"A chatbot is maturation of the need for consumers who want self service"

CIO&Leader spoke to Chris Koziol, President at Aspect Software, on how the company sees the evolution of a digital employee in 2020

A chatbot is maturation of the need for consumers who want self service
CIOs today are testing how to make self-service tools most effective for their customers. Chatbots provide that opportunity - thereby delivering personalized, contextual asynchronous customer experience (CX). For the CIO and his/her organization, it can be a cost-effective, easy-to-implement, high-ROI solution that aids customer service, satisfaction, and interaction. But of course, there are apprehensions and questions about selecting the right solution and getting the most out of it. Once deployed, there are also concerns about how to ensure consistency of customer experience between human agents and chat bots. 
CIO&Leader spoke to Chris Koziol, President at Aspect Software, on how the company sees the evolution of a digital employee in 2020. 
Aspect Software has been in business for over 40 years. What have been some major milestones for your business?
I think the big change has been the ability to switch providers. The power has shifted from companies to the consumer who is now demanding companies to show them a different level of engagement. They expect companies to know them personally, know their preferences, and know their past history. They expect companies to fit into their lives versus foreseeing the consumer to fit into their life or their organization. They also expect companies to enable them to connect with them via mobile and that means any time, any place because they are constantly moving around doesn’t matter what time of day, a consumer now expects the companies they do business with to be able to enable them to interact on their time frame in the channel that they prefer to do that.  The consumer also expects companies to help save them time and make it more intuitive if they have a question, make sure that the answers are readily available, that support is not only available but is knowledgeable and responsive. And that is really transforming companies all over the globe.
Is that something that you consciously thought about when you were launching Aspect Via? How are you helping your customers make the transition from a siloed contact center to a comprehensive, all cloud customer engagement center? What are some of the challenges that you have helped/helping your customers overcome?
Well it really started about three or four years ago; three years ago we made an acquisition of a company called Voxeo and it was a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader in IVR and many of the analysts and our competitors questioned -why would Aspect be buying an IVR company? The real critical asset for us wasn’t necessarily the IVR capabilities even but it was the mobile platform that we call CXP Pro and that truly enabled self service and omni-channel capabilities. That became the critical component for us to enable the vision of Via.
According to a new 2017 report, 80% of businesses want to deploy chatbots by 2020. How has Aspect latched on to this AI trend both globally and in India?
A chatbot is just maturation of the need for consumers who want self-service with companies saying -what I need to do is to create the most cost effective way to provide access to information. It came out of a focus of what could a company do to increase availability of information and lower the overall cost of providing access to that information. At Aspect, we have started leveraging our CXP Pro application to enable the development of chatbots.  Some of the examples are wide ranging- it could be an application like a virtual concierge that we have implemented for a local hotel chain in London. 
But isn’t it true that thoughtless deployment of chatbots and self-service solutions can limit companies of 360-degree views that customers expect to have with a brand. How according to you can companies prevent such service silos from taking place?
Well I think that companies see the need for it. It is a matter of – do they feel comfortable and confident in the capabilities that are out there that they can leverage to truly execute it. Organizations are trying to look for knowledge workers, for people to help them take this technology and apply it to their unique problems. So the maturity may not be there from a technical competence standpoint. That’s why they’re looking at providers like Aspect to help them accelerate how they can apply this technology to their unique needs and the ability to create a chatbot and minimize the risk.
What is the perfect recipe for CX that combines human interaction and new age tools and workplace optimization solutions?
What the customer wants is not someone to read them information they can read themselves; they are looking at an agent to help them solve a problem. The true recipe, I believe, is about applying technology to lower the overall cost of interaction at the basic level of information exchange and free up their human resources to truly solve problems and add value and build relationships. This does three things: It drives customer loyalty; it makes agents more productive and happier which lowers the overall cost, and it drives the return on investment.

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