Technology has changed the way we are communicating. We have moved at warp speed from the days of handling voice calls, e-mails and sending SMSs to a world of messaging apps and chatbots. Social to Social has become B2C, with customers in the driving seat and wanting to engage with companies as easily as they do with friends and family. Customers want to connect quickly, get support across multiple channels and devices. And they want it now!
Chatbots, AI agents, virtual agents or virtual customer assistants or whatever you want to call them, are extremely successful at reducing inbound call volumes. Virtual agents are fully armed to tackle thousands of contacts easily. That's their job.
There has been lots of interest in Artificial Intelligence and much has been reported on the in-use applications and benefits of using virtual agents, particularly in the area of customer service. There has been a torrent of articles and posts written on the topic from 'Why Businesses Should Pay Attention to this Chatbot Revolution' to Forbes 'How Artificial Intelligence Creates A Better Customer Service Experience'. With so much content and enthusiasm on what AI can deliver, it can be somewhat daunting taking these ideas and adapting them. "How do I take what I am reading about and start to put it into action", is what we hear a lot. So, here are a couple of pointers to help you get a head start:
Take the pain out of inbound by using AI across the complete customer journey. Let virtual agents be the first port of call and manage all inbound engagements, identifying next step actions and routing conversations. Using intelligent queue, keyword and sentiment rules virtual agents determine how best to respond, route and complete conversations. For simpler queries, virtual agents can lead the conversation from start to finish. So now, live agents aren't expending valuable time answering queries, but rather talking with customers where their expertise can really add value. So, the pressure is relieved. Not matter how many customers want to get in touch, there is always an immediate intelligent response.
In addition, virtual agents, know when to start the conversation. This is not new news. Taking pre-emptive actions and sending messages about issues that you know customers are going to make contact about is so effective. Using customer data to its best effect and "contacting them, before they have a chance to contact you" will slash the number of inbound calls. No bulk message sending, now it's time for intelligent scheduling.
An important element of AI driven conversations is the contact channel. Knowing what channels customers respond to, and like to use, is now a given. With AI, this knowledge is front and centre. So, look at the channels your contact centre is currently using and see how it can become 'channel agnostic' - ensuring that you can engage in all channels across the customer journey, and easily add new ones. Customers have a range of channels that they use and you need to keep up. Today's most popular 'messaging app' may not be tomorrows.
Key to effective customer engagement is having the ability to move to different channels, seamlessly whilst maintaining the context, tone and tempo of the conversation. For example, a customer using an virtual agent on your website should have the option to be move the conversation to a live agent and have the conversation history transfer across. So, no repetition.
Another example is in the case of a complaint, having the virtual agent start the engagement and using keywords and sentiment analysis identify when to involve an live agent, and have the ability to seamlessly hand the conversation over. It is all about the experience and customer don't want to start over, ever!
These are just a few things to consider but there are many more. Something to note is getting started with AI and adding new messaging channels is not as difficult as you may think. Starting simple is the key.