Chatbots in the Contact Center

As featured on Contact Center Pipeline, Astute SVP Shellie Vornhagen shares her insights on chatbot technology for customer care

chatbots in the contact center magazine article cover

Contact Center Pipeline featured an expert Q&A on chatbot usage, trends and developments. Their panel of experts included Shellie Vornhagen, Astute SVP of Marketing and North American Sales. Her answers are below, and you can see the full post and insights from the entire panel here.

What are the most common applications/uses for chatbot technology in contact centers today?

Many companies approach chatbots as the next iteration of a website FAQ, enabling customers to easily find answers to common questions. Some view them as a replacement for contact forms, letting customers contact companies without needing to hunt all over the website. A great chatbot will deflect most tier-1 customer questions and issues, be available across multiple communication channels (site, app, SMS, Facebook Messenger, etc.), and enable easy escalation to a live agent when needed. This addresses consumers’ expectations for instant, omnichannel support while allowing contact center agents to focus only on the cases where a human touch is truly needed.

What is the biggest misconception that business leaders have about chatbot capabilities?

A common misconception about service chatbots is that you will need to author every response the bot can give. But advanced bot solutions can take into account any existing content you may have, like knowledgebase articles or FAQs, as well as gather information via integrations into other systems or websites.

Another misconception we see with digital self-service in general is an attitude of “set it and forget it.” While some chatbots can automatically learn and improve based on what your live agents do, you will also need to regularly review reports that show what gaps exist in the bot’s knowledge. And since products and policies tend to change, having an easy, non-technical tool to update content is absolutely necessary.

Lastly, some companies make the mistake of launching a chatbot without an in-channel escalation path to a live agent. If a customer has chosen to interact with you over a website chatbot or via Facebook Messenger, they want to stay in that channel even if further help is needed—and they definitely don’t want to repeat what they just told the bot! Make sure that immediate, in-channel escalation is available at any point during self-service interactions, and that agents are given all the context of the interaction when assigned the case.

What should contact centers do to prepare for chatbot adoption?

A chatbot represents the contact center team’s opportunity to get front-and-center on your brand’s digital properties, so early and frequent collaboration with your web team (and app team, if applicable), is a must. Think about bringing together a crossfunctional team that will run point on the project, ensuring every phase runs smoothly.

Speaking of phases, it’s important to agree on phases for your chatbot deployment—which use cases will you address first? Which channels will you deploy? What will the bot be able to do right away, in six months, in a year? Asking these questions from the start of the project will set the stage for a successful chatbot.

It’s also important for contact centers to understand what is being automated and how that information ties into the knowledgebase. Not only does this encourage confidence in the chatbot, but it serves as a reminder that the chatbot and the knowledge from which it draws information are intrinsically tied.

Last but not least, don’t forget about escalation. Map out how the escalation process from chatbot to agent will work, including situations where you would want to proactively suggest the customer engage with a live agent.

What advice can you offer for matching chatbot solution options with business requirements?

My advice is to just get started! Don’t wait until you have the “perfect plan.” It’s fine to initially build out just a few use cases, and then use an iterative process to add more over time.

Another element to keep in mind is flexibility: Make sure the core functionality of your chatbot can be built once, but deployed on multiple channels with minimal modifications so you can maximize the value of the bot. And remember that key technologies behind chatbots, like NLP and AI, are still rapidly evolving, so look for a flexible solution that can leverage multiple technologies as they continue to change.

Learn more about Astute’s award-winning customer engagement chatbot.