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Don’t Let The Chatbot Attract The Negativity Of The First Wave Of Offshoring

19th September 2017 No Comments

Matt Weil is worried the sector’s trying to rush a promising technology into the frontline before it’s ready

When it comes to defining the most effective contribution of AI (artificial intelligence) in the contact centre a lot of us are not getting it right.

The market seems to have decided that chatbots – AI-powered, programmatic ways of interacting with customers that fully automate the process – are a mature proposition. Soon, we won’t need CSR (customer service representatives), we’ll all just talk to robots.

Take this recent discussion, for example, Putting Human Call Center Agents on Hold. It’s a well-researched overview, but it’s predicated on the claim that when it comes to AI in customer outreach, it’s going to be all about replacing agents – “The impact of artificial intelligence on contact center operations will be significant… Chatbots are the first step, but automated bots that naturally interact with callers will initially reduce and eventually eliminate all but the most complex human agent interactions during the next decade.”

We need to get this one right to make sure we get the most out of it

Although this author admits this probably won’t happen inside of five years, he’s fairly certain that it’s inevitable. The problem with all this: we’ve been using chatbots in the sector – and the reaction so far has been fairly negative from consumers.

Great brands like Twitter and Airbnb have been successfully using chatbots. I am personally a fan, and there’s no question that chatbots aren’t a really useful technology.

The problem is the supposition that chatbots are all you need. The public likes problems being solved real quickly if it saves them time, and a slick interface that gets the simple issues like updating your address completed without having to speak to a human after multiple levels of ID check. And as a recent Business Insider analysis shows, a survey of US consumers showed 44% said that if a company could get the experience right, they would prefer to use a chatbot or automated experience for CRM.

But note the key phrase – if a company could get the experience right.

Early usage of chatbots has fallen flat because customers are very good at spotting fakery. If a bot starts to try and chat about that great football game last night when you just want to check on a delivery, the experience comes off as clunky. And clients are getting wary as a result. They like the concept of automating some of the customer outreach process, and the cost-savings and efficiency increases that accrue due to the re-assignment of agents to higher value work – but they just don’t want to force robots on to customers.

Offshoring 1.0’s lessons should be remembered

Maybe this recalls the first wave of offshoring, when moving call centres to cheaper geographies saved brands money, but often ended up annoying customers who saw the quality of their interactions decline.

Those issues soon got addressed, and the industry is now very adept when it comes to offshore delivery. Perhaps in a similar way we need to think about how to introduce chatbots in the best way to ensure their success.

That’s as an addition and a support for the contact centre, we would suggest – not as a replacement (or at least not for a significant period – and maybe not ever). Use chatbots to automate simple, repetitive tasks or as a back stop. Don’t ever force the user down a path they don’t feel comfortable with, and always look to maximise the customer experience!

Matt Weil is Head of Product at VoiceSage

VoiceSage is working with chatbot technology, which means you as a customer can be reassured that this promising functionality can be slotted into your omnichannel solution without you having to learn the technology from scratch

VoiceSage has set up a special event with the UK Contact Centre Forum (CCF) to help contact centre professionals get up to speed with AI and chatbots. The Executive Club is scheduled for September 29 and hosted by RMG Networks at London’s Tower 42.

To register or to find out more, please email info@uk-ccf.co.uk