AI, Bots and Where Automation Begins

If you’ve ever considered buying a fixer-upper house, you’ll often starts by looking at it online. You see the individual photos and know it needs work; you might even think about knocking down a wall to open up the kitchen. It might not be until you see the house in-person as a complete entity that you realize knocking out a wall to expand a kitchen would take away from a den that’s essential. You missed the big picture. When you consider artificial intelligence (AI) and automating processes, it can be easy to miss that big picture — especially if you don’t understand their impact on all areas of your business.

Looking at the big picture — the overall business goals — was one of the main points Tim Friebel, Genesys Strategic Business Consultant, made in his blog, “To Bot or Not to Bot? Getting Automation Right.” I spoke with Tim to dig a little deeper into AI journey trends.

When businesses begin their AI journeys, do you see common missteps?

Tim Friebel: Some customers start off on the wrong foot because they’re asking the wrong question. They want to start with a chatbot because they know it should offer value. They want to know what the “bot ROI” will be. It seems reasonable, but you first need a clear understanding of what’s going to be automated — and why — to truly understand the value. Businesses often choose to automate the task that has the greatest volume of interactions on any particular channel. But even this is not always the best choice.

Companies typically have 10 to 15 major journeys that customers can take. If you break down those journeys, the number grows. For example, making a payment is a journey that can be made in several ways — via a website, with an agent or using an IVR. In total, there may be as many as 100 unique journeys. Even if you have the 15 key customer journeys identified, determining the right place to start can be done in many different ways.

You’re suggesting that businesses look at which use cases to attack first.

Friebel:  Yes. It’s commonplace to skip the step of why we should build a bot and just start automating without considering the overall impact to the customer experience. What’s the use case for it? Should all customers have the same experience? Can the application be used in all interaction channels? Does the outcome we will drive align with our corporate objectives?  This is the same question for all the different ways we leverage AI.

We’re embedding AI into every piece of the customer journey and each product has its own unique use of artificial intelligence, whether it’s machine learning or something else

In other words, you can’t take a blanket approach to AI.

Friebel: Exactly. Choosing what and where to automate should be based on your business objectives. If high-value customers engage with you, it might be preferable to send them straight to an agent to ensure the best experience.  On the other hand, canceling an account is easy to automate and might reduce call volume, but I’m not so sure that enabling a customer to easily cancel aligns with your business goals.

And when you look at customer demands, remember that customers see all of your lines of business as one entity — not individual silos. They don’t care about your org structure.  If someone is serviced via AI in the mortgage domain. Then what impact will that have on overall experience with the brand? Is there an easy way for the customer to then get service on their credit card? You need to break down the journey to see where AI makes sense. Evaluating when to automate and what is best for your business is an on-going, recursive, process. Eventually, an automated process that shows value can fund itself and future initiatives.

How do you go about mapping customer journeys to figure this out?

Friebel: It’s not necessary to map all the journeys initially. One of the best trends I see is the iterative idea of “do something.” Journey mapping can be a time-consuming process. You don’t have to go through every single task that can be automated before getting started. That’s an overwhelming prospect! It’s too much pre-work and the thought of dedicating that time can cause a company to do nothing.

Instead, start off grounded with a foundation that will allow you to continue building upon it. Don’t throw your bot out into your environment without follow through on how it’s going to impact overall customer experience. With a siloed automation solution, you might not be able to integrate with other interaction channels that are yet to come. That increases the likelihood that experiences in different channels contribute to an inconsistent brand identity. For example, if you have a really clean way to provide FAQs in the chat channel, why wouldn’t you want to open that up to the voice channel? It’s a domino effect from your first AI choice.

There’s a lot of talk about AI and its value in sales and marketing. What about those who don’t have anything to sell?

Friebel: It’s really about whatever business outcomes are desired and where a company wants to engage with customers — to get them on the phone or in a chat or whatever. Capabilities like predictive engagement enable you to do that. A utility company, for example, benefits from customers enrolling in energy efficiency programs. If a customer is struggling to find the information they need online about the program, it behooves the company to engage in conversation with them.

Everyone is rushing to use new AI technologies because the potential is immense, but sometimes we forget that we’re really trying to achieve the same business outcomes we always have: revenue growth, improved customer experience and cost reduction. I tell our customers to think less about the technology and more about what the business impact will be. The technology is exciting, and it enables tremendous productivity and efficiency gains. But when literally anything is possible, AI is just a better shovel.

If you’re unsure of where your business stands in terms of AI, take this quick Genesys AI Assessment quiz. Learn where you are on your AI journey, where you need the advice of an expert and the next best steps to take.