Written by Rebecca Amiss, Product Owner at Callmedia, 10th August 2017

Artifical Intelligence (AI) chatbots have been around for a while now, but what are they, and are they being fully utilised by businesses to improve customer service?

In a nutshell, chatbots mine your database to retrieve information that customers request from you on a regular basis – things like answers to the frequently asked questions your operatives tend to receive most often. Once your database is stocked with solutions to common customer queries, you simply make the computer your runner, which quickly mines the information, fetches the answers for you and asks the customer if they help. Plug that into a good-looking front-end user interface for your customers to use and there you have it!

Continual feedback is key here – if your search engine asks the customer if the response was helpful and the customer says yes four out of five times, then that response will be prioritised more highly than others with a lower satisfaction rating. This is where the ‘intelligence’ part comes in. If the computer doesn’t know the answer, doesn’t provide the answer that the customer is looking for or isn’t getting a positive response from your customer, then it will seamlessly hand over to a human agent to provide your customer with the information they actually need.

It sounds quite daunting to think of artificial intelligence chatbots working in your contact centre, but a key benefit they deliver is taking pressure off your operatives when having to deal with predictable, frequently asked questions that require common similar responses. This can free up time for your team, who can focus on less common, complex queries with the confidence that the mundane, repetitive questions are being handled by your bots. Businesses can also leverage the use of chatbots for out-of-hours presence, when enquiries are infrequent, or at the opposite extreme when there are large volumes of traffic at peak times.

Think about the kind of queries your contact centre tends to receive: do you see similar ones popping up repeatedly?

This doesn’t mean, however, that chatbots are a complete solution – they should only be used in conjunction with real people as a way of alleviating pressure on workloads or for frequent or repetitive tasks and knowledge sharing. They are not going to be suitable for all situations, but can improve business efficiency and boost the productivity of contact centre staff considerably, when employed thoughtfully.

There are a couple of things you should bear in mind when implementing chatbots. Firstly, always carefully consider the questions you’d like your bots to ask, checking that the question is straightforward and the workflow around it is uncomplicated.

Secondly, if the chatbots are capable of intelligence learning they will require monitoring and regular review, and maintenance. We can all remember how badly behaved the Microsoft AI Twitter bot became, but we are really only talking about applying logic to an automated FAQ, which is much more controlled than this particular experiment.

To fully automate a contact centre would be a potential challenge, and the risk of relying totally on AI at present would need to be carefully considered. But while AI chatbots aren’t quite a replacement for humans in your contact centre, they can complement the work of your team, drive efficiency and help improve customer service.