There has been a huge amount of discussion and articles about AI and chatbots taking over the world of customer-engagement interactions. In some scenarios it is envisaged that all contact centre staff will be replaced by robots! This, I am happy to say, is just the extra-zealous end of the hype machine in overdrive: the 1 million plus people who are employed in the UK contact-centre business can sleep easily tonight.
Where we are today with AI and chatbots is no different to many other early-stage technological innovations: over-promising at the start, and the reality is less stark, but strides are usually made forward with the technology delivering significant benefits when used correctly as part of a joined up customer-contact engagement strategy. Leaving AI and chatbots to one side for a moment, the shift in the way that we all converse with each other has changed beyond recognition over the past four years.
A simple example of this is WhatsApp and Messenger, which virtually did not exist in 2013, but are used by almost everyone today, often multiple times daily. The usage numbers of these OTT (over the top) channels are phenomenal, with Messenger and WhatsApp now handling 60 billion messages daily. The gap is obvious as most enterprises have not made the jump to these channels as there usually still just pushing out SMS. These new channels are now open to enterprise, so, with the richness of their messages and the reduced cost when compared to SMS, these will become the default messaging option for enterprise very shortly.
Over the past 12 months, the Webio platform has been deployed in numerous organisations for a range of applications, including customer services and experience, sales and marketing, and credit management/collections, which is our biggest application. We have seen significant changes with the way customers have engaged with these businesses and the adoption of 'conversational messaging' has been the most recognisable shift in the last year. The channel for conversational messaging is not just SMS, as the addition of Messenger and Viber and the adoption and growth driver here is the possibility of much richer messages at reduced cost, when compared to SMS. The key enabler for the conversational messaging has been the Webio AI and Webio Chatbots our key learning is to keep it simple if you want to be successful, both in terms of business metrics and customer experience.
Our AI has focussed on handling simple parts of the conversation like ID verification, then seamlessly handing over to the agent where more complexity is needed. One key outcome and potential game changer for organisations is the number of conversations an agent can successfully han-dle at one time. Agents can handle up to 15 conversations at one time, due to AI automation and the asynchronous nature of messaging. Currently, the ratio of agent to conversations is best for webchat at 1:3 so the potential efficiencies of a 1:15 ratio is driving organisations to re-evaluate their contact strategies.
The other changes over the past year have been increased activity of linking outbound and inbound messaging campaigns together, in a co-ordinated manner, to deliver a better customer experience.
This better experience has driven benefits to the business bottom line in terms of improved engagement resulting in better collection rates. The Webio platform can manage both inbound conversations and outbound campaigns using a range of channels and these include SMS, Facebook Messenger, and Viber. SMS is usually where organisations are today albeit it is almost always just outbound messaging with no capability for customer to engage properly. Enabling SMS conversations has been the door opener for most organisations and is where most feel comfortable to start, as they are familiar with the channel already.
Here are some of the key learnings and adoption patterns from our experiences over the past year: