4 min read

Why and How You Need to Build a Conversational AI Business Case

People looking at a business case

Lower costs and a better customer experience. That’s what most business managers are looking to get out of their conversational AI systems. But to achieve these goals, you need to look beyond high-level metrics.

You need a detailed business case as part of your overall bot strategy. In essence, a business case provides you and your stakeholders with:

  • A detailed, data-driven analysis of how to achieve lower costs and better CX
  • The direct and measurable financial benefits you tie to your efforts
  • An overview of your costs and timeline to achieve your vision

A business case helps focus conversational AI systems — voice, IVR, and chatbots — in the right areas. It will also guide your design and delivery decisions. In the long term, a detailed business case provides you with a basis for ongoing performance monitoring and improvement.

Build Your Business Case by Focusing on Direct Financial Benefits

Lowering costs and improving your customers’ experience with your conversational AI systems are both worthwhile goals. But the financial benefits of great customer experiences are difficult to measure and especially hard to attribute to particular changes.

That’s why the bedrock of your business case needs to be financial.

Most business managers I speak to want a better customer experience, but very few have a budget line item for it. Typically, they need to pay for it through measurable cost savings.

A well-crafted business case can help you do just that. If you go to a budget holder in your organization and say, “We’ll get a million dollars more in sales if we invest a million dollars in a better customer experience,” they’ll inevitably ask you to prove it. If you explain that a recent survey shows a better customer experience creates more loyal customers, they’ll ask how much more loyalty. And how much more those loyal customers will spend. The truth is, it’s very difficult to forecast the impact of specific customer experience improvements. But you don’t have to.

Instead, get the budget you need to improve the customer experience by assuring stakeholders you’re not just going to improve the customer experience. Tell them how you’re going to reduce costs, too. Explain how the project will pay for itself based on the cost reduction alone. Then, you use your business case to back up that claim. You have to show how the directly measurable impacts of the project — reduced call volume, handling time and internal transfers — far exceed the cost. Then the customer experience benefits can be seen as a bonus.

Look Beyond High-Level Metrics When Building a Business Case

Solely focusing on high-level metrics is a sure fire way to tank your business case. If you’re only looking at containment metrics, you’re taking too simplistic an approach. That’s because many calls and chat sessions can’t be fully automated, but there are significant benefits to be gained through partial automation. If you’re forecasting financial benefits in your business case around fully automated tasks alone, you’re working against yourself.

What you really need to focus on is the customer journey. Think about the tasks your users are trying to accomplish through automation. Then, evaluate how much time automating those tasks will save your human agents.

When you build your business case with that customer journey in mind, you’re going beyond those broad, misleading metrics like containment. You’re looking at the journey, but not exclusively through the lens of CX improvements. Forecasting the financial impact of changes to the customer journey creates a much more compelling and insightful business case.

Why Detailed Business Cases Matter: A Real-World Example

Years ago, a client came to us with a business case another company had prepared for them. Our job was to deliver the system as outlined in their business requirements. We did the job as requested and completed a great conversational AI design around their specifications.

However, when the project went live, our client was upset to see that performance in one specific area of their business went down.

We traced this decline in performance back to their business requirements. It specified adding an additional step: customers calling to make a payment had to be both identified and verified. This additional verification step had the unintended consequence of causing some callers to drop off.

Remember, every question you ask customers in their interactions with your conversational AI system comes with some risk. The system may not understand what they say. They might not have the information required. Whatever the case, they may drop off, try another route, and negatively affect your bottom line as a result.

Had we built that business case, we’d have taken all of this into account — just as we’re encouraging you to do. Even though that additional verification step came with some benefits — everyone going through the contact center was already verified — the business case didn’t consider how that step would affect this particular group of users. The result was costly. The system required changes that could have been avoided had the business requirements taken that segment of users into consideration.

Four Steps for Building Your Conversational AI Business Case

You understand the need for a detailed business case. You know it’s a key step in getting the funding you’re after, and that it can protect your project from missteps caused by unintended consequences. But how do you actually build a business case?

Building a conversational AI business case boils down to a four-step process. Our video goes into each of these steps in much greater detail, and we recommend watching it after you’ve finished this article, but here’s a quick overview:

  1. Identify Automation Opportunities – Which calls or contacts are both frequent enough and simple enough for you to automate?
  2. Estimate the Number of Customers Experiencing Each Different Customer Journey – What percentage of each contact type contributes to a potential automation opportunity?
  3. Forecast the Financial Impact of Each Customer Journey – What is the value of each customer journey, and what is the likelihood of a customer taking each of these journeys?
  4. Evaluate Costs and ROI – How do the benefits of the system offset the costs of its implementation?

Build a Business Case That Works for Your Organization

Building a solid business case takes a lot of work, but it’s work worth doing. Once you have your business case, you can leverage it time and time again as a forecasting model.

Use it to guide every conversational design, technical, and strategic decision you make. Your business case enables you to evaluate the positive, or negative, impact those decisions might have on the financial benefits of your IVR or chatbot. Keep it updated as you move through delivery sprints, compare results to what was forecasted, and measure success in dollars and cents — not perceived CX benefits that may or may not get you the returns you’re after.

If you have any questions about building your business case, or if you’re interested in developing a deeper bot strategy and you need some help, let’s chat.


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