The Next Frontier for Bots: Customer Success

2016 will be remembered as the year that bots arrived. You can now order tacos from Slack using Taco Bell’s TacoBot. You can get a recipe for your next meal from Whole Foods’ Messenger bot. Google’s Allo integrates with your phone’s messaging system to simplify communication with your friends. Nordstrom’s chatbot will help you find that perfect gift you’ve been looking for.

The emergence of bots—software built on machine learning, natural language processing, and automated workflows, or a combination thereof, to automate increasingly complex but often repetitive tasks—is one of the most fascinating technology trends in recent times. Looking back, Apple’s Siri was the first successful commercial implementation of a bot. Amazon’s Echo is an instance of a recent commercially successful application of the concept. In the contemporary software context, a bot typically performs a narrower but increasingly intelligent set of tasks. In the enterprise world, business processes that involve manual verification and validation represent a huge opportunity for automation via bots. Bots with self-learning capabilities will change how enterprises respond in terms of manpower required and scale of deployment.

While there are a great many applications utilizing bots and automation, the common thread that runs across all of them is that they operate for the primary purpose of improving the customer experience. Today’s companies have to differentiate themselves from the competition by providing the best possible customer journey, and for this reason, they’ve been investing significantly in customer success (CS) teams and platforms. This brings us to a very interesting question: What is the scope for bots in customer success efforts?

While one can never know for sure what the future holds, current developments reveal some of the contours that are likely to come into sharper focus in the coming months. A notable trend is the expansion of enterprise platforms that are expected to fulfill these key attributes: They have to be productive, predictive, and proactive, with the ability to go beyond simple data visualization. The key to realizing these requirements in a platform lies in bots and automation.

Bots Will Make CS Professionals Productive

As their customer base grows, companies find they have to increasingly segment their customers and focus their resources appropriately. It is of vital necessity to ensure that customer success teams are as productive as possible—efficient operations equal revenue expansion in most accounts. Most CS professionals spend a majority of their time researching customer pain points, scheduling business meetings, documenting help scenarios, and keeping track of events, among other low-priority tasks.

Bots can make a big difference here, enabling human resources to be directed toward more essential tasks. Use cases range from the simple—such as automating on-boarding workflows—to the more nuanced—such as directing customers to knowledge base articles that detail complex product capabilities. Typically, these tasks tend to be repetitive and thus don’t require a human being to press the button, figuratively. Current CS tools use a workflow-based approach to handle such requests and streamline operations. Bots enable the application of context-sensitive intelligence to significantly improve the productivity of customer success teams. 

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