Mitel’ James Mackie on how the two can work together
The use of artificial intelligence in customer experience may still be relatively new, but most people can probably by now say they’ve started an online chat praying it’s with a human – only to be greeted by an unhelpful, albeit polite, bot.
Inevitably, your problem wouldn’t be solved, with the bot suggesting you either wait an extra couple of days for your package to arrive or phone the call centre.
But this frustrating experience is slowly starting to change.
The long-term vision has always been for bots and AI to augment support from real people and – according to Mitel Sales Engineering Manager, James Mackie – this is now becoming a reality.
“Bot conversations used to feel very scripted,” he said.
“You’d go through a maze of options and then you’d get to a dead end where it says ‘to do this you’ll have to call us’.
“Then you have to go through it again with another person to explain what you’re trying to get done and it’s just a very disjointed experience, but we’re seeing that change now.
“These days you see more solutions where the bot and the human are working together as a team with a smooth handoff to the human.”
It is this seamless transition from a bot to a human in the same message thread that is making all the difference. It removes the hassle for the customer and means a CX agent can read the previous messages – avoiding the customer having to repeat themselves.
The aim is not for bots to address all customer problems, Mackie said, however automating a bot to deal with a common issue can have a positive impact on an agent’s workload as well as customer experience.
In the past organisations have been concerned with implementing an AI strategy in the contact centre, perceiving it to be a complicated task. However, investment in the capability is warranted as use and user preference is likely to increase.
Recent research conducted by Mitel found that over 40% of those surveyed said their use of online customer services has increased this year. Of that number, more than 70% said they will rely on digital options more going forward. Nearly half of all respondents plan to increase their use of chatbots, virtual agents and self-service overall.
“Digital solutions are getting simpler to deploy, coming up with an AI or self-service solution that enhances the experience requires businesses to think through their Customer Experience Strategy.
“A lot of the time organisations implement solutions but don’t think how they will utilise the technology to maximum effect. They can be left with a toolbox that you can do some really powerful things with, but you have to really think about what you’re doing and what you’re wanting to achieve.
“One of the things that is really going to help is, moving forward. I think you’ll see some specialisation from providers in specific verticals.
“It won’t be a pre-made solution necessarily, but they’ll be able to get companies up and running quicker which will help the proliferation of AI and make it more accessible.”
A common method of integrating AI in CX is via popular consumer platforms, Mackie said.
“It’s becoming easier for people to get in contact in a very natural way,” he explained.
“Integration with social messaging is a big focus, whether it’s Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp – making sure the customer can use those applications to contact businesses because that’s what they’re used to using.
“Combining that with the AI side of things is going to be a big growth area, so customers are going to get the best of both worlds.”