Even as companies worldwide focus on responding in real-time to the uncertainties created by COVID-19, leaders understand the need to prepare for ongoing disruption over the months and years to come.
With in-person interaction at a standstill or interrupted indefinitely, companies are turning to different types of digital engagement techniques and technologies to make sure people have access to trustworthy information, useful answers, and valuable support.
Organizations are experiencing a tsunami of questions. Everything from employees seeking information about company safety protocols and policies to suppliers checking on inventory, to citizens inquiring about testing and prevention. For many companies, existing enterprise IT is stretched increasingly thin, and traditional methods of communication are proving inadequate, slow, and/or completely unworkable. Those with large customer and employee bases are facing large increases in call-center volumes with limited capacity for additional staffing or scaling. To help fulfill new needs, intelligent agents, are rapidly taking on an important role in organizational communications.
Intelligent agents are becoming ubiquitous at a pace and scale unforeseen prior to the onset of COVID-19
Consumers and employees are demanding these developments. Shelter-in-place restrictions have prompted new digital interactions, forcing broad deployment of new technologies. While kindergartners expect computers to interact with them, now, many of their grandparents are becoming comfortable with AI technologies and virtual assistants. These new users are in turn contributing to new applications and functionality for a variety of companies and their stakeholders
Despite the need to move quickly, companies need to avoid deploying one-size-fits-all mechanisms that could do more harm than good by leaving users frustrated and still looking for answers. Three factors are critical to the success of these capabilities:
- The interaction must be contextual: When a customer logs in, the intelligent agent should have access past interaction from other channels so it can understand and anticipate the needs of the customer. A grocery shopper should be able to add another item to a recent order; understand the preferred home delivery time-window. An insured policy- holder should be able to get the status of an existing claim when he or she launches the intelligent agent app. All channels should come together to provide a coherent experience.
- The interaction must result in an outcome: If the chatbot sends the customer to a website or a list of FAQs, it has failed. It must contain the interaction by providing genuine assistance. It must be grounded in the reality of the company’s apps, processes and data so it can actually serve customers. When asking for the last 5 bill payment amounts, it must integrate with the billing system and provide a response.
- The interaction must be human-centered: The intelligent agent should know enough about the customer to suggest alternatives or substitutes if an item is unavailable. Dialog interactions must be intuitive, personalized and frictionless especially to meet the needs of customers for whom an intelligent agent is not their first choice