With 17% of Calls Deflected, an AI Chatbot Steps in to Resolve Merchant Requests
As more merchants adopt electronic and contactless payments, they often need assistance either setting up their payment terminal or troubleshooting an issue with it.
Here’s the story of how an AI bot helps resolve issues for merchants and how, when COVID hit, a call deflection solution could be quickly launched, giving merchants a digital self-service option and taking pressure off the contact center,
Compelling Results Achieved with an AI-Powered Digital Assistant
For our client, EVO Payments International GmbH, trading as BOI Payment Acceptance (BOIPA)*, supporting their merchant clients with a more convenient and self-service process for handling payment terminal issues, payment acceptance queries, and changes to their bank accounts, was a key priority. They felt this could be achieved by implementing digital assistant solutions powered by AI.
Working with ServisBOT, BOIPA/EVO has launched a digital assistant that handles different merchant requests in a more automated and seamless way. For example, when merchants use the bot to make bank account changes, they need to provide uploads of certain proof documents and an e-signature for approval. The AI bot was designed in such a way that the merchant cannot proceed to the next stage of the process unless they have provided these.
The results of this are so compelling. In the time period measured, all merchants that used the bot to make account changes attached proof of banking documentation in the first interaction, (meaning that the bot could validate what the merchant uploaded and advise them if it was the incorrect proof document). This compares with just 40% of those that used the email channel and, of those, just 20% of the attached documents were correct. As a result, emailed bank account change requests required at least twice as many interactions with customer service agents. Not only does the bot make it easier for customers but it reduces a lot of costly agent time in chasing down the correct proof docs.
“The bot creates a more seamless process for the customer. It restricts incoming information to precisely what is needed, resulting in less room for errors and greater efficiencies throughout the process.”
Jennifer Doyle, Head of Digital Platforms, at EVO (BOIPA)
This is a transformative use case for a digital assistant and is just one sample data point from their story which I outline in this blog. To delve in deeper you can also download the full troubleshooting chatbot case study.
Merchants’ Issues with Payment Terminals Generate Calls to BOIPA’s Contact Center
For retailers and merchants across many sectors, the ability to accept payments for their products and services is a key part of the customer relationship. Whether it’s at a physical store where a point of sale terminal is used to accept a credit, debit, or gift card or via an online e-commerce site, making payment acceptance easier for merchants and customers is critical to the bottom line and customer satisfaction.
Many of the retailers and sole-traders who use BOIPA payment terminals need assistance with setting them up and operating them. In a typical month, BOIPA agents handle up to 8,000 calls at their contact center in Dublin. Often the agents deal with the same or similar queries from merchants, with the average cost to handle each call estimated at €1.75. During busy periods, merchants may have to queue to get assistance, while also trying to serve customers and run their businesses.
As Jennifer Doyle, Head of Digital Platforms comments,
“We could see that a lot of merchants were calling us for the same reasons and asking us the same questions about setting up and operating their payment terminals or changing their bank account details. We don’t want them to have to wait to speak to someone, particularly if they’re having difficulty using their terminal and are unable to take payments from their customers. We knew that there was a more efficient way of resolving merchant queries.”
Enhancing Digital Self-service using an AI Chatbot
BOIPA wanted to provide a more convenient and self-service process for their merchants and they felt that a digital assistant would be key to achieving this.
“About 18 months ago we started looking at introducing digital assistants as part of our digital transformation plan. We wanted to improve the customer experience on our website, enhance self-service, and modernize the way that we present BOIPA to customers.”
BOIPA decided to develop a Terminal Troubleshooter bot that would guide merchants through a clear step by step process to quickly resolve their issues and provide additional out of hours support, alleviating pressure on contact center agents while also reducing the cost to serve. When merchants click on the bot in the lower right corner of the webpage they are presented with a menu selection that includes Terminal Troubleshooting, Making Bank Account Changes, and FAQs that relate to the top common requests made by merchants.
“During the sales process, we provided ServisBOT with some high-level data and within three days they pulled together a demo bot that wowed us. It was clear that they really understood our business challenges and what we were trying to achieve and they showed us how they could provide us with flexible chatbot solutions that would really help our customers”
The troubleshooting bot offers the merchant a selection of different terminal models and the type of connectivity used. They are then guided in a structured way through the steps they need to take to get their terminal working, offering them an option to speak with a human customer service representative if the bot cannot resolve their issues.
Bank account change functionality was also incorporated within the chatbot to assist with processing changes to merchants’ bank accounts. The bot integrates with BOIPA’s back-office systems, providing an interface for customers to upload electronic signatures and proof documents without the bot itself storing any sensitive data. Designing the bot to pass customer data through to BOIPA without retaining it was vital for meeting the organization’s strict security policies and industry rules and regulations around data handling.
“This demonstrates the flexibility of the platform, it allows us to transform customer engagement while still adhering to the rules and policies of our organisation.”
Adapting During the Pandemic with a Call Deflection Solution
Just as the pilot of the Terminal Troubleshooter bot, was about to launch, COVID-19 hit and many of the businesses that use BOIPA payment terminals were forced to close their physical premises. Overnight, BOIPA’s contact center was inundated with merchant questions that had increased by approximately 30%. They had to quickly adapt to accommodate the increased traffic at a time when they were also dealing with contact center agents working from home.
Within a matter of days, ServisBOT’s platform was integrated with the IVR and live chat systems used by BOIPA and a call deflection solution was deployed. This eases pressure on the contact center by offering callers an option to shift to their SMS channel where they can immediately open a link to an FAQ bot that provides answers to COVID-related and other common customer questions. For queries not within the scope of the bot or if the merchant so desires, there is an option to be handed over to interact with a human agent via live chat.
WIth the ServisBOT platform, changes to a bot can be made quickly and easily. This is really important when a new digital assistant solution is launched and starts engaging with customers. Improvements, based on conversational history and feedback, are inevitable.
“We weren’t constrained at all, the platform gave us the flexibility to make changes within 24 hours if need be. A lot of providers claim that, but with ServisBOT we really could. It was great to have the ability to request changes and have a team that could deliver at the click of your fingers.”
Combining Deflection with AI-powered Automation Brings Success and a Modern Customer Experience
Within three months of launching the call deflection solution, at least 10% of the traffic was being deflected to the bot. Six months later the deflection rate stood at approximately 17% and 70% of those that clicked on the bot engaged with it.
At the start of the pandemic, the contact center was handling up to 10,000 calls a month, about 30% more than average. In September this figure had been reduced to just over 6,300 calls, and by October it had reduced yet again to 5,824 calls a month. The number of calls handled by agents in the six-month period May to June 2020, even in the face of a pandemic, was down 34% compared with the same period last year. Pressure on contact center agents has been alleviated with the introduction of the bot.
“The bot definitely makes it smoother for the merchants. Our call center can take five to ten minutes to handle an identical request. Visually, it’s much easier for the merchants and it lives up to our model of modern customer service.”
To learn more about the BOIPA/EVO chatbot journey, download a copy of the full case study
*Note: BOI Payment Acceptance (BOIPA/EVO) is a marketing alliance between Bank of Ireland and EVO Payments.