Why customer service agents are the ideal chatbot developers


As the face of an organisation, customer service agents ensure that potential and existing customers have the best possible experience. They know how to have meaningful conversations with customers and how to solve their questions and problems in the best possible way. Still, when it comes to finding solutions for the biggest challenges of today’s customer service, service agents often are overlooked. In this blog we take a look into the future of chatbot development and the role customer service agents could play in it.

This article was first published via Chatbots Journal.

Why do we tend to turn to IT or other departments when it comes to creating new customer experiences and automating processes, while the knowledge about customers and the skills to handle conversations lies within customer service? For many years the development of chatbots was too complicated for non-tech people with no coding knowledge. Fortunately new chatbot platforms have the potential to close the gap. With the evolution of innovative chatbot platforms it is now possible to develop a chatbot completely without specific programming knowledge. The user-friendly interfaces let you assemble and deploy a chatbot within days. This opens doors for non-tech people to dive into the world of chatbot development and find new ways to improve existing processes.

Beginning of this year we already forecasted a shift from having chatbots developed and managed by external parties to taking the technology in-house. Now it’s time to go a step further and have the people who work side by side with the bots take over the development of the bots themselves.

Going new ways in customer service

Customer service departments are operating at the core of every customer-facing organisation and they hold a big responsibility in ensuring happy and loyal customers. This is a challenging endeavour in today’s digitalized world where consumers expect world class service, as fast as possible and via their preferred channel, while the amount of messages is constantly increasing. Consequently, modern customer service agents have to take on more and more tasks or go new ways to find solutions for the increasing workload.

“I strongly believe that customer service agents are most eligible to find these solutions and take ownership for building new customer experiences themselves. After all they are the ones who are responsible for providing the best customer service and the ones who have a good understanding of the existing processes”, says Frank Smit, CIO at OBI4wan.

Taking things into your own hands

Customer service agents are passionate about engaging with customers in a meaningful way and making them happy. Moreover, they know the company’s products, services and customer inside out and apply this knowledge every day. They know when to show empathy, how to direct a conversation and solve customer questions in the best possible way. This makes them ideal candidates to develop a chatbot, given that you have the right tools in place.

“With your customer service agents you already have people in place that understand how to have conversations with customers. With an easy-to-use platform you can empower employees to automate solutions themselves”, says Frank Smit.

Usually chatbots are developed based on decision trees or flowcharts with yes/no answers. This makes it very cumbersome for non-tech people to design dialogues.

chatbot dialogue development obi4wan

“Using flowcharts looks a bit like you are taking the human element out of the way, ” Frank Smit.

Customer service agents are used to onboarding and training new colleagues following specific procedures. What if they could apply this way of working also to developing a chatbot?

“The trick is to transform something complex into something easy. For a customer service agent the process of developing dialogues for a chatbot should be similar to training a co-worker where they also explain how to have a dialogue with customers,” Frank Smit.

chatbot dialogue development obi4wan

In the example above you can see two frequently asked questions to restaurants and a chatbot dialogue designed to answer these questions. It starts with a greeting after which the chatbot asks how he can help. In the first dialogue someone wants to book a table and in the second dialogue someone wants to know the address of one of the restaurant branches. Having had many similar conversations in the past, the customer service agent knows which flow the conversation takes and which information he needs to ask and provide to help the customer. All he needs to do is fill in the questions and answers in a way he would provide them to customers himself in a natural setting. The rest is taken care of by the Conversational AI platform that understands the semantics of the conversational design and is thus not restricted to the design but can dynamically respond to the given question.

“In this way the technology becomes a representation of the service agent himself”, Frank Smit.

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