As communication channels multiply and the potential of chatbot-driven service grows, Monika Götzmann, guest blogger for Calabrio and EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, highlights what needs to be considered before taking a grip on this opportunity.
Chatbots have emerged as one of the biggest customer service technology breakthroughs of recent times. Indeed, the technology’s increased prevalence has coincided with a greater reliance on instant messenger apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Slack, allowing businesses to keep pace with changing consumer behavior.
Although chatbot technology has been in use in other areas for many years now, its deployment as a customer service tool is still a relatively recent trend, meaning there are still some limitations and things to be aware of. Here, we take a look at some key considerations you should have before including chatbots as part of your strategy.
Facebook Messenger now has more than one billion active users, according to AdWeek, while other instant messenger services like WhatsApp are not far behind. Therefore, one of the key benefits chatbots deliver is the ability to meet customers where they actually are, improving the relationship between brands and consumers.
In addition to some of their more traditional customer service functions, chatbots can also play a role in generating revenue. For example, chatbots can be used to send personalized alerts to customers about new products, sales or special offers. By alerting customers to these products or services in a personalized and timely manner, companies are benefitting from incremental sales. Additionally, the costs for these sales are minimal due to this being a mainly automated digital service, which is more cost effective than more traditional forms of marketing. Chatbots can also deliver news, provide updates about your services, or schedule meetings.
Despite the clear reasons why chatbots can be a useful part of a customer service strategy, it is equally important to understand that chatbots cannot completely replace contact centers. Ultimately, they need to be viewed as a way of assisting reps, because they cannot compete with the customer service skills that humans possess.
“Surprisingly, those that have deployed are not seeing this as a contact center decimator, at least in public,” says Wayne Butterfield, writing for LinkedIn’s Pulse platform. “[They] are highlighting the benefit of immediate response to queries and driving additional revenue opportunities as key drivers instead.”
As the focus on customer service continues to intensify as consumers expectations keep rising, chatbots provide a great opportunity for companies to develop their relationships with customers on a more personalized level, keeping the customer engaged which ultimately should lead to greater loyalty from them. We have seen that great loyalty not only leads to further purchases from customers for companies, but additionally customers are also prepared to pay higher prices for goods or services where they perceive the customer service to be exceptional.
One of the biggest challenges businesses face is keeping pace with customer expectations when it comes to response times, which is why many companies invest heavily in customer service coaching and training. Research shows, for instance, that 72 percent of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within one hour.
While this may seem unreasonable to some, it is the reality of the modern world, with customers expecting to be able to use social media to get response times that are equivalent to traditional channels like the telephone. Chatbots can help immensely in this sense, because they can provide almost instantaneous responses, 24/7.
One potential disadvantage of using chatbots is the inability to accurately monitor them at all times and measure their performance. At present, most platforms do not offer much in the way of analysis tools and this can be especially problematic where AI is being used to evolve the customer service skills of the bots.
“Companies will naturally be hesitant to use bots because a bot will be a voice for the brand, and it can’t be monitored at all times,” says Carey Wodehouse, writing for Upwork. “Unfortunately, Facebook Messenger doesn’t provide much insight into the performance of your bot, so it’ll be difficult to know how it’s doing.”
Chatbot and AI technology is advancing rapidly, but it is still generally best to keep things simple when deploying bots for customer service purposes. In most instances, chatbots are useful for dealing with basic questions, directing people to information and sending alerts, rather than coping with more complex tasks.
Moreover, it is best that chatbots are used as part of a wider customer experience strategy. When things become a bit more complicated, bots should be set up to pass over to a human rep and customer service coaching can be used to teach reps when and how to take over in the most seamless way possible.
So far, the public response to chatbots has been extremely encouraging. In fact, according to research carried out by Retale, 58 percent of 18 to 34 year old’s have interacted with chatbots on social media and more than half of those who have not are interested in doing so in the future.
Almost all of those who have interacted with chatbots cited that their experience was either positive or very positive, while 86 percent of those surveyed agreed that brands should deploy chatbots in an effort to promote products, services or deals. The biggest areas for improvement were greater accuracy and more natural conversations.