Any virtual or automated chat should exist to enhance the customer experience, not diminish it.
In December of 2021 we shared our plans to implement a Virtual Assistant into the Canvas Tier 1 Support experience. While our “beta” period continues, we’d like to take an opportunity to share our vision for the evolution of the Support experience with Instructure, and particularly with our Tier 1 service.
As a more than 20-year veteran of Support and contact centers, I have observed and been a part of many changes over my career. There have been some fantastic steps towards improving the experience of customers and some not so much. For example, the expansion of communication channels to include chat, text, and social media in addition to phone and email are great improvements in the customer experience. Deep and layered phone trees… not so much.
My philosophy around leveraging technology in Support has been influenced by my own experiences as a customer, with an eye toward ensuring that the power of human connection is at the heart of what we do. As a support leader I have always attempted to identify opportunities where we can balance technology and human connection to create an optimal support experience that respects people's time and need for assistance. Time and attention spans are being stretched continually in our world. As a support organization our goal is to assist your users efficiently and allow them to narrow their focus back into teaching and learning.
The debate on virtual assistant or chatbot technology is a passionate topic for many in my industry and I’d like to share my thoughts on this topic. When virtual assistants (or chat bots) were first introduced several years ago as a tool in the Support business, I found it hard to buy in. Every experience I had left me frustrated and eager to “just talk to a human-being!” Despite my negative personal experiences, professionally I felt pressure to implement virtual assistants as a cost savings tool. After months of market research, my team and I were unable to find a virtual assistant that would both deliver on the customer experience and the cost savings promised. Terms like “AI” and “machine learning” were buzz words used frequently but translating that into an actual positive customer experience eluded our efforts. We found that most companies did not have the resources to command the type of talent needed to effectively utilize machine learning. Ultimately, we stepped away from the effort deliberately to monitor how the technology evolved and improved the customer experience.
As I joined Instructure and began to immerse myself in our business and objectives as a company, I recognized that we would need to identify and build a healthy balance of using technology as a tool. Any technology we implement would need to enhance the customer experience, not diminish it. Our vision as a Support team:
Create meaningful connections with each customer, leverage technology with purpose, and ensure we scale as we grow
Since Instructure acquired Impact (formerly EeasySoft) in July 2021, I have become increasingly excited that we have finally found a technology that could deliver on our vision. The Impact product team and our support team have been working in close collaboration for more than a year on our virtual assistant. Early in our partnership we identified a percentage of Support contacts we felt would be a perfect match for the virtual assistant technology. Support contacts with questions like “How do I reset my password?” or “How do I enroll in a course?” are most often resolved by the user, provided we can give them easy to follow instructions.
Efficiently responding to these types of questions will be part of our initial solution with our virtual assistant. We are currently working with a few institutions in a closed beta. They are providing us with critical feedback on the virtual assistant and we are in close partnership with these institutions as we make improvements. The ability to quickly get to a “human set of hands” will continue to be available at any point.
Shortly, we will announce a series of demos/webinars with plenty of time for open Q&A to ensure your questions are answered and to give us an opportunity to speak to any concerns you have.
As we continue to work towards these objectives, I’m excited for the opportunity to deliver on our vision to you each and every day.