Victor Ghanem, Director, Business Process Solutions – Customer Experience, Manulife
Richard Gianvecchio, Vice President, Support and Services, Symantec
Gabriele Masili, Global Director, Digital & Device, Customer Service and Technical Support, Amazon
Calvin St Juste, Executive Director, Digital Care, Comcast


Chatbots, virtual assistants, and other interactive self-service channels often fueled by artificial intelligence and speech technologies create opportunities to drive revenue, reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction and drive a deeply personalized customer experience. These interaction channels are coming of age at a time when consumers increasingly turn to self-service first when interacting with a brand. In this interactive panel discussion, experts helped unpack how speech and AI-enabled automation is being deployed across traditional and digital communication channels, examining how chatbots, virtual assistants and artificial intelligence can inspire customer loyalty and improve outcomes.


  • Guide to channel automation: social media, web, and chat
  • Insight on how organizations are utilizing chatbots and virtual agents in customer interactions
  • Best practices for measuring the overall effectiveness of chatbots and virtual assistants
  • Insight on how automated self-service can improve contact center ROI


Customer contact leaders from different organizations discussed their use of chatbots and virtual assistants (VA) to date. These different companies use chatbots and VA’s in different ways based on the needs of their customers and the experience they are creating for their customers. Some have had chatbots and VA’s implemented for a while whereas others are launching simple informational bots this year.


  • Chatbots cannot replace a human. Introducing them into your business will still require human capital. Likewise, chatbots cannot replace the emotional support that customers may be looking for when reaching out to your organization
  • Customers aren’t asking for chatbots directly; instead, they’re asking for 24/7 service
  • Make it very clear and obvious to customers when you’re using an automated system
  • Chatbots allow you to do something you might not be able to do somewhere (on a bus, on your mobile devices.) They allow a certain group of customers to have some of their needs satisfied
  • What’s really driving customers is the speed of resolution, not the speed of response. If we value the customer’s time, they’ll value the brand more
  • Key discussion points: Bots deployment and what drives organizations to self-service

Panel Discussion: Questions and Answers
Question: Bots can range from simple to complete customer care. What bots do you use?


  • Our company uses social media, and leverages bots. But, we don’t want to upset customers, which could go viral. So, any repeatable issues are sent to bots, and higher level issues are directed to an agent
  • Our bot use is around information (FAQ, account balance), Stage 2 will be predictive bots, for example, a bot that can suggest a dentist for you by location and your plan
  • At Microsoft, a support bot can guide customers. At Cortana, it can do customer service and technical support
  • At our organization, we are dealing with customer security. People are calling because something has gone wrong; it’s not good for the customer to feel deceived by not telling them they are talking to a bot. Our organization wants them to know upfront that it’s a bot, but their problem is being worked out

Do you tell customers it’s a bot?

  • Customers don’t ask for it. They just want their issue solved. When there was a power outage, a bot would’ve just told them. But, we don’t want to get into a situation where we are a robotic company
  • Customers don’t ask for a chatbot/AI, but- they do want 24/7 service. So that becomes their preferred channel
  • Our chatbots are at a support level, not a transactional level
  • We don’t want to confuse the customer by having them think it’s a human when it’s a machine. It does help to remove steps for the customer
  • Our company is not using chatbots. We’ve used virtual assistance via a pretty Avatar, but our contacts would try to set up a date with the Avatar! We had to change it

You are seeing improvements. Where did you get the organizational support/ buy-in for bots?

  • If it’s an emotional time in my industry (gaming), customers want to talk to a human. With bots, you can get to customers faster and gain customer loyalty
  • Our company provides the channels customers prefer. The ROI on it: the organization looks to automation. With a predictive, it is an investment; it may have cross-sell opportunities
  • If the problem is too complex for the bot, the bot will hand it over to the agent, and provide suggestions to the agent
  • Here’s why my company uses the channels we do: renewal increases with NPS. How do you value a product you don’t interact with? As a cost center, we are constantly reevaluating. As a revenue center, it’s a different outlook. Various situations, so various channels

What has the customer feedback about bots been?

  • In our customer surveys about virtual assistants, people thought they were humans that were dumb. With the feedback, you can fix the problems
  • 18% improvement with bot versus without. More resolution

Open question: Do customers want faster response times?

  • It is the customers who drive innovation. Customers are asking for bots. Open multiple channels to allow customers to interact with you. Paradigm shift of in-channel resolution; respond faster and give customer added information, with little effort on business model
  • Understand your customers to know if a channel will satisfy a customer’s needs
  • Our machine learning system can analyze interactions, including humans
  • Customers want speed of resolution more than speed of response; a customer’s time is valuable


  • When integrating chatbots and virtual assistants into your customer contact process, focus on the customer’s experience. When customers are engaging with a bot, allow the customer an exit strategy to go directly to one of your agents. Factor in the emotional state of the customer
  • Chatbots should be used as support points to reduce the number of steps for a customer to resolve their problems. Use them to offload and get more of the job done
  • If you’re going to invest in customer support, don’t do it for cost savings, do it for customer loyalty. Adding new channels will add new volume and show there’s unmet capacity, rather than decrease the cost of customer support
  • If talking to chatbots is more effective than talking to an agent, then customers will use them more frequently by learning they’ll get a better result
  • Build trust with the chatbot to by helping the customer get their information in an easier way
  • Chatbots shouldn’t be the enemy but the helper. If chatbots or virtual assistants are harming the customer experience, then you need to reevaluate how you’re using them


  • Demonstrate your proof of concept through your NPS or other analytics. Review and show that implementing chatbots or virtual assistants means that customers can be helped more quickly and thus helps to build customer loyalty
  • Connect automation to your chatbots to see ROI. Investing in automation is visionary and an investment in future savings and sales revenue
  • Measure how your customers are interacting with the chatbots.
  • Use your chatbots to share other services you have when the customer indicates they are satisfied
  • Integrate your chatbots into your front-line process to provide information for the agent that will help continue the conversation with a customer


The voice of the customer drives many changes and innovations. Each brand is different, and deciding whether or how to use intelligent customer solutions depends on where your organization is in its journey.