Customer experience is everything for a brand. A recent survey asked 2,000 business professionals to rank their priorities for the next five years. Customer experience came in decisively first, ahead of products and pricing. And based on 11 years of stock prices, companies ranked as customer experience “leaders” saw growth of 183.8% compared to 138.7% for the S&P 500 Index and 63.1% for customer experience “laggards.” That means that putting the customer experience first gives you a 45.1% growth advantage over most blue-chip companies. Not bad.
Given this, is it wise to trust bots to interact directly with your customers? Is it safe? Is the technology ready? After all, the last thing you want is for customers to get stuck in the bot equivalent of interactive voice response (IVR) hell. Or to get frustrated by repetitive and non-specific answers from a so-called “intelligent” chatbot when calling in with a very real, very urgent problem.
Until now, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has mostly been used to automate back-office operations. Finance. HR. Legal. And many companies have achieved significant gains in efficiency and productivity by deploying automation in these places. But now that intelligent automation—RPA combined with artificial intelligence (AI)—can offer a consumer-like experience for employees to collaborate with bots across different teams, RPA is finally moving into the front office, specifically into roles that touch customers directly.
So, should you trust bots to improve your customer experience? Indeed, you should. In this blog, we’ll lay out three ways—just a few of many more—that intelligent bots are being used in customer interactions today and lay out the benefits they offer.
Communicate the right info at the right time to the right customers
By putting intelligent bots within workflows with automatic alerts or notifications, you can inform customers about new services or product offerings, new deals, or offers on existing products, as appropriate to their interests and histories. A little more behind the scenes, but still important, is to use intelligent bots to schedule reminders when it’s time for a customer-facing employee—perhaps an account manager—to follow up with a customer. Or, conversely, you could create intelligent bots that alert the right employees every time a client contacts the company, either for problem-solving, or with a complaint, or to perform a transaction—no matter what channel they use. This way, you are cognizant of all the ways you touch that client.
Collect and organize customer information for an interaction
Intelligent bots can be invaluable at performing the necessary but burdensome task of getting data from customers and from supporting systems into the hands of the support employee, who will eventually have in-person contact with the customer. For example, bots could ask for such things as names and account numbers and even authenticate customers for sensitive transactions such as approving suspicious credit card charges.
All this information could be prepared, along with appropriate stored data from all necessary backend systems, so the customer service agent is ready to go as soon as she picks up the phone. This can be especially helpful because customer service agents frequently must navigate between multiple systems—a time-consuming and error-prone process that requires extensive training when hiring new employees.
With the intelligent bot queuing up all necessary data based on the info it has elicited from the customer, errors are eliminated, agents are much more efficient, complexity and training are significantly reduced, and customers are much happier. Shortening these customer engagement transactions and timelines means companies can not only put more emphasis on the individual customer, but it also allows companies to interact with a larger volume of customers, thus increasing the company’s outreach and footprint.
Contribute to enterprise Customer 360 and omnichannel initiatives
The idea behind Customer 360 is to build a complete view of every customer by aggregating structured and unstructured data from both across your organization and externally, with the goal of creating personalized customer experiences. The challenge, of course, is that customer data exists in numerous systems within your enterprise, as well as those outside it. Touchpoints can include in-store, web-based, email, telephone, across multiple geographies and product lines. Externally, this can include social media sites, news outlets, and public information records. Bots can be used to scout out and consolidate all this information. They can flag major life events, such as moves to a new city, a new job, late-payment histories, even bankruptcies, and notify the appropriate people within your organization as well as populating updates to relevant customer records in all required systems.
For example, a bot might find out from social media that a customer has been promoted to a more senior role. It can update customer records while also sending out a congratulatory email and even a promotion for upselling or cross-selling an appropriate product or service. Intelligent bots can also run advanced analytics to make suggestions and predictions for the future by analyzing all this structured and unstructured information, triggering other workflows or communications that involve the customer.
Keep your eye on the prize—customer experience
The benefits of using bots for customer-facing activities are much the same as for back-office ones, with some critical additional benefits specifically related to improving the overall customer experience: shorter transaction times; customer data synced across all systems, so it can be automatically transferred to agents and displayed in one place; no repeated requests for information that create customer frustration; a dramatic reduction in errors means fewer customer complaints. And you can deliver the same standard—and excellent—customer experience across all customer touchpoints.
The list goes on and on, and all this without changing your existing system and application landscape.
It’s important to note that the human aspect of customer experience is still very important. Most customers want to sense a living, breathing, empathetic person attending to their very particular needs. Person-to-person business relationships are, therefore, still critical. The right way to use bots supports, not replaces, those interactions, to give your employees more time to serve customers and develop relationships that last.