The bot revolution and the future of customer service
Did you ever call your bank to discuss an issue with your account, and end up having to sit through lots of hold music, before repeating your issue to a number of different people? For most of you, the answer is probably yes, writes Tony Jamous, the president of Nexmo, the Vonage application programme interface (API) platform.
To address the problem, many of today’s financial institutions have automated the customer journey via chatbots available 24/7 on their websites so that frequently asked questions can be addressed in real-time. Although fully cognitive artificial intelligence (AI) is yet to breach the realm of science fiction, the bot revolution has most certainly arrived and it is transforming the ways in which businesses create better experiences for their customers. In a world where the vast majority of consumers are using mobile customer service as their primary – if not sole – method for interacting with a business, chatbots and other AI-powered virtual agents are becoming more and more essential in the delivery of quick, efficient and effective customer service.
The rise of the chatbot
Chatbots are just one example of how automation has changed the way we live and work. Customers value the ways in which automation is able to streamline simple or routine tasks, such as updating payment details, scheduling appointments and not least, real-time chatting for customer support. Chatbots are now pervasive in most industries today, from financial services to health services to HR.
While speed and efficiency is the top priority, the fact remains that humans like – and need – to interact with other humans from time to time. Therefore the purpose of AI in customer service is to deliver the fast service every customer wants without losing that vital human touch, and AI can help to deliver this by assisting – rather than replacing – human agents. Chatbots and human-like virtual assistants can utilise natural language to interpret nuance and context, and they can use this to augment traditional agent-to-customer interactions by addressing frequently asked questions in real-time.
And most important to note is that these bots are constantly evolving. We are now seeing fully-integrated chatbots that are able to delve into historical data, allowing them to eliminate redundant questions and optimise responses. Recent sentimental analysis can even allow the bot to detect if the customer is getting frustrated, indicating the urgency for a transfer to a human agent.
What this means for service providers
Developing programmes for AI and virtual assistants has naturally become a top priority for businesses as they vie to keep ahead of competitors. Companies can now use APIs to easily integrate chatbots into their broader communications offering, allowing developers to build and iterate quickly through a comprehensive set of tools. API-driven bots that cross seamlessly between channels, from voice calls to message chats and back, are fast becoming the norm for businesses, though there are still challenges for developing bots that interact across all platforms.
Over the next few months and years, I predict that we will see a bigger increase in software development kits (SDKs) and other frameworks for helping developers build cross-platform voice bots.
The future of bots
The bot revolution is only beginning, and it presents a great opportunity for brands to deliver excellent customer service experiences. Since most bots are driven by a combination of natural language processing and voice to text, which can be applied to almost any channel of communication, companies will be able to interact with bots on any platform – be it through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, voice, chat or messaging.
Because customers tend to choose their preferred messaging channel based on their social graph – they’ll use WhatsApp if that’s where all their friends are using, businesses have the opportunity to further segment and optimise those customers’ experiences based on their customer data.
The development of bots is one of the fastest-growing innovations in customer service. People who need help will be able to access direct support at any time, on whichever channel they prefer – this agile application of AI will make customer care more consistent and comprehensive than it has ever been.