Zendesk debuted Answer Bot, a conversational addition to the company’s Guide Enterprise knowledgebase product, in August 2017, following a months-long pilot involving select customers. At the time, the company said that the chatbot taps an AI model trained on over 12 million support ticket interactions to respond to questions about specs, order status, and subscription changes with articles from personalized libraries, and that it learns to associate relevant content over time with queries to cut down on call center workloads.
Answer Bot was limited at launch to select channels, but that’s changing. Today at its annual Showcase London conference, Zendesk announced the expansion of Answer Bot to web and mobile platforms, alongside new Guide Enterprise features.
“Customers today demand fast responses in a context that suits them, and AI can be used to help companies be more timely and accurate when engaging with customers,” said Zendesk president of products Adrian McDermott. “With Answer Bot, we’re putting an end to laborious processes to resolve simple questions.”
To that end, Zendesk subscribers with eligible plans will soon be able to deploy Answer Bot via API, Zendesk’s embeddable web elements and widgets, mobile software development kits (SDKs), email and web forms, and collaboration software like Slack. On the agent side of the equation, and regardless of the medium, Answer Bot for Agents will serve up answers for internal teams on behalf of customers with whom they’re speaking, with the goal of improving overall productivity.
“Getting back to our customers in a timely manner is extremely important to us,” said Ajay Varney, director of global customer engagement at Spartan Race, an early Answer Bot adopter. “Answer Bot on [Zendesk’s web widget] gives our agents three hours back in their day, due to a nearly 10% decrease in chat volume. This allows agents to be more productive and focus on more complex demands, especially during surges in volume around races. Additionally, Answer Bot provides agents with more bandwidth to grow in their roles, discover areas of expertise, and bring more value as subject matter experts.”
It’s nothing if not on trend. According to a report recently published by Forrester, 76% of customers prefer to find their own answers, as opposed to speaking with a support agent. Zendesk’s own data shows that 85% of customers will shift to a different contact method if they don’t get a response from their initial request and that nearly 4 billion knowledgebase articles were viewed on Zendesk in 2018, a 13 times uptick from five years ago.
To further align Zendesk Guide with the shifting customer service landscape, the company is rolling out four new tools that address content lifecycle automation and enterprise-level self-service. The first is Content Cues, or AI-powered recommendations that help prioritize knowledgebase items based on inquiry trends. (Cues might prompt a manager to update the most-viewed articles, for example.) Dovetailing with Cues are improvements to Guide’s Article Events feature that now let admins set automatic intervals to verify articles’ accuracy, prompt agents to create content on an ongoing basis, and create and manage content that has a limited life span (such as a short-term sale or promotion article).
Lastly, Guide Enterprise now supports multiple theme templates and search enhancements designed to make it more user-friendly across brands and services. “We’re not just delivering self-service everywhere — we’re delivering AI-powered self-service everywhere, which will continue to make for a better customer experience,” added McDermott.
Answer Bot for Web Widget and Answer Bot for Slack are now generally available. The Answer Bot API, scheduled publishing, and mobile SDKs are currently in early access and will be generally available “soon,” Zendesk says.