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Enterprises enter the next phase of AI

The journey to deploying chatbots hasn’t been an easy one for enterprises. Ten to fifteen years ago, when companies first started experimenting with them, consumers were exposed to several bad implementations due to the immaturity and poor implementation of the technology.

The natural language processing that powers conversational artificial intelligence (AI) experiences has developed considerably since then, and is now capable of powering seamless and authentic interactions that reflect human conversations. While there are still things AI cannot do, its ability to understand intent and match it to existing content has enabled companies to transform how they engage with customers across the entire journey.

In retail, for example, AI chatbots are being used to help customers easily find answers to frequently asked pre-order questions, such as what types of delivery options are available, active order questions like where an item is or how it can be returned, as well as for post-order onboarding and troubleshooting.

“The technology behind chatbots and the quality of conversation is so much better than it used to be,” says Sandra Schroeter, international head of customer engagement technologies at LogMeIn, which provides AI-powered customer engagement solutions for companies of all sizes. “AI won’t answer 100 per cent of questions, but it does remove the simple repeatable queries from the live agents’ plate so they can spend more time with the customers who need them most.

“With Bold360, LogMeIn’s first product to leverage conversational AI for customer experience, if the chatbot doesn’t know the answer or identifies a high-value transaction that requires a human touch, the technology can seamlessly transition the customer to a human agent, including the full context of the interaction. Further, the bot stays as an active participant in the conversation, helping both the customer and agent along the way.”

Creating a good harmony between bots and humans will allow companies to leverage the full potential of their human workforce, and will result in happier and more productive employees

Beyond customer service

With contact centre deployments of chatbots becoming more mature every day, use-cases are now expanding as enterprises become more accepting of AI and are increasingly inspired by the value it brings to the business. Sales and marketing functions are leveraging the capabilities to transition chatbots from being a simple hub of knowledge for customers to using them to help proactively assist in the buying process by providing customers content and suggestions as they
are shopping.

Within the same example of retail, companies are beginning to use chatbots not only to help customers make the right purchasing decision, but also actively encouraging them to do so. AI technology can recognise when users are browsing an item and offer help in finding what they want, while guiding them through to the transaction stage. By providing automated assistance, retailers can reduce the costly issue of returns.

Further use-cases are emerging to assist human staff in customer service or to enable all employees to find answers quicker for questions relating to core business functions such as human resources and IT. Internal chatbots enable companies to keep information consistent during onboarding and regular training, for example, or to help employees easily reset passwords if they forget them. This reduces the volume of inquiries coming into help desks and keeps employees productive.

Organisational culture shifts

As these new customer and employee engagement technologies continue to increase in momentum, more and more organisations are creating executive-level roles to help navigate this new way of doing business.

“As Bold360 continues to evolve in both technology and use-cases, the decision-makers within our customer organisations have varied quite a bit,” says Ms Schroeter.  “Where a deployment like ours might have been an IT decision a few years ago, today the driving force behind these types of new technologies is coming from positions like chief digital officer or chief innovation officer.”

Hiring somebody into such a role helps to lay down a strong foundation for businesses that want to move to this next phase of AI, positioning them as internal champions for digital transformation. According to analyst firm Forrester1, companies that fail to differentiate their customer experience will engage in price wars that may reap short-term gains, but will lead to a destructive race to the bottom in the long term.

These hires can also lead the crucial task of overcoming the cultural barriers that may stand in the way of expanding the influence of AI within organisations. Some people naturally feel threatened by the prospect of tasks and processes being automated, so it’s important to educate them on how AI deployments will benefit them.

“Like any digital transformation project, bringing your people along the journey with you is crucial for adoption, especially when it comes to AI,” says Ms Schroeter. “Employees need to establish trust in the technology and be given the opportunity to see it as a colleague, rather than something that will threaten their jobs. There is no denying that AI will likely impact our workforce in a similar way to other technology advancements, but it will more likely evolve job roles, not eliminate them. In fact, many of the jobs that our children will have don’t even exist yet. AI brings change and with it a lot of opportunities.

“From a cultural and organisational perspective, educating the workforce on these opportunities will be an important first step. AI has the power to make all our jobs easier by allowing us to step away from monotonous tasks and focus on what we do best: being human. Creating a good harmony between bots and humans, where humans can focus their days on being strategic, empathetic and creative, will allow companies to leverage the full potential of their human workforce, and will result in happier and more productive employees.”

And it’s this harmony where LogMeIn’s Bold360 shines. As a customer experience platform that delivers both AI and agent technologies, Bold360 is the foundation for the triangular collaboration between agents, customers and AI. Customers can communicate both with AI-powered chatbots as well as with live agents. Agents can communicate directly with customers while receiving help from AI on the backend. And the AI learns from both the customers’ and agents’ interactions to ensure it is always improving.

“While AI is becoming a critical piece of an overall customer experience strategy, the human component is equally crucial,” says Ms Schroeter. “As companies start down their AI journey, it’s a good idea to identify an area where AI can have the biggest immediate impact, test the technology, educate and bring employees and customers along with you, learn, adjust and expand from there. AI is having an undeniable impact on business success, if implemented the right way. Those that are getting on board now are in a position to differentiate themselves from competitors; those that don’t are getting left behind.”

Agents work hand-in-hand with AI

See Tickets turned to Bold360 when its call centre and live chat software could no longer cope with the demand of answering questions from millions of eventgoers.

Global ticketing services firm See Tickets sells and distributes millions of tickets for music, theatre, festival, sport, comedy and lifestyle events each year. As a result, it must deal with a huge volume of incoming customer inquiries every day.

In 2015, it sold all 150,000 tickets for that year’s Glastonbury Festival in just 29 minutes, but the subsequent questions it had to field from customers placed enormous pressure on staff. Working with more than 5,000 clients globally and with over 40,000 events on sale, the onus always was on the customer service team to answer queries on each one.

“It was labour intensive, costly and almost impossible for staff to know every detail about every event from a customer service perspective,” says Rob Wilmshurst, chief executive at See Tickets. “We needed to move away from call centre activity and live chat software.”

Though the nature of the challenge made automation a strong fit, See Tickets had never implemented artificial intelligence (AI) before and it didn’t seek a specific technology. “We’re committed to the best in client and customer service and any tool, AI or not, that helps us achieve that in a cost-effective manner would be considered,” says Mr Wilmshurst.

We are committed to the best in customer service. With Bold360 our customers get accurate and consistent information, that has been pre-qualified by our team. 95 per cent of the enquiries are now dealt with without any human interaction

Following a live demonstration of LogMeIn’s Bold360, an AI-powered customer engagement solution, See Tickets could instantly see the software would be able to provide accurate and fast information to its customers, as well as drive large cost savings. Bold360 empowers businesses to create better experiences in their current and future engagements in a scalable way.

“Inside minutes, we set up a few frequently asked questions and challenged the platform with a range of sometimes deliberately stupid questions to see how it responded,” says Mr Wilmshurst. “It responded accurately and we were immediately impressed. The interface is very simple to understand and gave us confidence this was a tool the existing call centre and customer service staff could work with.”

Thanks to Bold360’s simple and intuitive set-up process, See Tickets was able to deploy the technology immediately to its customer service team with minimal effort from the technical parts of its business.

Since using the AI chatbot, See Tickets contact centre volume decreased considerably. Previously, every single inquiry required human interaction, but the new technology means 95 per cent of inquiries are now handled without any human interaction at all.

The software has also provided new insights for See Tickets. It analyses customer intents across channels, displaying the voice of the customer in real time and enabling businesses immediately to resolve friction points in the customer journey.

Insights from AI-driven engagements constantly fuel customer experience strategies, enabling businesses to leverage the voice of the customer to improve strategic decision-making across the business. In addition, Bold360 gives managers the flexibility to view an overview of trends and to dissect data by context, geo-location and customer profiles. With a complete view of the customer, it enables users to improve strategic decision-making across the business.

The real-time statistics interface enables the See Tickets customer service team to see what issues are impacting the business at any given time. Through those insights, they can alert management or clients and quickly find a resolution, acting as an early-warning system that steers the company away from potential problems.

This means See Tickets human agents are now able to focus on higher-value and more complex conversations and tasks, including making sure the information on Bold360 is as good as it can be. Customers get accurate and consistent information that has been pre-qualified by the customer services team and tuned by the platform, while See Tickets gets more productive agents.

“Reviewing the statistics in real time allows staff to see how the answers are being received and rated by the customers,” says Mr Wilmshurst. “Where necessary, staff can adjust the answers or create new or supplementary ones knowing the platform will assimilate these into its knowledge base and start to rely on
these immediately.”

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