All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: The Digital Automation of Customer Engagement

If your digital customer experience strategy doesn’t include messaging and chatbots in the next 2 years, you’re going to get left behind. Matt Hooper of IMImobile looks at how companies will have to embrace automation and conversational commerce to keep customers satisfied and retain market share.

The digital advantage

In an interview at WEF 2017 in Davos, Barclays UK CEO Ashok Vaswani said: “Frankly, the digital revolution is bigger than the industrial revolution or the agricultural revolution… And, therefore, when we think about it, we think about it end to end.” This last bit is particularly important, which we’ll come back to.

A company that is transforming customer experience as part of its digital strategy has 4 massive advantages over its competitors. It can:

  • Personalise messages, products, services, even prices in real-time based on data – customer history, lifetime value, lifecycle stage, location – enhanced by analytics and modelling.
  • Proactively engage customers to pre-empt customer service issues and create up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
  • Automate – or if not desired, at least make as efficient as possible – interactions, transactions and entire processes both from the customer’s side and in the company’s back office or supply chain using chatbots and other AI applications.
  • Communicate over digital channels at the customer’s demand and ensure consistency and fluidity of customer experience across multiple channels (omni-channel).

Conversations as a platform

For Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the next big thing in computing will be “conversations as a platform”. Sometimes called conversational commerce, he believes it will be as important as the inventions of graphical user interfaces, the web browser and touchscreens.

Live chat via a website or via mobile messaging apps is already by far the most cost-effective agent-assisted channel and, according to multiple surveys over the past few years, tends to give the highest customer satisfaction ratings.

It’s not a great leap from there to get customers to interact with virtual assistants or chatbots – and indeed they already are. According to Gartner, by 2019 more than 10% of IT staff in customer service departments will be spending most of their time writing scripts for bot interactions because “chatbots will soon deliver customer satisfaction at significantly lower cost than human customer service agents.” Conversational commerce is here and it will be increasingly powered by bots.

The future of your contact centre: join everything up and automate

Mr Vaswani of Barclays, in the same WEF 2017 Davos interview as the quote that opens this article, explained how his company’s end to end thinking is leading it to create entire customer journeys and ecosystems (bundles of products, applications, and processes) around “life moments” such as buying a car or getting married.

At the level of individual interactions too, everything must be joined up. For example, a chatbot might hand off a complex query to a Live Chat agent. This process needs to be mapped and the responses of automated systems, such as chatbots, need to be pulled from a knowledge base and decision tree scripted by CX or contact centre professionals, not programmers. The practicalities of how you implement and run a chatbot service are as important as the AI technology itself.

At the technology level, individual applications deployed in isolation will no longer deliver. Single view of customer across channels is essential, which ideally means an integrated multi-channel platform which can seamlessly route and orchestrate interactions between live and automated, voice and chat channels, as well as provide the analytics needed for continuous improvement.

Taken all together, digital transformation, conversational commerce, and the arrival of AI in the form of chatbots present many challenges for the contact centre – but also huge opportunities for the companies ready to embrace them.

IMImobile are a platinum sponsor of the Future of Contact Centre event on the 23rd February. Come and visit us at stand 13 if you would like to discuss how you can utilise social and mobile messaging channels and chatbots in your contact centre operation. Contact noel.lavery@imimobile.com for more information. www.imimobile.com.