Thought Leadership Sponsored by RMS Automotive
As technology advances, people’s behaviour naturally evolves with the use of that technology. Where people once picked up a phone to speak to someone, they now have the option to send an email. Email evolved into SMS and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat, and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can also be considered to be further channels for communication. The use of smart phones continues to grow year on year, meaning that more people have the world at their fingertips and with that, the expectation of instant responses in all they do at times convenient to them.
Customer support teams are now starting to utilise these emerging platforms alongside live-chat, a service within an application that allows the customer to enter into conversation with other human beings and get an instant response; the same way they would if they were on the phone. Even within live-chat we are now seeing huge technological advances giving birth to the concept of ‘chatbots’ which could help explain why Gartner suggest that ‘70% of white-collar workers will be interacting with conversational platforms on a daily basis by 2022’. The introduction of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning being applied alongside Artificial Intelligence (AI), means that the conversations are becoming more human like and the opportunity of utilising conversational AI in customer support is one that is too good to miss.
70% of white-collar workers will be interacting with conversational platforms on a daily basis by 2022.
James Skene, Support Manager at RMS Automotive
Our journey into the world of chatbots at RMS started with a conversation with my manager about a positive experience he had with an automated service on the phone. Although the approach was different, the challenge remained the same – to explore the use of chatbots to help support our customers. When I initially discussed this challenge with other members of the business and my team, the first hurdle to overcome was the misconception that the chatbots would be replacing humans. This is simply not true because if implemented correctly, chatbots become business enablers.
Using conversational AI, the repetitive – and quite honestly demotivating – tasks can be carried out by the chatbots, leaving the team to get their teeth stuck into the more technical and challenging issues raised by the customer. The benefits of this approach are two-fold and lead to the greater satisfaction of customers, which is ultimately the end goal:
Self-service support for the customer, enabling them to resolve their own queries in minutes.
Increased motivation for the support team members with the removal of the repetitive tasks.
Key to conversational AI, and what sets it apart from live-chat applications, is the use of the previously mentioned technologies; NLP, AI and Machine Learning which help to mimic a human conversation. NLP helps the chatbots to ‘read’ the text being entered and understand the natural structure of the sentence rather than just identifying single key words. The key components of the AI – Intent Recognition (IR) and Entity Recognition (ER) – then come into play. With IR, the chatbots can still understand the sentence even if there is a spelling mistake or the sentence is structured in an unnatural way. This capability is important to prevent the customer from becoming frustrated with the interaction, however, if this does happen, a chatbot can detect the frustration and pass the conversation onto a human being. Add ER to the equation and the chances of a customer becoming frustrated are even further reduced.
ER helps the chatbots to understand that some text refers to entities – for example, a 17-digit combination of numbers and letters refers to a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in a conversation on the RMS platform – which helps makes the conversation more human-like. Despite all of the AI technology currently available, however, it is important to recognise that it is very likely that customers will become frustrated – especially in the early phases – and the ability for the human agent to then resolve the situation will be crucial in ensuring an overall positive experience for the customer. The final key element, Machine Learning, uses historical answers to learn how to improve responses, which further improves the IR and forms a feedback loop that results in the chatbots continuously learning and improving.
Another important factor to consider in the successful implementation of chatbots is the omni-channel capabilities that they can provide. These capabilities allow the customer to start a conversation on one device and carry on at their convenience on the messaging platform of their choice. By providing easy communication, using a method that the customer prefers, further helps to keep them engaged and satisfied, especially if a chatbot can resolve their query almost immediately.
For a UK based team, supporting a global customer base is not without challenges; the two main ones being the different time zones and the language barrier. Many people speak English as a second language but even then, it can sometimes be difficult to extract the accurate information required to investigate an issue.
A chatbot using conversational AI is multi-lingual, therefore allowing the customer to speak in their native language and eliminating the need for a support team ‘on the ground’ in each country.
This also leads to the information coming into the support team being as accurate and complete as it can be, ultimately leading to a reduction in the time it takes to resolve the issue. Deploying chatbots also guarantees the provision of 24x7 support, 365 days a year – something that is crucial and often overlooked by businesses looking after customers in different time zones. For a growing global company onboarding new customers across multiple continents and time zones, this provision has the benefit of allowing the support of those customers without the cost of additional overheads in the local market.
Deploying chatbots also guarantees the provision of 24x7 support, 365 days a year.
Businesses worldwide are accelerating on the path towards digital transformation and as this happens, customers want to be taken along on the ride which includes the support they receive and they expect instantaneous, real-time service.
The transformation from picking up a phone and having a conversation to emailing has happened, and the business world is now in the midst of the move towards chatbots. We have merely scratched the surface when considering the full capabilities that chatbots can bring to both customers and businesses, and we are just at the start of an exciting journey.
The initial benefits are clear; increased efficiency, enhanced service level compliance and satisfied customers, however, chatbots should be considered to be an addition to, rather than a replacement for, any other communication channels as things stand. As younger generations move into the workplace in the future, it is likely that some methods of communication will disappear or become less popular with the chatbot trend continuing to grow.
One thing is for certain, it’s an exciting time to be part of the rapidly changing digital and customer support world and all the opportunities that the technology will bring.
Marketing Manager – Europe