According to Thomas Rødseth of Puzzel there are many different types of intelligent assistant and the trick is to understand which one is right for your contact centre and then let self-service do the rest.
If you thought that automation would free up your time then think again. We actually live in a time poor bubble of real time and the exponential rise in smartphones is largely to blame. It has fuelled an environment of perpetual and ubiquitous connectivity – our sources of information, our network of relationships and our expectations of productivity have all significantly expanded to the point where time is always at a premium.
These time pressures have had a dramatic impact on customer service expectations. Service resolution has to be easy to find, easy to consume and be available anytime via any channel.
Welcome to the world of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was heralded as the potential cure-all for time poor, always on consumers. However, it is exciting and scary in equal measures. If a machine is considered intelligent when it becomes impossible to distinguish between human generated, or computer generated answers, what does this mean for the survival of the human race? What does it mean for agents in the contact centre? Maybe it’s time to sort fact from fiction.
Vanilla or chocolate chip flavour? You choose!
The first step is to understand that there are many different types of AI driven intelligent assistants and to work out where they fit into your own organisation. Robots, digital assistants, virtual agents, bots, chats bots, even metabots – are they the same thing? They all play a role in customer service although they have different capabilities and to some extent, serve different markets and customer needs. Let’s take a look at the top three:
Virtual assistants – the most mature group, they have been a familiar sight on websites for over a decade. They often appear as an embedded widget on support pages, sometimes fronted with an avatar, inviting customers to engage via text in the hunt for answers. Mature versions might allow secure access to personal portals and have the ability to dynamically populate web pages and automate workflow.
Digital assistants – you might know them as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, Bixby and the like. These voice-based services have broken free from the confines of traditional computing devices such as desktop, laptop and smartphones and act as an intelligent interface for the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) market. Since they are being developed by some of the most advanced AI organisations such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, they are all at the leading edge in terms of natural language understanding and machine learning.
Bots – the baby of the group, bots, have grabbed headlines ever since their launch in 2016. They provide anything from recipe advice to hotel booking and are built upon the rising tide of messaging platforms such as Slack and Facebook Messenger.
The relevance of these different approaches to self-service depends on customer behaviour and likely adoption. However, mature intelligent assistant implementers have already recognised that they will eventually need to appear on all platforms and devices as the habit of using intelligent assistants grows.
That’s fine for organisations who are early adopters but what about the rest of us? Is an Alexa the place to start? Or should we be aiming to disrupt competitors like the insurance company that launched an instant quote service for vehicle damage based on image recognition? Or should we just add natural language recognition to our IVR and help our voice customers with easier self-service options?
Whatever your preferred flavour of artificial intelligence it’s safe to say that it’s time to embrace the opportunities this new approach to customer service can deliver. AI is here and those who do it well will win big time. If you are interested in getting started to expanding your use of AI and self-service you can find a fresh perspective and new ideas to implement in Puzzel’s latest white paper “Getting started with AI in your Contact Centre”.
Thomas Rødseth is VP of Marketing and Product at Puzzel