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Guest Column: Conversational commerce to transform call centres: Matt Hooper, IMImobile

27-January-2017
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Guest Column: Conversational commerce to transform call centres: Matt Hooper, IMImobile

Three reasons why I believe ‘conversational commerce’ will revolutionise the contact centre industry in 2017 and beyond...

The internet brought us the ecommerce revolution, led by the likes of Amazon and eBay. The smartphone, along with its ecosystem of apps, gave us m-commerce and new business models, as exemplified by Uber and Airbnb.

The next revolution – dubbed conversational commerce – builds on these by adding two-way interactivity and artificial intelligence with the goal of enabling humans to interact with machines more naturally and effectively.

Here are three reasons why contact centre professionals should be prepared for the mobile messaging and chatbot revolution:

1. The world loves mobile devices

By 2020 there will be 5.8 billion smartphones in use around the world. Already we spend 90% of the time on our mobile phones using email and messaging platforms.

It is only very recently that mobile devices, along with the telecommunications networks and cloud computing and storage resources that power them, have become fast enough, cheap enough, and reliable enough to offer consumer-grade experiences at scale.

Now that they are, consumers have got used to fast, efficient ways of communicating that simply never existed before, and they want to use those same channels to interact with companies and organisations.

2. Chatting is more natural than browsing

There is no more natural way to discover products and buy them than by chatting. It’s why the local corner shop is much missed.

While consumers have been willing to have conversations with companies by phone for some time, it is only in the last year or so that a significant portion of the population has adopted mobile messaging. The reasons why are detailed in the survey results below:

With mobile messaging there is no need to download a company’s app or visit its website. All interactions take place inside existing mobile messaging services, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Kik, and even good old SMS.

While customers can chat with live agents using these services, just as they do with their friends and family, what’s really grabbing the attention is the possibility of automating many of these interactions.

In April 2016 Facebook opened up its Messenger service API to anyone who wants to deploy a chatbot. Twitter recently followed suit, as have most of the leading social messaging services including WhatsApp, Skype, Google, Kik, and others.

3. AI and natural language processing

As anyone who has experienced the vast improvements made by Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s new Assistant can testify, natural language processing is now over 90% accurate for most spoken or typed requests.

Now that anyone can quickly build a chatbot using open source tools and deploy it on any number of messaging services, expect chatbots to become an integral part of conversational commerce.

Chatbots are estimated to cost ten times less than IVR for servicing the same customer requests. And they are faster and more natural to use than web self-service because they have natural language understanding built into them.

Messaging apps are also building innovative user interfaces that allow users to take fast actions outside of chat sessions. For example, a pizza chatbot might have an order button, and a clothing company’s chatbot can show products directly in the chat window and allow a customer to order and pay without leaving the chat interface.

What is going to be revolutionary over the next year or so is the ability to incorporate chatbots into customer journeys.

The contact centre is the natural hub for conversational commerce

The new conversational commerce platform is being built on the back of the popular messaging apps consumers already use.

Chatbots will become an integral part of conversational commerce, promising all the efficiency and cost benefits of digital messaging channels combined with the immediacy of self-help and the interactivity of a conversation.

Whether these conversations are handled by human agents, increasingly using digital channels such as mobile messaging, or by AI chatbots, these interactions still need to be anticipated, scripted, branded, monitored for accuracy and quality, and planned into business processes so that things get done on the back-end; i.e. products get delivered, quotes get sent out, purchases get completed.

Where the past two commerce revolutions have been led by the technology, marketing and sales functions, the real-time interactive nature of conversational commerce puts the contact centre right in the middle of the action.

(The author is SVP Global Marketing, IMImobile)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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