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This article was published on June 22, 2017

How chatbots are pumping up customer service

How chatbots are pumping up customer service
Lauren Gilmore
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Lauren Gilmore

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Dog owner, expat, gin lover. Allegedly wise to the ways of PR, digital marketing and social media. Currently waging a war on mediocrity in c Dog owner, expat, gin lover. Allegedly wise to the ways of PR, digital marketing and social media. Currently waging a war on mediocrity in communication and storytelling. Find me on Twitter or email me.

It’s no secret that in this instant gratification economy, customers demand immediate responsiveness from brands and expect fast and reliable customer service across all channels.

Customer care is moving quickly to keep up with evolving technological opportunities and companies are under constant pressure to incorporate new tools and processes to engage with customers wherever they are.

Enter chatbots.

In recent years, chatbot-enhanced customer support use has increased, allowing businesses to easily identify and resolve customer problems through messaging services.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with a company without interacting with a single human.

Chatbots are the new customer care teams and are a direct result of an industry shift towards self-service. Here’s how this new AI technology can beef up your customer service.

Instant customer service

Chatbots are replacing live chat and other forms of slower communication methods such as phone calls and emails. Via word recognition, chatbots provide an immediate customer service presence that offers concise answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Chatbots make the frustration of navigating phone menus and waiting for a reply to an email a distant memory.

Customers yearn for increasing levels of personalization. This is an easy first stage of chatbot support that allows companies to accomplish this.

In Fall of 2016, Macy’s tested a cognitive mobile web tool, On Call, to help shoppers get information including where specific products, departments, and brands are located to what services and facilities can be found in a particular store.

As Macy’s chief growth officer, Peter Sachse, said “At Macy’s, we remain focused on identifying, testing and supporting new ideas and approaches that will help elevate service to our customers through technology.”

Credit: Macy's

Satisfy the unsatisfied customer

Customer service has always been a crucial determination of success for any business. 91 percent of unsatisfied customers won’t return for a repeat purchase or service. But the chances of losing a customer is instantly reduced through the use of automated chatbots.

Even the most basic use of chatbots – greeting customers and/or clarifying their issues – can significantly improve the overall experience of consumers.

Chatbots assist in solving simple, quick-response needs, leaving more time for customer service representatives to focus on complex customer demands and high-touch interactions.

Improve user experience

Most people are looking for the easiest and most efficient ways to contact customer care. This is where chatbots excel over their human counterparts.

For one, chatbots have faster and more accurate access to client information. Chatbots are ideal for leaving the user satisfied with the whole client interaction.

For instance, Lufthansa has launched a Facebook-integrated chatbot – Mildred – to assist passengers in searching for the cheapest flights within the next nine months. Users who wish to buy a ticket are redirected to the mobile website where they can book the flights directly on their smartphone.

The challenge, however, is how to make automation more human-like.

Text-based interactions via messengers appear to be marginally preferred over voice-based ‘assistants’. Ultimately Siri isn’t human, and people realize that speaking to voice-based ‘assistants’ doesn’t help much with accuracy.

Boost the bottom line

While complete automation of the customer service workforce is not feasible, automating a portion of the customer management and sales funnels are possible through chatbots and other automation technology. This results in considerable savings for businesses.

A single chatbot can handle thousands of chats simultaneously, meaning there’s no need to increase headcount, even if your customer base grows. In the US, the savings from automating the customer service positions through chatbots is an estimated $23 billion dollars per year.

But the benefits of chatbots cannot be translated only in cash savings from the reduced labor costs. As artificial intelligence moves forward, the real benefits come from a more efficient and consistent customer management, sales, reporting, marketing, and communication.

Drive sales

Chatbots are no longer just automated answering machines with limited conversational options – having a chatbot on your sales team can significantly improve your customer service reputation and drive sales.

Depending on your product types, chatbots can provide a variety of services. They remember a customer’s answers and tailor their responses. In doing so they create a personal level of service that closely mirrors human interaction.

Dutch bank ABN AMRO is currently experimenting with various customer-facing bots. As Hugo Veldhuizen, Digital Strategy Consultant for ABN AMRO, explains “ABN AMRO has two bots live to interact with customers via Facebook Messenger: a mortgage chatbot and an informative chatbot for new entrepreneurs. In the end we believe intelligent virtual assistants will be able to help customers with all sorts of services in a fully automated way.”

Let’s get chatty

Fielding messages into traditional help desks has historically resulted in longer wait times and a disorganized messaging experience for support representatives. Tools such as chatbots help streamline client questions and provides around-the-clock service to deliver fast response times and manage high volumes of conversations.

While the current phase of chatbot technology is certainly a step in the right direction, there’s still so much more to learn. With an understanding of the rapidly changing technology, a focus on providing a human element, and a plan for deploying chats at scale, the future of chatbots for your business is bright.

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