6-minute read

Companies are beginning to use tools like chatbots in record numbers, supplementing voice conversations and augmenting customer service processes. As with any big change, it’s important to have a plan in place to ensure smooth adoption. Digital transformation—whether from faxes to laptops or from phone calls to chatbots—requires change management.

The thought of creating a change management strategy may seem overwhelming, maybe even as stressful as making the change itself! Chatbots are still a relatively new technology, and the associated change in customer service platform – chat messaging – brings similar but separate challenges. Even if artificial intelligence, machine learning, and chatbots aren’t new concepts for your business, these changes may be daunting. So where do you start? With best practices from the world of change management consulting.

Define your reasoning and achieve leadership alignment

Before you try to execute a change or get even just get stakeholder support, change management consulting pros will advise you to identify why you want to make the change. What benefits would chatbot integration and messaging deliver for your business? Why is now the right time? Brainstorm what hurdles you currently face and how chatbots and messaging could resolve them, using your examples to illustrate both opportunity and urgency.

Hurdle: Outdated and/or disparate systems limiting competitivity or ability to meet business goals
Chatbot solution: Integration of numerous, diverse data sources with incredible search capability and natural interface

Hurdle: Lack of innovation or competitive advantage/differentiator
Chatbot solution: Forward-thinking, modern strategy

Hurdle: Inability to attract new talent
Chatbot solution: Cutting-edge technology attracts new talent and retains it with an improved work experience and higher employee satisfaction

Hurdle: Poor customer experience impacting business
Chatbot solution: Improved response time and accuracy at scale

Hurdle: High agent churn
Chatbot solution: Reduced costs for training and increased employee retention

Communicate your vision

After stakeholders are aligned, change management consulting teams recommend communicating the benefits of chatbot integration to your employees. This will pique interest and begin to gain traction for the transformation. Benefits include:

Better employee experience. With the ability to search integrated resources (databases, legacy tools, etc.) via direct queries, customer service representatives will be able to execute faster and with greater accuracy. This results in increased productivity, reduced stress, and more human connection with fellow workers.

Competitive brand. Within the next year, half of medium to large companies are projected to deploy chatbots. Consumers are comfortable with chat, and forward-thinking companies are getting on board.

Happier customers.Your tNPS is bound to increase since customers will have a comprehensive solution to their questions available whenever they need it. Chatbots are knowledgeable, quick, and capable of resolving many common concerns. The messaging platform is comfortable and familiar for customers, making their switch from voice or in-person service minimally intrusive.

If employees are included in the early stages of a change, they can communicate their concerns and provide perspective from those intended as users of the technology. If the change will expedite processes or improve the tasks assigned to your workers, you should seize the opportunity to encourage excitement and early adoption.

Get early adopters to test, test, test

Testing conversation algorithms is especially important for a customer-facing tool. If responses are choppy, slow, or at worst, inaccurate or offensive, customers will lose faith in your brand and your investment in chatbot technology will fall flat. Change management consulting experts advise engaging internal groups to adopt the technology early. In addition to proofing for issues, these groups will gain experience and be able to serve as experts to assist in full deployment down the line.

Train and launch

After you’ve tested the bots internally, you must train customer service reps (CSRs) to use the chatbot technology. Customer service in chatbot-assisted messaging is different than in-person, voice, or self-serve customer service. Messaging itself may be familiar, but its use as a customer service tool is relatively new—especially when paired with AI.

CSR’s must be trained in the two ways chatbots can assist: as a third party within live customer chats and as a separate resource outside of the CSR/customer conversation. By learning how to phrase their written queries correctly, agents can use chatbots to access information when they need it and serve customers quickly and efficiently.

As employees train with this technology, it’s important for them to stay aware of a few things:

Accountability. Text chat sometimes uses third-party applications like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Slack. The information exchanged on these services must be protected; CSR’s must be vigilant about privacy and careful of what language they use. No one should forget that chat is a documented conversation which customers can easily save and refer to at any time.

Maintenance. Both the machine learning algorithms supporting bots and logs of customer interactions should be reviewed periodically by humans.

Limitations. Chatbots are only as successful as the code and training they’re based on, and there are nuanced elements of some conversations that will simply be too complex for them to handle alone. Conversations can be escalated to a customer service representative at any time.

The implementation of chatbots necessitates larger organizational change as well. With chatbots covering roughly 12% of conversations, change management consulting pros advise training CSRs further to accommodate the more advanced conversations they will handle. This may require reorganization of teams and prioritization of teaching all CSR’s how to properly utilize chatbot conversational data. Best practices dictate that CSR’s or business analysts must continually evaluate intent responses and contribute additional conversational knowledge to train chatbots.

Conversations will be segmented: chatbots will handle repetitive, simple tasks while human agents will have more time to devote to nuanced, complicated conversations. Although using artificial intelligence will eventually result in smaller CSR teams, with a proper change management plan in place, these team changes will be handled through attrition, not layoffs.

When all relevant employees have been familiarized with chatbots, you can employ the technology with customers. However, training chatbots and customer service representatives does not stop as the customer-facing bots are launched. Machine learning and natural language processing build incrementally with every new interaction, so the learning process is a continual one.

Measure adoption smoothly

By utilizing the DevOps methodology within your organization, you can partner development and production teams to ensure your chatbot deployment is as successful as possible and architected in a way that is easily expanded upon. DevOps teams can analyze the adoption of your chatbot strategy, focusing on usability and subsequent integration of services. It’s important for them to remain involved as the chatbots become your new standard, since DevOps teams are responsible for iterating any necessary changes or updates.

Chatbots can be a lucrative addition to any company, but only with a well-constructed strategy in place, guided by best practices from change management consulting. Proper change management can minimize disruptions, increase profitability, and empower employees.

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Paul Lee

Allison Todd is a manager at Logic20/20 with diverse experience in organizational change, government, team building, administration, management, and leadership. Read her thoughts on optimizing change management for digital transformation.