How the App Bot Will Change Contact Centers

The march towards putting utilities and services into the palm of anyone’s hand continues.  Having a Smartphone App – or even a “mobile-friendly” responsive website is testament to the fact that consumer interfaces are getting more and more compact.  But does this mean the end for the more traditional channels of interactions in the contact center?  SOFTEL have been looking at the trends for smartphones, with some surprising results…

In 2008, Apple opened its “App Store” for mobile devices.  Since then almost 4 million Apps have been developed across the major smartphone platforms – and more than 100 billion Apps have been downloaded.  But that download trend is beginning to plateau.  Why?  It’s pretty simple, really; human capacity can only take so much.  Consumers use an average of 26 Apps on their Smartphone, which could also be considered as their “maximum usage”.  Over time, the lesser-used Apps are removed, as “clutter” on their device.  A lot of that “clutter” are utilities and other services the consumer rarely uses.  But then, when the consumer does need that service, they tend to go via Google – then direct to source – the service provider’s website.  It’s a bit of a merry-go-round which does actually make sense from the human interaction perspective.  That is, until you realize there is another type of “sub-App” waiting just around the corner…

Apps | Bots | AI

Apps | Bots | AI

The Bot is coming.  The what..?  …the Bot.  A Bot is a plug-in which works within an App – usually one of those 26 Apps which the consumer uses on a regular basis.  Bots are more intelligent and more intuitive than Apps.  An App has a set number of options and functions, whereas a Bot is designed to allow the consumer to pose their own questions – and then carries out automated tasks on their behalf.  Examples are already popping up in common Apps.  Take Skype, for example; recent updates have introduced a number of Bots, including “Summarize”.  “Summarize” allows the consumer to paste-in a web address and get a summary of the information on the page, in a Skype chat window.  What does that have to do with Skype?  Well – nothing, actually.  But what is does do is prove that you can nest Bots within an App on the consumer’s screen.  One less App icon to worry about – and a more intelligent and useful addition to the functions on-screen.  Aside from intelligent searches, Bots are being developed to allow consumers to book reservations, order goods and manage other aspects of their lives using a level of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”).  The Bot interface speaks the consumers’ local language – and interfaces with other technologies and services to carry out its tasks.  But what does all this have to do with Contact Centers?

Let’s assume that your business either has an existing Enterprise Smartphone App – or your web site is designed to accommodate smartphones.  Your App probably contains the most common functions; ID&V, Account Management, Services, Customer Support, etc. Those are what you might consider to be some of your channels of interaction.  You probably also have traditional voice channels, an IVR, multimedia – and you keep your finger on the pulse of Social Media with a plug-in.  Taking the current trends into consideration, your “next big thing” will be to develop your own Bot, which the consumer can add-in themselves – as simple as adding a new “Friend” on Facebook.  But a Bot isn’t simply another interaction channel.  A Bot is looking for answers and wants to perform actions on behalf of the consumer.  How do you do that?  Suddenly there is another level of complexity to your interaction channels.  Here’s a wonderfully – if not quite scary – future thought; a Bot performs an action which requires it to interact with your IVR, navigate it and to connect with a “real person” – suddenly, your Contact Center Agent is talking to a Bot on behalf of the consumer…

Developing an Enterprise Bot that resides within an App is not a simple task.  It requires a lot of planning – and a lot of nurturing.  A Bot needs Content and Knowledge Management and Orchestration with which to build on its own “AI”.  Your Brand and your Services need to be “baked in”.  It’s not unlike the elements which form current “auto-responses” and “Agent Scripts”, today – you can define the essence of what needs to be communicated and let auto-responders carry out those tasks.  In this way, Bots also bring with them automation on a grand scale.  Many of the more time-consuming tasks for enquiries and standard transactions can be performed in real-time, with the right tools.  Much like the “Self Service” aspect of an IVR – a standard, secure method of providing more services, without burdening your own resources.  The footprint for the Bot, residing in an often-used App, also means it is unobtrusive and ready to use at any time.

Looking further than the advent of the Bot is like moving into Science Fiction.  “Beyond the Bot” is where AI comes into its own.  Multiple sources of information, masses of data and intelligent learning will surpass even the need for Bots.  Consumers habits and trends will contribute to the learning processes, leading to pre-emptive AI.  But that a whole other story!

If you would like to learn more about the future of Bots for your Enterprise, why not connect with a member of SOFTEL’s team today?  We’d be happy to assist you in planning and delivering your own Enterprise strategy.