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Ways to Strengthen AI-Driven Chatbots and Human Customer Service Agent Partnerships

In an increasingly distributed world made possible by ever-advancing digital capabilities, the need for robust customer service is only growing. However, human customer service agents are expensive, and many organizations’ agents are simply overwhelmed by the level of demand for customer service.


The good news is that a natural partnership between chatbots and humans can be highly effective. Structured correctly, this collaboration can help reduce costs while improving service levels.



How Human Customer Service Agents Can Help Train Their Chatbot Colleagues
An AI interface that can solve comprehensive customer problems without human intervention does not yet exist in any business domain.


Therefore, the key to continually reducing customer service costs is ongoing training of the AI-driven chatbot to ultimately make it smarter and more capable. Upon its launch, an AI-driven chatbot will be fairly intelligent, having been thoughtfully trained and given access to large data sets. However, despite the best training and application of natural language processing (NLP), the AI-driven chatbot will still have much to learn.


Just like a human apprentice, an AI-driven chatbot learns with the help of its more experienced human coworkers.



Understand the Landscape of Your Customer Service Needs
The first step in creating the best partnership between human and chatbot members of your customer service team is to fully understand your organization’s customer service needs.



Which customer service needs are straightforward and change infrequently?

  • Password resets
  • Product return policies and procedures
  • Hours of operation
  • Shipping policies
  • Product or service selection for decisions lacking complex inputs



Which customer service needs are more complicated and dynamic?

  • Information about a new product or program
  • Assistance with selection decisions for products or services with complicated and dynamic inputs
  • Information about rapidly changing situations
  • Problems that cannot be resolved with simple policy information
  • Frustrated or angry customers—particularly high-value customers

With a solid understanding of your customer service needs, you can strategically allocate tasks to your chatbots and human agents based on their capabilities.



To Be Good Partners, Bots Need Ongoing Training
For straightforward and relatively unchanging customer service needs, the chatbot’s engineers can do most of the training.


However, for customer service responsibilities that involve changing information, business users will need to introduce new information to their chatbots’ knowledge base. Because business users are typically not engineers, adding information to bots’ knowledge base should only involve simple information pushes.


New information to train bots will come from a variety of sources. However, human customer service agents will play a vital role in the training process.


In many applications, a crucial aspect of both outstanding customer service and bot training is determining effective handoffs to the humans on the team. These handoffs ensure that customers’ problems are solved. After human agents address issues the bot could not solve, call transcripts are funnelled into the bot’s knowledge base, further training the bot, and making the bot more intelligent and capable of serving the next customer.


By digesting the transcripts of the service calls, they learn from their human colleagues and become increasingly valuable partners.



How Chatbots Benefit Their Human Colleagues
The obvious benefit bots provide their human colleagues is effectively addressing routine and often tedious tasks, allowing humans to focus their energies on more complicated challenges or issues that require human empathy and understanding.


Additionally, human agents can learn from their chatbot teammates. By reviewing customer–bot interactions when customers are transferred to agents, human agents can learn more about where customers are getting stuck, confused, or challenged.


These insights are invaluable for driving the overall improvement of customer service organizations.



Human–Bot Partnerships Advance Customer Service Organizations
Humans are capable of empathy, understanding nuance, and rapid problem-solving. But humans are expensive. Once developed, AI-driven chatbots can be applied to resolve vast numbers of inquiries around the clock without needing time off to rest. Additionally, chatbots can work across channels, seamlessly recording activity wherever it occurs.


Properly trained bots can mitigate the costs of providing excellent customer service. They do this by performing as many tasks as possible, allowing expensive human agents to dedicate their efforts to what they do best—innovating solutions, anticipating needs, and improving how they serve customers.


It is only through this escalating effectiveness that customer service organizations can rise to meet increasingly demanding and complex customer service needs.

As the gradual demand rises, customer interaction and experience have become of primary importance for any brand. At the same time, automation has revolutionized every industry with varied technological inventions. Hence, to resolve queries, for instant solutions and to get answers to many questions quickly, chatbots have become the most preferred channel. Intelligent digital assistants work like Siri or Alexa and use Machine learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to answer questions asked via voice or text through messaging channels that users prefer, delivering the digital experience today’s customer expects. As per KPMG research, digital technologies are expected to automate most of the activities performed with productivity equal to the labour output of approx. USD 5.5 to 6.4 trillion by 2025. It may also change the landscape of knowledge workers, with technology offerings equal to the capacity of between 120 and 140 million employees by 2025. Smart machines have also been predicted to be among the top 5 investment opportunities for CIOs in the future.



How do NLP and ML make conversational AI bots smart?

Chatbot solutions function with the help of a brain called an AI engine and powers many AI technologies, sometimes all at once, to give instant replies. ML and NLP are the technological processes that enable a computer to understand not only the information but also the objective of an input by a user. ML is the application in AI chatbots that offers the capability to automatically learn and enhance from experience without being specifically programmed. ML/ NLP lets your chatbot behave in a somewhat human-like behaviour as it gradually learns to understand and respond to a user applying their natural language pattern. This makes your chatbot smart enough to derive a sense of the important components in a text or voice query, improvise wherever required and then serve a reply.



What is a Digital Assistant?

A digital assistant is a far more intelligent and efficient form of a regular AI chatbot. It is a conversation-driven interface to drive efficiency through automation. Digital Assistant is a ‘smart’ conversational AI that creates a 24/7 self-help channel for its users, provides reliable- ideal responses across channels and runs on a user’s personal device. Users can not only ask questions, but also control media playback and home automation devices via voice, and manage other simple jobs such as email, to-do lists, and calendar updates easily with some verbal commands. It communicates in multiple ways, from visuals to voice to text etc.  Some digital assistants have the inbuilt capability to learn your native language for conversation and enable omnichannel support to customers across platforms like websites and apps. Digital assistants can be trained for multiple roles and bridge the gap in activities which were previously left incomplete due to inconstant follow-up and human interactions. Some digital assistants are extremely sensitive machines that, with the tone of the user’s voice and the words used, can even sense the mood of the user. These machines build further on their capabilities and intelligence with each interaction and experience with their users.



Role of Digital Assistant in Education

In education, a digital assistant can help to offer the most intimate learning and counselling experience for each student. Digital assistants can support the university by improving student success, making financial aid applications easier, offering housing application guidance, boosting office productivity, and reducing wait times for IT support. By employing a digital assistant, a university can simply train the system once to offer resources and solutions it extends and this ‘intelligent employee’ can later handle multiple crisis and queries with responses that resonate with the goals of the institution. This way frees up the staff member, earlier involved in tedious queries, to focus on higher value work. Due to its capability to perform multiple tasks and play the role of multiple resources, research from a leading economic institution in London indicates an ROI of 600- 800% for specific tasks in robotic technologies. Implementation of a digital assistant can result in a complete experience for the end-users, both students and staff.



Benefits of implementing AI-based digital assistants in education:

  • 24/7 availability to access information
  • ‘Learns’ the preferences and user behaviors of the user
  • One-time training to get the AI system up to speed
  • Supports staff members with various tasks
  • Helps reduce the volume of inquiries to administrative departments
  • On-demand, tailored, instant support for simple to complex queries
  • Personalized learning and counselling experience
  • Can work on student’s personal devices
  • Interprets the tone of the query and the words used to sense the emotional health of a person
  • Can be trained to escalate the query to the actual human, wherever required
  • Push notifications facility to deliver critical updates instantly


AI chatbots are no more simple dumb machines and there are substantial precedents to prove that they are evolving over the years. And studies show that AI and robotic technologies will more likely become the digital humans of the future, which is here and now. Employing a digital assistant not only gives your brand an edge to differentiate but also offers your customers the innovative digital experience they deserve.

The education sector is one of many sectors that has become adversely affected due to COVID-19 pandemic. Student, parents and the entire community is searching for answers to the questions, and many unknowns about virtually every aspect of the student life, from student housing to financial aid, to commencement, to career placement programs, and much more. No one has been prepared for a pandemic like COVID-19, thus everything is being planned now, simultaneously, as and when the universities are receiving guideline from the Federal Govt. Therefore, Universities need to be prepared at-all-times. Even after it ends, this crisis will serve as the best practice use case example for college and universities to manage other short-lived crisis communications.



AI chatbots support personalized & seamless communication in Higher Education

Communication and information serves as a means of comfort to the students throughout the college tenures and a lot of information is required, both, to instruct and comfort parents/ students and AI chatbots can serve as an excellent, reliable & real-time distribution channel for information. Today, implementing AI chatbots is a smart move for any university that wishes to yield long term benefits like effectively handle the sheer volume of questions from students and their parents while making sure the distributed information is consistent, factual, and sets an effective tone. Additionally, for convenience, chatbots are available to supply information 24/7. Students can use chatbots to quickly connect with their advisors, ask questions about their schedules, major subjects, course loads, career and get course recommendations, anytime of the day.


Despite being a preferred method of communication, problem with emails is that sometimes they are easily lost and forgotten, especially in the events of crisis, enrollments, distribution of financial aid etc. where overwhelming volume of messages are received from people. However, Chatbots are extremely capable of answering common questions, which can easily account for up to 45 percent of the total inquiry volume, and they can also direct users to key communication resources that would otherwise be challenging to compile. Chatbots help colleges and universities keep information accessible and provides up-to-date, personalized responses to each person’s query. When the information is extremely urgent or a significant change has taken place, AI chatbots can send push notifications to deliver critical updated instantly.



Earn endless financial benefits with AI Chatbots

Colleges and universities may find it challenging to help relieve cost pressures while improving customer service to meet the needs of their students. The cost of a group of human representatives responding to inquiries across all the departments can be considerably high and replying to the same query again and again, connecting to varied departments and long call hold times can be a tedious. Statistics state that around 38 percent of the questions posed to one department belong to the domain of another and the lack of connection can force students to enter a maddening search maze. AI chatbots simplify this process by gathering and tying required information from all the different departments together to improve experiences and save time. With AI chatbot’s capability to provide instant responses and answers, in case of emergencies, in case of addressing complex issues or if the information is not well organized, the cost of fielding questions can be reduced significantly.


That does not mean in any way that Chatbots will replace the human team members responsible for assisting students and their parents. As per Salesforce reports, ‘64% of agents who use chatbots are free to spend their time solving more difficult and complex problems whereas only 50% of agents without chatbots have the same luxury.’



Adopt an AI Chatbot today!

Universities will not only benefit by significantly reducing the costs of providing the required information, but the experience of acquiring this information is also much easier and much less frustrating with AI Chatbots.

Did you ever notice the chat window that suddenly pops-up as soon as you land onto a website and says ‘How may I help you today?’ Do you ever get the feeling that the person you are chatting with doesn’t seem to be a human…. might actually be a robot? Those are chatbots, conversational software applications considered as a best substitute to a direct human assistance for conducting interactions in today’s date. They vary substantially in sophistication, be it text- or voice-based, or a combination of both, and a great self-help solution for forward-thinking brands.


As per Chatbots Life, so far USA, India, Germany, the UK, and Brazil are the top five countries using chatbots the most. Chatbots can also help to cut operational costs by up to 30%. A Gartner report predict that, as per their chatbot statistics, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without humans by 2021. According to Juniper’s research, the introduction of chatbots will save 2.5 billion service man hours over the coming years. All these statistics point only in one direction, meaning that the users i.e. millennials or boomers are both liking the use of chatbots. Internet users are highly satisfied with chatbots and millennials around the world are already using them regularly for varied activities. Businesses are planning to spend more on chatbots than mobile apps for the text-savvy generation of today.



Types of Chatbots:

Today, chatbots can be categorized as either rule-based chatbots or artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. A rules-based chatbot has a pre-defined set of questions, answered and data fed within by human operator and when asked questions, it provide replies based on a set of rules defined by their human operators. This type of chatbot conversations end on a note of either offering a specific piece of information, an invitation to talk to a human, or the request to follow up later. It can also be simple FAQ type of applications where a defined set of information is collected to move to the next level—qualifying a potential sales lead, for example. The drawback here is that the chatbot will not respond beyond the very specific programmed commands.



What makes AI Chatbots unique?

AI chatbots comes handy and fits the purpose, for today’s information hungry generation that looks for the information on their fingertips. AI chatbots are designed to understand language outside of a set of pre-defined rules and algorithms and are continually refined based on the input it receives from users. Using AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP), they are designed to operate virtually on their own, adjust based on patterns, and become smarter over time as they experience new situations.



AI Chatbots in Higher Ed

In uncertain times like today’s, AI chatbots are extremely useful for organizations responding to large number of incoming queries and complex sets of information, 24/7 365 days.  As Covid-19 has disrupted several schedules indefinitely, AI-driven chatbots are best suited for colleges and universities that are contemplating flexible decision making, deeper dive into predictive analysis and sentimental analysis.


Lately, there are three major solution categories emerged in Higher Education, concerning the student lifecycle, that include a variety of AI-based solutions:


Prospect to Enrollment Student Engagement Alumni Development
  • Gathering admissions information
  • Providing detailed instructions on completing Financial Aid and FAFSA forms
  • Ensuring housing issues are resolved prior to arrival on campus
  • Staying up to date on campus opening dates, activities and events
  • Enhance academic advising with info on GPA, grade forgiveness, changing majors, scholarships and bottleneck courses
  • Handling IT support services automatically, including password resets and resource availability
  • Track homework assignments and identify potential study group members
  • Get learning assistance by identifying university resources related to subject
  • Sign-ups and reminders for alumni events
  • Creating mentoring opportunities by matching students to alumni
  • Uncovering associations between alumni and organizations


So all-in-all, higher education can benefit a great deal from chatbots as they offer real-time, on-demand, instant response for simple to the most complex queries. AI Chatbot has the capability to enhance online experience for the consumer. It will not only handle multiple queries at the same time but also remembers and learn, in a way self-train itself. With growing trust on AI chatbots Universities can take advantage of the same and use the technology to comfort its students, their parents, the staff and faculty members. AI chatbots are the intelligence drivers that will transform, empower and evolve the face of many industries, including but not limited to, higher education.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) based solutions are becoming more widespread on campus, offering the potential to address many of the longstanding challenges in Higher Ed from student success, access to financial aid, academic advising to departmental productivity, just to name a few.


The power of these new solutions is rooted in access and availability of data. Solutions that service students effectively from admission to graduation must have access to personalized student data and university information. AI solutions can then be developed that aligns with the student’s interests, monitors progress and matches him/her to right university resources.


From our experience in deploying AI, we understand how personalization impacts trust and the ultimate success of AI on campus. Universities and students alike need to be assured that their data is secure and not being used for unintended purposes. This is a broader trend across industry and we’re now seeing federal and state legislatures grapple with AI driven issues around data usage.


Well-developed AI solutions for Higher Ed integrate existing learning management systems, student information systems and campus platforms, like Blackboard, PeopleSoft and Banner. It’s no surprise that FERPA compliance, privacy, and security, are all issues we face on a regular basis. An information breach in any of these systems would have negative ramifications for students, administrators, schools and as well as our own brand.



Important points to consider:
Here are some major lessons we have learned from our initial roll-outs of AI solutions in Higher Ed. They are applicable to any campus deploying an AI solution and provide insights on issues related to data privacy, security and overall trust.


1. With great power comes great responsibility – if it’s legal, it doesn’t mean it’s ethical, nor considered acceptable by the user. For example, administrators requested a “find my student” capability to remind them of class attendance. We advised that unless this is a specific opt-in by the student in bold capital letters, it would result in an immense loss of trust in the school and the product.


2. Ownership – who owns the information/interaction with AI? Is it the institution? Or does the student have a claim? Establishing ownership upfront will define these parameters. Also, effective deployment of AI requires services from other providers like Google, Azure and other cloud services. Ensuring you have use of data agreements in place can prevent situations which result in a loss of user trust.


3. Collaborative input reduces fear of the unknown – we sought feedback from the stakeholders about their challenges. This one-to-one relieved the concerns from advisors that the “robot” would replace them. Score two for building trust and a cadre of potential evangelists for AI.


4. The option of choice is empowering – students were given all the choices: opt-in to the system, set up their individual profiles with as much or as little information as possible, select which types notifications and the frequency they were received and who else could share information e.g. parents.


5. Prevention is better than cure – We ensure multiple authentications and limited access to information on insecure locations/devices. For example, most smart speakers could not support authentication or were in public place so a smart speaker user cannot access personal student info. Clients understand that no system is failsafe but knowing we did everything possible to secure their interests was enough to also secure their trust.


6. Integrate AI with current “trusted apps” – New AI solutions can be deployed on campus by integrating with the school’s mobile app to create a seamless user experience and to extend the institution’s brand. We encourage this approach because familiarity accelerates user adoption rates. What is familiar is relatable, and it’s more easily welcomed into one’s life – a great lesson in building trust. A caveat – make sure the new AI solution aligns with the target app in terms of usability and functionality.


7. Peer influencers build trust – video demos on the school channels fueled adoption rates especially since today’s college students prefer this media and will share extensively with networks.


8. Manage expectations – Let people know what to expect up front – AI has a learning curve. It responds with rapidly increasing accuracy as the AI learns from interactions. No AI system can ever know the universe of questions, but campus AI apps will have a firm handle on at least 80% to 90% of information required. People trust you when you tell them the truth upfront and always.


It’s interesting to note the differences between generations how personalization is perceived. Generation Z welcomed Artificial Intelligence. Research from the California universities showed that this group prefers self-service, AI, and a high level of personalization).



Lessons from Facebook fake accounts and bots which profiled and fed false information on social media should make us wary enough. We’re now seeing greater legislation, penalties and oversight bodies in place to regulate, not just how to secure data to personalize, but how all the additional data we gather is used. A company with less integrity may decide to sell data where students in a particular locale dine, party or shop. (We have our own “Use of Data” clauses as an assurance to our clients and all potential buyers should ask to see these policies).


Personalization technology is likely to become more pervasive or intrusive depending on your point of view. Whether we embrace it with enthusiasm or restrict its use with caution, each Higher Ed institution will need to make that decision. Following the guidelines provided above will help ensure your AI deployment strikes the right balance between information access and privacy/security to achieve trust.