Companies turned to chatbots and self-service technologies in their droves during 2020. In a bid to keep customers, staff and business partners up to date with pandemic-enforced changes (often with just a skeleton workforce), self-service was often the only option. It was a rapid change, but also an acceleration of the trend enabled by digital technologies.
For businesses, AI can be used to offer workers constant, real-time access to useful HR information or give customers up-to-date news on deliveries.
Take Vodafone’s TOBi chatbot, for example. It’s powered by IBM Watson technology and can hold a conversation with customers. The intelligent solution understands tone and meaning which means he gets the customer’s request 90% of the time. In addition to responding to the customer, the AI assistant can make account changes when required.
But with this capability, what does the future look like?
Bot-to-bot is the future
Gartner predicts that by 2022, 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as machine learning (ML) applications, chatbots and mobile messaging, and 85% of customer service interactions will start with self-service. In the future, interactions will actually be bot-to-bot as individuals start to ask their own bots to undertake tasks.
Similarly, while customer resources like FAQs and video tutorials are well established – companies will need to offer more to appeal to the demands and expectations of a digitally sophisticated customer base. This is where companies can make better use of IoT, mobile applications and social networks to keep track of and respond to customer activity – such as placing an order or checking an order’s status.
Known as Event-Driven Architecture (EDA), this ability to capture events as they happen will help a company to understand what its customers are doing – and respond fast, if appropriate. By including IoT in the mix, any customer interaction via a connected device can be captured.
Cross business data sharing
Self-service is also at the heart of successful, trusted business relationships. Business-to-business (B2B) relationships have depended on data sharing for years. Retailers, for example, provide suppliers with just-in-time orders; while suppliers share up-to-date information regarding order status, pricing and delivery updates. Digital technologies, including IoT and the cloud, mean that multiple business operations can be tightly embedded within a single ecosystem, delivering the ultimate self-service business experience.
The combination of low-power, wide-area networks (LPWA) and integrated SIM (iSIM) is also providing companies with immediate information about the location of every item in the supply chain – on a global scale. Low-power networks, such as Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT), which provide low-cost communications and high signal penetration underground and in buildings, don’t carry a lot of data but are perfect for battery-powered IoT devices that include an iSIM – such as smart labels.
These low-cost solutions mean products can be tracked and monitored through the supply chain. The data is stored and analysed in the cloud – making it possible for suppliers, customers and business partners – such as logistics companies – to access the latest status.
Different business models will evolve – some will offer self-service access to this data as part of the business relationship, on the basis that the more informed business partners are, the more efficient and productive the entire ecosystem will be. For others, this data will have real value – and a premium will be charged to use it.
Keeping employees in the loop
With so many employees now working from home, companies can offer self-service access to an array of information – from the latest health and safety guidance to evolving ‘back to the office’ plans, as and when people are ready.
The self-service trend is now firmly embedded within many digital businesses, providing 24x7 services and support for the entire stakeholder community – employees, suppliers, customers and partners.
Want to find out more about using self-service to achieve further benefits in cost savings and efficiency? Check out our guide on creating a low-touch, self-serve customer experience.