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Better Bots

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Article Synopsis :

Fuelled by the rise of instant messaging and the blossoming of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning, a new age of automated user interaction is upon us. This white paper from Sutherland Global introduces chatbots, explores some of the main reasons behind their rising popularity, and suggests where and when they can deliver superior results. The paper also touches on the mechanics of chatbot project implementations.

 The Digital Insurer reviews Sutherland Global’s Report on Better Bots

Blending art and science is key to building your brand with chatbots

Customers typically engage chatbots through messaging or chat systems such as short message service (SMS), web, or messaging applications provided by a social media platform such as Facebook or Twitter.

The popularity of chatbots is linked to the rise and ubiquity of messaging.

With customer experience taking top priority, chatbot usage is increasing because of the need to create smarter, faster, lower-friction interactions. A survey cited in the report suggests customers are indeed excited about bots’ ability to provide faster solutions with 57% of consumers interested in chatbots for their instantaneity.

Additionally, chatbots allow for near infinite scalability – such that they eliminate the dreaded, ‘all agents are busy, you are in queue’ type of message.

Many identify chatbots solely with customer support, but today’s bots have become powerful enablers driving sales engagement as well as simplifying administrative tasks in the enterprise. Bots are increasing the overall effectiveness of business processes in customer support, HR, administration, sales, and marketing – all at a significantly lower cost. The report includes high-level use cases in all these areas.

For all the potential benefits chatbots can provide, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Below are questions your organization should ask before considering deploying chatbots:

What is your self-service strategy or vision? Chatbots are only one part of a self-service architecture. Start by utilizing a ‘jobs to be done’ product and design methodology, then ask what challenges you’re addressing with bots and why customers will want to use your solution.

How do chatbots fit into your enterprise’s overall ‘chat’ strategy? Before jumping into ad hoc automation technologies, consider a portfolio perspective on your multiple self-help channels, including existing FAQ content, self-service tools, and the relationship between live and digital agent support. Eliminate the risk of promoting ineffective content and amplifying gaps in overall customer experience.

What operational metrics are you trying to influence? Where is your organization’s improvement focus? Sales? Support costs? Employee experience? It’s critical to identify your desired metrics and how they will be measured up front. Additionally, what is the current flow and user experience funnel of each desired use case? Bot projects implemented as whimsical experiments not tied to measurable metrics and business outcomes inevitably end in frustration and failure.

Unlike stand-alone software applications, chatbots are learning systems, which continuously evolve based on user input. Companies are best served by agile teams that can respond to automation opportunities and deploy changes quickly. These teams don’t need to be large, but filling key roles is essential for a successful deployment. Your chatbot project team should include (see report for further role detail):

  • Chatbot Designer
  • Chatbot Analyst
  • Chatbot Engineer
  • Chatbot Operations Expert
  • Chatbot Program Manager

Chatbots come in many different forms – your organization can use one common framework and engine to power different channels or experiences for your end users. These can include:

  • Web-native clients: These are part of a website and can be stand-alone or integrated with your existing chat system.
  • Messaging platform integrations: Most social networking services now offer messaging platforms where your team can connect and interact with customers on a personalized level. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Telegram are examples of platforms that can hook into your team’s chatbot backbone.
  • Immersive experience: Here the conversational UI (chat or messaging) is the only or predominant user experience. Commercial platforms are increasingly available.

Chatbots are not static systems. Chatbot program success depends on disciplined, diligent iteration. The following steps will ensure long-term effectiveness of your chatbot deployment:

  • Commitment to analytics: Your bot team should be equipped to break down individual user paths to understand engagement points, drop off rates, and the completion rate of individual sessions. A robust commitment to analytics will significantly increase the long-term effectiveness of your bot deployment.
  • Investment in effective ‘microcopy’: Skilled script and dialogue writing is essential. Good scripting should match the brand tone and voice of your company, displaying personality and building rapport. The genius comes in guiding the customer towards a solution without wasting time or energy on needless banter.
  • Adoption of business process mindset: The more your team can engineer the execution of business tasks or processes inside a bot the higher its potential usage and impact. Business process thinking will also empower your team to communicate results in terms business partners will embrace. For example, with a customer support bot, translate bot-speak into business metrics such as average handle time (AHT) or first call resolution (FCR) that executives can easily understand.

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Digital Insurer's Comments

Done well, chatbots not only solve customer problems, they create conversational experiences that elevate your brand and help you connect more directly, more viscerally, with your customers.

Focus on understanding customer journeys and applying design thinking over technology implementation. Scripting – more art – and engineering – more science – should work together to engage your customers, addressing their core needs. The explosion of messaging as the preferred mode of communication makes your facility with chatbots not only an operational but a marketing imperative. 

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