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The race to advance self-service for contact centers is on, as vendors such as LogMeIn, Ada and Conversocial vie to be the bot of choice for Salesforce, Microsoft and Oracle CRM users dissatisfied with their CRMs' native bots. The Conversocial chatbot, with a major features boost from the company's acquisition of Assist, is the latest to automate more sophisticated customer issues.
Before acquiring Assist in March 2019 and absorbing its features into recent updates to the Conversocial chatbot, the social media customer service platform used rudimentary chatbots based on rigid decision-tree logic, said Ido Bornstein-HaCohen, president of Conversocial, based in New York.
If, for example, those bots polled an airline passenger for a flight time to look up delay information and the passenger entered the flight number by mistake, the conversation might reset and start over. Customers who have seen the new features said they see potential for deeper customer self-service uses they hope will increase call deflections at contact centers.
Technology from Assist derives deeper context from what customers enter into the chat window than decision tree, also known as rules-based conversational bots. It can recognize a range of details a customer might enter, Bornstein-HaCohen said, allowing more free-flowing conversations, not bound to a particular order, than the previous Conversocial chatbot.
Many Conversocial customers add the bot and live-chat messaging platform on top of popular CRM and customer service platforms, such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle and Zendesk, augmenting their native omnichannel service features.
Consumers have been slow to embrace bots.
"When you look at the call center today, 80% of the volume is still over the phone," Bornstein-HaCohen said. The millennial generation is driving that number down, because millennials are embracing automated self-service more than their older peers, which costs one-fifth of live phone conversations, he added.
Volaris strengthens social media customer support
Hector Alejandro Espinosa VillaMichelContent manager for social networks and product marketing at Volaris
Mexican airline Volaris hopes to put the bots to work answering passenger questions that the airline was taking up to a day to answer just two years ago. In the two years since the budget carrier started using the previous edition of Conversocial chatbots, a Facebook Messenger bot and live-agent chat channels helped slash response times for simple passenger questions from a full day down to three minutes, the airline said.
Moving to self-service also significantly cut the number of outbound calls to answer passenger questions, said Hector Alejandro Espinosa VillaMichel, content manager for social networks and product marketing at Volaris.
The chatbots haven't replaced human agents, although contact center head counts are down. The company reinvested some of the savings into a 30-member, around-the-clock social media customer service team. Those agents, with the help of Conversocial chatbots and live-chat assistive tools, can handle up to eight conversations at once -- as opposed to the one-at-a-time nature of phone conversations.
The airline plans to reduce its phone support further by chatting with its customers where they're contacting them: on social media direct message channels.
The newly upgraded Conversocial automated self-service bots will also likely be a part of that next phase of Volaris customer experience, VillaMichel said, from what he's seen of the technology. The new bots fit in with Volaris' plans to expand to messaging platforms beyond Facebook, as well as automating more customer service tasks.
"It's something we know works very good," VillaMichel said, as evidenced by the fact that 40% of Facebook customer interactions with Volaris now are managed by bots, and it's time to expand to new channels. "We're trying to set up a chatbot for Twitter; it's a place where a lot people go to ask for help. WhatsApp is a big thing here in Mexico, so we're trying to automate all the services we can deliver to this channel."
Marketing use cases emerge
Now, Conversocial's customers use chatbots primarily for customer service and support over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other platforms popular in different countries and regions they support.
Limited marketing uses are emerging, as well, Bornstein-HaCohen said. But he cautioned Conversocial customers to start slowly. Notifications, message retargeting and checking in on customers who abandon web carts are a few of the broader customer experience applications they're trying outside of contact center customer service.
"You always start with the customer service use cases. Otherwise, these private channels end up becoming spam channels," Bornstein-HaCohen said. "It would be like me cold calling you. It's more intimate than email. If I get a spam email, I'm OK with it. But if I get a spam text message or a spam message in WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, it's much more offensive."