Feb 18, 2021 7:15:00 AM
How to enable meaningful conversations with customer service automation
Real face-to-face conversations are a rare occurrence these days. Everything is moving to the digital sphere and every conversation (business or private) seems to live within a device. And even when we’re talking to each other, are we really communicating in a meaningful manner? With all the noise that we encounter online, how do you ensure that the conversations you have do not end up being meaningless and with no real connection?
Talking more and more to digital voice assistants such as Siri or Alexa (bodiless virtual creatures with a voice and human name) and communicating with chatbots, how can you make these automated conversations be meaningful? Just like a human conversation, interacting with an artificial intelligence is able to stretch beyond the pointless chatter. Here’s how to do it right.
What makes a conversation meaningful?
If something is meaningful, it’s – who’d guessed it – full of meaning. Moreover, it has a purpose and it means that something is significant. A conversation that is meaningful has an impact on the people conducting it. It matters. It’s not irrelevant.
Going a bit deeper (but not crazy philosophically deep), the essence of meaning is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as
1a. the thing one intends to convey especially by language
1b. the thing that is conveyed especially by language
2. something meant or intended
3. significant quality
4a. the logical connotation of a word or phrase
4b. the logical denotation or extension of a word or phrase
A conversation full of meaning is significant and it conveys an intention, which is understood in return. It’s basically when you’re clicking with someone else, because what you say resonates with the other. You don’t have to say much to understand each other. But given that conversations often don’t work in that very desirable way, how is it even possible in customer service automation?
How can customer service automation be meaningful?
There’s a common misperception that automation is impersonal paired with the fear that AI will take over human actions. The goal here is not to replace human agents with a bot, but rather empowering them with it. According to Forrester, “as a forward-thinking CX pro, you must augment — not replace — your employees with technology”.1 It’s about the empowered customer and the empowered service agent, and using technology to enable meaningful, quality conversations. In fact, automation gives consumers what they want.
These are the most crucial elements of enabling meaningful conversations through automation:
Understanding the intention
“Sorry, I didn’t get that” is probably one of the most common phrases being said by digital voice assistants. Even though they’re listening, they’re not understanding. And even if they do, it’s not given that they also get the intention of the request and lead to the desired outcome. It’s just as frustrating when a customer is interacting with a chatbot that repeatedly just doesn’t get what they want. That’s just bad CX.
One factor that influences the conversation with the customer and determines whether or not it can really understand their intention is the technical backbone of the bot. A static decision tree chatbot often falls short because it repeats the same pattern of proposed solutions over and over again, frequently not getting it right. Applying a dynamic decision tree offers the advantage of adapting the flow based on the customer’s choices – yet, it is also limited to the solutions that the bot is set up for. A pure NLP-based chatbot also has its shortcomings in understanding what the customer really wants. Combining the ease and precision of dynamic decision trees with the engaging experience of NLP, the Solvemate Contextual Conversation EngineTM enables meaningful conversations. It empowers the customer to express themselves while offering tailored solutions dynamically based on their input.
Providing significant solutions
Let’s face it: Automation is here to solve problems, not create more of them for the customer and the service agent. And a poorly built chatbot is contributing to the latter. To create a great service experience and offer significant solutions, a chatbot needs to take the context of the conversation into account. Contextualising the request helps the bot to understand the customer’s intention and to make their conversation more meaningful.
How does this context build up so the bot can provide significant solutions? There’s a variety of contextual information which a bot can take into account, ranging from purely technical circumstances like the IP address and search history to personal data when the user is logged in. The user attributes and behavior, even if they're a new customer or not signed in, are super helpful in tailoring the service of the chatbot exactly to them.
Understanding the customer to provide a significant solution is not only based on taking in given context, but also creating it by asking actively specific questions. Similar to a phone call, a chatbot conversation needs to be just as interactive in order to get to the bottom of the customer's problem and to be able to give a satisfactory answer. Precise, personal, quick and easy to use are the key attributes of the chatbot, which offer customers significant added value compared to e.g. an FAQ.
To make the solutions as significant as possible, 3rd party integrations are indispensable. They enrich the conversation with detailed information, e.g. on their order, and their personal account history. Integrating it with a CRM tool is the biggest game changer: it allows the bot to tailor the conversation exactly to the customer and in return document everything in the system, e.g. changing the delivery address.
And if the bot is not the one being able to provide the final solution to the customer, they should be seamlessly handed over to the service agents to complete the conversation. Handovers can be done via live chat, phone, email or form based on the type of the request and the customer’s preferences.
Ever had the feeling that you are engaging with a dim robot instead of an intelligent counterpart that not only gets you but also addresses you in a personal manner? Technology has come very far, marking automation more and more personal. In fact, automation and personalization are the perfect match. Why? Let’s dive in.
Creating a custom experience for each customer is supported by a variety of technical bits and pieces. When pulling data from the CRM tool, the chatbot conversation starts with greeting the customer by name and ends with helping them based on their account information. A chatbot is able to grasp (and grab) every detail that matters for this particular customer and their conversation, making it more personal.
User authentication makes sure that the customer is known by the system and enables the bot to handle sensitive information encrypted in a secure manner. Variables used by the bot can be something small, but powerful like the customer’s name or bigger elements like adapting the chat flow and proposed solutions based on the customer data. The more context and user data the chatbot can take into account, the better, faster and more personalized the conversation will be, making it more meaningful.
Another way to make the chatbot conversation even more personal is to offer it on the customers’ most favorite platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp. Using the same communication tools that the customers use with their friends and family creates a more immersed experience and proximity. And again, it enables the bot to handover to an agent without having the customer to switch channels, continuing their meaningful conversation.
Why automation matters to create meaningful conversations
Beside offering significance and understanding to the customer through automated conversations, it’s about the quality of the customer interaction. Chatbots enhance their service experience with personalization and instant support. And even the customers who don’t interact with the bot, but contact an agent directly benefit from the automation: It’s positive effect of the agents gaining more valuable time is reflected in the quality of the personal conversation they’re now enabled to have with their customers. Being able to resolve customer requests automatically and instantly with a chatbot gives so much back to customers and the service agents by enhancing their interactions.
1 Forrester Research, Inc., Customer Service Is The Most Important Lever Of Great Customer Experience, April 2020
Karen takes care of Solvemate's content universe as content & communications specialist. When not writing about chatbots, you will find her watching Danish tv series (Dear Netflix, please talk to DR and add some new ones!), doing (aerial) yoga or trying out every recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi.