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The truth about chatbots: Five myths debunked

(Image credit: Image Credit: Alex Knight / Unsplash)

Customer experience is being increasingly recognised as a driver for success by many of today’s forward-thinking businesses. According to Genesys research, 85 per cent of consumers base their decisions on whether to buy from brands solely on the reputation of their customer service. Chat and voice bots that bring the benefits of automation to customer interactions are helping companies get a step ahead when it comes to delivering experiences that fulfil consumer expectations.

Bots are making a whole host of activities such as ordering products, making payments and checking bank account balances quick and pain-free for customers. It’s hardly surprising that they’re becoming increasingly prevalent in service interactions when you think about how they can impact customer satisfaction.

By 2022 chatbots will save businesses more than $8 billion per year, according to Juniper Research. Consumers are seeing the value too. Forty-five per cent of end-users prefer communicating with chatbots during customer service interactions according to a recent report.

Does that mean contact centres can simply deploy a single bot and they’re suddenly able to deliver exceptional experiences at every touchpoint? Hardly. Bots are shrouded in myths that if left unchallenged, will lead to defective deployment and bad customer service. Before they seek to use bots to transform customer experience, business leaders need to separate fact from fiction.

Myth #1: One bot to do it all

Perhaps one of the most common fallacies about bots is that they can do everything. While bots can drive efficiencies in a multitude of industries and solve a lengthy list of challenges, a single both cannot do it all. The first step for businesses looking to successfully roll out bots is to clearly define the problem they need to solve and the desired outcomes. The use cases should be specific and narrowly-focused.

For example, a chatbot built to assist customers with queries relating to their car insurance policies isn’t going to help them obtain a courtesy car should their own vehicle require long-term maintenance.

Myth #2: Bots are replacing human advisors

Another prominent myth is that a bot is some sort of customer service superhero built to do the jobs of advisors everywhere! Implement a bot and voila!,  human advisors are no longer needed. In actuality, bots are best used to augment human capabilities – not replace them. While bots are incredibly useful for easy, repetitive tasks, there are plenty of situations where human intuition, empathy and creative problem-solving are the only way to help a customer.

But the best way to leverage bots isn’t to determine whether it’s best to use a bot or an advisor. The real win-win for businesses happens when bots and advisors work in lockstep with one another. For example, when a consumer starts a conversation with a brand and interacts with both an advisor and a bot, who seamlessly hand off to each other, back and forth until the issue is resolved – that’s when the magic happens. That’s because both customers AND employees benefit. Customers are delighted because their issues are resolved quickly and easily by the best-equipped resource – whether human or bot.

When employees are no longer bogged down by the rote tasks that fill so much time throughout their day, they have more time to focus on more complex or higher-value inquiries best resolved with the human touch. In many cases, bots are even working in the background to help advisors, making it easy for them to find the information they need to best service the customer.

Myth #3: Bots only want to chat

A third misconception is that bots are limited to text and digital channels in their interactions with customers. Businesses that subscribe to this line of thinking are unlikely to take full advantage of increasing bot versatility. Smart vendors are building technology that enables bot conversations on voice channels using a common management system. Bots created for the web, for example, can also be used on a business 0800 number or called from a smart speaker.

Conversational dialogue is no longer all bots are capable of, either. They increasingly deploy embeddable pre-built processes or “micro-applications” that make life easier for users by providing a wealth of relevant content. This helps consumers to achieve their goals and ensures the business achieves its own desired outcome from each interaction far more frequently.

Myth #4: Bots require brainpower from the IT bods

Another widely-held misconception is that to deploy and effectively use bots, businesses need a large IT department and a host of highly-educated data scientists. In reality, the technology has matured to a point where organisations no longer require a slew of in-house specialists to make chat and voice bots work for their business. However, deploying a bot still requires thorough planning, designing and development to ensure it addresses a specific need within the business. Successful bot deployments also require buy-in from key stakeholders involved with the customer journey, whether from the contact centre, sales or marketing departments.

Myth #5: Companies risk becoming locked into contracts with sub-par providers

It’s easy to envisage being locked into a contract with one vendor despite the realisation that the bot is not fulfilling its expectations. This predicament can be avoided completely by selecting a vendor whose tools integrate with the best AI providers. This will enable businesses to switch between providers at no additional cost, mitigating the risk and protecting the investment in customer experience.

Moving beyond the myths

Businesses today have to offer great customer experiences and in today’s digital-first landscape, automation via bots is a huge step forward. However, businesses have to move beyond the myths to effectively deploy bots that can help facilitate seamless, multi-faceted interactions that delight customers and employees alike.

Astute businesses will also recognise that despite all the innovation transforming bots, they will fail to maximise their potential unless they ensure the technology is blended right across their contact centre and customer experience functions. Bot technology really delivers when it is part of a well-orchestrated journey that includes chat, voice and human interactions and the switchover happens flawlessly just at the right moment.

Rodney Hassard, senior director of product management – self-service and automation, Genesys (opens in new tab)

Rodney Hassard is the Global Director of Product Management at Genesys.