Magazine article CRM Magazine

Bots Are Here to (Self-) Serve You: Thanks to Machine Learning and AI, Bots Today Can Usually Give Customers What They Want

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Bots Are Here to (Self-) Serve You: Thanks to Machine Learning and AI, Bots Today Can Usually Give Customers What They Want

Article excerpt

INSTEAD OF FOCUSING on bots as substitutes for customer service reps--a discussion that often leads to anxiety over lost jobs--perhaps we could focus for a moment on bots as a substitute for traditional self-service. Self-service has gotten much better recently, but then again, it was pretty awful at its inception.

In my experience, old-school self-service was not much more than old service systems gussied up with a nice front end. There was always the implicit assumption that the user was someone who knew the process, which, admittedly, was a big ask. Quite often customers didn't know the processes but they knew what they wanted and often found a service application standing in the way. As a result, about 10 years ago it became high season for vendor-bashing, and customers used newly available social media as their bashing tool. Because the internet is forever, you can still search for and find angry complaints.

That was then. The industry took some lumps but continued to innovate. Today, thanks to machine learning, artificial intelligence, and a few algorithms, customers can usually get what they want from a bot. The most successful places where bots are in common use involve straightforward and repetitive actions like buying movie tickets or visiting the ATM. We might still think of such activities more as self-service than bot-assisted service, but the lines are blurring.

Moreover, and very interestingly, bots are not taking over jobs, unless you count the ones carried out by customers performing self-service. Instead, they're developing new approaches. We're seeing new service niches opening, places where there were no jobs before, in e-tail, for example--and the jobs are being filled by machines. That's because bots let us work on an exceptions-only basis; we don't have to put people into the majority of situations that can be adequately handled by bots, which frees agents up to wrestle with the thornier issues instead.

This is much like the Internet of Things in one respect. Machines with sensors can report looming problems that can make field service more efficient and effective by pinpointing issues so that we can act proactively. The sensors and systems that capture such data fill a long-standing need that could never be filled by people due to the expense involved. …

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