Chatbots and virtual assistants have gone through an evolution — or a revolution, says Ryan Lester, director of customer engagement technologies at LogMeIn. The strength of a virtual assistant or bot initially was general knowledge management, but companies have pushed that experience, moving into more personalized experiences where instead of a generic answer, a bot or assistant will offer personalized content.
Now we’re transitioning to a transactional phase, where these tools can actually attack and accomplish a task like fulfilling an order. And companies far down the maturity model with chatbots and virtual assistants have seen some really positive results.
“When companies have a chatbot, they’re seeing much higher conversion rates,” Lester says. “As high as 300 percent, and in some cases they’re much higher. And the reason they’re higher is because the chatbot experience is more personalized. It’s much more aligned to where the customer is in their journey. And chatbots are available 24/7.”
But it comes down to the use case, he says, and doing the up-front work of making sure the bot is contextual, understands what the customer is trying to accomplish, and is there to give them an immediate outcome.
The power of chatbots is that they go beyond a single channel, Lester says. It’s not as if they only work for email or for a messaging platform — this technology can work across every channel, offering the same high-quality experience with a voice assistant as in the mobile app.
“It’s really impactful because you’re learning from all of these different channels, and those insights will make every channel better,” he says. “The power of AI is in this crowdsourcing of information. The bot learns from every customer interaction, which in turn can help you deliver better customer outcomes.”
Companies across industries — financial services, travel and hospitality, service providers in telco like Vodafone — are leveraging AI to deliver much more consistent experiences across their channels of engagement, he adds, offering the example of one of the top three banks in India, which offers an AI-powered assistant across all their channels.
With that omnichannel assistant, they’re able to take all the information about a customer’s accounts, including information about past purchases or balances, and make that readily accessible anywhere, anytime. If a customer has a question about a transaction, or receives a mobile app notification about possible fraud, they don’t have to click through — they can talk to Alexa to dig into the issue and even resolve the problem.
Being able to reap data across channels is also incredibly valuable for a company, allowing it to tap into powerful strategies like predictive analytics. Based on this specific customer and their balance, or the services they have, or their age, the bot can identify a new service that can be of value to them, or make proactive outreach for offers or promotions relevant to their current journey, all based on the data signals the company has gathered through all of the customer’s previous interactions.
“That cross-sell potential is very powerful with bots, because once again, they have all that rich contextual information about the user,” Lester says.
Chatbots can be additive, as well, augmenting the rich information in a marketing tool or an ERP system, and work in real time. A bot can identify a customer type, belonging to a specific cohort, appearing on the website, and then bring that information to a marketing automation tool, which then surfaces an offer to promote at the right time and in the right place.
Some companies have even eliminated email as a channel, in light of the bot advantage, Lester says.
“We think that some channels will continue to shrink over time,” he says. “The bot is pervasive and the bot delivers a much better experience. You don’t send an email and have to wait with a bot. It’s there and ready to engage.”
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