How to Bring Customer Service Agents On Board with Adopting AI-based Chatbots

An excellent article by Vivek Lakshman on how being open and transparent across departments will results in organisation wide adoption of AI based chatbots.

Although artificial intelligence in the workforce continues to spark controversy, AI can actually help support teams make more significant business contributions. Discover how to use AI for better customer experiences and how to prepare your support team for success.

Walmart recently announced that they would be adding 1,500 robotic floor cleaners, 300 more smart shelf scanners, 1,200 automated unloaders and 900 autonomous pickup stations in their US stores. The company has said that this technology will free up employee time usually spent on these “mundane and repetitive tasks” to spend more time helping customers with more complex needs.

But using artificial intelligence in the workforce remains controversial as more people fear machines will eliminate their jobs. These conflicts can become especially difficult between customer service teams and marketers deploying chatbot technology. Friction of this sort is unfortunate because there are significant benefits AI can deliver for support teams that can help them focus on data insights that can have a stronger impact for the business. Preparing customer service teams for AI will mean a lot of re-skilling, but it should open up new opportunities for human specialization.

So how do you get customer service teams on board with the adoption of AI technologies?  Like many things in life, it has a lot to do with transparency and trust.

Where a hybrid customer service structure works

Customer service specialists are finding that bots currently work best in hybrid structures that augment human customer service and allow humans to become experts in complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence, and data analysis. There are three basic models of human-AI collaboration that are being used successfully in customer service: triage, escalation and human management.

1. Using chatbots for triage

When it comes to the time-sensitive job of triaging customer issues, chatbots can quickly intake customer information and issue history so customer service agents have all the information they need up front upon receiving the ticket. This model also takes pressure off an agent to respond to customer tickets immediately. Bots can alert agents when triage is complete, and they can step in to diagnose the issue.

Preparing for this hybrid model will require customer service agents who are skilled in both low- and high-level issue diagnosis and have thorough knowledge about their business’ products. Different levels of support may often be divided across teams. Businesses who are planning to transfer the task of collecting customer information to chatbots will need to ensure that their agents are prepared with the necessary skills and training to handle different levels of customer support since dedicated triage will pass to chatbots.

2. Handing off escalations to humans

60% of consumers would be willing to use customer service chatbots to interact with brands and help them find solutions to common issues. And when chatbots can resolve common issues and answer FAQs, this gives humans more time to deal with escalations. In this model, businesses should be preparing humans to develop skills such as complex problem-solving, sometimes involving multiple departments and solid active listening to customer frustrations.

How does this play out? Chatbots can recognize when users’ problems extend beyond the scope of easily-resolved issues and pass the ticket to an agent — ideally transitioning seamlessly between a bot conversation and a human-human interaction.

3. Shadowing bots by managing their interactions

A third possible model of human-chatbot collaboration is the human management model. Chatbots can hold conversations with customers, while agents monitor the chat. The bot can then privately present a diagnosis to the agent, which the agent can confirm or override. The bot can then give the user its recommendation.

Agents can multitask while monitoring the chat, jumping in only at the final step when confirmation is needed. This primarily hands-off approach can free up time for customer service reps and allow them to specialize in handling data analytics and identifying product issues and trends in customer experience.

Creating an environment ready for AI adoption to talk to employees about AI tools

Implementing a strategy for AI adoption is, perhaps surprisingly, not about technology. To prepare your customer service structures for AI inclusion, identify the impacted people, tools and processes and create a plan to address changes. Develop a pilot program to help ensure your employees learn the new system and iron out the kinks. The three tips below will help you create an environment where you can successfully adopt AI.

1. Explain the hybrid model. To reduce employee fears of being replaced by bots it’s important to educate how employee-AI collaboration will help create a hybrid model of customer support in which people and machines work together in separate domains of expertise.

2. Explain the benefits. Integrating a chatbot into customer support workflows can improve job satisfaction for support agents, as they’ll spend less time answering basic FAQs and getting customer information, providing them with an opportunity to learn more complex skills. Employees who are bored, frustrated, or uninvested are much less likely to provide a customer experience that promotes customer brand loyalty.

3. Define the roles. Chatbots and humans can — and should — work in separate spheres. Chatbots can intake, retrieve and store data better than people can. Humans, once they are prepared by businesses for a collaborative work structure with chatbots, will specialize in analysis, customer engagement, emotional intelligence, management, and high-level support in order to complement the role of the chatbot.

Technology is constantly changing the way we work, play and communicate — as well as our expectations as consumers. Today there are specific, practical ways to use AI chatbots to create better customer experiences. Humans and AI have different strengths, and most progressive companies are beginning to realize this and enact changes. Businesses should keep finding ways to improve the customer experience by fostering the success of this partnership and preparing their employees to develop skills that complement the functions of chatbots