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Introducing Answer Bot: instant resolutions and happier customers

Director, Product Management

Brian Donohue

@brian_donohue

Main illustration: Olenka Malarecka and Tim Gilligan

Today we’re launching Answer Bot, an intelligent bot that automatically and instantly resolves your customers’ most common questions.

It’s a simple proposition: when customers ask a question in the Intercom Messenger, Answer Bot uses machine-learning to recognize the query and deliver the exact answer right there, directly in the conversation. We’ve found that on average, Answer Bot instantly resolves 29% of your customers’ most common queries and improves customer response time by 44%.

Answer Bot speaks directly to our vision for the future – a world where Messengers, Bots and Apps can provide radical efficiencies for your business. We believe that automation in the form of bots will make messaging as transformative as communication technologies like phones, email and websites.

“We believe that automation will help Intercom deliver on our original mission we set seven years ago.”

Counter-intuitively, we believe that automation will help Intercom deliver on our original mission we set seven years ago – to make internet business personal. How do bots make a conversation personal? This is something we’ve debated at length. Our conclusion is that “being personal” isn’t just about having an actual person available. It’s about:

  • giving customers a personalized experience.
  • respecting their time, space and dignity.
  • getting them to their ideal outcomes.

Bots, when done well, can do this.

The problem: Companies can’t keep up with their customers’ questions

Customers want and expect fast answers to their questions. And no matter how easy you make self-service, human nature means customers will go for the easiest option – asking a human. This is exactly the appeal of messengers like Intercom. They’re fast, easy and personal.

The problem is scale. Most businesses can’t afford to staff enough people to answer every single customer question in real time, 24/7. The result is customers waiting around, sometimes for hours or even days. But it’s not the 1990s anymore. The rise of smartphones, messaging and bots has led to a new set of customer expectations. These days, buyers don’t want to sit around and wait for follow-ups. They want to get responses right now, in a place where they’re already communicating – the messenger. That’s where Answer Bot comes in.

Not suggestions, but direct answers

With Answer Bot, we’ve built a product so that customers can get their answers in real-time, on-demand. Many bots – including our own Article Suggestions task bot – suggest help content most relevant to a customer’s question. This can work okay, but it still relies on the customer deciding to click on the article and then actually finding the answer themselves.

With Answer Bot, we’re delivering the answer right there in the conversation. Immediate, direct, natural. Customers today don’t care whether it’s a bot or a human who gives them an answer, so long as they get what they need, fast.

“The bot is there to help, not block a customer from speaking to a human.”

We’ve taken particular care to build a bot that’s customer-centric. The bot is there to help, not block a customer from speaking to a human. For example, if Answer Bot doesn’t get the right answer or a customer needs further help, they can still speak to a teammate.

A marriage of cutting-edge technology with good old-fashioned usability

The technical challenge with this product is that customers ask the same question in a bunch of different ways. What we’re providing is the power of machine-learning and natural language processing to create algorithms that determine whether Answer Bot should jump into this conversation, and which answer should it give.

In an ideal world a teammate could turn on Answer Bot with the flip of a switch. But even today’s best machine-learning can’t give top-quality natural language experiences without some customization. To deliver on the promise of Answer Bot, we need humans to work with our technology, to target and train it. But we don’t require them to actually understand that technology.

Instead they need only to provide guidance – they choose what types of questions Answer Bot should target, and then they train Answer Bot with examples from actual customer questions they’ve received. From there, Answer Bot’s algorithms know when it should jump in, and which answer to give.

Here’s what it looks like:

We think we’ve not only built a best-in-class machine-learning engine, but we’ve also designed a best-in-class teammate experience, so that using Answer Bot is straightforward and fast, without diluting its power. You don’t need to be a bot-building expert to use our tool. One of our main advances is that we have made the technology approachable to the humans who need to work with it, which means it can now be used successfully, at scale.

Making it easy to know your common questions

Knowing your customers’ most critical questions isn’t as easy as you might expect. So a second output from our engine is that we can automatically surface your most common questions – this makes it really fast to get started on questions that will have the most impact for your team and your customers.

When you combine these two features together, it means you can get set up and set your first answer live in just five minutes. It’s fast.

Control how Answer Bot speaks and use apps to amplify its power

Our customers care deeply about the tone and voice with which they communicate with their customers, as well as the accuracy of their bot’s responses. So we wanted to give them as much flexibility and control with their bot and not force them to adopt off-the-shelf or canned responses that don’t resonate with their brand. With Answer Bot, you tell it exactly how to respond. Your teammates have full control over the experience so they can ensure Answer Bot fully reflects their brand, whether that’s with emoji, GIFs or images.

Even more power comes with apps. Answer Bot can partner with 100+ third-party apps so your customers fully solve their problem, right there without distraction or delay. So your customers can do things like get an order update automatically, without having to talk to a human.

Answer Bot apps

By partnering Answer Bot with apps, you can automate entire end-to-end experiences. We’re not talking about bots that pretend to be humans. We’re not talking about smart-assed but dumb experiences. We’re talking about simple, mechanical agents that can perform simple tasks, right through to completion.

Tangible value for you and your customers

There are many who think that automation and bots are a passing fad, but the impact that Answer Bot is having on sales and support teams is real, and measurable. We show that to you in a tangible way so you can understand how Answer Bot is helping your team – and your customers.

answer bot reporting

We’re not only showing how many conversations Answer Bot covers for your team, but we’re also translating that number into the value it creates for your customers and for your team. (You can learn all the nitty gritty about how we calculate this here.)

You can get a quick overview of how Answer Bot’s performing, but you can also mark it against the rate we’re seeing across all our customers. This demonstrates our commitment to transparency, ensuring the benefits we’re promoting are the benefits you’re actually getting:

answer bot reporting

The future of automation is upon us. Embrace it

As with all new successful technologies, bots have gone from obscurity, to being overhyped, to successfully coming back out the other side. We think they’re now here to stay.

Answer Bot isn’t a smoke and mirrors, buzzword filled aspirational technology. It represents a real breakthrough that you can get value from today. We think it will become a standard way for businesses to support their customers. Get started with Answer Bot right here and see how bots and automation can benefit your business.

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