Chatbots for contact center operations are highly desirable and hyped up to the max, but in reality the adoption rates are not reflecting the amount of interest in the tech.
The benefits are clear, in theory: less requirement for FTEs, faster response time, customer retention, etc., but, as Humberto Andrade, Managing Director at Accenture, points out, while return of investment (ROI) is still a big concern for clients, there are positive, long-term results worth targeting.
“It’s important for companies to have a holistic view that helps to reignite growth while not forgetting that being responsive to customers is of the utmost importance,” he said. “Chatbots can provide the same benefits as human agents without the need to push the jobs offshore. They can also increase sales, as they make it easier for customers to engage, transforming the way they interact.”
Financial services companies have been early adopters of the tech, because customers often need to contact their banks, and frequent, persistent queries such as these can be addressed with chatbots. In any industry like this, wherever there is a repeatable data exchange between brand and consumer, chatbots can increase efficiency.
The Human Element
Another concern is that this efficiency will phase out the need for human agents, but not everyone believes that to be the case, as those same agents can improve their skills to work alongside them.
“The driving force for outsourcing chatbots today is a customer expectation on immediacy and the need for automated responses to meet that expectation,” said Gordon White, General Manager Americas at The Social Client, a wholly owned subsidiary of Acticall Sitel Group with 25 clients in the Americas region – all of which, White says, are showing a keen interest in chatbots.
“The chatbot dynamic hasn’t reduced the need for human agents, nor has it really increased that need. From a skills perspective, agents now have to focus on digital fluency if they want to work alongside chatbots. People need to be comfortable working on different channels, and understand the nuances of multichannel and omnichannel customer service.”
Lack of Success Stories
As with many external services, there is a distinct lack of a definable business cases and success stories that would justify investment into these channels, and many companies are not making the budget available for testing and piloting.
“Chatbots have to be part of any serious solution,” said Andrade. “Think of them as a means to ramp up the supply chain, because investing in this and in many of the other multichannel technologies will eventually reduce costs.”
White finds that it’s been difficult for clients to balance the cost benefits, not to mention the concerns about losing brand credibility for bad service.
“Many brands today are still not fully aligned with consumer needs for support across omnichannel or multichannel,” said White. “I’m quite surprised that some extremely progressive clients that deliver brilliantly across many channels are not doing this properly. There is a “head in the sand” mentality when it comes to adopting chatbots and other channels, because commitment to change is hard for a lot of companies.”
Prioritize the Customer Experience
“Companies are not measuring customer satisfaction very well today,” said White. “They really should be, because it’s a big opportunity for them to understand the aggregated impact of what they are deploying.”
To do this, vendors should be embracing transparency in the first phase of their automation and chatbot maturity, as well as clearly communicating limitations to their clients. Starting with agent-assisted bot trainers, and spending time monitoring and recording the output from bots, is a good way to achieve this.
“Whether or not people want to outsource, everyone should be measuring consumer behavior,” said White. “If the majority of an industry’s customer care is simple and doesn’t require human empathy or sophistication, those are places where new channels ought to be explored.”