For years companies have been attempting to create efficient channels for customer service without harming the overall customer experience. From human agents, to Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, and now bots.

When IVR was first introduced in the late 80’s it did something amazing – it dramatically reduced the overall voice traffic for companies. Showing so much initial promise there were even people calling it the “enterprise firewall”. It took only few short years for almost all companies to adopt or outsource their own IVR.

Soon after mass adoption, businesses realized that the saved traffic was not equivalent to customers who were able to solve their own inquiries through their automated service. The result was obvious, a drop in NPS and CSAT, customers were just too frustrated to place a call in the first place. Was saving call traffic worth gaining the reputation for bad customer service? More importantly, are businesses making the same mistake while implementing bots for messaging?

The rise of messaging

How can messaging change customer service for the better?

Starting with building long-lasting relationships where customers can engage directly yet casually with the business. There is little dispute among customers that messaging is a preferred platform. When offered the option to converse with a business through messaging they jump on the opportunity. Among those who have messaged once, we see 80% stick with the platform for any recurring inquiries. Through messaging businesses have been able to displace 15% of overall traffic with zero marketing efforts.

There is an opportunity to replace the current broken, traditional customer service experience. Through messaging we are able to create an engagement that not only delivers better service, but is also an enjoyable experience for the customer. Without accounting for the frustrating hold times customers encounter, companies struggle to reduce their Average Handling Time (AHT) when resolving inquiries over the phone. Messaging has the potential to reduce AHT while at the same time promoting higher levels of customer satisfaction(CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores(NPS) for businesses.

What does asynchronous conversation mean?

Messaging is far less intrusive to the daily habits of a customer – achievable through the asynchronous manner that messages are exchanged. When conversing via messaging a business will never know when to expect a customer’s initial inquiry or any response thereafter throughout the entire conversation. There truly is no clear ending to a conversation because a customer can stop answering and then continue the conversation at whatever moment is most convenient to them. By having this open channel of conversation to customers you gain their trust in your ability to support them at any moment throughout their day.

Messaging volume is monumental


The adoption of messaging is clearly understood not only by businesses, but by customer interactions as well.

  • 53% of customers would opt for a business with a messaging support option
  • 80% of people have used texting for contacting businesses
  • 63% of consumers are more likely to message a brand today compared to prior years
  • 56% foresee messaging as their choice of support in the next few years

Although messaging is convenient and proven for easy adoption, businesses still have one massive barrier. When opening up messaging as a platform anyone, anywhere, at any time  can now message businesses. Bypassing the previous “holy grail” to customer service, the IVR.
Consider a large telecommunications company like AT&T. With about 230M interactions across all channels – what will happen if they open a channel for messaging? Instantly everyone will be enabled to send inquires whenever they want, creating billions of new inquiries via messaging.

How does one company manage to solve this massive barrier and still provide excellent service?

In the past year, I’ve personally witnessed ten brands that implemented messaging based customer service. All of them shut it down after six months, realizing quickly that it was not a viable solution without the proper technological solution. They jumped the gun, and it backfired on them.

What are the current options to handle the massive scale of messaging?

  1. Hire an army of agents
  2. Integrate a rigid, IVR bot unable to understand natural human interaction

Of course an army of agents would provide the best quality service, but can a company really afford to hire hundreds of agents? Obviously not, so that leaves us with the proven, customer infuriating, rigid IVR system. Do we really want to make the same mistake with messaging as we did with voice a number of years ago?

How can we please our customers with the exceptional experience of messaging, while at the same time providing better customer service without hiring an army of agents.

The 3rd option – Hybrid Bot Experience

Look at messaging from the perspective of air traffic controllers. A large portion their jobs are already automated, they do not actively schedule flights, but are there mainly there to supervise and assist the computers when necessary.

What if we could keep an agent in the loop of a conversation, but minimize his role to merely be active when necessary. By turning agents into “air traffic controllers” we can open up customer service messaging at scale without harming the overall experience or CSAT.

At Servicefriend we are avid promoters of the Hybrid Bot Experience. Hybrid meaning an agent and a bot working side by side creating a consistent customer service messaging experience at scale.

Currently, some companies claim to have an hybrid solution. In their solution bots transfer the session to a live person when they cannot handle a situation. These options simply cannot scale, here’s why.

Why the current approach for Hybrid Bot is misleading and how you should do it right

Hybrid bots use AI augmented with human intervention when a bot is not able to handle an inquiry. While bots are capable of handling thousands of inquiries an hour, a human agent is limited to no more than 15 interactions when at their very best. They can not work at nearly the same pace when a live person takes ownership on the whole conversation. The result create a disintegrated, expensive and slow customer experience.

To do it right you need two elements:

  1. Every incoming message {as opposed to every conversation} should be analyzed and orchestrated in an optimal way. In other words it should be disassembled into small tasks that are processed in a highly distributed fashion while people and AI serve as resources that operated seamlessly
  2. At any given time the technology must ensure you have a human available for quick intervention. This is where the exact scheduling of shifting inquiries to the call center is so important

Our Hybrid Bot Architecture (HBA) allows agents and AI to work side by side seamlessly at an incredibly high frequency and more important as a one persona from the customer’s view

The experience your customers expect to receive on messaging

Customers don’t care what technology you use to operate your call center, only that they are able to receive fast, reliable, and quality service. From the customer standpoint it’s a complete transformation, moving from a rigid, menu driven experience to a natural, more relationship driven conversational experience. Eliminating the idea that a customer needs to serve himself, which is proven to be considered a lack of service, to acting as a concierge that helps guide the customer towards full service resolution.

The challenge of understanding the customer at a rapid pace

By providing a service specializing in Natural Language Understanding(NLU) and automation we arrive at a great challenge. In all natural language, but specifically customer service, people simply do not ask straight forward questions. They convey their message through a story that, through ups and downs and many context clues, may finally reach their real intention for contacting you. It is absolutely necessary to have the proper technology that can understand, process, and take appropriate action for a Hybrid Bot Architecture to be effective. It is the only way to create a channel that your customer will truly be able to engage naturally with.

The HBA also enables a seamless learning process that allows the bot to learn, in real time, from the agent. This will allow it to develop a “personality” and quickly thereafter, significantly cut costs for your business.

At Servicefriend, we have mastered this aspect of AI to the point where you can deliver a Hybrid Bot Experience that ensures a high level of customer satisfaction and cost reduction with the following benefits:

  1. Provide an outstanding customer experience from day one – achieving your goal to have customers adopt and stick to the new messaging channels you open up for their interaction.
  2. Embrace automation – allowing your bot persona to learn processes on the fly, your agents become trainers of the persona. Through their interactions they will teach it to set and prioritize the right level of urgency along with allocation of the right agent when necessary.
  3. Maximize agent efficiency – while bots allow your platform to handle the massive traffic it will receive, agents working side by side with bots are able to focus on higher level inquiries with incredible speed and accuracy.
  4. Integration – Choose the solution that is best for your business. At Servicefriend, our patented technology using Application Natural Interface allows your company to integrate with new services at a moment’s notice, no coding necessary.

The takeaway

There are a massive amount of businesses paving the way to messaging. Automation is necessary if you don’t want to end up with a massive army of agents. Don’t settle with a rigid IVR style bot – look at messaging as a way to create meaningful experiences with your customers. There is a real opportunity to divert conversations from traditional customer care to the popular platform without sacrificing CSAT. Customers are welcoming this new platform overwhelmingly with open arms. With our customers, we see a shift of 15% adoption with no marketing – businesses need to embrace the proper technology for the job in order to create a channel that will be adopted and trusted by customers. Facebook, Globe Telecom, a gigantic telco,  and Servicefriend have just released the first world’s case study for an effective Hybrid Bot over messaging, if you consider implementing messaging automation, you should take a look.

Ido Arad is the Co-founder of Servicefriend. Servicefriend provides technology for a consistent messaging experience at scale.