The problem of deploying bots for bots’ sake

Written by on October 26, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments
kirill_makarov /

kirill_makarov /

It seems as if we have suddenly become obsessed with bots (good definition here). Everyone with a customer service operation or a social media channel seems to be rolling out their bots like there is no tomorrow.

Yet, the objective is not the bots being rolled out, in the context of an ‘AI, VR, machine learning, experience enhancing environment’ (or whatever), it is to make the customer experience more human.

Not less.

One problem is that we are at the very beginning (or real world beginning) of the potential of all these new techniques to enhance the experience. In some cases, and some quite public cases, the bot implementation can go badly wrong.

As with many things in this highest of high tech world, it is about balance. And common sense.

It makes (common) sense to look around for companies that have their strategy right, when it comes to bots.

The Dutch airline KLM seems to have got it right.

Their ‘old’ social strategy was based on ‘service’, ‘brand’ and ‘commerce’. Service is about a one hour response time and a 24 hour solution time (depending on urgency), brand is about, well, brand, and commerce is about making it is easy for the customer to interact and buy tickets via social media channels.

As an aside, KLM’s €3,500 investment in an easy ‘social’ payment platform, is now producing a return of €150,000 a week. Via the company’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, passengers can receive and pay for tickets, receive notifications and a few other things.

As another aside, this customer centric view feeds into a larger marketing picture. As Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, KLM’s social media manager, said at the recent Festival of Marketing, “when a customer loses his suitcase, that is the most important issue”. This change to a customer centric view gave rise to the hugely successful ‘lost property’ TV campaign.

Vogel-Meijer is determined to make life easier for the customer. That is why she does not push customers to the KLM app, rather makes KLM information and functionality available inside the apps that customers use regularly – Twitter, Facebook et al.

When KLM hit Facebook, the volume of messages soared to a million in the first three months, and they now get five questions a minute via Facebook Messenger. At quiet times.

Enter the bots.

Bots push boarding passes and information to customers and AI is now being used to collect information on customers to allow customer services reps to answer questions, better and faster. But neither bots nor AI are the whole answer for KLM.

And nor should they be for any digital company.

Even when the technology is a lot better and more advanced, the solution to problems of scale or complexity – the usual trigger for automation – should remain a hybrid one.


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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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