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By 17 May 2019 | Categories: Thought Leadership

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By Craig Nel, Mobile & Cognitive Experience (MCX) Leader at Oracle Middle East, Africa and Turkey

We have all had experiences with chatbots or digital assistants and automated phone services. From product and support issues to scheduling and ordering information, these automated platforms have become commonplace in customer service and other industries and this will continue to grow. Gartner predicts that by 2021, 15% of all customer service interactions globally will be handled completely by AI, an increase of 400% from 2017.

Early in the chatbot era, the experience was not as smooth as it is today, an endless amount of options would frustrate consumers to the point where they would opt to speak to a live person. Thanks to technology advancements, busy consumers are now becoming more comfortable using these automated systems and the systems have become smarter, friendlier, and faster at ushering in a new communication channel for consumers and brands.

Enhanced digital assistants

Digital assistants are now able to process more data and generate better insights at faster speeds than ever before. Enhanced with real-time data analytics and automation capabilities, digital assistants have the ability to integrate intelligence across multiple digital channels to engage customers in natural conversations using voice or text. These platforms leverage Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing to understand context, derive intent, and identify and learn user behaviours and patterns to automate routine tasks.

Most new-age digital assistants also have a web responsive app feature. After beginning with a series of general questions, the platform can sense if the customer is likely to buy something. If the system feels a purchase is imminent, the web responsive app feature allows the digital assistant to seamlessly transition from a natural language discussion into an app-like experience enabling structured data entry including instant validation and rich media.

So, what will the integration of this new technology mean for customers? Most importantly, it means faster service that is more accurate and a better customer experience. If a question about a product or service arises, an agent who possesses the entire company’s collective experience and a huge wealth of knowledge will further assist you. 

Real-life business examples

Mutua Madrid Open became the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 and Premier WTA tournament to incorporate an AI-equipped chatbot to improve communication with tennis fans. The digital assistant, named “MatchBot,” uses AI to maintain natural conversations that provides fans with information on the event, players, and results, as well as details on hospitality services, discounts on merchandise, ticket sales, access, and parking.

The University of Adelaide created a chatbot to assist students during the university application process. On the first day the digital assistant was live, prospective students conducted an estimated 2,100 unique conversations with it, which led to a 40% reduction in calls to the University’s customer service line – and more impressively, a 47% drop in calls during the critical first three hours. In turn, this reduced the wait time for queries made via telephone – from an average of 40 minutes down to about 90 seconds, and 60% of student users rated their experience as “awesome”.

Businesses considering leveraging digital assistant services must understand that the benefit goes far beyond an app; the information generated throughout the entire process provides critical insights into customer behaviours and preferences. Data insights derived from the service can assist the business to enhance the customer experience, refining products and services, to even personalising future interactions. Critically, new-age digital assistant platforms can arm the team with a comprehensive report from multiple applications such as HR, ERP, CRM and CX.

Ultimately, there needs to be some collaboration between the assistant and a live person. If there is an issue that needs to be escalated quickly — such as a life-threatening one — the digital assistant should be able to detect this and hand it off directly to a real person on the other end. Any delay in this transfer will cause unnecessary frustration, and possible anger, damaging the user experience. It is also quite reassuring for users to know that they can chat with a real person in certain scenarios, where a digital assistant should not be given responsibility for handling critical processes or interactions.

Digital assistants will not eliminate the need for live customer service agents, however with the ability to process information in greater quantity and at greater speeds than a live person, they are enhancing customers’ buying experiences while providing critical customer behaviour data to companies. By using this data to improve the customer experience, companies can create a virtuous circle of satisfied customers who keep coming back. 

And isn’t that what every business wants? 

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