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Important questions you need to ask when considering an AI-powered conversational platform

three crumpled yellow coloured papers on a green speech bubble
Making sense of the conversational AI platform
market isn’t easy, but it is important.

That’s because it is estimated that by 2022, 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms on a daily basis. Managing conversational AI — through a simple chatbot or a more sophisticated omnichannel solution — becomes a matter of not when, but how.

In this rapidly changing space, we’ve put together ten key questions to ask any conversational AI vendor about the way talking to customers is changing for the better.

❓  1. Why should I consider a conversational platform?

Organisations that engage with a large number of customers each day know that there is a growing need to provide information on demand wherever customers are. Contact forms and tweets to a customer service account simply don’t cut it anymore.

Delighting customers is just the beginning. At the same time, a conversational platform can seriously amp up an organisation’s performance.

Your strategy should determine whether or not you employ conversational AI technology. Our clients generally look to a platform for one of three reasons:

  • Decreasing costs — a customer contact centre with thousands of conversations per month will generally see a reduction in costs on manual enquiry responses by at least 10% within the first year.
  • Increasing revenue — when customers get the information they need straight away, or their complex enquiries are immediately routed to the right area for sales conversations, you improve key metrics such as reducing the abandon rate, time to first response and time to resolution which all may lead to higher conversion rates.
  • Mitigating risks — adapting contact flows to multiple teams and allowing organisations to scale the number of conversations happening at once means that you can reduce multiple operational risks that plague contact centres.

🤔  2. What specifically am I solving?

You’ve determined that a chatbot platform is going to help you improve customer relations and key business metrics. Now it’s time to consider what kind of customer experience do you want to be known for, and how effective do you want your operations to be?

Research shows that responding to customers in under 5 minutes means they are 100x more likely to connect, 21x more likely to qualify and 74% of sales teams can’t meet these metrics.

Add to that, customers are happier to engage with an automated system to solve a simple request immediately — and 61% of customers attempt to use an ineffective self-service channel before reverting to a live channel, which costs upwards of $30 for the business per interaction.

Some brands take hours to respond to their customer messages sent on Facebook and Twitter, but a smart chatbot allows you to respond immediately and relevantly. An AI-powered solution can:

  • Cut down on your simple tasks by automating repetitious, manual, and inefficient processes.
  • Speed up responses to simple questions — meaning you can dedicate your teams to handling complex customer enquiries.
  • Be accessible, and meet your customers whenever, wherever.

🔎  3. Do I understand the solution that the chatbot vendor is offering?

From a customer perspective, you want to create authentic, intelligent conversations that reflect your organisation, connect with your audience, and grow your reach.

Operationally, you need to ensure that any solution is scalable, fully integratable across the business, and flexible — not a one-size-fits-all solution, but something tailored for your business.

The best way to understand what the provider is offering is asking them to walk you through your customers’ and your staff journeys from start to finish.

Terms like omnichannel, automation, AI, integrations, and handover are often used differently across the industry, so a full walk-through of the platform will help illustrate what the vendor means — and where the tech may head in the future.

📈  4. How long does it take to see value?

No matter how complex your organisation is, you should see clear gains within three months of deploying your solution.

The best way to go about this is by executing, rolling out, learning, then implementing further phases. In short, this means first picking the low-hanging fruit — targeting easy automation wins, understanding how they have worked for your system, customers, and employees, and then graduating to more advanced solutions.

Your partner also should show you their playbook and talk to you about qualitative and quantitative KPIs for your digital journey, particularly around customer experience and employee experience.

For example, you’ll want to set goals around something direct like decreasing time to resolution or increasing conversion rate, and something less tangible such as improving customer or employee satisfaction.

💁  5. How will my team adopt a conversational platform? How does it work with people?

A conversational platform is a complementary system designed to help your people flourish.

After all, they’re your best resource. A bot should be able to identify when a customer enquiry falls outside of its capabilities and move it on quickly. It might be to manage a complaint, or maximise a conversion opportunity — either way, swift recognition is the name of the game.

The chatbot rolls up its sleeves to deal with repetitive, simple requests, such as opening hours in different locations, and moves on complex queries such as complaints or sales opportunities to real people.

A conversational AI platform should also be easily integrated into existing systems and processes, augmenting what you already have in place rather than cancelling them out.

⚖️  6. How do I weigh up different conversational AI products?

Each vendor has different capabilities and ways of problem solving, so finding the one that is fit for purpose is critical. The best way to find the right partner for your organisation is by figuring out your use case.

That is, drilling down to find out the capabilities you require. Brands focused exclusively on sales and marketing will need a different kind of web chat to a transport provider focused on customer support.

This space is developing extremely fast, and in many cases, the alternatives are not simply direct competitors. Your product should also be weighed up against your current processes, such as emails, calls, forms or even live chat.

Either way, you need to consider capabilities such as omni-channel, intelligent automation, branding, security, scale, handover to your teams, and analytics.

🛑  7. What happens if things go wrong?

Some projects never get off the ground — either because the vendor over-promised on integration and use cases, or an organisation was not fully equipped to get the value of the new solution.

The onboarding process is critical, as is proactive, open communication.

As for something going wrong in day-to-day operations, ask your provider about how they manage system stress, whether they use third-party services, and to walk you through their playbook for something not working.

💰  8. How much do conversational platforms cost?

Pricing structures will vary depending on the vendor — there is no established best practice. You may be charged by the number of users or customers, the number or duration of conversations, amount of seats, capabilities, channels, extra add-ons, or support.

The most important thing is that your solution is scalable, with built-in flexibility to turn on options that are relevant to your brand.

You also need to consider the costs beyond the vendor: what are the time and resources you will need to spend upskilling your staff to use the product, or marketing your new capabilities to your customers?

Conversational AI is still such a new space that brands often don’t have the expertise or time to figure it out and maintain by themselves. You want to be able to get support, as well as get more tailored expertise to help you solve the problems you have.

🔏  9. What about things like data sovereignty, security, and privacy?

You need to know that your data is secure. Review your provider’s data policy, which at a minimum should have encryption and limited access to approved users.

We also recommend asking the following questions:

  • How do you manage data portability? Can you extract your data as needed from the system?
  • Who owns the data? Conversations with your customers are everything. Beyond how it’s stored, who owns the raw data and how is it used?
  • Are your customers protected? How is their identity and information secured and encrypted, and does the platform have data redaction scanning for personal information (PI) and personally identifiable information (PII)? Does the system conform to the laws where your organisation is based and operating?

🔌 10. Is it plug and play?

When you’re at the business end of the decision, you’ll need to start thinking about the big picture. One key consideration is avoiding lock-in — your provider should be flexible about what they integrate with rather than forcing a suite of preferred vendors on you (unless there’s a good business case).

Ensuring enterprise readiness is another important factor. Before deploying any conversational platform strategy, ask the following questions:

  • Can the vendor adopt tens of use cases across the business, world-wide?
  • Can they deal with thousands of events happening a minute?
  • Are they secure so that customers could trust their private information?
  • Are they compliant with local data protection laws?

And before you sign anything, be sure to review the vendor’s Service Level Agreement (SLA).

By now, you’ve determined that a conversational AI platform is a strategic tool that improves both customer experience and employee satisfaction.

The most important takeaway is that not all platforms are created equally — the most important factor in getting results is finding the right solution for your organisation.

If you’d like to learn more from one of our Conversational AI experts, get in touch with us here.

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