Posted by Dan Burgin on Jun 11, 2019 10:00:00 AM
Today, almost all contact centers use some type of call automation to lower costs, mostly in the form of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. This has not been terribly effective in automating much, and when it attempts to automate workflows, it often is at the cost of customer satisfaction. Most contact centers are stuck in an old paradigm for automation, but new tools are maturing. Approaches are available now that can dramatically improve your bottom line, while raising your customer loyalty and satisfaction.
In with the New
The new paradigm is to build Natural Language Intents borrowed from the Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) world that Artificial Intelligence (AI) vendors like IBM Watson and Google have created. They can do a number of important things that grammars in traditional IVR cannot do, such as:
- Store your context (Who are you, where do you live, what kind of accounts do you own, or devices have you bought?, etc.),
- Understand Intents (What do you want? Do you have an open order or ticket? Like a Weather Forecast), and
- Understand Entities (Like your home city, so it can assume you are asking about weather in Denver).
These details can inform a much more personalized interaction, and using the new paradigm, these conversations are now largely reusable in a variety of interaction arenas. This same conversational interaction design and logic can be delivered through:
- A text message on a customer’s smartphone,
- An IVR that interfaces with an AI NLP/NLU Conversational system, or
- A customer’s Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple Home Pod.
One interaction model, but many delivery options to engage customers. And best of all, customers can choose which one of these automated channels best matches their needs.
Easier, More Flexible, Reusable, Effective, Satisfying
It’s easy to see how useful this can be. Just imagine you need to call your pharmacy to refill your prescriptions. With this new paradigm, you talk to an IVR and simply say, "Refill my prescriptions." If that IVR is interfaced with an AI/NLP/NLU, it has stored your context so it knows who you are (by your phone number) and what your active prescriptions are (by looking at your account). The system can ask you if it sees new prescriptions from your doctor and say things like:
"Got it, you want to refill your two prescriptions for [drug one] and [drug two] correct?"
You say, "Yes."
It then asks, "In addition to your 2 regular prescriptions, I see a new prescription from Dr. Dreamy. Do you also want to fill this new prescription for (drug three?)"
Or, in an even more convenient interaction, it comes to you "just-in-time" when your prescriptions are running out. Users can opt-in to receive a text message reminder from the Pharmacy Bot that texts customers, saying…
BOT: "Hi Dan, I see it's time to refill your prescriptions. Are you ready to do that?"
BOT: "OK, please use your thumbprint ID on your iPhone to authenticate that this is Dan Burgin I am speaking with."
THUMBPRINT ID WINDOW POPS UP ON iPhone (or similar on Android)
BOT: "OK thanks. I also see a new prescription from Dr. Dreamy for (drug three), so do you want fill that one, too?"
BOT: "Great, your three prescriptions will be ready for pickup at 1:30 p.m. today, OK?"
BOT: "Do you want to hear about our new delivery service?"
This option is available to be deployed within the messaging app (as above), in the pharmacy’s smartphone app for the Pharmacy, or even using things like Facebook Messenger (which only makes sense for certain types of businesses).
For another “just-in-time” option that does not require the customer to call, you could deploy an opt-in to having your customers’ Amazon Alexa™ or Google Home™ send customers a notification by turning on that "Skill" in the device, like…
“Alexa, enable Walgreens Skill.”
Your device will glow when it receives a notification, and customers can say, "Alexa read my notifications" and it will say:
"Your Walgreen's Prescriptions are ready to refill, and I see a new one, would you like to refill all three of them, or just the older ones?"
Or something similar.
The Proof is in the Savings
Don’t miss out on the business impact of deploying one or all of these customer options for automation. In using this new conversational (and reusable) approach provided by this new automation paradigm, we have just offloaded millions of annual calls to pharmacy employees (either in the store or in the call center), who today often manually schedule to refill your prescriptions. In doing so, we have also offset millions of hours of human effort, replacing it with automation that costs a fraction of what the old paradigm cost – and with more customer flexibility, and often higher customer satisfaction.
All of the above Bot conversational dialogue bits are completely portable from one use case to the other on any supported device (IVR, text message, smartphone app, Alexa/Google Home, a kiosk in the supermarket, etc.). Another powerful outcome of these new approaches is that your customers get to choose what channel they want, and the cost to you is negligible as much of the effort is reusable!
An Advantage of Text Message Interfaces
One further note on an advantage of text message interfaces is that whether through the smartphone messaging app, your custom app, or another messaging interface, these text conversations persist on the user’s device (smartphone). Since most of your customers will back up their device to vendor services (like iCloud for iPhone), these conversations persist device-to-device when your customers upgrade to a new smartphone.
This is important to cost savings. Imagine that some time back, one of your customers had a troubleshooting conversation with a Bot. He can’t remember the exact steps to remediating his issue, but he does recall the Bot conversation, so he simply scrolls back through his conversations with the Bot to find that step-by-step tutorial to resolving his issue. Talk about call deflection! Even without a new call, the issue is resolved. That is clearly the best outcome for all involved.
This story is playing out across the contact center space, as fewer and fewer people need to answer the phone and do this work. Imagine the impact of this relatively simple technology as it begins to be deployed across every industry. It is highly disruptive to millions of jobs people do today – freeing up those resources for more difficult customer issues. This is where the contact center industry is headed, and you need to deliver these platform options (IVR, chatbot, voice assistant (e.g. Alexa), or kiosk) in the way that best suits your particular business and customers.
The power of Conversational Commerce is here and ready to be implemented today.
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Topics: Customer Experience