Blend humans & automation for positive disruption

4th Dec 2019

Automation alone cannot consistently deliver a great customer experience. When it’s seamlessly combined with live agents it can assist by providing more contextual information while giving customers the personalised journey they expect.

Organisations that are relying on automation are doing so to deflect inbound calls and reduce costs, but Forrester Analytics data shows that consumers aren't thrilled with this approach.  They found consumers are reluctant to trust a chatbot to resolve their service issues, and remain skeptical that chatbots can provide a similar level of service as a human agent.

However, it seems companies are enforcing technology solutions at every opportunity in the hope of improving their CX strategy.  Amid all the talk of technical advancement, we seem to forget about the human factor, that personal touch that only people can deliver to consumers no matter the channel of engagement.

Clients today have huge goals for their CX strategies such as 50% of all calls to be self-serviced, 80% of contact to be automated, 50% of calls to be eliminated and all of this along with, in most cases, being tasked to make significant cost savings.

Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst at Forrester, explained further; “Customer service organisations have been looking for ways to cut costs for decades.  Now that chatbot mania has taken over, many are jumping on the bandwagon and attempting to replace their human agents with chatbots.  In theory, that makes sense — a chatbot costs less than a human over time, and most customer service organisations tend to focus more heavily on cost than on customer experience.”

It is fair to say many companies are struggling with automation, whether to automate, why automate, what to automate and when to automate.  According to Forrester when it comes to automation and customer service, brands are getting the last 3 questions wrong.

We regularly see in the industry news headlines such as “Chatbots set to take over most cost service work” or “Robots are set to replace humans and costly contact centres”.  However, according to Forrester’s Analytics Consumer Energy Index on-line survey 2018 consumers expect chatbots to disappoint with 54% of US online consumers expecting interaction with customer service chatbots to negatively affect their quality of life.

The message from Forrester’s research is clear “Augment, don’t replace and blend AI and humans.” 

The question is which blended operations model works better for your business?

Forrester have identified four approaches to agent augmentation:

  1. A chatbot for agents where the conversation is with a live agent and a chatbot.  If your customer service agents search a knowledge base during their interactions with customers, why not create a natural language interface for that task?  It’s a great starting point if you’re just beginning your chatbot journey.
  2. A Human-intermediated chatbot for increased efficiency and seamless suggestions. Here, an AI tool observes a conversation between a human agent and a customer, providing suggestions that the agent can either push out to the customer, or modify, or personalise the suggestion, or even reject it and type their own answer.
  3. A Front-end chatbot where the chatbot authenticates the customer and determines intent and gathers all relevant information.  Chatbot hands interaction off to the agent and the agent resolves the customer’s issues.  The benefit of this one is that agents are handling the meat of the interaction and have more time for upselling/cross selling and it also significantly reduces handling time.  Conceptually agents are more engaged as they are adding value and not doing mundane tasks.
  4. Intermingled workflows with both agents and chatbots do what each does best.  The human agent can invoke a chatbot to handle a specific task, then have the chatbot hand the interaction back to the agent.  Like the front-end chatbot, human agents are relieved of routine tasks, but in this workflow, the agent and chatbot can flex back and forth to tackle the portions of the interaction they excel at.

Using one or more of those approaches to augment customer service agents can result in significant benefits to an organisation, such as reduced handle time, increased employee engagement, and improved experience — while also ensuring your customers don’t lose faith with your brand after a frustrating chatbot interaction.

One thing is for sure, AI is here to stay - brands that want to keep ahead in a competitive world will need to re-think their business models and make sure there is a place for human employees and AI – they will be the winners.

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