Voice and Chat Assistants: 4 Ways to Benefit From Bots in 2020
Customers love voice and chat assistants, the conversational interfaces that turn on the lights, help home chefs cook an egg to perfection, and make it easy for consumers to research and buy goods online. However, while customers are already building strong relationships with these conversational assistants, retailers are still learning how to best use conversational bots to drive engagement and strengthen their customer relationships.
Nonetheless, these conversational assistants represent a fantastic opportunity for retailers to humanize their interactions with customers at scale, as long as it’s done with proper understanding of what it takes to engage with customers and how to deploy voice and chat to drive growth and return in 2020.
Conversational Assistants, Defined
Conversational interfaces fall into two categories: voice and chat.
Voice assistants are mediums that can be accessed through voice commands on a smart speaker or smartphone application. Examples include Google Home and Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana. By speaking commands to these devices and apps, users can perform a variety of tasks, such as researching products and services, making online purchases, getting answers to questions, and controlling other devices (e.g., home thermostats).
Chat assistants are mediums that can be accessed through written commands. Chat assistants are most often found embedded in websites, online stores and social media platforms. Users type in commands or responses to questions prompted by the chat assistant to perform tasks, such as researching products and services, making online purchases, and finding answers to questions.
Both voice assistants and chat assistants leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to generate accurate and relevant answers, learn user preferences over time, and gradually improve the personalization of the assistant’s interactions with the user.
How Customers Engage With Conversational Assistants
According to Smart Talk, a research study published by Capgemini in 2019, conversational assistants are quickly becoming the busy customer’s trusted companion and preferred medium. Consider the following:
- Nearly three-quarters of customers (74 percent) say they use conversational assistants to research and buy products and services, create shopping lists, and check order statuses.
- Around 58 percent of customers use voice and chat assistants to play music, check for directions, make appointments for car service, and book rides on platforms such as Uber or Lyft.
- More than five in 10 customers (53 percent) use conversational assistants to learn about banking and insurance products, check account balances, pay credit card bills, and transfer funds.
Customers like voice assistants. Around 68 percent cite multitasking and being hands-free as major benefits of these assistants. Customers who use voice/chat assistants rate their level of satisfaction at 71 percent. And 70 percent of customers say they will progressively replace visits to a store with use of a voice assistant instead.
How Retailers Will Deploy Conversational Assistants in 2020
It’s clear that conversational assistants are transforming the way customers interact with retailers. Although 74 percent of organizations say that conversational assistants are a key enabler of their business and customer engagement strategy, the reality is that retailers are still struggling to deploy this new medium efficiently and effectively.
Around 76 percent of retailers have realized measurable benefits, such as reducing operations costs (e.g., 20 percent decrease in customer service costs, four man-hours saved per day) and improving the customer experience (e.g., increase NPS score by three points) from the use of conversational assistants. And yet, several best practices for deploying conversational assistants are already emerging:
1. Strive for more realistic interactions.
Previous Capgemini research on AI in the customer experience indicates that nearly 64 percent of customers want AI to be more human-like. That same logic holds true with conversational assistants. The importance of the human touch should not be overlooked.
One way companies can address this need is to make it easy for customers to shift from engaging with a conversational assistant to an actual person. Google, for example, recently discovered that 25 percent of the calls placed through to its AI-based voice assistant, Duplex, start with a human. And 15 percent of the calls that begin with its automated system have a human intervene at some point.
Achieving this requires a hyperconnected organization. Dialogues need to connect to enterprise systems and customer data to create personalized, contextualized and relevant interactions.
2. Enrich the experience with video and images.
Customers value information. Nearly two-thirds say their experience is enhanced by a range of additional information provided on-screen, such as images (63 percent of customers), videos (64 percent), or more textual information (65 percent).
The majority of retailers that are leading the way with conversational assistants are thoughtfully integrating video, images and other content to complement the basic functionality of their assistants. Imagine a user asking their voice assistant to bring up the latest Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour sneakers without any visual support, and you immediately see the benefit of adding video and images.
3. Build the right skill sets.
Mulitple Capgemini research projects on digital transformation have consistently shown that the standout challenge is digital skills. For organizations to succeed with conversational assistants, they must develop skills in three key areas:
- User experience design: Retailers will need user experience designers with voice application development skillsets. Retailers will need to approach creating a voice/chat application with a customer-centric mind-set and the same dedication they show with constantly optimizing their websites and mobile applications to provide the best user experience.
- Architecture and technology: Building conversational bots requires advanced technology platforms and the architects that design them. It entails acquiring AI services orchestration skills, next-best-action engines, and ML/deep learning model lifecycle toolchains.
- Legal and compliance: Conversational interfaces, like their larger cousin AI, are not highly regulated. As a result, companies lack guidance on areas like governance and controls, which puts both companies and their customers at risk. To minimize the risks of reputational and financial damage from a self-learning conversational interface going awry, organizations must hire or train talent to understand and manage emerging ethical, governance and compliance issues.
4. Put the customer at the center of selecting use cases.
Leading retailers stand out because they show a high degree of customer centricity at every step in designing a conversational assistant. The retailers that are using conversational assistants most successfully put a premium on customer-related factors, including:
- impact on customer trust (95 percent of leaders use this as a factor);
- solving known customer pain points (95 percent); and
- customer preferences on the use cases (94 percent).
This means organizations must focus on the customer impact of use cases rather than return on investment when choosing use cases. They also need to add measurement and feedback management into conversations so they measure impact and capture customer feedback.
“Alexa, what does 2020 look like?”
Customers are becoming comfortable engaging with conversational assistants. However, they're also developing expectations about where they want the bot to come in, when they want the human to come in, and for what sort of queries.
When used at the right time and in the right way, voice and chat assistants transform the customer experience. However, Capgemini research shows that many organizations don't have a mature approach to these technologies, lacking both customer centricity and organizational capabilities when it comes to deployment. As a result, they're missing the opportunity to build deeper, more valuable customer relationships.
Organizations must understand the evolving dynamic of where and when customers prefer to use conversational assistants, and then deploy the optimal combination of human and bot.
The conversational assistant revolution is just beginning, but the underlying rationale isn’t new: Success with conversational assistants will require putting the customer at the center of all interactions to deliver superb customer experiences, again and again.
Genevieve Chamard is partnership strategy leader, digital retail and manufacturing at Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation.
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Genevieve Chamard is Partnership Strategy Leader, Digital Retail & Manufacturing at Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation.
Genevieve Chamard is a strategy consultant with over 11 years of experience in retail store innovation. At Capgemini, she leads the Smart Digital Store offering and creates remarkable shopping experiences to help retailers achieve their future store vision. As part of this offering, Genevieve is an expert on conversational interfaces, closely following the evolving trends and assisting clients with developing voice assistant pilots to book appointments or receive personalized recommendations while in-store.