Stephen Windham, known as Steve among the business community in North America is the chief of staff for a Fortune 100 company. He steadily rose through the ranks with a blend of uncanny business acumen coupled with an attitude to work hard. Everyone who knew Steve knew one thing. When he sets his crosshairs on a target, he will move mountains to achieve it.
However, today morning had been different. Steve got out of the meeting rooms with beads of sweat lining his temple. Nobody had thought the mighty Steve would stand down, and let himself be grilled by the continuous onslaught of questions from the Chairperson herself. There was indeed a valid reason. Out of the blue, they found that a lot of long-term clients were churning. Their revenues were falling, and Steve – the captain was clueless as to why his customers were jumping ship.
Meeting room “Echo” was turned into a war room. Various departmental heads sat there with their heads huddled together trying to go to the root of this problem. Steve was visibly fuming as he was pacing through the oak wooded floors.
“20%, people. That’s the percentage drop in our existing customer base. That’s not a small number and It’s hitting us right where it hurts. In our revenue stream. Nancy, do you have any thoughts?”
Nancy Reynolds, the chief customer officer lifted her head up from the table. She took a deep breath, and with carefully measured words she replied “Steve, we believe there are two major reasons.
“Thank you, Nancy, but my expectation from you is also a solution along with the problem statement.” Steve said without trying to hide the obvious sarcasm in his tone. He continued “We expected this alright. We were clear when McKinsey pointed out that 75% of customers expect service within 5 minutes of being online. Guys, I need a solution, and a solution fast! Do whatever is required, but we’re answerable to the board, the shareholders, and many if this goes south.”
The heads again went back into the huddle to figure out as Steve slowly sank into his plush leather office chair.
“I think I have the solution”. The first one to break the prolonged silence was Roger Freidmont – the organization’s digital transformation lead. Everything tech excited Roger, but more so the prospect of simplifying solutions with technology.
“It’s high time, we invest in conversational AI and embed the capabilities in our customer service channels.”
“Ah! But, we do have a chatbot, and I can show you with numbers how poorly it performs” retorted Nancy with a smirk. Apparently, the sting of Steve’s remarks had not yet subsided.
“But I am not speaking about any chatbot Nancy,” Roger said as he slowly got up and walked to Steve’s table. “May I?” Roger asked as he took the remote from the table and made his way towards the screen. Steve came and occupied the empty chair at the side of the table.
“We have to understand why conversational AI, first.
Deloitte defines it as “A programmatic and intelligent way of offering a conversational experience to mimic conversations with real people, through digital and telecommunication technologies”. It leverages Natural Language Processing and Understanding, coupled with Machine Learning to drive hyper-contextual conversations”.
“If I can have your attention towards the screen , I will try to explain the differences between two major kinds of chatbots.”
“You have to understand that according to Gartner, 70% of the white-collar workers will be interacting on a daily basis with a conversational AI powered bot to solve business problems by 2022.” Roger went on and looking at the crowd, he said “I have a dream! A dream where all our customer touchpoints are digital with machines driving the conversations. However, not even once should the customers feel that they are interacting with a machine.”
The monologue was interrupted by the sudden entry of Linda, Steve’s secretary. “Steve, sorry to barge in, but I just wanted your signature on the appraisal documents. Also, the 7 AM Delta to Dallas on Friday was not available. I took the liberty of booking the 7.30 AM Southwest. And more importantly, it’s 5 past 8 already. Don’t forget your dinner reservations at 10.”
Steve hurriedly looked at his watch and told the group that they would continue the meeting tomorrow. He beckoned Roger to follow him and they got onto his Mercedes.
“One-eyed Mackey’s sir?” Steve’s driver asked the question. “You know it!” said Steve and turned to Roger. “I did read in a Juniper research report that in the retail space, chatbot interactions will reach a whopping 22 Billion in numbers by 2023”.
“You’re right Steve, and it should come as a no-brainer because people want immediate solutions. They want to interact with a system that can give them the answers they are seeking within the context of their conversations. But look at what’s happening now. The majority of the chatbot vendors are trying to replicate the entire functionality of a website into a small chatbot window. On top of that, even if the customers decided to interact with the bot, it fails right off the bat. People are tired of that Steve, but still, they end up in the same misery of interacting with the chatbot, then interacting with the customer support executive to whom their entire problem needs to be explained again.”
The car came to a slow halt in front of a neon-lit sign that read One-eyed Mackey’s. “We’re here sir, shall I be back around 9 for your dinner? I understand the reservations are done at The Persepolis?”
“Thank you, Freddy! That would be perfect”.
“You go on now and enjoy your evening Mr. Steve”
The two got out of the Mercedes and slowly climbed up the stairs. Steve slowly settled down at his favorite spot, the third chair from the right end of the bar table.
“Everything all right Steve? Heard you are taking the missus to a fancy place today?” That was Mackey, the bartender.
“Yeah Mackey. We have been wanting to go for so long. Only now, I got the time.”
“I’m telling you Steve, you got to get out of the office more. I understand you are a businessman and all, but you got a family too. Anyways I’m happy for you today. Just do this more often. And here you go, double scotch on the rocks. And you fellow, what will you be having? Let me know that and I will leave you to your tidings”
Roger smiling through all these conversations, replied to Mackey “A beer would be nice. Thanks.”
Steve looked quizzically at Roger. “All these must amuse you huh?”
Roger replied “No Steve. Actually, you were right in the middle of how a conversational AI powered system communicates with a user. Just that I’m checking how much were you able to comprehend.”
“What? I’ve been talking with the people I know all along.”
“And that’s exactly what a conversational chatbot needs to do. It has to play three roles and take upon three personalities with finesse.
Remember how Linda came into the room with a list of your to-do activities and how she booked a flight based on your tastes and requirements? This has been built over the years on how Linda interacted with you, understood your preferences, and carefully catered her services to match in line with that. This “Learning Curve” is what is going to make a Conversational powered chatbot stand aside. Building hyper-personalized experiences is a must to have in a conversational chatbot.
Freddy even before you got into the car knew where you will be heading, still, he reconfirmed it with you. He checked with you your reservation timings, and location and was ready with the service you needed. How do you think this happened? My guess is Freddy took it upon himself to communicate with Linda and understand your objectives through a different channel. A conversational AI is no different. It will look into past interactions you had, will analyze to what degree the issue has been solved, and will have contextual communications with you in the channel of your choice. Be it a phone or a chatbot, you will get your solutions where you want in the way you want.
And finally old Mackey himself. You stepped in and he was ready with your favorite drink but offered you the advice and solution you needed to hear while being extremely empathetic with you. What if I say, the machines are also capable of that? They understand your emotion and tailor their responses to your need? It’s very much possible. What’s more, remember how he left us to our conversations when he had finished sharing his piece, that is a similar way in which a conversational chatbot also works. If the bot understands that it’s unable to provide a solution or if there’s a possibility to upsell or cross-sell a product or a service, it will give the handover to a human agent at the right time.
The possibilities with a conversational-powered bot are endless. All you need is a little patience, some data, and a good amount of training. The question is are you ready to take the leap?”
Roger finished his piece of mind and looked at Steve. He knew what answer he was going to hear, but it sounded better from the horse’s mouth.
Full Steam Ahead!
Conversational AI is here to come, see and conquer the world of customer experience
Steve stared at his scotch for some time, and he looked at Roger.
“All right Roger! You have sold it to me. I want you to start looking at possible solutions and come out with a plan to present before the board on Monday. I need it tight and foolproof so that we get a full house approval. In the meantime, share with me the whitepaper you were speaking about, the one titled “Good CI is hard to find.” Let me also try to understand the world of conversational AI and interfaces a little bit more.”
“You got it, Steve. I am sending the whitepaper right now. I will also put some thoughts on how I can build the plan and present it to the board. But. I need to take my leave now.” Roger said as he made his way towards the exit.
“Monday, Roger. I’m counting on you.”
Roger got out into the windy night and slowly but steadily walked with determined steps as phase one of his plan had succeeded.