TCMO Bureau: How can businesses leverage chatbots to enhance internal & customer communications amid COVID?
Sundar Subramanian: Chatbots have proved to be beneficial in helping with internal and external communications for organizations, both large and small. Since the start of the COVID crisis, many employees have been asking HR questions such as when they’ll return to the office, what their insurance coverage looks like, and much more. Businesses can leverage chatbots internally by having these AI-powered machines serve as a helping hand to HR. Chatbots can help deliver answers to employees’ on more pressing questions, freeing up HR to handle more significant issues such as long-term planning for office reopening.
This helps make the employee experience during COVID smoother, especially in terms of communicating critical information. Chatbots can continuously improve to answer new questions that arise and are tasked with providing more accurate, up to date responses. As for the customer experience, businesses can use chatbots to respond to initial customer inquiries, answer customer’s questions about returns and cleanliness in the shipping process, freeing up humans to answer higher-level questions and customer concerns. The more opportunities that businesses integrate chatbots into their customer journey, the more chances the chatbot has at becoming smarter and predicting human behavior, creating a better customer experience.
TCMO Bureau: “Employee experience is what makes your CX human,” quoted by John Maeda in the latest Wall Street Journal report – how far do you agree with this?
Sundar Subramanian: It’s important to note that chatbots should not be used to replace people, but rather should be there to help employees do their job better. Chatbots can help take away the repetitive and tedious conversations, which helps create a smoother experience for the customer. Employees are then freed up to handle the higher-level conversations that require specialized knowledge. As a result, employees are transformed from support contacts to subject matter experts.
Therefore, more helpful chatbots result in happier and more engaged employees, which in turn means more satisfied customers. But it’s important to note that chatbots should not be required to do all of the work. When that happens, employees become frustrated and feel replaced, and they will not make the customer experience any better. Instead, businesses must find a balance between the use of chatbots and employee engagement, and ensuring employees feel empowered in providing a positive customer experience.
TCMO Bureau: Do you think that COVID has turned to be a major push for digital transformation within organizations?
Sundar Subramanian: Yes, because businesses have learned that they need to react quickly to external changes. In a recent survey we conducted, 90% said they have canceled or delayed digital experience projects in the last 12 months due to technical complexity issues, lack of budget and resources, and reliance on IT. Unfortunately, due to COVID, abandoning these projects is no longer an option. Instead, as customers and employees engage with one another remotely, businesses must ramp up their digital transformation projects in order to remain competitive.
Not only are companies operating remotely, resulting in a greater reliance on digital efforts, but they’re feeling the pressure to provide both employees and customers with up-to-date information quickly and answer questions in a timely manner. This requires integrating technology that will assist in creating a better customer and employee experience.
TCMO Bureau: “Our customer experience looks like our org chart! Even down to our departments and roles. How do we fix this?”—every successful Fortune 1000 company. What do you suggest in this case?
Sundar Subramanian: Customers shouldn’t need to understand your company structure to get the help they need. When a customer reaches out with a question or a request, in their mind, they’re speaking with a representative of a company, not a member of a given team, who should be able to address their request. Understandably, businesses would be concerned with their employees across multiple different departments serving as customer service representatives, but this is where chatbots can really help eliminate this problem.
For example, if a customer reaches out to the sales department about a billing issue because they aren’t sure where to find the phone number for the billing department, the multiple touchpoints in the customer journey could cause frustration for the customer. In order to eliminate extra steps like this, businesses should set up a chatbot that can serve as the first point of contact in a case like this. The faster that chatbot is able to respond to and connect a customer to the right department, the more satisfied that customer will be, and the greater the likelihood they will keep returning as a loyal customer. It’s really about eliminating as much friction as you can in the customer journey.
Sundar Subramanian is the General Manager of the Cognitive First Business at Progress. Prior to that, he was VP Products of Sequoia-backed Citrus Payment Solutions, which was acquired by Naspers, served as Vice President for Kaseya. Sundar holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Drexel University and a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of Mumbai.