In this interview with our partner ISS Software – A Sopra Steria Company, Xaver Lehmann, founder and CEO of e-bot7, talks about artificial intelligence in customer communication.
The communication with customers and other stakeholders has clearly gained facets in the last years. What began with websites and e-mail has found its continuation in social media like Facebook, Instagram or messengers like WhatsApp. One instrument that can facilitate the uniformity of communication and increase efficiency in view of the diversity of channels is the use of chatbots. They use artificial intelligence to transport content in a way that is appropriate for the addressee. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the name of the technology behind it.
Hello Xaver, thank you very much for being available for an interview in these unusual times. We can imagine that especially now a lot of people want to be provided with the most diverse information. What are your experiences? Do you also feel an influence on the need for information?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have not only noticed that our team wants clear communication due to the information overload but also that existing customers have to cope with an overload of their customer service due to increasing requests for information about COVID-19 (but also about other topics). Bots and Artificial Intelligence are perfectly suited to balance and intercept the volume of requests at peak times.
That’s why we decided to build a chatbot that helps companies, employees, customers and all people affected by the situation to quickly find all relevant information on the topic. We use official sources such as the WHO, the CDC and the Robert Koch Institute and update the information regularly.
Digitization means that a great deal of information is now comparatively easily available. Doesn’t that also pose special challenges for the communication of companies to their customers? I’m also thinking of questions about how to prepare information in the most user-friendly way possible. How do you ensure that the information needs of your bots are met in such a way that users actually see the bot as support?
Customer expectations have changed over time. With the emergence of new platforms, habits are changing as consumers search for services and interact with brands. This development affects the way traditional customer service via email or telephone works and is maintained. Customers now expect round-the-clock service delivery across all channels with speed, reliability and accuracy. We can help with all these things with Artificial Intelligence and our Omnichannel platform.
Let’s change the perspective. What do you see as the main advantages of using bots from a business perspective? What better way to do this than through a section on the website?
The earlier you integrate innovative technologies such as AI, the better and faster you can learn from the technology in order to use it optimally for the needs of your customers. We are certainly still at the beginning of the technology. What is also certain, however, is that technology is improving day by day and will be able to answer more and more enquiries individually. It is therefore only a question of time. That’s how companies can gain a competitive advantage today by offering customer service that improves customer relationships while focusing on cost efficiency and scaling.
How do you see the opportunity to reach a wider audience? What is your experience – do information seekers get along with the technology?
Over the last few years, messaging platforms like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger have overtaken the number of users of social networks. Text-based communication and messaging have become the preferred method of communication, as the majority of the Millennium Generation (18-24 years) and Generation X (35-49 years) not only own a smartphone but spend an average of 4-6 hours per day on the device. Therefore, companies should enable text-based communication on all devices and platforms.
In the context of the Corona crisis, you developed the Coronabot. What did you pay particular attention to? How is it accepted?
We paid particular attention to the fact that the bot could be integrated into all digital channels of the company within minutes and that it would not represent an additional workload for the employees, as the bot guides customers through predefined workflows with the help of our Contextual Dialog Editor®. In addition, the bot is available in four languages and companies can customize the information in the bot to their individual needs.
Crisis situations often arise unprepared and are dynamic, complex and confusing. Against this background, how quickly is such a bot ready for use at all and what do you need to consider? Isn’t the training of a chatbot very time-consuming?
Basically, our AI consists of two components: a general language component and a customer-specific component. In a sense, customers get a “pre-trained” system that can already distinguish the importance of individual words and, for example, recognize and understand spelling mistakes. Our AI system is additionally fed with the customer’s own data, e.g. FAQs, and can thus take this knowledge into account when choosing an answer. Thus the bot can automatically answer frequently asked questions from the beginning. In addition, it is constantly trained during operation, so that in the future even complex and individual questions can be answered automatically.
In the case of a crisis situation, our Contextual Dialog Editor® is also an ideal tool to easily automate complex customer service processes without having to write a single line of code. Our technology is pre-trained and can be used as a plug-and-play solution without requiring technical resources on the customer side. This type of integration takes only a few minutes.
How do you think experiences from the crisis will influence the development and use of chatbots in the future?
Without a doubt, the Corona crisis will accelerate some developments that have taken place before anyway. I’m thinking here of topics such as online education, home office, but also of increases in efficiency and digitalization topics. I think companies are more aware than ever that there is no way around digital and scalable technologies and that precisely such technologies can actually create a competitive advantage and even ensure survival in a difficult time like this.
The interview was originally published on Space Lab by ISS Innovate.