It’s raining bots! Suddenly they are going to save us from the challenges we all experience daily in our customer service experience as we deal with brands and companies who can either keep us on an interminable loop or respond to emails 48 hours later. Life has improved dramatically since Twitter came along and review sites have made the world significantly more egalitarian in the war of customer vs company on a sale or service gone bad. Now post the F8 announcement of Messenger opening up, all customer service technology solutions are excited about offering another, hopefully less intrusive, more direct solution for their clients’ consumers.
At Ozonetel, as India’s only cloud customer service platform, we service more than a thousand clients. Built on our own stack called kookoo (pun unintended regrettably), we are to the PSTN world what Twilio is to the SIP world. Our CloudAgent solution primarily services voice needs for Clients. But, like all good solutions, in addition to voice, we offer email, chat and SMS (like Zendesk, we believe that today’s consumer wants asynchronous bursts of interaction with the brand). And of course, within 36 hours of the F8 announcement we were off and running, building, and applying for permission to FB (I can imagine the backlog). Demand for the new feature is off the chart with most of our platinum clients (top 50) eager to arm their customer service agents with this capability to service their customers.
Our learning is that there are two trends in customer service that we are seeing in India. One is that new age companies - ecommerce, food delivery, on demand services - are building large physical delivery teams (which they need to) and customer service teams (which they may not need to). Especially when most of the customer service needs are tied to simple pieces of information. This was not supposed to happen. But with in-app notifications turned off for the most part and email being clunky, we see customer service armies actually make physical calls notifying people of an imminent event or sending them an email (often disturbing them if it’s a call or being ignored completely if it’s an email). Here, a simple bot would do wonders. Enter my order number and it returns an anticipated time of arrival. A 4-hour window for grocery delivery is then further optimized. Want to make a dinner reservation or a root canal appointment without calling or firing up an app/ launching a website? Easily done. We see more than 35% of our client’s interactions just addressing these “bit” transactions. If bit, then bot.
The second learning is that while companies care deeply about traditional call center metrics such as average hold time and agent productivity, the better ones are also increasingly passionate about the customer experience. Compared to the lowest quartile of companies that we have worked with where 20% of inbound calls are not picked up, the highest quartile includes companies like BigBasket, where agents pick up the phone in less than 5 seconds. For the latter cohort, the focus is on managing the customer in one transaction and while some companies such as American Express have embraced this for some time now, there now seems to be an obsession with first time resolution. With integrations into all CRM solutions, the goal for many clients now is to be hyper-personal. The goal is to have a customer service agent pick up the phone and ask a frequent pizza order person if they would like their regular 18 inch pizza half pepperoni and half margherita. It is not hard to do but is done rarely, if ever.
Over a period of time, companies will absolutely bot-ify certain transactions more efficiently via a chat platform than the voice IVR tree could, given the nuances of pronunciation and accents. The rest will fall to empathetic (hopefully) and informed customer service agents. The danger of expecting too much from the bot is falling into the spiral we have all come to know and despise, of “hitting zero” or begging for the representative. At a recent insurance industry event, I asked the leaders of customer service organizations of big insurance firms how they would like to be informed about their car insurance expiring. A resounding answer was in favor of an automated SMS a.k.a. a basic bot. Then I asked them how they would like to discuss a claim. And almost everyone wanted to speak with a real human being as quickly as possible. I guess, if bit, then bot. And if trouble, then people.