Chatbots: Messengers of Robotic Transformation
Based on experience that our teams accumulated from chatbot solutions development we would like to summarize and share our thoughts regarding role of chatbots for modern businesses.
Chatbots in the modern digital economy are not just a hype or a trendy feature, there are lots of proven evidences how chatbots boost particular businesses. By automation of routine tasks and augmentation of human personnel chatbots deliver significantly greater value to both sides of business processes – higher satisfaction of customers and efficiency of sales, marketing, and support departments.
Many businesses in E-Commerce, FinTech, Insurance, and other sectors with the diverse structure of products and services are having difficulties to build smooth end-to-end customer journey, starting from the proper presentation of products to focus groups of visitors and ending with customer support (especially dealing with many legacy products). Continuously growing and changing product portfolio driven by changing customer expectations and habits has a significant impact on staff that has to build, promote, sell and support products/services, and ensure great experience for new customers as well as loyalty of existing ones. The complexity of such processes, huge amounts of data, and growing number of routine tasks greatly demotivate personnel, thus leading to frequent staff turnover and a negative impact on efficiency and budget.
There were many attempts in the last decade to solve problems of such scale using online chat widgets on web sites and mobile apps with built-in support tools. However, such solutions were based on predefined set of rules dealing with limited number of cases. But for companies with large portfolio of products or even few but complex products this approach was ineffective, and for many customers even frustrating due to complex set of non-obvious choices. And on the other side – it was quite a challenge to design such rules on business side because of large amounts of data to analyze and continuously changing conditions.
With the adoption of Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and other AI/ML techniques chatbots have changed dramatically. On front-side NLU enabled intent and context recognition from text and speech and eliminated a need to build complex multi-level menus, offering quick transition to particular dialogue about product, problem or any other scenario. Properly designed chatbots with finely-crafted identity even may behave almost like humans (although it’s a good practice to avoid giving customers a false feeling that they chat with human staff). On the side of business machine learning approaches are extremely helpful in analysis of “big data”, especially unstructured sources like chat logs, e-mail conversation threads, support requests from on-site tools etc. These instruments not only classify previously accumulated data, but with “continuous learning” approach can detect new tendencies such as changes in customer behavior, product focus or arising problems, which enables faster response of business to such factors.
Proper implementation of chatbots using these latest technological achievements can significantly change role of human staff. In support it can release human staff from routine tasks and let them focus on specific complicated support cases, in sales – serve as an assistant by “context transfer” of engaged customer from chatbot to live chat with humans. There are dozens of scenarios where chatbots can help businesses to eliminate gaps and bottlenecks or add a value to particular aspect of customer journey. However, adding chatbots to business processes is not like adding just another plug-in or page to your web-site, it should be an integral part of the long-term business strategy with a proper understanding of benefits, risks and alignment with objectives defined by management.
Our Approach to Chatbot Development
Whether your business is seeking for opportunity or facing a challenge – we are ready to dive deeper into your processes and data and help you to build a strategy of incorporating chatbots that are focused on your particular needs, audience and business model.
Based on our experience we can consult your business to point out which parts of your customer’s journey would benefit most from adopting chatbots and what additional benefits you may achieve with this approach.
Many companies on chatbot market offer pre-built solutions in “do-it-yourself” style. We treat such approach as a possible trial how chatbot may look and behave, however, our belief is that only application of AI/ML on both sides – chat and dialogue modelling – may deliver real benefits. In particular, with the growing number of support cases or knowledge-base articles it becomes quite complicated for human staff to upkeep the complete and up-to-date set of dialogue flows. Therefore, applying machine learning to your data (often “big data”) is far more efficient, and initial investment in setup of AI/ML-augmented processes (focused on data sources specific for your business model) delivers long-term benefits.
Furthermore, each business has a specific IT infrastructure of web sites, CRM, ERP and other systems, and establishing proper communication channels to all these systems is in almost every case unique, so it is hard to imagine an out-of-box product to cover all these cases. So, we prefer to use proven components but finely craft chatbots for your specific needs and objectives based on specific data and processes.
Considering Multi-Channel and Multi-Media Aspects
Variety of modern communication channels and significant difference between generations in using these channels makes communication with customer rather complicated for businesses. Furthermore, younger generations more and more prefer self-service instead of phone calls or having to wait for human assistant to join conversation, and this makes conversational chatbots far more important. We have experience of establishing multi-channel customer approach combining web chat widget, mobile apps and messengers. Chatbot availability in 24/7 mode combined with efficient implementation and multi-channel presence can greatly increase customer satisfaction.
Excellent user experience is another key ingredient of customer satisfaction, so we combine multiple ways of user interaction – text inputs is augmented with button-based choices, input dialogues for formatted data and multimedia objects such as images or map fragments. Combination of these interactions ensure smooth and natural conversation flow, allowing users to reach their goals with minimum time and maximum pleasure.
In the forthcoming decade chatbots will undoubtedly become quite a standard feature for most medium- and large-scale businesses, covering more and more aspects of business activities, especially routine and repetitive tasks. While not aiming to replace humans completely, chatbots will significantly change role of human staff and their skill requirements. Artificial intelligence techniques will allow chatbots to evolve along with business and respond promptly to changes in business processes and environment.
So, we believe that mid- and long-term business strategies should definitely include a chapter about incorporating chatbots in IT ecosystem, especially for businesses willing to expand quickly in the next years and focused on new generations of customers.