Strategies for Living in a Bot World

If you work in telecommunications, you are already living in a bot world. With new developments in machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing that world will be getting more crowded in 2021.

Today, a chatbot is a discrete software function designed to perform a task in an automated fashion, according to Andrew Prokop, client experience innovation at Avaya. “IVRs are a form of bots, because they handle tasks that are routing and time-consuming,” he said in a recent presentation, “It’s a Bot World and We Just Live in It,” for the IAUG Tampa Bay chapter.

In some ways, a basic bot is like a content-based search engine. A bot responds to text or voice requests and routes the inquiry appropriately, just as a search engine finds documents containing the desired keywords and presents them to a user.  A chatbot can ask basic questions and provide limited responses to questions, escalating to a human agent when necessary.

But the possibilities for bots expand dramatically when AI is added to those basic functions and trained using machine learning.  AI involves the creation of intelligent software that can act as a human, including visualization, speech recognition and problem solving, Prokop said. Then, you can develop an AI-empowered bot to provide a human-like experience without human involvement.

“Combining bots and AI allows you to have an intelligent assistant, handling or helping on a more complex transactions,” Prokop said. “You could also develop a personal concierge, taking a proactive approach to assisting an individual agent using AI-based machine learning.”

Tips on strategies

Avaya offers several tools to help enterprises implement an effective bot strategy, including Avaya CPaaS (communication platform as a service) Avaya Virtual Agent and Avaya Conversational Intelligence.  “We take the technology and work with you to help make things happen,” said Prokop.

The first step typically involves identifying both pain points and potential areas where AI-enhanced bots could improve the customer experience and employee performance.  “How can your organization do a better job of assisting customer and employees?” asked Prokop.

Before diving into the development process, you should also consider the ethical aspect of using bots, said Prokop. “A bot should not impersonate a human being, perhaps telling callers, ‘I am a virtual agent here to help you.’”  You should also think about how the user data you collect would be shared outside the bot, and let callers know. For instance, you might say, “Any information you share will be kept within our organization.”

You should also think about your brand image, so you can provide a consistent customer experience regardless of contact points or channels.  If your brand is fun or quirky, for instance, you bot’s responses should reflect that feeling.

Next, consider your ecosystem. Do you want a basic bot with a relatively narrow function, or one that will mine knowledge in your CRM and respond based on that larger database? “Remember that a software digital entity can mine the company’s data and provide that back to the customer faster than a human,” Prokop said.

After you have targeted the repetitive tasks that are well suited to bots, you should start rolling out the application. “Your bot can be a researcher as well, identifying customer connections that your agents might have missed,” he said.

Meanwhile, you need to avoid common pitfalls, like understanding what your customers want, or their “intent.” Otherwise, the bot won’t be helpful.  Another mistake is focusing on the wrong use cases, such as sales versus customer support.  You also want to be sure you pay attention to the data generated by the bot, including adequate staffing.  “You should treat the bot as a trusted agent,” Prokop said. “Train it to understand and gather the right information, and then store and use that data properly.”

While AI is not a silver bullet, bringing it into your bot world can help you make better customer decisions, said Prokop. “This technology is improving exponentially, and you should think about how you can use it to create a better customer experience.”

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