My first adventures into voice automation were in the late 1990s, and while they served a purpose, the experience for the caller was fairly rudimentary. For the business, the costs were high, and the benefits were often disappointing. Since then, increasing processing power, clever engineering, and the spread of machine learning and AI capabilities have significantly improved things.
However, even now, there is a strong chance that you will be faced with a natural language ‘front-end’ to an organization’s contact centers, whose most likely response is, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that”, possibly the most frustrating six words I can think of, apart from “Your call is important to us”. There is some capable voice tech out there, but it is often generically (poorly) designed – probably by a chatbot engineer who thinks in a linear, forms-based way.
So, for the last few years, I have been getting increasingly excited about the new players in the conversational assistant market – not just because their tech is becoming tremendously capable but because we can make a tangible difference with it. My friends at PolyAI are building solutions for their clients that create new, positive, and productive experiences for callers. They’re also making material contributions to the bottom line – not just ‘containing’ the caller but engaging with them and resolving their need.
For a customer to engage effectively with a conversational assistant, the assistant needs to ask the right questions in the right way, understand what they say, and react like a person would, with a natural flow and pace, showing some kind of empathy (this part is hard). The best conversational assistants are designed to build trust. You don’t get that by mindlessly repeating the question or forcing the customer to follow your process.
So how will customers describe their experience with a well-designed, conversational assistant? Here is what I would expect to hear from someone who has interacted with a PolyAI solution:
- ”I only knew it was a bot because you told me it was.”
- “That was a very natural, human-like interaction – as good as some of the actual advisors that I have dealt with before.”
- “It really seemed to understand what I wanted and navigated me to the right answer, sending me a custom link that worked.”
- “Even though I didn’t get the answer I was looking for, the bot was so polite and empathetic that it was a positive call, and I know what to do next.”
- “I like dealing with real people and dislike automation in general, but I’ll be happy to use this service again.”
If you can consistently create experiences like that and deliver the business case, then everyone should be happy, even the human advisors in the contact center.
You’d be surprised how positively your high-performing advisors react to a well-designed, on-brand conversational assistant that can genuinely help customers with the simpler stuff so they can get to grips with the complicated cases.
Bio: Richard McKenzie-Small
Richard is an experienced digital transformation and customer experience consultant with a 30 year track record of delivering for clients across the world. Until last year, he was the EMEA lead for Deloitte Digital’s market-leading contact centre and conversational AI practice. He is now advising PolyAI on their approach to enterprise and multi-national clients.