Bots and Intelligent Assistants Can Transform Contact Centres

Ann-Marie Stagg, Chief Exec of the Call Centre Management Association looks at how Bots and Intelligent Assistants will enable you to transform the customer experience without breaking the bank, and what questions you need to ask to make the right decisions for your company.


While there has been a lot of noise around chatbots and AI and how they will affect the contact centre, it’s probably fair to say that most customers have yet to have a genuinely “intelligently assisted” self-service experience.

The popularity of consumer IAs (Intelligent Assistants) like Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Echo shows that consumers are keen to use their ever-present digital devices to help themselves.

Given that deploying bots is evidently less expensive than employing humans, and in some cases is also more efficient and convenient for the customer, this is a huge change which will likely upend our whole industry over the next few years.

It’s happening right now

We know that there will always be times when people want to talk to real people, so we’re not predicting the demise of the contact centre – again.  Indeed, there is evidence that deploying chatbots could actually increase the need for contact centre agents with some examples of customers with mobile apps calling the contact centre more than non-mobile customers. But IA and robotics have arrived and companies need to embrace them.

As IAs exit the early adopter phase and start to go mainstream, companies need to know how to take advantage of these technologies to improve, and widen the scope of, their own self-service.

Some of those early adopters have reportedly already succeeded in transitioning between 15% to 50% of inbound volumes to self-service. This dramatically changes the cost to serve model that most service organisations operate. It also in many cases meets customer expectations for low effort, always on, personalised service.

But this is not just a customer service opportunity. Any sales, marketing or customer success workflow can have IA engagement woven in. It’s an upgraded capability across the customer lifecycle.

IAs are now applicable for any company or department that needs to:

– Automate as many customer journeys as possible

– Reduce operational costs while improving the customer experience

– Improve the immediacy and availability of customer service to meet new expectations

– Encourage more customer use of self-service to reduce inbound demand for live assistance

Types of IAs

The IAs available today run the gamut from glorified FAQ to machine learning AI bot. The former use rules based engines and some NLP (Natural Language Processing) to allow a customer to interrogate a FAQ by typing in (or speaking) a question.

The latter use neural networks and cognitive computing in association with larger, more complex knowledge bases and datasets – including customer and transaction data – to “think” their way around customers’ requests and try to come up with a response. This category of bot improves over time as it handles more queries.

Most of the thousands of chatbots that brands have so far integrated into services like Facebook Messenger fall into the first camp. They are relatively simple, and often transactional and menu-driven rather than conversational.

Genuine “conversational commerce” – where the IA becomes the new interface for online commercial transactions – is probably several years short of full enterprise maturity but already a $1.2 billion a year opportunity for technology vendors according to Dan Miller of Opus Research and worth four times that by 2021.

IA growth is going to be fast over the coming years. Companies that get it right, and get it right quickly, are going to steal a march on their competitors by offering superior and faster service at lower cost.

What you need to know

Deploying an IA is not as simple as having your developers create a Messenger chatbot and putting it out there. There are whole ecosystems developing around multiple IA and chatbot platforms, some of which are more open (Alexa, Facebook) than others (Siri). The various providers of messaging services (Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, WeChat, and so on) all have their own standards and APIs. And the contact centre, CRM, telco and cloud technology vendors are starting to tout solutions for integrating IA channels into their existing offers.

Whether you choose to go it alone, partner with the best vendor for each new channel that appears (which could be lots), or manage all your intelligent self-service channels through your current infrastructure supplier is a difficult decision that depends on many factors. It requires the decision makers in your company to understand, among other things:

– The Intelligent Assistance market and its key vendors

– What’s happening at a technology level to cause this step change

– Why Intelligent Assistants are a self-service game changer

– The use cases in Sales, Marketing & Service

– The impact on metrics like CSAT, NPS, customer effort

As this is such a vital and pressing topic we decided to create a Masterclass aimed at Directors, Heads of Customer Service, Customer Experience or Operations who are in search of breakthrough operating models for redesigning how they deliver customer service. In particular, the need to reduce cost to serve while improving key customer expectations such as low effort, self-sufficiency for many service tasks.

ccma.ann.marie.stagg.image.2014Additional Information

Ann-Marie Stagg is Chief Exec of the Call Centre Management Association

To reserve your place on CCMA’s Masterclass Click Here

For additional information on CCMA visit their Website

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