Are artificial intelligence and chatbots the future of customer interactions?
Recently, technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning are having a moment in the spotlight due to their potential to transform our working and personal lives. As we head into the digital era, these technologies are driving innovations in all industries, from manufacturing to education to healthcare. And the telecoms sector is no exception, writes Alan Coleman, the head of BriteBill
At the same time, customer expectations are changing as fast as these new technologies can disrupt the market. A new generation of digital natives – Generation Z (16-22 year-olds) – is now entering the workplace and quickly becoming the biggest demographic segment with the power to reshape the global market. This generation’s needs and wants are different to those of other generations; they have different usage patterns and ways of communicating.
Yet, despite all their digital transformation efforts, communications service providers are failing to address this new customer segment, as a recent global study, conducted by Censuswide Research on behalf of BriteBill found.
Billing, in particular, remains the least evolved part of the digital customer experience. Bills are still a prime cause of customer complaints and churn: With more than two thirds (66%) of consumers finding their bills hard to understand and 75% not interested in the information provided, the survey highlighted that while service providers increasingly focus on the customer experience as a key differentiator in a crowded market, they are missing the opportunity to use billing communication more strategically, especially with their younger customers.
So, are artificial intelligence, data analytics, machine learning and robots the answer to a better customer experience?
Yes and no. While automating makes sense where the benefits are clear, it is equally important to not get swept away by technology just for technology’s sake.
For example, big data analytics promises a personalised experience for each customer – but this is in stark contrast to the idea that a robot or automated service can and should handle every single customer interaction. There are times when only a human customer service representative can help to resolve an issue with an all-important personal approach. We need to acknowledge that every customer is different and some will not respond well to data analytics enabled marketing communications: Relying on digital technologies alone poses substantial risks.
While there are clear benefits to technologies such as data analytics and artificial intelligence, anything that is automated or entirely based on machine learning also has the potential to go wrong. For example, the wrong message gets sent or the right message is sent at the wrong time, alienating customers. So, there is a danger that service providers could end up simply doing the wrong thing faster.
Innovation and progress should certainly not be stifled, but caution and common sense is necessary. The customer has to be at the heart of everything we do, and any new process should be assessed carefully for its potential intrusiveness, accuracy and benefit to the customer.
The good news is customers today are more open to new technologies, and interacting with automated systems. In the BriteBill survey, half of Generation Z respondents said they would like access to a chatbot for bill enquiries, and a third (32%) agreed that chatbots are a good alternative to traditional customer care touchpoints.
For the service provider, the goal is to get a better understanding of what the customer needs and then help them access it easier, better and faster.
At the end of the day, what is most important is the quality of the service and support the communications service provider delivers – regardless of the technology behind it.