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Conversational AI Doesn’t Have to Be a Risky Investment: Step 2

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Innovative, cutting-edge, ground-breaking – these are all words used regularly to describe conversational AI technologies. Being the organisation that deploys an innovative technology typically requires being comfortable with a high level of risk. However, most companies don’t have the financial flexibility or company culture to take that degree of risk, whether real or inferred.

Deploying conversational AI solutions like chatbots and virtual agents can be risky but doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to be an early adopter of innovations to benefit from the technology. These solutions have been used by businesses for over two decades as part of their customer engagement and employee experience strategies, and you can take advantage of those learnings to deploy reliable, successful projects.

In this three-part blog series, I’m sharing three steps for achieving conversational AI success while minimising the risk for your organisation. Last time, we delved into Step 1: Be selective when deciding on a vendor and technology. If you missed that post, I recommend you read it first before moving on to the second step:

Step 2: Build a business case with realistic goals.

Embarking on any business project without identifying the goal is always a risk, so it is essential that you have a realistic business case and clear objectives for your conversational AI project. An experienced vendor will be able to assist you with this process by performing a textual analysis of your existing data, such as live chat or contact centre transcripts, to identify what queries can and should be automated with conversational AI.

Starting with this analysis immediately reduces risk because your business case is being built around your own data. It’s combining the vendor’s expertise directly with the information that is unique to your customers, employees, and company. Instead of guessing your users’ self-service needs or taking a generic approach, your business case is customised to you and your pain points from the start.

Follow that initial analysis with a consultation workshop to review the results and collaborate with the vendor to identify your key performance indicators (KPIs) and set realistic goals. These business objectives will directly inform how your chatbot or virtual agent is built and implemented. Having clear goals and deciding how you will track progress and measure outcomes minimises the danger of investing in a project that won’t really meet your needs.

The key in this step is to build your conversational AI business case around realistic and obtainable goals. Being practical about what you are automating and setting sensible targets for your solution creates a solid foundation for your project. It keeps your investment focused on reliable, reproducible outcomes and business benefits.

In the third and final instalment of this series, we will talk about starting your conversational AI project with a pilot and the best approach to minimise risk while rolling out a full deployment. A great resource for better understanding the financial investment needed for a successful virtual agent or chatbot is the Guide to Enterprise Conversational AI Pricing: Calculating the Cost of a Successful Chatbot or Virtual Agent. Even if your company isn’t at the enterprise-level, this guide provides valuable insights into budgeting and calculating ROI that’s useful for all organisations.

Stop Trying to Improve Efficiency at the Expense of CX

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Earlier this year my niece starting reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie book series, and I’ve been rereading them along with her. It’s been fun having discussions with her about the books and hearing what part of the stories stuck out for her as most interesting or surprising about Laura’s pioneer life. It’s also made me grateful to have modern conveniences like running water and refrigeration!

Over the course of history, humans have always looked for ways to improve efficiency and productivity. Think about all the inventions you studied in school, like the printing press and cotton gin, that initiated key moments of change for industry and society. Innovation drives progress, but that progress doesn’t innately mean a better experience or quality of life for everyone.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have meant more potential use cases for automation technologies. Businesses see this as an opportunity to improve efficiency and productivity – and it is. However, being too focused just on those goals often means they overlook the importance of the experience.

Forrester analyst, William McKeon-White writes about this as part of his research on help desk chatbots. He points out that prioritizing efficiency over experience leads to the critical element of user success being overlooked. If users don’t have a good experience with the chatbot, they won’t keep using it. And if users aren’t coming back to the tool, there’s no way for the organization to achieve positive longer-term outcomes.

It’s important to understand this as you build your business case for a conversational AI tool. As chatbot expert Rachael Needham explains in a vendor selection guide:

“Having a clear business objective will dictate much of what and how the chatbot is implemented. For example, is the objective to reduce phone calls or live chats – and how will that be tracked? Is it to improve customer satisfaction – and how will that be measured? Another key question to ask when thinking of customer experience is: are we really meeting the needs of our customers or are we just trying to make a score look better?”

Improving productivity and efficiency are worthy and important goals but shouldn’t be attempted at the expense of the user experience. Your chatbot or virtual agent should be designed to create a better experience by providing quick, easy support. Reducing phone calls or live chat sessions because you’re giving customers a better way to get help, without having to take the time and effort to engage with a contact center agent, is an efficiency improvement that’s positive for your business and your customer experience (CX).

In a recent discussion with ISG, Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, pointed out that he has seen a shift in the focus of organizations when implementing conversational AI. Five years ago, the business cases for these solutions were heavily centered around contact deflection. However, as businesses come to recognize the competitive advantage of improving CX, that focus moves to creating better experiences as the key priority.

This doesn’t mean that organizations shouldn’t have the goal of improving efficiency and productivity with conversational AI tools. Instead, they should identify those objectives as part of their strategy to improve the overall experience. Often, you’ll find they go hand-in-hand. Efficiency improvements can be a crucial means by which the experience is made better. Expert conversational AI professionals understand the best ways to balance these needs and set goals that go beyond just making a score look better to achieving real success.

For more tips on creating a conversational AI strategy and building a business case, check out these resources:

Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence, Part 3

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In February ISG, a leading global technology research and advisory firm, published their ‘ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services’ report. Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, and his team evaluated 19 conversational AI vendors in the report, identifying Creative Virtual as a Leader in the highly competitive quadrant.

I joined Mrinal and Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, recently on a Zoom session for a discussion about conversational AI. Mrinal kicked things off by diving into the conversational AI quadrant and his research. He outlined the key factors that led to Creative Virtual emerging as a clear Leader in his evaluation.

Jan Erik and I then discussed a number of conversational AI questions that ISG see coming up with their advisors as well as their clients. In my previous posts, I’ve shared the first two parts of that conversation during which we covered current trends and developments, the changing roles of contact centre agents, barriers to achieving success, and the impact of the pandemic. You can watch Part 1 here and watch Part 2 here.

In the third, and final part of our conversation, we delved into the following question: When setting project goals, what KPIs should organisations identify and what results should they expect?

This is a really important question for organisations as they build their business case for a conversational AI solution. About five years ago, there was a big focus on contact deflection when implementing these tools. While this is still important, we find it to be less important as the focus has shifted more to improving the customer experience (CX). Organisations recognise CX as an important differentiator today in competitive marketplaces.

This same sort of thinking also applies to internal solutions, whether that be a solution deployed within the contact centre or one designed for employee support in areas such as service desk, IT support, HR support, and employee onboarding. Supporting employees is more important than ever and, with the right tools in place, presents an opportunity to improve productivity, efficiency, and job satisfaction.

Check out Part 3 of our ‘Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence’ discussion for more on KPIs and results:

 

 

A big thank you to Mrinal and Jan Erik for taking the time for this discussion, as well as to Katie Dickens and Thomas Victor at ISG for working behind the scenes on arranging and producing the recordings of our session!

If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to download a copy of the ISG Provider Lens™ – Conversational AI Quadrant Report.

If you’d like to learn more about Creative Virtual’s expert consultation and see our conversational AI technology in action, sign up here for a personalised demo session with a member of our global team.