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Guest Blogger

By Rodney Hassard, Global Director of Product Management, Genesys

Chatbots and voicebots are transforming how we engage with businesses and how businesses engage with us. We now interact with bots in text messages, phone calls and even messaging apps when we are doing regular business with a brand such as making a payment or checking on our account. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), bots are gaining popularity for their ability to help businesess more efficiently serve customers across channels day and night.

Instead of  searching, browsing and using navigation, bots are also steadily overtaking drop down menus as the main methods by which consumers find content or accomplish a task on a brand’s website. A simple and fast webchat with a bot is becoming an extension of the self-service interface for consumers to engage with businesses in a more natural and conversational manner.  Moreover, voicebots are enabling brands to move away from the traditional, mundane and frustrating IVR systems of the past.

Consumers are also increasingly conversing with brands via bots from within the messaging application they already use with colleagues, friends and family, such as Facebook Messenger, What’s App or WeChat, for example. Research projects that this surge will only continue. According to a Genesys survey, while today 70 percent of consumers are still partial to talking to a live advisor for service, preference for messaging apps is quickly on the rise, with a 43 percent uptick since 2014. Further, industry analyst firm Gartner reported: “By 2022, 72 percent of customer interactions will involve an emerging technology such as machine learning applications, chatbots or mobile messaging, up from 11 percent in 2017.”1

We shouldn’t be surprised. Consumer-focused virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are growing exponentially in popularity. With advanced natural language understanding, these virtual assistants can understand human voice commands and respond quickly and effectively to directives or queries from busy consumers.

We may be some way from emulating truly human-like conversation or complex reasoning, but with the right data, the power of the bots we can already create is astounding.

Bot technology has already evolved a great deal, moving from answering content-based search queries and FAQs, such as “What is my account balance?”, to handling simple transactional interactions like transferring money or booking a hotel room. Analysing mass amounts of data with advanced machine learning has propelled capabilities further, making bots even more effective intelligent assistants to their human counterparts. The most innovative bots are evolving into fully-fledged personal concierges, proactive and capable of matching recommendations to the habits and preferences of individual customers.

For businesses, the most important thing to bare in mind is that bots and other implementations of AI will not replace human advisors. Rather, companies should apply a blended approach where bots are used alongside live employees to help them do their jobs better. So the consumer can start a conversation with a brand and interact with both a human advisor and a bot, who seamlessly hand off to each other, back and forth as needed until the customer’s issue is resolved.

This hybrid approach of blending automation with the human touch can also integrate bots with micro-applications, knowledge, an engagement engine and more. The human advisor’s ability to serve the customer is transformed with the aid of automation, which helps with the provision of interaction information, sentiment analysis and suggestions on how to respond to queries or complete processes and the provision of guidance on what to do next.

As bot technology evolves, it is enabling an increasingly omnichannel approach to digital customer experience, embracing all channels to ensure consistency across voice, chat, messaging and websites.

Omnibots – conversational AI-fuelled digital representations of brand identities – will also transcend mere customer-service or social-media bots as they become video and virtual reality-enabled. It won’t be long before they’re fronting a drinks company, bank or clothing store as a ubiquitous public interface integrated into advertising, apps, websites, social media, call centres and stores.

With such myriad capabilities available to any consumer-facing business, bot implementation is going to continue as a major trend. But project success is contingent on businesses striking the right balance between human advisors and bots. When automation and AI are combined with the power of the human touch, businesses can deliver fast, smooth and efficient service that promises to not only bring sanity to customer interactions, but to truly ehance the experience for all involved.

One thing is certain. The bot evolution is continuing and will transform the quality and ease of interaction for thousands of consumers.

Rodney is the Global Director of Product Management for Self-Service and Automation at Genesys. He has over 13 years of experience in self-service application design, consulting, sales and marketing and was part of the successful SpeechStorm start-up that was acquired by Genesys in late 2015. In his current role, Rodney is responsible for product strategy and commercialization for solutions such as IVR, chat bots and voice bots.