Tips for Identifying the Pitfalls and Misconceptions of Bots

Artificial intelligence-powered bots are transforming the online experience. Bots are behind improved user experience in every industry from, finance to healthcare and every area of retail imaginable. Bots can do everything, from quickly helping customers find basic information to qualifying customers and handing them off to live agents to address complex needs and close sales.

Online companies use a wide variety of Bots to enhance the customer experience. Customer assistance bots can handle FAQs, help after-hours visitors, set up appointments, and help with minor tasks, such as PIN changes. Agent assistance bots equip busy agents with vital customer knowledge so customers will have seamless experiences. Proactive nudge bots greet, meet, or complete processes and can generate qualified leads, help customers make needs-based decisions, give customers risk-reduction on high-value purchases, and prevent late-stage abandonment.

In addition to customer assistance bots, agent assistance bots, and nudge bots, customers will soon have personal bots that will follow them online and interface with other bots to create even smoother, more personalized experiences.

In spite of all of the promise and potential value AI-powered bots can bring to the online customer experience, businesses must still consider potential pitfalls and misconceptions that could mar the customer experience or derail efforts to deliver high-end service and build customer loyalty. Here are a few of them:

Pitfall: Complex websites can be more difficult to navigate for the casual visitor.

More and more features are being added to digital channels to meet customer demand, lower the cost of servicing consumers, and provide responsive service to visitors and potential customers. Customers want to be able to access a full range of services online, but at their convenience and on their own terms. The added complexity to the overall customer journey is taking a toll on user experience across verticals. Car dealerships, health insurance providers, retailers, and financial institutions all need to be able to better support the range of customer needs outside standard business hours while helping them navigate complex online offerings.

AI chatbots are one way to address the needs of both the customer and the business in terms of delivering efficient and timely customer service. Customer assistance bots, as discussed above, can help answer questions quickly (like hours of operation or the physical address of a branch) or lead customers quickly to information and thus train them on self-service for the next time. These bots can help prevent customer frustration by taking users immediately to the information they want without having to spend a lot of time wading through complex sites.

Misconception: Bots are meant to replace personal service and live agents.

When considering and building chatbots, there are often misconceptions about the role of AI, chatbots, and machine learning. One is that chatbots will cause widespread job loss for contact center agents. Nothing could be further from the truth. The gold standard for premium online customer experience will include a seamless mix of bots and live agents to support customer needs. AI is never going to be able to forge the kind of personal connection needed to build brand loyalty. But it can qualify the right customers and make agents more successful in their tasks. Successful agents fuel business growth and expansion of jobs. Gartner expects AI to create more jobs than it eliminates.

The customer journey is dynamic and complicated. It drastically differs for each customer and company and across industries. The complexity and importance of the customer journey makes it impossible for bots to stand alone and deliver an ideal user experience. Bots that can reach out or respond at the right place and time can be effective, but without the option to seamlessly transition to live agents when needed, the offering can be very frustrating for customers.

Misconception: The best bots handle complex customer questions.

A popular misconception is that the key to chatbot success is to build a bot that understands the intent of complex, perhaps multi-part, communication from customers. That approach can result in disappointing or even frustrating user experiencse and less than optimal business results. The here and now of business success with bots is simplicity. The goal of a chatbot should be efficiency. Bots should be built to handle volume, not complexity. The simpler the question, the better suited it is for automation with a bot. For complex or infrequent questions, bots should be trained to quickly transfer to human agents without wasting customers' time. Focusing on simplicity will result in high customer ratings and a real business ROI.

Creating the Ideal User Experience with Effective Chatbots

Businesses can build the ideal user experience for visitors to their websites by avoiding the misconceptions and pitfalls discussed in this article and embracing AI-powered chatbots. Organizations need to understand the needs of their customers and deploy effective chatbots. An effective bot will power the customer journey with data and analytics that allow it to understand the customer. Bots need to be integrated with company knowledge bases and transactional systems so customers get seamless, personalized experiences. Bots and live agents need to be able to co-browse so customers can get guided tours of information or products in which they are interested. And, perhaps most important, bots need to be able to make seamless transfers of qualified customers to live agents who can handle complex issues or close sales when appropriate.

These essential bot characteristics come into play because well-designed and trained chatbots would use data analytics, an understanding of the customer journey, and access to knowledge repositories to differentiate between customers who need quick answers, want to be left alone, or are high-value prospects. Being able to make this kind of complex assessment will enable bots to meet very different needs of different visitors and deliver experiences that are very satisfying, no matter the visitors' missions or objectives.

Bot technology is already widespread across the internet, and bots of all varieties are already having an impact on the customer experience. Savvy companies can avoid the pitfalls and misconceptions of AI, machine learning, and bots and embrace the promise of bot technology as it evolves to better serve their customers, build brand loyalty, and increase sales.

Priya Iyer is chair and CEO of Vee24. She has more than 25 years of diverse international experience in software development.