I encountered a scene today that will soon be a thing of the past – a man riding his bike along the lake trail with his mobile phone strapped to the handle bars, blasting the unmistakable sound of “music on hold”. The music was interrupted by a loud voice, “Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line”. You could almost feel the collective cringe of “service call” frustration.
Businesses strive for a customer service reputation that is quick, reliable, and friendly, as well as cost effective. Customers don’t want to deal with long wait times and unpredictable service and have moved away from phone and email towards social media and messaging as a primary form of communication. Not only have businesses began to embrace this communication shift, but they have realized it is a more efficient use of resources. Messaging allows organizations to engage in asynchronous modes of communications, completely multiple tasks at once; multiple agents can share a conversation with a customer and move on to support other customers while long running background tasks occur. These utilization efficiencies are a big win for everyone. The newest trend in customer care that supports this new communication model is the introduction of chatbots to improve customer experience. It’s a model that is poised to deliver $8 billion in cost savings by 2022.
Chatbots are applications that can communicate conversationally with users; they range from very basic (responding automatically to a specific set of requests) to very complex, with designs that incorporate artificial intelligence and natural language processing. When you request to chat with an agent on a messaging platform, Chatbots appear with names, profile pictures, and often, human-like greetings; they have become so lifelike that you may have even interacted with one without realizing it. In one Logic20/20 project, the customer used a combination of chatbots and human customer care agents that had more complete profiles; the goal of using both was to improve personalized customer experiences. Businesses are leveraging chatbots in different ways to create the best service experience for their customers.
Advantages of using Chatbots in your customer service model:
• Familiar channels: Uses the communication channels that your customers are already using, primarily social messaging.
• Continuous and reliable service: Chatbots can engage with customers at any time of the day or night. The bot can respond during off hours with routine help or by telling the customer when a customer care agent will be available.
• Reliable responses: Chatbots can be asked the same question a thousand times in one day and will always respond in a friendly, patient manner.
• Quick response: Chatbots can instantly begin engaging with customers, eliminating customer wait time. Chatbots can begin friendly interactions while long-running background tasks are occurring, including database searches, transferring to another agent, or waiting for supervisor approval.
• Learning algorithms: Responses are based on customer data, so chatbots can learn and provide a quick, precise answer based on the data they can access. These learning algorithms help improve customer experience over time.
• Deliver high-value service: By utilizing chatbots for routine transactions, customer service agents are free to solve more complex customer challenges. In some cases, a Chatbot is used to assist the agent in the background, providing the agent information from a database that may be useful to boosting service quality, while optimizing the cost of customer service.
When deploying chatbots to your customer service model, there are a few important things to remember:
Bots & Humans Make a Powerful Team
Although chatbots have some advantages over traditional, human customer service agents, they are not smart enough to fully replace all human agents. Chatbots can answer repetitive, predictable questions, but their human counterparts are still needed for more complex, value-added customer interactions and conversations where customers may be angry or frustrated. Currently, the best models have chatbots and human agents working together to seamlessly provide a superb customer service experience, with chatbots forwarding complex problems to humans and gathering data in the background to help find the solutions faster. Data, in turn, can be utilized to improve future interactions.
Choose a Chatbot Framework & Customize
There are many chatbot platforms that provide the basic framework to get you started, including those in familiar applications like Facebook Messenger, Skype, Apple Business Chat, Live Chat, Twitter, Webchat, LiveEngage and Kik. The challenging task is customizing the chatbot to fit the technology and customer service needs of your business. You will need to decide between simple chatbots, answering basic questions based on keywords and document retrieval, and more complex bots, acting as more of a virtual assistant (VA), leveraging natural language processing (NLP) skills to improve its responses and mirror its human counterparts over time. Larger organizations using multiple messaging channels also need to consider creating a platform to manage all communications across all channels, taking into account a consistent interface for the human agents, account abstraction, and security.
Input Data, Test, Train, Repeat
The process of training a chatbot requires significant data input and testing. As customer needs change or new customer issues arise, new data should be inputted, in order to keep your chatbot current and relevant. The more data it has to reference, the better your chatbot becomes over time. This makes for a more lifelike, realistic, and positive experience for your customers.
Collect and Analyze Data
Take advantage of the customer interaction data that your chatbot is collecting. Set up a plan for the way your organization will collect, use and secure customer data, ensuring that regulations and policies on security are met. On the backend, use analysis tools for digesting and understanding the data to see trends and help improve experiences. Better customer behavior data can help you optimize your company’s targeted marketing plan and bring in new customers.
It has been predicted that chatbots will become the primary customer service experience over the next five years. In their current state, chatbots eliminate the wait times of the traditional customer service model by provided instant responses – the estimated time savings is 4+ minutes per enquiry*, with an associated cost savings that, added up over time, will be a significant win for many companies.
Follow Greg Clayes on LinkedIn