It’s no surprise that exceptional customer service is a key brand differentiator, as that has been well-established over many years. Today, however, it goes above and beyond giving companies an edge over their competitors. Now, customer service is a fundamental pillar that every business needs to view as essential. Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) solutions have been a game changer when it comes to better serving customers—with the added bonus of cutting costs. IBM and Forrester recently held a webinar delving into one such solution, IBM Watson Assistant, and touched upon some of the benefits of conversational AI.
Information cited in the webinar came from independent third party research conducted by Forrester for its Total Economic Impact Study of IBM Watson Assistant. Forrester does not endorse IBM in any way.
Businesses Know That Customer Service Is Key—Yet Still Fall Short of Consumer Expectations
The importance of customer service is something that companies already understand, which has led many to shift their focus greater customer-centricity in interacting, engaging, and serving their customers. Despite this widespread awareness, customer service continues to fall short in meeting rising consumer expectations, as traditional contact centers are plagued with limited service hours, multi-step routing journeys, and long wait times.
“The biggest challenge customers are facing right now is the inability to find the right channel that offers an immediate response to their problem,” explained Giulio Soliani, Watson Offering Manager. In fact, a whopping 66% of calls result in customers contacting over three communication channels before finding the right person, which is particularly frustrating in the era of instant gratification.
This drawn out journey is not only disruptive for customers, but is costly and burdensome for contact centers. To make matters worse, call center agents are unable to resolve customer issues a staggering 42% of the time, as they “often struggle to have the right information at the right time,” said Forrester Total Economic Impact Consultant Veronica Iles.
Companies within and outside of the payments industry attempting to prevent these situations from occurring have introduced conversational AI systems in recent years, such as Bank of America’s AI-powered chatbot Erica.
Conversational AI Benefits Customers and Employees Alike
By alleviating pain points in the customer journey, AI chatbots and virtual systems are able to help both the employees of organizations that deploy them and their customers. Deploying virtual assistants that serve customers directly through the application, device, or channel of their choice enables them to get the answer they need without hassle.
This self-service style AI automatically deflects calls to call centers that many customers don’t want to make, and reduces the wait time for those that do need to call. In turn, this eases the burden on contact centers by providing previously time-consuming resolutions in an automated fashion.
An internally facing chatbot can provide call center agents with customer context and tailored knowledge, allowing them to address complex questions and provide customers with a personalized experience without the customer ever knowing a chatbot is present. This also prevents agents from putting customers on hold to find an answer or redirecting them to another line.
In other words, the call center employee provides the high-quality customer service that is expected, and the chatbot provides the data needed to do so.
Other Benefits of Adopting Chatbot Technology
In its study, Forrester identified several unquantified benefits of adopting chatbot technology. Companies that implement conversational AI into their systems have a competitive advantage over competitors that are unable to facilitate the same quick and seamless customer experience.
Further, customer service agents armed with this type of AI tool have higher performance and happiness levels than those who don’t. This, in turn, can lead to reduced agent burnout and decreased employee turnover, in part because the decrease in unhappy customers directing their anger at agents.
Conversational AI also improved brand perception for obvious reasons—a better customer experience, happier agents, decreased wait times, and a faster resolution all bode well for a company’s reputation and increase the likelihood that customers will recommend the business to others.
Forrester Total Economic Impact Study Findings: IBM’s Watson Assistant
Forrester’s Total Economic Impact Study contains a comprehensive analysis of the benefits organizations reaped after investing specifically in IBM’s Watson Assistant. These benefits were both quantitative and qualitative. Here are just a handful of the key quantitative findings:
- Organizations that implement Watson Assistant reap “benefits of $23.9 million over three years versus costs of $5.5 million”, adding to a return on investment (ROI) of 337% and a payback of less than 6 months.
- For each contained customer conversation, there was an average cost savings of $5.50.
- Agents augmented by chatbots had a reduced handle time by 10%, allowing them to improve productivity and better serve customers.
Conversational AI is a useful tool that benefits customers, reduces the burden for call center agents, and drives down costs for business. Further, early implementation of AI chatbots can improve brand reputation and give companies a high-tech edge over their competitors.
In the words of Tim Sloane, VP of Payments Innovation at Mercator Advisory Group, “there are major benefits—reducing call center costs, improving routing of calls, and improved customer satisfaction—of a well-implemented conversational agent for businesses that experience regular high call volumes or must be prepared for sudden large spikes in call volume.”