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CX in 2018: Digital Transformation Means Combining Humans and Chatbots

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

For years there was much more talk about digital transformation than any actual changes for many organisations, but that’s starting to change. More and more digital transformation projects are getting off the ground, and 2018 will be an important year for understanding the reality of the changes needed and putting plans into action.

During a recent roundtable event Econsultancy found that for many, digital transformation programmes are all about survival. Organisations are ‘trying to disrupt ourselves before being disrupted by others’. There is a fear of being made obsolete and digital transformation is a way to head off bankruptcy, particularly for those already struggling or less profitable than their competitors.

Yet well-established and profitable organisations are also moving forward with these types of programmes, particularly when it comes to customer experience. In Hong Kong, some of the biggest banks are launching smart chatbots as a way to serve tech-savvy customers as part of their digital transformations. The corporate banking unit of HSBC, Hong Kong’s largest bank by assets, launched the very first chatbot of its kind in the city. Chatbot Amy is an important part of their innovative digital banking experience and allows customers to get answers quickly and easily.

I recently read an article predicting that 2018 will see AI-enable chatbots providing a better customer experience than human-to-human chat exchanges. I would argue that in some cases they already are. While I disagree with the authors on that point, I wholeheartedly agree on their insistence that customer service chatbots should have human ‘escape hatches’ which seamlessly pass users over to a human.

When it comes to customer service and engagement, digital transformation means combining humans and machines. Organisations that ignore the importance of the human element or try to rely on pure artificial intelligence (AI) are going to see their initiatives crash and burn. Chatbots can be brilliant additions to digital engagement strategies but they need to be implemented in the right way and with the right expectations, like HSBC Hong Kong’s Amy.

One thing that has held back digital transformation efforts is coming to grips with the reality of implementing plans, which is often very different than expected. It’s important to work with an experienced, expert team – particularly when it comes to customer service chatbots. Don’t rush to deploy any old chatbot just to be able to say you have one. Be strategic about it as part of your overall digital customer experience transformation. Know how it can best serve your customers and how you want to integrate it with other support options such as live chat. The whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! gives some key features to look for when selecting a chatbot for customer support:

  • Personalisation – Can the chatbot be integrated with personalised account information?
  • Consistency and Accuracy – How will the chatbot help me keep my customer experience consistent and accurate?
  • Seamless Experience – Can I integrate the chatbot with other channels and support options?
  • End-to-End Support Journey – Can the tool bring together virtual and human support channels?

As you embark on new digital transformation initiatives to improve your customer experience this year, ensure that you examine them in context of your overall strategy and customer needs. And don’t overlook the importance of combining humans and machines, live agents and chatbots to best serve your customers and reach your CX goals.

Chatbots are Transforming the Way Mobile Apps are Built and Used

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

“By 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development.”

As one of Gartner’s top strategic predictions for 2018 and beyond, this projection really drives home the fact that chatbots are more than just a passing fad. Gartner explains that chatbots are becoming the face of artificial intelligence (AI) and transforming the way apps are built. Forward-thinking organisations are staying a step ahead of their competitors by examining their digital strategies and finding ways to incorporate chatbot technology into their customer engagement plans.

Some companies have already made their chatbot available in their customer app. One example is Time Warner Cable who offer customers the option to get instant help from their virtual agent, and even escalate to a live agent when needed, in the MY TWC app – check out the video below to see it in action.

Other organisations are taking advantage of the growing popularity of messaging platforms by deploying their chatbot on apps such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat. These platforms have become key communication channels, and chatbots offer a cost-effective way to provide 24/7 support to customers already using these apps to connect with family and friends. For example, Transport for NSW in Australia uses RITA (Real-time Intelligent Transport Assistant), their Transport Bot, to provide bus, train, ferry and light rail service information on Facebook Messenger.

A survey published earlier this year found that 71% of millennials (ages 18-34) surveyed were interested in trying chatbots from consumer brands. According to that same survey, 67% said they were likely to buy items and services from brands via chatbots. Based on those results, it’s no wonder that enterprises are starting to seriously invest in chatbots to engage with customers. Some may even look to completely replace their traditional mobile app with a chatbot.

branded chatbot survey

It’s not enough for companies to invest in any chatbot, though – they need to invest in the solution that’s right for their needs. There are new vendors popping up every day claiming to provide chatbots and virtual agents for customer support, but smart organisations know it’s essential to work with an experienced provider offering a proven solution. Smart organisations also know that chatbots need to be implemented as an integrated part of their overall customer engagement strategy, not as a stand-alone tool or app. Here are a few resources to get you started: