AI, Chatbots and Business Success

Technology change presents both challenges and opportunities for all types of businesses, and over this three-part series, I’ve been addressing its impact on contact centers. In particular, I’ve been focusing on the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and the role chatbots can play in driving a better customer experience. The full potential will take years to realize, but there’s an urgency for contact centers to adopt new technology, and AI presents viable opportunities that can be deployed now.

When considering a new technology, contact centers need to take a holistic view, and that means assessing the impact in three areas – for customers, for agents and for the business overall. The first two were covered in the two Strategic Insights already posted on this site, and the series will conclude with an analysis of the business-level implications. This blog post serves as a preview for that Strategic Insight, which also outlines best practices for contact centers to follow as they begin their AI journey.

AI Reality Check
In order to understand how chatbots can drive better business outcomes, AI must first be viewed as a journey. Not only are we in early days with AI, but nobody really knows how far things will go or which directions will prove the most beneficial. Initial deployments may not move the needle much or be letter perfect, but they will improve over time, and that’s central to the business-level value proposition.
The iterative nature of the underlying technologies – Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning in particular – means that past mistakes won’t be repeated, and the accuracy of predictive algorithms will yield results that humans alone cannot achieve.

While the promise of AI is compelling, a reality check is in order, and this Strategic Insight outlines three examples of what AI is and is not. Contact centers have long been based on direct engagement between customers and agents, and for AI to have business value, decision-makers must have realistic expectations about what’s possible today.

There’s a fine balance in knowing how much AI to introduce and in what areas, and that will take some time to determine. Being too ambitious with AI could diminish CX to the point where business results suffer, but being too cautious could actually add friction to the customer journey and make the contact center less effective than before.

Best Practices for Transformative Business-Level Results
To help build a roadmap for striking that balance, this Strategic Insight outlines four broad best practices. Most contact centers have yet to deploy a chatbot, and don’t know where to start on this journey. The analysis has a logical starting point, with the first best practice being to define the scope and need. AI can certainly be used to automate various elements of customer service, but there is much more to consider, especially when thinking about business-level benefits.

Once the scope has been defined, the next step is to learn the vendor landscape. With AI being new, and chatbot developers popping up everywhere, making the right choice here is crucial. While it’s easy to find a partner to build a chatbot to automate a simple task, there’s much more to consider when developing a chatbot that will integrate across your entire operation and have an impact beyond the contact center.

The third best practice is no less important, namely to establish metrics to measure as many things as possible. For AI to have a transformative impact on your business, you need to get beyond conventional contact center metrics and embrace the possibilities from these new, digital forms of engagement. The Strategic Insight identifies three broad types of metrics to track, each of which warrants further exploration when mapping out your AI journey.

Last but not least, the fourth best practice is about the human impact of deploying chatbots. This needs to be considered for both your agents and your customers, as chatbots will impact both ends of the CX spectrum. To varying degrees, some customers will welcome and even prefer chatbots, whereas agents may view them as a threat to job security. Again, to be transformative, these dynamics need to be factored into how you both develop and deploy chatbots.

Summing Up
Upstream Works recognizes the relevance of AI for helping contact centers modernize and catch up to the technology expectations their customers have now. The capabilities may be limited at present, but AI is evolving quickly, and contact centers should not take a wait-and-see approach to find a time where the risk is near zero.
Chatbots will only be risky if you don’t have a good plan, and that’s why this Strategic Insights series has been written. You will never have a perfect set of information for decisions involving new technology, but after reading all three Insights, we believe you’ll have a solid foundation for having success with AI from your very first chatbot deployment. Download the third Strategic Insight focused on business outcomes here.