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Integrating Bots and Brains for an Optimized Customer Experience

By CIOReview | Thursday, September 14, 2017

CHICAGO - In the world of customer experience (CX), a plethora of potentially disruptive tools—from company websites, chat, SMS-text and social media to advancing natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive learning, automation and analytics—bring tremendous opportunity for businesses to win and retain customers.

According to Gartner, 89 percent of executives want to differentiate their brand based on the customer experience they provide but only 1 in 10 consumers believe that brands are doing a good job. Today’s businesses need to improve service, be open 24/7, and be consistent with personalized interactions, empathy and insight across multiple channels and digital devices. Without this optimized service, brands risk alienating today’s customers who show little loyalty.

A unified customer experience strategy brings a balance that leverages the latest digital innovation, while also improving service in a cost effective manner through conversations that emotionally connect with customers.World-class companies like Amazon and Apple set a standard of excellence for consumers everywhere, leading with self-service and integrating human expertise when it adds value. An example is the increasing adoption of intelligent home speakers --according to Strategy Analytics, 7 percent of North American homes will own an intelligent home speaker by the end of 2017. This is changing the way consumers interact with brands while at home.As the technology for these devices continues to advance, brands will have an even more sophisticated platform to tap into.

Therefore, it is critical for companies to understand these three drivers for an integration of bots and brains: 

Customers are not shy to talk to bots. Households have adopted digital and AI innovation as a way of life. Think “Hello Siri.” Starting your conversation with a bot is rapidly becoming the new norm. According to a recent Google study conducted by Northstar Research, more than half of teens and 41 percent of adults in the U.S. use voice search on a daily basis. A consistent customer experience that bridges channels is extremely important for Generation C—a demographic of connected customers that represents today’s buyer attitude and mindset. Bots, increasingly, provide a strong sense of reliability, consistency and ease of use, which are critical to meet the demand for a unified customer experience strategy.

Conversations are driving commerce. “Conversational commerce” is a term coined by Uber’s former developer experience lead, Chris Messina, in reference to the intersection of messaging apps and shopping. The growing use of mobile messaging applications, rise of sensors and wearables, and the integration of payment technology into apps, makes AI and bot communication with customers through Messenger, What’s App, Slack and others a natural evolution.With consumers interacting through these messaging and chat apps, conversational interfaces have become mainstream, enabled increasingly by AI and bots. Today,talking to a bot is more and more akin to connecting with a human. Bots employ NLP for more colloquial verbiage and appropriate tone, recognition and understanding, to increasingly replicate a human interaction. Culture and customization can be applied to mimic character and persona of human agents. And with their ability to process language, chatbots are able to handle tedious tasks like data entry, scheduling and other basic assistant-like tasks.Bots, however, are exception prone and can’t deliver on all fronts. For example, in Facebook’s recent launch of a bot API for its Messenger IM service, only 30 percent of requests could be resolved entirely without a human stepping in, according to The Information, a Silicon Valley blog.  As you can see, the seamless integration of brains, or human assistance with bots, is critical to an optimized digital customer experience. 

Bots are assuming more menial tasks, enabling humans to focus on higher-value work. The ideal self-service approach has proved to be anintelligent integration ofmore empowered and empathetic human agents with highly efficient bots. Be it the front-end bot or bot-assisted agent, the key is to employ automation where it adds value through reduced customer effort (improving CSAT by guiding customers to the right answer fast), cost-containment or revenue generation. Bot deployment frees up human labor for higher-minded, more emotional and complex decision making. In other words, it lets humans be human when interacting with customers. According to a recent report by Horses for Sources, automation is making way for strong growth of highly and medium-skilled personnel—with highlyskilled positions in the service provider industry increasing by 56 percent, and medium-skilled by 8 percent. However, low-skilled, routine jobs dropped 30 percent, as many of these roles get phased out over the next five years.