Published: May 07, 2019 | Comments
Since the dawn of time, humans have used technology to improve the way we
live. From our earliest forays into fire-making to building the first cars,
it’s human ingenuity which has helped us take raw materials around us and
transform them into new inventions to make our lives easier.
In the present day and the realm of the contact center, we’re on the cusp
of widespread adoption of a new technology. One which holds the promise to
make business faster and easier, for us and for our customers – and that’s
through automation, with Chatbots leading the fore.
Any technology requires human skill and knowledge to make it work. Even
those first humans making fire needed to understand how friction could be
transformed into sparks, applying their abilities in combination with
materials to produce those first licks of flame.
Just because a technology is advanced, doesn’t mean it can create or
maintain itself, and Chatbots are no different. Behind every great Chatbot
experience is a great human – someone who can design a service which
effectively meets customer needs, and who grows the bot’s capabilities over
time through testing and feedback.
Despite all of the hype and excitement around Chatbots, there’s often
little said about the humans behind the bots. What sort of people are
building bots? What skills do they require? And what do contact center
leaders need to do to find, grow and nurture these people to help their
centers get ready for automation?
To help answer these questions, I’ve called on Comm100’s resident Chatbot
expert, Matthew Jinks. Matt has been instrumental in building our own
chatbot on our website, as well as helping companies around the world get
great results from their chatbot implementations, so he’s well qualified to
share what’s needed to nurture a budding bot building specialist.
Hi Matt! What got you interested in building and training chatbots?
I liked the idea of working with emerging technology. I’ve always been
fascinated with the idea of AI, and I thought it was a great opportunity to
expose myself to something which will probably play a growing role in our
lives moving forward.
Personally, I don’t like waiting for service for something simple. Waiting
on the phone for 20 minutes to update my billing address when I move is a
waste of my time. If more businesses offered bots for functions like this,
I would jump at the opportunity to use them. That being said, I know there
are a lot of interactions which shouldn’t be automated, and I wanted to
develop something which frees up agent time to handle those more complex
and sensitive interactions.
Are specific technical skills or knowledge, like coding, for
example, needed to build and train chatbots?
There are a lot of great software companies out there who make it easy for
non-technical people to build chatbots, without needing to code. If you’re
implementing sophisticated chatbot functions like account management or
order taking, this side would normally be handled by an IT team. But for
the bulk of the building and ongoing training of a bot through an
established chatbot platform, this doesn’t need to be handled by people
with an IT background, and someone without a lot of technical skill could
definitely get to grips with the work.
What about specific personal attributes and attitudes which are
likely to gear bot builders up for success?
The bulk of the work that needs to be done when building a chatbot is
researching which questions your customers are asking, identifying which
ones can be automated and then crafting clear and concise answers. This
work is ideal for someone with strong communication skills, who enjoys
understanding customer behavior, and a passion for delivering great
It’s a plus if a person enjoys systems-oriented thinking. Sometimes
customers ask questions which require the bot to ask clarifying questions
before it can return a proper answer. For complex interactions like this,
it’s best to map them out beforehand, so you understand how to get the
customer where they are trying to go to as quickly as possible.
What's most interesting or rewarding about working with chatbots?
When I deploy a new chatbot or significantly upgrade one, I read all of the
bot’s conversation transcripts to see how it’s doing. There’s no real need
to do this since we have analytics and learning components that tell me
where the bot may be falling short. But seeing someone come in with a query
or service request and having it successfully handled by a response or
workflow I’ve created is really satisfying. You put in all this work and
thought into the chatbot, but never know whether customers will like it or
not until it’s deployed. It’s great when that work pays off.
What advice would you give to a contact center manager looking to
help an employee take on chatbot responsibility?
Give them time to understand the technology. The more their skillset grows,
the more complex interactions they’ll be able to design. This is an
emerging technology, and there’s a lot to learn. If you let the person
handling your chatbot deployment invest time and effort into understanding
the technology, you’re going to have a much better internal SME and an even
better chatbot deployment.
Understand that they probably won’t get the whole thing right on the first
go-around. Test out your chatbot thoroughly internally before launch, keep
fine-tuning and making things better. Be patient, because the rewards for
doing this task well are immense.
Thanks, Matt for your time and insights!
Automation promises to change the working world fundamentally, and our
contact centers are no different.
state that by 2030, as many as 375 million workers – around 14% of the
global workforce – may need to switch roles as digitization, automation,
and advances in AI change the way work has been done in the past.
But there will always be a need for human oversight into customer
interactions, even if Chatbots handle them. Rather than agents being
replaced by Chatbots, the contact centers of the future will need employees
to act as stewards of this technology, guiding and training bots to perform
the best they can. Customer needs are never static, so that fine-tuning
will take place well into the foreseeable future.
I hope this interview with Matt has shown that there aren’t better
candidates for these roles than the stars that work within almost every
contact center out there – those agents who are technologically savvy,
emotionally intelligent, and who already understand customer needs
These could be great roles for staff who are keen to develop beyond
traditional contact center career paths. Job descriptions in this area
could be filled with vital and pioneering new responsibilities to tackle,
· Creating sophisticated, personalized Chatbots which adapt to different
types of customers, different types of processes, or different places in
the customer journey
· Using AI to sort and categorize messy data, uncovering hidden customer
trends and insights
· Customer Journey Mapping specifically to find areas where automation
could do better than the status quo
· Knowledge Management responsibility (the backbone of many good Chatbot
· Chatbot building for internal uses (Onboarding bot, anyone?)
· Chatbots that sit alongside internal knowledge bases to suggest answers
for live agents – and even suggest answers to be added to the knowledge
base from agent interactions.
AI is becoming better and more sophisticated by the day, offering more
possibilities for businesses who are seeking to scale in ways that don’t
just involve hiring more staff. The days of “easy calls” are already
largely gone, due to self-service. The contact center landscape is changing
fast and adapting to these changes can seem intimidating.
But I know that all of our contact centers contain bright, talented people
who can help us to get there. There’s certainly no rulebook for adapting to
technological change – we’re all on the cutting edge together.
The beauty of starting change through adopting chatbots is that software is
now at a place where we don’t even need much of a rulebook. We don’t need
our automation SMEs to have an IT degree and know how to code in 15
languages. We just need to develop the bright, talented people within our
centers in the right ways.
The more that contact centers can create career paths which align with new
technology, the more that our businesses and our people will be able to
really benefit from technological change – making the next generation of
contact centers pioneering, future-ready, and truly exciting places to be a