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In my previous article, I discussed the growing need to develop a bot strategy, given the rising popularity of both personal and enterprise bots that perform tasks on behalf of humans. As the CEO of an AI-based customer service platform, I am well-versed in the value of technology investments and the importance of achieving a return on investment.
I believe bots today are similar to apps back in 2008 — a curiosity. But having proved their value over time, apps today are a necessity – a business-to-consumer way that companies use to interact with customers. I believe the bot industry is at a similar crossroads.
As I write this, consumers are not demanding that every company they work with have a voice or chat application, but their expectations are beginning to change. Based on my observations, most customer service processes offer a chat option, behind which might be a human, chatbot or both.
In my full-length book, I’ve explored the following five elements to a successful bot strategy:
1. Set clear goals.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. Throughout my time working in the tech industry, I have seen companies invest in technology without truly understanding its value. The most important step before investing in and implementing any strategy is to be very clear about what you want to achieve. What is your ultimate goal? Are you focused on automating tasks to reduce cost, or is your priority to improve customer experience end to end? And remember, a positive ROI is not always immediate with a bot implementation. Think long-term about how the investment will help connect your brand to users and yield results after several quarters.
2. Prepare for the future
It is also important to prepare a technology architecture that is flexible. How consumers can use chatbots and virtual agents is still unfolding, so my advice is to develop and execute a strategy that builds in flexibility for implementation with future platforms, channels and devices. Customer preferences can change quickly, so be ready. Don’t build bots that can only operate in one channel. Instead, ensure the underlying technology is created on a platform that can allow easy integration with new channels of communication, both voice and digital. I believe consumers should have the same experience whether they call, text, use messaging or interact via a chat window on a website.
3. Human Collaboration
In my opinion, companies should not invest in automation capabilities based on the assumption that technology can replace humans completely. Technology helps humans execute tasks faster by automating time-consuming or mundane tasks; even then, it is achieved with human supervision and training. For the foreseeable future, humans will need to feed AI systems with successful interactions to ensure the bot has a large knowledge base to draw from.
I believe your bot platform should also allow for humans to provide input when bots are not confident about their answers. This is known as blended AI: Humans can work hand in hand with AI-powered bots to improve customer experience. As the bot technology evolves with time, it is imperative to include scope for human collaboration and intervention to make the technology more efficient.
Bot automated systems can scale very swiftly if done right, so defining your metrics is critical for regular measurement and applying what you learn. For example, I believe “Handle Time,” a common customer service metric, is no longer a clear measure of effectiveness. When human agents handle calls or text chats and handle time goes up, that could indicate a problem (and tax capacity at the contact center). But when a bot’s handle time goes up, that could indicate the customer needed more help and wanted to go at a more deliberate pace.
So, implement a measurement program that can accurately measure the amount of time your customer is interacting with your agents. This way, you can assess the speed and accuracy with which the bot can identify customer intent and go about executing a task. Customer satisfaction may involve handoffs between bots and agents to resolve an issue with minimal effort and time from the customer.
With bots that can store, access and process information on your behalf as well as handle sensitive consumer data, security is paramount. Lawmakers have turned their attention to this need for security and regulation. For example, in September 2018, California became the first state to pass a cybersecurity bill that oversees connected devices. The law requires that bots are clearly identified so everyone knows if they’re talking to a human or virtual agent. Recent reports from Gartner also state that by 2021, organizations that bypass privacy requirements and are caught lacking in privacy protection will pay 100% more in compliance costs. Be sure that your bot strategy is integrated with updated technology and aligned with all compliance and security standards in order to monitor, detect and respond to any security events.
We’re at the very beginning of a profound transformation when brands and consumers will have bots transacting on their behalf. It’s hard to know just how fast it will get there, exactly what shape it will take and how it will change the worlds of business and human interaction. Start preparing now so you aren’t left behind.
April 9, 2019 at 08:46AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs