbots

Most of us have had the misfortune of interacting with a badly configured chatbot. Whether to return faulty clothes or complain about an incorrect phone bill, we are often left feeling even more frustrated than we were beforehand.

Many businesses viewed these chatbots as a cheap panacea to all customer service problems but, in reality, this idea never came to fruition. In the last year or so, businesses should have realised that the idea of the chatbot as a magical one-size-fits-all solution, is dead.

So, the notion of the all-providing IM chatbot that was once hailed as the answer to all our customer service automation needs, is dead. However, the technology is not gone for good. In fact, the chatbot we will soon come to know is just being born.

The very fabric of the chatbot is evolving alongside the advancements in cloud, AI, and voice technologies to become a valuable part of every wider omni-channel portfolio. The convergence of written and spoken chatbot functionalities should, and likely will, be the driving force behind the rebirth of a new CUI, built on the foundations the humble chatbot began.

The resurgence of voice 

According to recent research, only 9 percent of customers felt that they would be best served by a chatbot for serious enquiries, whereas the figures for a voice call were in excess of 80 percent. But with 80 percent of contact centers wanting to adopt chatbot technology by 2020, what is does this industry know that we don’t?

Well, they are seeing the bright and not-so-distant future of this technology, and it doesn’t look like a thing like your average chatbot. The resurgence of voice-led interactions, driven by home assistants such as Alexa, and the fact that customers still overwhelmingly prefer to speak to another human for important queries, is ushering in a new Golden Age of Voice. This has led to a growing maturity in the consumer base that sees the chatbot becoming a valuable channel led by the latest, cutting-edge voice technology.

A branch of AI called Natural Language Processing (NLP) is one of the most recent developments that is pushing the chatbot to become more than it once was. With 2020 set to be the year that Natural Language Processing (NLP) goes mainstream in contact centres, the new CUI chatbot will benefit from the rich insights produced by this tool.

A necessary evolution

The chatbot has often been defined as just an online text-based engagement portal, but with NLP cementing itself in the last year or so as a tool that opens up unprecedented insight into voice data, especially in customer journey analytics, the chatbot should be the next to follow suit.

Yesterday’s humble V1.0 chatbot will evolve alongside these technological advancements in voice. By building on the chatbot in this way, it stops becoming a one-stop-shop of automated responses, and instead becomes the shop-front to an intelligent customer engagement hub.

In practice this simply means that those customers with more complex enquiries can be transferred to a human agent, and those with simple queries can save time by utilising the CUI alone. All using an automated CUI powered by NLP and sentiment tracking.

Sentiment is king

With NLP, by the time the agent answers a customer they know exactly what their issue is, since the call has already been categorised. Queries can be resolved faster and more accurately, since the agent is more prepared and won’t have to spend time searching for answers in real-time during the call.

There is now a big rush to roll out NLP everywhere, in all sectors. It is set to be a gamechanger in the contact centre industry, since it is manifestly more efficient than a traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and supports agent activity.

Advancements in sentiment analysis will be the next big step for NLP and will continue to pave the way for monumental changes to the chatbot in 2020. This is where a sophisticated mix of keywords, tone of voice, and volume create a much deeper picture of the caller and their needs for the agent. With this information, businesses can ensure that each caller is routed to the agent or department best equipped to deal with their enquiry.

For example, if sentiment analysis during a chatbot interaction detects a customer who is distressed, the call can be routed to an agent who is experienced or trained in handling these types of conversation. This streamlines processes and ensures customers are always served by the most suitable person.

The chatbot in 2020 and beyond

So, while the chatbot as we know it is not destined to take over the world of contact centers, the future of the chatbot is far from doomed. Instead, 2020 is an exciting time for the latest evolution of this cog in the wider machine of all successful customer engagement hubs.

These changes will ultimately lay the foundations for a future where, as a consumer, it will be extremely difficult — if not impossible — to tell the difference between human and chatbot. Advances in sentiment tracking, NLP and machine learning will all drive the chatbot to become the ultimate customer service assistant.

Revolutionise your contact centre with next generation chatbot functionality: https://bit.ly/2GcY06v

It’s time to stop talking about AI in the contact centre

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that consumers engage with brands. Lockdown has birthed a new era of digital communication, in which customers expect to interact with companies over the channel of their choice, and receive the same unrivalled service that they do from leading online giants.

How can organisations ensure that they deliver exceptional customer engagement, at a time in which many contact centres are under-resourced, and overwhelmed by new spikes in demand?

Artificial Intelligence can solve this issue. The implementation of automation and intelligent machine learning in the contact centre liberates agents to handle priority contacts, build outstanding customer relationships, and forge customer loyalty in today’s uncertain business environment.

Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru, explains how the contact centre industry is leading the charge in practical AI application…

Old Conversation

AI has started to feel like an old conversation. But the reality is that it’s only just off the starting blocks in many industries. In the last year, contact centres and organisations focused on customer engagement have moved beyond the AI hype into practical implementation. As such, businesses that want to stop talking and start doing should be looking to those organisations as a leading example.

There are tangible examples of AI applications already in full swing in the contact centre industry, ranging from Natural Language Processing (NLP) to image recognition. Research from industry-leading analyst Gartner suggests that in 2020, 80% of customer service interactions will be handled by AI. This is hardly surprising, as around a quarter of customer interactions are already handled through an automated chatbot, and the industry is constantly expanding the very definition of what AI is and what it can do.

The driving force behind the AI revolution is customer experience. As it becomes the key business differentiator, organisations that stay ahead of the curve are seeing happy, loyal and engaged customers and higher profits, by turning AI hype into tangible business success. Moving beyond the hype and towards result-driven applications of AI will be critical to the success of any company wanting to survive in this competitive landscape.

Why the contact centre is embracing the dual interface

AI coupled with real-life human intelligence creates an augmented dual interface that is delivering a competitive advantage to companies wanting to offer a frictionless customer journey. An omni-channel contact centre that deploys AI working hand-in-hand with human agents is becoming critical for any organisation that doesn’t want to be in the bottom quartile for customer satisfaction (CSAT).

Companies in the top quartile experience an impressive 87% less churn from their employees, and are 44% more profitable. Research has shown that the number one reason for agent dissatisfaction is workload. Contact centres are eliminating the mundane tasks for their human agents through intelligent automation, and are supporting the agent’s ability to seamlessly handle calls with AI. This improves job satisfaction, thereby reducing the rate of attrition.

Evolving the role of human agents means less money is spent on training. In the past, data scientists — who possess one of the most sought-after skill-sets — would be required to process, analyse and derive insights from customer data. Now, AI-solutions are programmed to do this automatically, reducing organisations’ dependency on scarce and pricey skill-sets.

Augmented intelligence: working smarter, not harder

Not only is the contact centre industry demystifying practical uses for AI, it is also debunking the rumours about AI replacing humans. Contrary to popular belief, and as the hype may suggest, AI will not cost businesses their human face. Organisations can still leverage automation while maintaining the human touch, by providing intelligently augmented interactions.

This type of intelligent assistance helps employees work more efficiently and deliver better results. The fact is that no new technology in human history has ever created long-term, mass unemployment. There will be a period of adjustment and a need for a different skill-set. But overall, these developments will open up new opportunities for establishing long-term career prospects in contact centres.

NLP is going mainstream

NLP is a form of AI that analyses natural dialogue to draw contextual meaning and understand language the way humans do. NLP registers, deciphers, understands, and makes sense of spoken language, and turns it into actionable data. This technology is a great example of both a tangible and current use of AI to achieve business success, as well as a strong argument against the idea that AI is replacing humans in the workplace.

Having information on the nature of an incoming customer call readily available means that human agents do not have to sift through huge volumes of data to answer the query. This enables them to provide a much faster and more personalised experience to the customer. NLP can also be used to help Machine Agents to parse meaning from spoken language, enabling them to provide more accurate responses.

When a customer reaches a contact centre agent, NLP can work in the background and prompt the agent with automated information on-screen to assist them in resolving the query. Increased automation means companies will need to spend less money on training costs. NLP automatically provides a wrap summary of the conversation on completion of the call so the agent does not have to spend time at the end of the interaction completing this task. This reduces the administrative burden and frees up agents to answer more calls.

Many early adopters of this type of AI are organisations in the public sector. A combination of a tight budget and hefty workloads makes public sector organisations prepared to invest first, but many other industries are now seeing the value in NLP and rolling out the technology en masse.

What’s stopping you from stepping into the future?

In the past, one of the biggest roadblocks of AI deployment was the limited resources available. But today, with hyperscale cloud platforms and vast computing power, the scalability of AI solutions has become much more attainable. We have moved from scarcity, caused by high cost technology, to the abundance of cheap processors.

The combination of extra computing power and new AI-driven processes have really come together in the last few years. This means that organisations can easily and cost-effectively draw on extra computing resources to scale their contact centre capacity accordingly.

This new approach to the contact centre presents businesses across every industry with a scalable opportunity to future-proof their communications estate and keep up with customer expectations of a flawless, omni-channel customer experience. Using the latest cutting-edge tools to complement a company’s existing offering should become second nature to any forward-thinking business. These are exciting times for AI, and, as we move into 2020, it is time to stop talking about AI, and start doing.

Click here to discover AI for your contact centre.