Article | August 11, 2020
The revolution of the public cloud has irrevocably changed the role of the CISO in the modern enterprise. The cloud is the biggest enabler in a generation and is a massive opportunity for enterprises to start innovating at speed and scale. But only if they bring their security with them on the journey! But the pace of change in the new world can feel unsettling, so it is not uncommon for CISOs and security teams to want to stick to older models and to double down on familiar ways of working.
Article | July 1, 2020
Chatbots have come a long way in the past few years. The improvements in technology have enabled developers to expand on bot capabilities far beyond just functioning as a FAQ. Today, the automation of chatbots can process orders, perform financial transactions, make bookings, and much more. (Check out other intelligent functions here.)
However, as intelligent as bots can be, no chatbot can handle and resolve all your customer queries. It simply cannot answer the infinite number of questions a human may throw at it. The technology is simply not there yet, and it may never truly get there. But perhaps more importantly, brands shouldn’t want a bot to manage every customer query.
A bot working independently of human involvement won’t always deliver the best results for customer or agent. It’s the combination of chatbots and human agents that takes customer service to new heights. What you need is a smart and efficient way of translating your organization’s unique customer service philosophy into appropriate action so that every question is met with an answer in the best way possible – whether that be by bot, human agent, or a blend of both.
To deliver this, you have to pay attention to the who, what, when, and where of customer engagement. You need to know who your highest-value customers are so you can always route them to a human agent, for example. You need to know what they need help with so a simple question can be managed by a bot. And the list goes on.
Here’s why humans need chatbots, and chatbots need humans – and how you can achieve this perfect balance to deliver support that will exceed customer expectations and generate substantial ROI.
Why humans need chatbots
There’s no doubt that supplementing customer-facing roles with automation can yield fantastic results. The launch of McDonald’s self-serve kiosks is a great example of this. By giving customers the option of ordering their meal through a kiosk, or through a cashier, McDonald’s demonstrates the success you can achieve by combining automation with human. Here are just some of the benefits it brought to the customer and employee experience:
1. Automating large portions of simple queries so workers have more time to focus on other, more complex tasks
2. Reducing monotonous, repetitive queries to improve employee experience
3. Catering to customer preferences – choose quick automated service or deeper human engagement
4. Reducing queue times, in turn improving customer experience
5. Lessening the opportunity for human error
6. Generating ROI by reducing staff numbers
These results almost identically mirror the benefits that intelligent chatbots can provide customer service teams. By implementing a bot, a large portion of frontline support can be automatically managed by the bot which:
1. Gives agents more time to handle complex questions
2. Reduces the monotony of answering repetitive questions
3. Allows customer to choose between chatting to a bot or an agent
4. Reduces wait time and queue length (through bot’s ability to handle infinite simultaneous conversations), in turn improving customer satisfaction through quicker resolution
5. Eliminates human error in data entry
6. Generates substantial ROI through lower service costs
See how closely those benefits match?
Recommended reading: Chatbot ROI Calculator
Why chatbots need humans
The relationship between bots and humans isn’t a one-way street. While agents need bots to provide more effective and efficient support, bots need agents to provide the personal, ‘human’ touch that many situations call for. In our latest 2020 Live Chat Benchmark Report, we found that chatbots handle 68.9% of their chats from start to finish – although an impressive stat, it still shows that many queries require an agent’s touch.
Recommended reading – 2020 Live Chat Benchmark Report
There are always going to be situations that call for human assistance: canceling a subscription, reporting a lost or stolen credit card, or registering a serious complaint. Or maybe the topic is sensitive, and your customer would feel more comfortable explaining their situation to an agent. Similarly, some (though increasingly less: stat?) people are still wary or reluctant to communicate with bots and prefer to only speak with a live agent. To cater to these customer preferences, it’s vital that these customers can be routed past or transferred from your chatbot to human agent without effort and without having to repeat themselves.
It’s important to note however, that transferring from bot to agent isn’t always just in the interest of the customer – it can often benefit the customer service team too. This is because not all queries are equal. For example, if a customer reaches out asking about a bank’s opening times, this can be easily managed by a bot. However, when the same customer asks about a loan, this high-value interaction may dictate that – according to your unique customer service view – a human agent takes over immediately to ensure the customer receives the best experience and you close the deal as quickly and effortlessly as possible. If your chatbot can’t do this, turn it off and find a chatbot that can (we can help with that).
How to create the perfect chatbot – human (agent) balance
To begin creating the right balance between chatbot and human, you need a bot that’s widely accessible to today’s digital-first consumers; your bot needs to be where they are, wherever they are. Comm100’s AI Chatbot can serve customers on web, in-app, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp for Business, and SMS. You also don’t need to build separate chatbots for each channel. Simply select the channels you want your bot to be available on (hint: all of them!) and you’re off.
Although your customers will know they are speaking to a bot (and you should make this clear to them to set expectations), you need a bot that understands natural human language. Comm100’s AI Chatbot harnesses the world’s most advanced NLP engine so that it can understand your customers’ goals and provide the answers they’re looking for. Better still, add a large range of off-the-shelf integrations to this, and the Comm100 bot can begin performing actions on behalf of your customers – from tracking an order and paying a bill, to booking a flight.
By resolving a large portion of your frontline customer service questions, your agents will have more time to focus on higher-value queries and customers that matter most to your bottom line.
Recommending reading: Comm100 Chatbot Resolves 91% of Assigned Live Chats for Tangerine
As we’ve discussed earlier, there will be times when you or a customer would rather connect with an agent than a bot. It’s crucial that your bot offers this flexibility.
Firstly, your bot should be able to give the customer the option to speak to an agent at any time. Eighty-six percent of consumers believe they should always have the option to transfer to a live agent when dealing with a chatbot. You can easily set this option up within the Comm100 AI Chatbot.
Next, you need a bot that can automatically identify the conversations that you want an agent to manage. This requires training your bot on the topics – ‘intents’, in bot lingo – that your customers will bring up. If there are specific intents that are of high value to you, you can tag them so when a customer mentions it, the bot recognizes it and automatically transfers the chat to the appropriate agent or department. The bot can also be trained to notify an agent or escalate the conversation when asked a question it can’t answer or if a visitor is clearly frustrated. As a failsafe, your agents should also be able to monitor bot conversations and take them over in these situations.
Chatbots will never replace whole customer service teams, and nor should they. The ‘human touch’ is still essential to customer support, and we are a long way off until this changes. However, if implemented intelligently, bots can resolve a great portion of customer queries without any human involvement, allowing team sizes to reduce, or remain the same in the face of increased support volume.
Take Tangerine, an Australian telecom company, for example. They experienced rapid growth, which in turn produced a surge in chat requests. By implementing Comm100’s AI Chatbot, up to 91% of assigned live chats were resolved by the bot without any agent involvement. As a result, Tangerine could manage the increase in chat volume without hiring and training more agents. And when high-value customers reached out, their agents were free to provide them with the best experience.
Article | August 13, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak in China has grown to a pandemic and is affecting the global health & social and economic dynamics. An ever increasing velocity and scale of analysis — in terms of both processing and access is required to succeed in the face of unimaginable shifts of market; health and social paradigms. The COVID-19 pandemic is accompanied by an Infodemic. With the global Novel Coronavirus pandemic filling headlines, TV news space and social media it can seem as if we are drowning in information and data about the virus. With so much data being pushed at us and shared it can be hard for the general public to know what is correct, what is useful and (unfortunately) what is dangerous. In general, levels of trust in scientists are quite high albeit with differences across countries and regions. A 2019 survey conducted across 140 countries showed that, globally, 72% of the respondents trusted scientists at “high” or “medium” levels. However, the proportion expressing “high” or “medium” levels of trust in science ranged from about 90% in Northern and Western Europe to 68% in South America and 48% in Central Africa (Rabesandratana, 2020).
In times of crisis, like the ongoing spread of COVID-19, both scientific & non-scientific data should be a trusted source for information, analysis and decision making. While global sharing and collaboration of research data has reached unprecedented levels, challenges remain. Trust in at least some of the data is relatively low, and outstanding issues include the lack of specific standards, co-ordination and interoperability, as well as data quality and interpretation. To strengthen the contribution of open science to the COVID-19 response, policy makers need to ensure adequate data governance models, interoperable standards, sustainable data sharing agreements involving public sector, private sector and civil society, incentives for researchers, sustainable infrastructures, human and institutional capabilities and mechanisms for access to data across borders.
The COVID19 data is cited critical for vaccine discovery; planning and forecasting for healthcare set up; emergency systems set up and expected to contribute to policy objectives like higher transparency and accountability, more informed policy debates, better public services, greater citizen engagement, and new business development. This is precisely why the need to have “open data” access to COVID-19 information is critical for humanity to succeed. In global emergencies like the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, open science policies can remove obstacles to the free flow of research data and ideas, and thus accelerate the pace of research critical to combating the disease. UNESCO have set up open access to few data is leading a major role in this direction. Thankfully though, scientists around the world working on COVID-19 are able to work together, share data and findings and hopefully make a difference to the containment, treatment and eventually vaccines for COVID-19.
Science and technology are essential to humanity’s collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the extent to which policymaking is shaped by scientific evidence and by technological possibilities varies across governments and societies, and can often be limited. At the same time, collaborations across science and technology communities have grown in response to the current crisis, holding promise for enhanced cooperation in the future as well.
A prominent example of this is the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), launched in 2017 as a partnership between public, private, philanthropic and civil society organizations to accelerate the development of epidemic vaccines. Its ongoing work has cut the expected development time for a COVID-19 vaccine to 12–18 months, and its grants are providing quick funding for some promising early candidates. It is estimated that an investment of USD 2 billion will be needed, with resources being made available from a variety of sources (Yamey, et al., 2020).
The Open COVID Pledge was launched in April 2020 by an international coalition of scientists, lawyers, and technology companies, and calls on authors to make all intellectual property (IP) under their control available, free of charge, and without encumbrances to help end the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduce the impact of the disease. Some notable signatories include Intel, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, Sandia National Laboratories, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Uber, Open Knowledge Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and AT&T. The signatories will offer a specific non-exclusive royalty-free Open COVID license to use IP for the purpose of diagnosing, preventing and treating COVID-19.
Also illustrating the power of open science, online platforms are increasingly facilitating collaborative work of COVID-19 researchers around the world. A few examples include:
1. Research on treatments and vaccines is supported by Elixir, REACTing, CEPI and others.
2. WHO funded research and data organization.
3. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine releases a dataset about the environments that have led to significant clusters of COVID-19 cases,containing more than 250 records with date, location, if the event was indoors or outdoors, and how many individuals became infected. (7/24/20)
4. The European Union Science Hub publishes a report on the concept of data-driven Mobility Functional Areas (MFAs). They demonstrate how mobile data calculated at a European regional scale can be useful for informing policies related to COVID-19 and future outbreaks. (7/16/20)
While clinical, epidemiological and laboratory data about COVID-19 is widely available, including genomic sequencing of the pathogen, a number of challenges remain:
1. All data is not sufficiently findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR), or not yet FAIR data.
2. Sources of data tend to be dispersed, even though many pooling initiatives are under way, curation needs to be operated “on the fly”.
3. In addition, many issues arise around the interpretation of data – this can be illustrated by the widely followed epidemiological statistics. Typically, the statistics concern “confirmed cases”, “deaths” and “recoveries”. Each of these items seem to be treated differently in different countries, and are sometimes subject to methodological changes within the same country.
4. Specific standards for COVID-19 data therefore need to be established, and this is one of the priorities of the UK COVID-19 Strategy. A working group within Research Data Alliance has been set up to propose such standards at an international level.
Given the achievements and challenges of open science in the current crisis, lessons from prior experience & from SARS and MARS outbreaks globally can be drawn to assist the design of open science initiatives to address the COVID-19 crisis. The following actions can help to further strengthen open science in support of responses to the COVID-19 crisis:
1. Providing regulatory frameworks that would enable interoperability within the networks of large electronic health records providers, patient mediated exchanges, and peer-to-peer direct exchanges. Data standards need to ensure that data is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable, including general data standards, as well as specific standards for the pandemic.
2. Working together by public actors, private actors, and civil society to develop and/or clarify a governance framework for the trusted reuse of privately-held research data toward the public interest. This framework should include governance principles, open data policies, trusted data reuse agreements, transparency requirements and safeguards, and accountability mechanisms, including ethical councils, that clearly define duties of care for data accessed in emergency contexts.
3. Securing adequate infrastructure (including data and software repositories, computational infrastructure, and digital collaboration platforms) to allow for recurrent occurrences of emergency situations. This includes a global network of certified trustworthy and interlinked repositories with compatible standards to guarantee the long-term preservation of FAIR COVID-19 data, as well as the preparedness for any future emergencies.
4. Ensuring that adequate human capital and institutional capabilities are in place to manage, create, curate and reuse research data – both in individual institutions and in institutions that act as data aggregators, whose role is real-time curation of data from different sources.
In increasingly knowledge-based societies and economies, data are a key resource. Enhanced access to publicly funded data enables research and innovation, and has far-reaching effects on resource efficiency, productivity and competitiveness, creating benefits for society at large. Yet these benefits must also be balanced against associated risks to privacy, intellectual property, national security and the public interest.
Entities such as UNESCO are helping the open science movement to progress towards establishing norms and standards that will facilitate greater, and more timely, access to scientific research across the world. Independent scientific assessments that inform the work of many United Nations bodies are indicating areas needing urgent action, and international cooperation can help with national capacities to implement them. At the same time, actively engaging with different stakeholders in countries around the dissemination of the findings of such assessments can help in building public trust in science.
Article | March 11, 2020
After realizing the potential to affect change while studying systems engineering at the University of Virginia, Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink began her journey to discover how technology might have a scalable impact on the world. Gosselink worked within international development and later did strategy consulting for nonprofits before joining Google.org, where she is focused on increasing social impact and environmental sustainability work at innovative nonprofits. We talked to her about her efforts as head of product impact to bring emerging technology to organizations that serve humanity and the environment.