This month at Melbourne Dynamics 365 User Group, our very own Microsoft MVP Andre Margono will show off the Bots that he built using the Microsoft Bot Framework. If you would like to know more about how to build a Bot to enhance the customer engagement of your organisation, please RSVP to reserve your seat.
In this article, I will provide an overview of Bots and how we can use them in your organisations.
What are Bots?
A bot is a service that users can interact with in a conversation manner. In it’s simplest form, you can think of it as a conversation you would do using a text messaging platform such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp, Viber, or WeChat. To understand this better, let’s use an example.
You bought a car recently and you would like to sign up for a comprehensive car insurance cover. You decided to shop around and visited an insurance provider’s website to get a quote.
Option 1 – Web Form
The most common solution you would see in most website’s is a Web Form. You provide all the required details. You may have to navigate back and forth on a wizard type form and in the end you’ll get your quote. You may have help text next to each field but if somethings not clear there’s no one to ask. If you are stuck, you’ll have to navigate away and find the phone number and call customer service directly. What if it’s after hours? Then you’ll have to abandon the session and try again later.
Customer experience is not that great. You feel you are on your own. There’s a high chance that the customer will try another provider who provides a better experience and go ahead with them.
Option 2 – Conversation with a Bot
You navigate to the website and conversation popup comes up. Or you open Skype or Facebook Messenger App and start a conversation with the Insurance Bot. The conversation may go like this.
This fictitious example, may look like a normal conversation. But behind the scenes, the complete Sales and Opportunity Management Process is in action.
- As soon as the first contact details are gathered, a Lead record is created.
- Once bot collects enough information, a Contact record is created.
- When start collecting vehicle information, Opportunity and Quote records are created.
- When the customer asks a question, Bot checks the knowledge base to find an appropriate answer.
- System will then email the quote.
- Once the customer agrees to go ahead, Order is created.
- Once the payment details are collected and processed, an Invoice is created.
- When the customer answers a single question about customer satisfaction, a Survey Entry is created.
Your own processes may be different to above. But I am sure you get the idea. You have one interface, one field to type. The intelligent bot asks relevant questions based on your answers and triggers appropriate internal and external business processes. For the customer it’s a seamless process.
The Bot get’s it’s intelligence from services such as Microsoft Cognitive Services. There are many APIs provided by Microsoft including Language Understanding Intelligent Services (LUIS) API, Bing Speech API, Computer Vision API, Recommendation API, to name a few. These services allow us to access decades of research outcomes in Machine Learning, Computer Vision, and Natural Language Processing, and many other areas in Artificial Intelligence.
The algorithms and techniques used behind the scenes are not necessarily recent inventions. I remember nearly 16 years ago I studied Evolutionary Computing where I learnt about how we can use Genetic Algorithms and Neural Networks to solve problems. The main difference now is that while scientists continue to evolve the science, we, as business solution providers can utilise the APIs that’ll do all the hard work for us. We can work with organisations to come up with creative solutions to solve real world business problems. The technology is now available to anyone and is truly affordable.
Bots can significantly enhance the customer engagement and increase the conversion rate if used correctly. It would need to be an evolving process to fine tune the Bot as we collection more data. Imagine if you have spikes in enquiries due to the nature of your business. Bot can help reduce the load on your call centre by filtering and assisting to close simpler enquiries, while redirecting customers to a staff member for complex scenarios. Customer Service Representative (CSR) can continue the conversation on the same chat window as a group chat. No transferring and repeating the same information. Bots are exciting new area that will revolutionise customer engagement. Early adopters will get an upper hand in winning more business and improve customer satisfaction by providing around the clock service, simpler and better user experience.
One thing to mention. A Bot can never replace a human. A face to face or a phone conversation done right trumps all other communication channels. But, a Bot has the potential to provide a significant efficiency improvement in your business with human-like sensing abilities and automation of business processes.
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Until next time…