Ushering in the New Era of Customer Service with Chatbots

Tracy Vides by

It’s no secret we are living in an age of “always-on” consumerism. Given the rise of mobile and ease of accessibility, customers have come to expect a superior level of customer service. In most cases, putting the terms “customer service” and “bots” in the same sentence will likely raise an eyebrow or two. But, there’s no denying that chatbot usage in business has taken some huge strides in the past few years. In fact, a report by BI Intelligence found that 80% of respondents said they currently use or plan to use chatbots by 2020.

Facebook has been a primary avenue for brands to utilize bots to engage with their customer base. Since they were supported on the Messenger platform, tens of thousands of bots have been written for businesses.

The popularity of bots is increasing most quickly in customer service. The processes of calling a support number or sending emails to a customer care mailbox are being replaced by an array of messaging systems built to immediately address common queries. With a little help from AI, businesses can evolve their models to meet customers exactly when and where they are needed.

Here are several predominant ways chatbots have the potential to revolutionize your customer service:

Cultivate your brand personality

Chances are, there will always be a stigma attached the notion of incorporating automation into customer service. Even though customers will likely realize they are talking to a machine when interacting with a chatbot, this doesn’t mean you can’t design yours to reflect an appealing persona. Customers value authenticity, empathy, and patience. You can program your chatbot to reflect all of these traits, with a unique personality to boot.

Spring’s personal shopping bot is a great example of how to incorporate a helpful voice into the customer experience. In a humanized tone, it politely asks what the user is looking for while establishing a workflow to guide customers down the sales funnel.

Using specialized design software like BotSociety, you can program your bots to deliver informative information in a non-robotic tone.

Focus on customer success from the ground up

From an internal perspective, you can pinpoint common issues or mundane tasks you need to carry out for every customer (think installation), and program your chatbots to deal with them accordingly. In turn, your customer care department is left with more valuable time to address problems that require human intervention.

As all businesses know, customer grievances can come from virtually anywhere. Cornering the common issues will require a good deal of interdepartmental collaboration – especially among product, marketing, sales, and customer care.

Needless to say, the predecessor to bots, collaboration and task scheduling tools will let you manage campaigns and make internal communication simple. Workzone is one I like for its ability to help plan out your customer support strategy and proactively identify the bottlenecks with group priorities, individual workload views, and integration with CRM, messaging, and file sharing tools such as Google Apps, Dropbox, Salesforce, and Slack.

Then, there is also the factor of scalability. Studies have shown that live agents max out at handling two to three web chats at a time. Now, let’s say one of those three interactions were due to a trivial issue that was blown out of proportion. Time adds up quickly in the customer support business. Since bots run on an automated and even self-learning algorithms, they can significantly increase the number of customers being helped, as well as restrict or scale up customer queries to the appropriate levels.

Drastically improve response times

Arguably more significant than the time taken to solve a customer’s problem is the time taken to respond to them. When using human customer service agents, there is only so much time in a day, as a result many questions go unanswered.

Unlike human staff, bots can work around the clock to provide support to customers whenever they need it. This is great if you are an international business or serving customers in different time zones.

In days past, contacting customer service required calling a 1-800 number and navigating through a frustrating series of recordings to get to a live agent. Or, it involved sending an email and waiting for hours – or even days – to get as much as an acknowledgment.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to using chatbots in customer service is the ability to provide instantaneous replies. Additionally, they can be equipped to access broad bases of online knowledge to help field questions. This could mean the end of putting customers on hold, forcing them to listen to cheesy elevator music while the system connects them to a service rep or while the reps play ‘pass the parcel’ with the issue. With the right programming, bots are capable of solving customer queries in a matter of seconds.

Appeal to a younger customer base

Millennials appreciate live chat options more than any other method of customer contact. In fact, a study conducted by Aspect found that 69% prefer to solve issues by themselves without having to speak with a customer service agent.

Think about it, this generation loves to communicate via text and instant message, precisely why chat options are so popular. Millennials are also big on self-service, so the concept of chatbots is a perfect match to meet these two distinct preferences. 2017 is the year in which millennials are projected to start spending more than $200 billion annually. Catering to their preferences, then, becomes a must for every customer care department.

The demand for chatbots is rising at an unprecedented rate. The concept is no longer limited to big tech companies. It is becoming a necessity for startups and SMBs as well. The harsh reality of conducting business in the age of the internet is that there is more lean competition than ever before. To stay ahead of the curve, executives are pulling out all the stops to create a flawless customer experience across all channels.

Digital Marketing Strategist