The future of chatbots as a cornerstone of customer experience

Chatbots can be indispensable to a business’s CX, but there is still a long way to go, CX Network looks at is how the future of chatbots is shaping up

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Adam Muspratt

Chatbots and self-service channels are necessities in CX. According to Forrester, 63 per cent of customers are happy to be served by a chatbot, and when most customers can find a solution without having to call a customer service representative, they will. Whether it is a chatbot, online FAQ or knowledge bank, customers want to resolve issues quickly and comprehensively.

Conversely, customer service agents want to spend more of the workday handling complex cases, so having a bot on hand to take routine conversations out of the day-to-day allows agents to focus on complex and difficult tasks such as servicing unhappy customers.  

Read: Building a customer first culture labelled as the toughest CX challenge

Regarding the popularity of chatbots, projected the global chatbot market size to grow from $2.6 bn in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 29.7 per cent.  Considering the chatbot-centric CX world we are entering, the CX Network will delve into key developments, trends and future ramifications for the greater world of CX. In this article we will present brands with a vision into the future of chatbots and discuss how voice recognition, democratized development, and empathy will take chatbots to the next level.

The value of next generation chatbots 

Voice recognition
When people think of chatbots, they often think of text-based interaction but developments in artificial intelligence (AI), speech-to-text recognition and NLP have opened the door to chatbots with voice-activated functionality. According to eMarketer research, more than 111 million Americans use personal assistants each month. As more and more people come to grips with voice-activated help, brands will increase experimentation with chatbots with voice experiences as an option. According to Salesforce, “It may only be a matter of time before voice chatbots are the preferred method of communication with brands”.

The advantages of voice-enabled bots are many. Voice-based communication is more natural compared to text, granting wider appeal to less-savvy savvy customers. In addition, voice chatbots provide additional convenience for customers who are multi-tasking. For example, in a troubleshooting scenario, it may be easier to tell the bot what the issue is instead of removing yourself from the task and typing it out.

Brands such as Vodafone Germany, and Swisscom have already implemented WhatsApp as a channel for communications. As a result, customers can record voice messages through WhatsApp, which gets sent through to the appropriate channel. These bots utilize the same classifiers for both text and voice interactions, reducing the need for traditional text and interactive voice response (IVR) menu options.

Democratized development and low-code chatbots 
According to Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms Report, by 2024, three-quarters of large enterprises will use low-code development tools for IT application development. If the future of software development is democratization, it will be no different with chatbots.

Minimal coding requirements ensure that teams can build customer support bots in a matter of minutes, sometimes, drastically reducing development times and cost. This is beneficial for SMEs or brands that are struggling to get internal buy-in for CX projects as common frictions such as ROI and delivery time can be moderated.

Read: Petplan on the power of letting the customers do the talking

Chris Connolly, vice president of product marketing at Genesys, says: “Some of the advances that we have seen with Google and OpenCV have sped up adoption and democratization. If you are a coder now, you don’t necessarily need a PhD or two to get into machine learning and understand it. The tool set’s risen to a level where, really, anyone that’s a coder can embed machine learning into what they do.”

However, the advantage of low-code solutions is also a disadvantage, says Connolly. Low-code solutions are less maintainable and can lack the complex functionality of code-based products, such as error handling and bespoke features. It will be interesting to see how enterprises approach low-code chatbots in the coming years, and what common patterns will emerge over the criteria in which brands select for low-code adoption. We may also see a rise in a “best of both worlds” approach, where low-code is adopted, but developers focus on integrating complex functionality, such as tracking interactions with users.

Chatbots with empathy
Current chatbot technology cannot understand certain elements of human conversation such as sarcasm and empathy, however, AI technology bridging the gap between chatbots and human. Developments are growing so much, Gartner is predicting that by 2022, 70 per cent of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms daily.

Thanks to improvements in NPL, the ability for bots to process spoken and written messages and determine the intent based on sentiment analytics, will make chatbots better equipped to deal with emotional customers.

One obvious use for emotional chatbots in CX is that it will spot when customers are getting frustrated such as technical troubleshooting or asking for an update on a delayed delivery. By being able to acknowledge a customer’s feelings, emotional chatbots stand to significantly improve CX, instead reducing the frequency of abandoned chat sessions.

Read: Shep Hyken's five steps to eliminate customer service friction

As explained by Zach Franzen, product marketing Manager for Genesys: “It’s not about the bot pretending to be human, but the bot is the conduit for empathy from human customers.” There are some innovative ways in which you can incorporate empathy, says Franzen. For example, in instances where the chatbot has to transition to a human agent, you can elicit empathy and humour from the user, by having the chatbot admit its inability to help the customer, in a way that is forgivable.

However, it is not just about managing disappointed customers, as positive sentiment is just as important. Customers that frequently express delight will be more receptive to up selling opportunities and bots can introduce variability to influence customers to try more products, according to Genesys. By integrating the chatbot with the brands recommendation engine, customers can benefit personalized recommandations, similar to the recommendation model. For example, after a customer purchases a coat, the chatbot can ask: “To complete your outfit, take a look at what other customers also bought when they purchased this coat.”  

Considering that generates 35 per cent of its revenue through its recommendation engine, it would be smart for brands to follow suite their implementation of chatbots.

The technology that chatbots are built upon is rapidly improving  
In this digital age of increased customer expectations, chatbots have emerged as one of the foremost tools for shouldering burdens of customer care, while helping brands provide a 24/7 service for customers. More and more customers are becoming accustomed to virtual assistants, and there is no doubt that the functionality of chatbots is improving. Through democratization, emotional intelligence and voice chat, the future of chatbots is looking to be one of the best options for providing exceptional customer care.

Watch the video below for a rundown of CX in 2019