Three ways to turn chatbot tech into increased savings and better customer support
Automation is one of the hottest trends in business today. However, the idea of completely replacing human agent support with machines can make the topic of chatbots an uneasy one in the customer service industry. Despite common misconceptions, anyone experienced with chatbot technology can tell you that it’s not actually capable of replacing humans — nor is it intended to.
Chatbots and their capabilities are more ideally suited as a resource to support frontline customer service agents as well as a financial boon for corporate decision-makers. By effectively utilizing chatbot technology in three key ways, brands can unleash its potential to save money and reduce volume in the contact center.
1. Use chatbots for 24/7 support
Customer service was not always the instant gratification bonanza it is today where replies on social media occur almost immediately and self-service options are readily available. Mere decades ago, support interactions required a great deal of patience. If an issue couldn’t be handled in-person at a store, it took place after a long wait on the phone or by mail. From a customer’s perspective, the situation had to be quite serious in order to make such a substantial time investment.
Fast forward to today’s internet inspired on-demand culture. Customers are far less discerning about the reasons for contacting a customer care team, and have much higher standards for response times and 24/7 service.
Of course, fast, round-the-clock service doesn’t come cheap, and chatbots represent a simple, cost-effective solution. By using automated assistants, businesses can bolster their omnichannel customer service delivery capabilities without breaking the bank.
Delivering Omnichannel Customer Experience
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An investment in chatbot tech doesn’t have to be limited to service applications; they can also act as ever-ready sales agents. Peggy Anne Salz, lead analyst and founder at tech research firm MobileGroove, wonders why more companies aren’t using bots as sales tools: “I’m surprised that more chatbots aren’t cross-selling and up-selling, the way a real representative of a company would.”
That may be shifting, as evidenced by H&M’s automated shopping assistant, which the retailer launched on messaging service Kik in 2016. The bot asks users to choose a piece of clothing and provide information about their style. Like a personal shopper, it builds outfits tailored to customers’ preferences to personalize their experience while also subtly encouraging a larger basket in the process.
The always-on chatbot technology can also help shoppers checkout well outside of normal business hours. “They can be selling while you’re asleep,” Salz notes. This level of seamless customer experience, paired with round-the-clock availability, translates to increased revenue, staff resource savings, and reduced live agent call volume.
2. Let chatbots act as a first touchpoint
It’s a common brick-and-mortar shopping experience: We decline an employee’s offer to assist us, only to realize moments later that we actually do need help — but now the employee is nowhere to be found. In situations like these, customers are more than happy to take their business elsewhere. The same principle applies in an online shopping environment.
LivePerson’s Connecting with Consumers report found that 83 percent of online shoppers need support to complete a purchase, while Business Insider reported that 60 percent of U.S. consumers have abandoned a purchase based on a poor customer service experience.
With 71 percent of customers expecting access to help within five minutes and nearly a third expecting help immediately, according to Chatbots Magazine, it can be difficult for companies to meet demand. It is in these gaps in the customer experience that chatbots are extremely useful. Response time and customer satisfaction can be further improved when bots are built into social media platforms and leveraged on widely used apps like Facebook Messenger.
3. Give chatbots a supporting role
The best bots act as a support team to your human customer service agents. By handling routine matters, chatbots free up agents’ time to resolve issues that need a more personal touch. When architecture and engineering software company, Autodesk, implemented its chatbot, the company focused on 40 distinct use cases for Tier-1 support, providing answers to common questions about software installation or account set up. Not only did this reduce resolution times, but it also shrunk costs by up to $200 per case, and lightened call volume by 30,000-plus conversations per month, according to IBM.
In addition to time and cost savings, bots can also set agents up for success. Salz of MobileGroove sees the bot-to-human handoff as key to providing a seamless customer experience, with chatbots gathering key background information in order to help service agents propose the right solution. “The main benefit bots offer to customer service agents is providing the context that they need to solve problems faster and more effectively,” she says. “Because there’s nothing more annoying than re-explaining yourself.”
It’s important to note that chatbot technology, while rapidly improving, isn’t going to act as a full-fledged replacement for human service agents anytime soon. Tim Hrycyshyn, senior director of digital marketing at Republic Records, has used chatbots to connect fans to high-profile musicians — but he acknowledges their limitations. “I think people expect a perfect AI experience, which simply doesn’t exist. It takes a long time for people to learn soft skills like interpersonal savvy or critical thinking. We can’t expect artificial intelligence to get the nuances that create emotional connections via a software update,” says Hrycyshyn.
As chatbot technology does evolve, however, it will become smarter and speedier. Chatbots will become expert first responders, aiding and guiding customers in those pivotal first moments and addressing or triaging common issues that distract reps from more complex concerns. In this way, they won’t dehumanize customer service; rather, they’ll make it more human by enabling reps to go deeper and apply a personal touch where it counts.
Simply put, chatbots are ushering in a brave new world for customer service. Brands that embrace them will benefit from time and resource savings by circumnavigating the costs of a traditional service infrastructure, while providing more personalized and efficient customer experiences.