Beyond the Virtual Assistant: Putting Bots to Work in Customer Service

Bots, Chatbots, Customer Service Transformation

Beyond the Virtual Assistant: Putting Bots to Work in Customer Service

By 6 Minute Read

Virtual assistants, chatbots, and bots are more than just buzzwords for today’s customer service organization.

But what are they and how do they differ?

Often these terms are used interchangeably with many different definitions in circulation, adding to the confusion. 

Beyond Chatbots

A virtual assistant (VA), according to Gartner’s definition, is “a conversational, computer-generated character that simulates a conversation to deliver voice- or text-based information to a user via a web, kiosk or mobile interface. A VA incorporates natural-language processing, dialogue control, domain knowledge and a visual appearance (such as photos or animation) that changes according to the content and context of the dialogue.”

In essence there is little or no difference between a digital virtual assistant and a chatbot so let’s consider these terms to be one and the same. However, when it comes to distinguishing between these and bots, that’s a different discussion. While a chatbot is a form of bot, bots can have much broader capabilities and characteristics beyond simulating conversations. They can operate as agents, simulating human tasks and activities than can range from handling simple requests for information to performing more complex business tasks.  And this is why the use cases for bots in customer service interactions have a far wider reach and implications for customer service operations than virtual assistants or chatbots.

So if you think of a chatbot or VA as a Welcome Bot or Reception Bot that can handle simple conversation- or text-based requests, extend your idea of bots beyond this and you’ll see how bots can handle different customer journeys, workflows, and service interactions. They can be quite general, such as a bot for FAQs or appointment setting  or they can be industry-specific such as processing an insurance claim or providing bank account balances. And the customer can be an external consumer of your products and services or it can be an internal customer, like your employees.

Putting Bots to Work in Customer Service

There are multiple use cases for bots in customer service where they can enhance the customer experience while lowering the cost of service delivery. Think of almost any customer service interaction and you’ll generally discover how bot technology can help automate and manage tasks. Here are ten common service tasks that can be simplified by intelligent bots, while enhancing the customer experience:

  1. Appointment Scheduling: When you think of all the different service providers we rely on, from healthcare services to home maintenance, installation, and personal service providers, using a bot to help schedule and change appointments helps eliminate costly human interactions. An Appointment Bot helps set and manage appointments in an accurate and efficient fashion, allowing clients to proactively book and modify appointments. The bot can send reminders and confirmations, track estimated arrival and wait times, as well as enable customer ratings. This helps minimize last-minute cancellations while offering around-the-clock service availability without the staffing costs.
  2. Tracking Orders and Deliveries: Tracking the status of an order, service ticket, or product delivery is a familiar customer service activity. A Track Bot can alleviate the load from human agents in a contact center, providing proactive notification of any delays or schedule changes, confirming delivery, and automating invoicing. This bot can also be used in the reverse supply chain, helping to track returns. It can also work together with a refund bot to process refunds on a returned item.
  3. Refunds: The growth in online shopping has created a thriving returns business which is often costly for retailers and frustrating for consumers as they wait for a refund. A Refund Bot can automate this process and issue a refund on a returned item, proactively update the status of a refund, and confirm receipt with the customer. Working 24/7 translates into customer convenience and service efficiency.
  4. Applications: Whether it’s applying for a loan, a gym membership, a driving license, or a job, this  task involves a workflow that can be simplified by an intelligent Application Bot. This bot makes it easy and convenient for customers to apply for a service, check the status, ask questions, and receive approval or denial. Since it’s available 24/7, there is zero wait time and a convenient experience. This bot can work perfectly with a payment and renewal bot.
  5. Renewals: Attracting members and processing applications is an important part of revenue generation, but equally critical is the process of renewing accounts, memberships, and engagements before they lapse. A Renewal Bot can inform customers of a pending renewal, the terms and conditions of payment, and receive the necessary approval or denial from the customer. An application can then be automatically renewed and the necessary communication or electronic documents sent to the customer. The bot can work nicely with a payment or collections bot to handle processing of the renewal fee or an account bot to provide other details on the status of the customer’s account.
  6. Payments: Processing payments in a timely fashion helps companies better manage their cash flow. Using a Payment Bot can help inform customers of the payment amount, the details of where and how to submit payment, payment due dates, confirm receipt of payment, and offer other related updates. This is analogous to a refund bot except in reverse direction.
  7. Collections: Late payments cost small and mid-size businesses up to $3 trillion globally per year according to a recent study conducted by Sage. Collections is never a great customer experience but is a necessary evil if companies are to avoid bad debts. This is an outbound customer service activity that can be executed by an intelligent Collections Bot. The bot can automate payment reminders and send late-payment warnings day or night, reaching out to customers on their schedule as often as needed. If they need to escalate a collections issue the bot can hand over to a human agent for further action.
  8. Complaint Handling: While organizations strive for excellence, there are always going to be errors and poor experiences that lead to complaints. A Complaint Bot needs to be sympathetic and sensitive, handling angry customers in a fair and confidential manner and handing over to human agents when necessary. This bot can collect details of the complaint from the customer, record timelines, create complaint reports, and complete necessary tasks to resolve the customer issue. Artificial Intelligence helps train the bot, just as human agents are in continuous cycles of training to improve their skills in dealing with tricky situations and protecting the brand reputation.
  9. Onboarding: Many services and products, especially in areas like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), opening an account, or setting up a utility service, requires a customer to be correctly on-boarded. Making this as seamless and as easy as possible helps drive adoption and use of the product while limiting frustration, so it plays a significant role in positive customer experience and repeat business or subscriptions. An Onboarding Bot facilitates this customer journey, ensuring a smooth flow of activities to get the customer properly set up and comfortable. The bot can initiate follow-up actions and reminders, notify any relevant stakeholders, as well as track progress and electronic documents.
  10. Accounts: Checking the balance of an account and requesting other account information form common service requests, whether relating to a bank account, a utility account, or a membership account. Information such as account balance, payment due dates, most recent transactions, and other pertinent account information can be retrieved and made available to a customer by an Account Bot. The beauty of this bot is that it can work around the clock, so no matter when a customer wants their account information it will be available for them. There’s no need for staff to handle these simple requests when a bot, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can. Human agents can handle other more complex tasks and customer journeys instead.

These are sample use cases for how bots can be deployed in today’s customer service environment. There are, of course, many other inbound and outbound service interactions and journeys that we can think of.

Bots: The Digital Agents

Just as human agents in customer service roles have specific skillsets and tasks, so too can bots be designed and built to carry out specific activities or facilitate particular journeys. The Virtual Assistant or chatbot can be the initial touchpoint for a customer conversation but, based on the type of customer request or query, the chatbot can then hand over to other task-oriented bots. In a sense, the chatbot acts as a triage. Ultimately a string of bots can be deployed to handle an end-to end workflow if necessary. At ServisBOT we call this an Army of Bots. It’s similar in nature to a team of human agents that work across the customer journey or process to fulfill specific objectives or requirements.

Similarly, just as human agents are in continuous cycles of training and education to hone their skills, so too are bots trained using the power of AI, so that they can improve their skills through continuous learning and experience, enabling them to become more intelligent and savvy and move beyond simple chatbots. If humans have IQs, so can bots!

To learn more about how an Army of Bots can transform customer engagement while lowering the cost of delivery, download a copy of our eBook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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