AI Will Be A Great Addition To The Customer Contact Mix
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is very of the moment. Researchers are investing a lot of time and effort into predicting how huge the impact of more self-aware systems will be on work, society and even humanity’s future.
Quite rightly as there is genuine innovation going on, and some companies are doing real things with AI even now, including VoiceSage, however I still think there are some important practical implications to bear in mind.
Let’s start with a recent BBC Online story on fully featured AI ‘Are killer bots about to do away with smartphone apps?’. The claim is that the 150 billion apps humanity has downloaded could be soon superceded by intelligent agents, “the natural successors to apps”, with digital assistants coming on-stream to help, for example, the small business person.
This seems very plausible: “For companies or brands that want meaningful interaction with customers, a conversation mediated by a bot could work well… there are times when an app falls short and a conversation handled by a bot may be better.”
A related report from the BBC also throws up similar claims, and shows how RBS, NatWest and other banks are starting to employ “virtual staff” – as in, virtual chatbots: “Web-based Luvo will be able to answer simple queries such as how to order a replacement card… Designed using IBM Watson technology, the virtual agent is able to understand and learn from human interactions [and] in the future may be able to understand if a customer was feeling frustrated or unhappy and change its tone and actions accordingly, IBM said.”
The chatbot is being framed by NatWest as “complementary” to existing customer service agents, telling the BBC that it “frees advisers from spending time on simple, easily-addressed queries so they can help customers with more complex issues”.
Omnichannel is never going to be one thing; it’s breadth that will win
I can understand the appeal – as another vendor of these systems (IPSoft, which is putting a similar system into Scandinavian banks), points out, “Virtual agents never deviate from regulations, and provide a full audit trail of every interaction.” Indeed, recent attendees of one of our current roadshow of VoiceSage customer Round Tables specifically said how interested they were in an AI-powered option.
The reality is that a chatbot is a great tool. But however useful, the lesson in the proactive customer contact business is that no single tool, no matter how good, is enough. You need multiple ones, a complete spread. For example, you can’t just rely on mobile as your sole channel despite its enviable reach and low cost per contact; that’s because while there are 81 million of them active in the UK, a significant tranche of the population still prefer fixed line calls.
AI is a great element to add into the omnichannel mix. It has great potential, as serious thinkers and planners tell us. But it’s never going to replace other complex omnichannel approaches that cover as many bases as possible in order to maximise your brand’s chance of being heard. After all, every generation likes to communicate in a different way.
Whatever you choose, best of luck investigating great proactive contact technology of whatever stripe.
Head of marketing