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We are living in unprecedented times where the world is adjusting to the “New normal” triggered by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses are hard-pressed to find solutions that can help them reduce their cost-of-operations as sales suffer from the shrinking global economy and cautious consumer spending. As consumer engagement for most businesses moves from being “digital-first” to “digital-only” due to changing consumer behavior, having AI Chatbots as a part of the service delivery channel mix becomes very important for businesses.

If Google trends are anything to go by, we are now living under “Unprecedented times” triggered by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic where everyone including businesses and governments are adjusting to the “New normal”.

Unprecedentednew-normal

Picture 1: Google trends for “Unprecedented Times” & “New Normal”

Social distancing mandates by governments as well as concerns around physical interactions with the outside world is driving change in consumer behavior all across. This change is shifting the demand for service delivery more towards the digital medium for all businesses. It is only logical for businesses to respond to this accelerated demand towards digitization of their service delivery.

A case for having conversational AI/Chatbots as part of the service delivery channels mix

The issue: -

According to an IBM research, every year businesses spend $1.3 trillion on 265 billion customer service calls. Such a high volume and cost of interaction results in a lose-lose-lose situation for customers, agents as well as business owners/executives. The key issues being faced are: -

  • Customers – often have to face long wait times, go thought complex IVR menus, and often have the frustrating experience of never having their issue resolved at all. Moreover, they also face reactive or non-responsive service as the entire service delivery mechanism is always busy reacting to the volume of requests coming and seldom have the time/energy/budget to take any initiatives towards pro-active service delivery.
    Impact: - High Average wait time, Poor customer satisfaction, Large no. of missed calls
  • Agents – often stuck with manual and repetitive tasks and queries, they get little or no time to train themselves or upgrade their knowledge/skills. In addition, the “Synchronous” nature of telephone calls and often siloed enterprise systems severely limit their ability to solve complex customer queries in the first call.
    Impact: - Poor First call resolution, Poor employee satisfaction, High Average handle time
  • Business executives – often have to sacrifice customer experience and employee growth objectives in order to cater to increasing pressure to reduce the cost of operations.
    Impact – High employee churn rates, Low per agent productivity, High cost of operations

The myopic focus on cost-cutting leads to poor customer experience which leads to poor sales in the future which leads to even more pressure to cut costs taking the organization in a vicious cycle of decline that becomes hard to break.

Picture 2: Vicious cycle of decline triggered by myopic cost cuts

The solution: -

Conversational chatbots can help reduce this cost by up to 30% by answering up to 80% of the most frequently asked questions. Mindtree’s experience in this space shows that conversational AI, when backed up by human intelligence, delivered over a mix of text and voice medium over the right combination of channels can help organizations reduce their cost of customer service significantly without compromising on the customer experience.

Most typical service-related use cases that can be easily handled by AI chatbots are (but not limited to): -

  • Answering most frequently asked questions like product/service inquiries, order/delivery/ticket status or store/branch locations/timings, etc.
  • Helping customers do some basic transactions like resetting their passwords, updating profile information, scheduling appointments, etc.
  • Raise tickets that can be then processed by human specialists
  • Pro-active notifications about new products and services
  • Pro-active notifications about an outage or known business disruptions, etc.
  • Conduct an automated survey to gauge customer feedback, etc.
  • Act as an assistant to human agents thus making them more efficient

The Benefits: -

Chatbots, when implemented correctly within the context of customer service organization have the potential to deliver immense value to all stakeholders including: -

  • Customers – Will be able to get support 24/7 in languages of their choice. For more complex queries they will be quickly transferred to human agents as now they will have the time to handle complex requests with most simple queries being handled by bots.
    Impact: - Less Average wait time, Better Customer satisfaction, Elimination of Missed calls.
  • Agents – With AI chatbots taking up most mundane tasks and queries, human agents will be able to focus more on complex issues, up-skilling, and providing pro-active service/support.
    Impact: - Improved First call resolution, Better Employee Satisfaction, Low Average handle time
  • Business executives – With chatbots delivering significant cost savings on fielding incoming calls, executives will be able to invest money in automating other business processes within the organization & deliver pro-active service to the customers.
    Impact – Low employee churn rates, High per agent productivity, Low cost of operations

Service automation via chatbots will thus allow businesses to enter a positive cycle of growth.

Picture 3: Positive cycle of growth triggered by service automation via chatbots

Key considerations for getting your Conversational AI strategy right the first time:

Designing and successfully executing the right conversational AI strategy on the ground to achieve intended business outcomes requires careful considerations of following aspects (but not limited to): -

  • Use case selection – What are the right use cases to go after and in which order?
  • Medium selection – Is voice the right channel for me or text? Or do I need a combination of both?
  • Communication method – Is asynchronous communication method more suited for my needs or synchronous? Or do I need a combination of both?
  • Channel – What are the right channels on which I should have my bot to help my consumers (Website/App/IVR/Kiosk/Messaging apps/Smart speakers/ …)
  • Core bot development platform – Should I go for a click & configure variety platform or a more scalable setup?
  • Other cognitive services – Will I need other cognitive capabilities apart from NLP (Natural Language Processing) like image recognition, computer vision, Machine Learning, etc. in order to make my chatbot more intelligent. If yes, then how do I incorporate those?

Once we have considered the above points, executing the strategy on the ground becomes easy and the end-result more predictable.

One of our customers who is one of the world’s largest financial groups is currently able to handle over >1.2 million queries annually over calls by making use of Voice Bots over IVR. Another customer, a large CPG company is using a mix of channels (Alexa, webchat, WhatsApp, etc.) to educate its consumers on how to make the best use of their products. In our own experience, our employee assistant has already answered over 200K employee queries and service requests over the last 2 years thus reducing the workload on our employee service organization.

If service automation was a priority in the pre-COVID-19 world, it has now become a compulsion for businesses world over. Unless they embrace service automation, businesses are going to fall in the vicious cycle where cost cuts in service organizations result in poor CX, which leads to poor sales, which puts further pressure to cut costs.

With their ability to interact with consumers in the most natural way of interaction i.e. via conversations, chatbots are uniquely poised to help organizations to deliver automated service to its consumers without compromising on customer experience while delivering significant cost savings.

To know more about our capabilities in this space do visit our conversation AI site.

To apply our framework for identifying and executing the right Conversational AI strategy for your organization’s unique needs contact us.

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About the Author

Anurag Thakur
Principal Consultant

Anurag Thakur is a principal consultant who specializes in applying emerging technologies as tools to achieve the intended business outcomes. Over the last 15 years, Anurag has worked as a Technology & Strategy consultant in multiple large & small business transformation programs that have leveraged business and technology innovations of those respective time periods.

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