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Image – Polycart, Flickr (CC license)

Self-service retail is swooping across the globe; from online shopping to self-checkout, there’s a growing trend in retail environments that focuses on driving efficient and seamless processes to enhance service and CX.

“Smart” vs. “simple” assistants

The past few years have seen many international brands improving the way they approach customer interactions, but this hasn’t always translated to brand success. For instance, smart, AI-powered and natural language processing (NLP) reliant bots may not always be as effective in solving customer service queries compared to simpler rules-based chatbots.

For this reason, many well-known brands (such as Amazon) are now favouring implementing rules-based chatbots (over so-called “smart bots”) to provide more accurate responses and resolve queries more efficiently. A rules-based chatbot, for example, doesn’t need to interpret questions – responses are programmed and predetermined which adds an element of reliability and consistency – and if a bot is unable to assist the customer, the query can be directed to a live customer service or sales agent for resolution.

Where the application of AI is still being refined, particularly in interpreting human intentions and behaviour according to NLP, actual human assistants are still necessary to address more complicated queries that require human qualities such as reasoning or insight. Ultimately, we’re moving towards an environment where human agents won’t be required to handle all forms of communication, particularly those simple repetitive queries that may be more efficiently performed via automation or self-service.

In the contact centre environment, a cohesive system must be in place to ensure that there’s a seamless link between human and machine-based interactions, as well as any manual and automated tasks within a broader process that needs to completed.

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