February 21, 2017

Are Chatbots Revolutionising Customer Service?

chatbots for customer service

There was once a time when building and customer relationships used to be pretty simple. All a business had to do was assign a personable, responsible and dedicated representative to listen to queries and concerns. The rep would then provide the best possible solution to the customer. Well, that’s not the scenario anymore.

Calls and emails and the very concept of call center are rapidly being replaced with more efficient and faster ways of communication. It is mostly a whole new bunch of social-media options. Why social media? Well, till now it is pretty much perfect for immediate responses to customer’s queries. However, the problem with communicating via social media is that sometimes the conversations are too public. In the past decade or so, Facebook defined the customer-brand engagement game by creating Facebook Pages. Twitter feeds soon became the preferred way of communication between brands and consumers. In just a short period of time, social customers were born.

Now, a shift is starting again – and this time, artificial intelligence or AI has a lot to do with it. Businesses are constantly on the lookout for newer ways to connect with customers where they are and there is no denying that today’s customers live on messaging platforms. Since Facebook launched its bot platform on Messenger back in April 2016, more than 11, 000 bots have come online. In fact, bots have multiplied across popular messaging media like Snapchat, Skype and Kik. Yes, the number of bots now is quite staggering. In fact, messaging apps are well on their way to beating social-media networks in popularity.

How do chatbots help a brand with customer service?

Given the mobile messaging phenomenon happening today, as mentioned above, it is only natural that brands would want to leverage chatbot technology to reach their customers. However, the concept of chatbots isn’t exactly new. While in 1966, Eliza – the bot – was good enough to pass the Turing artificial intelligence test, even a decade ago, SmarterChild, the AIM/MSN bot, impressed us with its weather predictions and movie listing sharings. Some bots built in devices are already widely popular, for example – like Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri.

The main reason why chatbot services matter to customer service is that they streamline customer interaction process and, thereby, customer engagement. In a way, chatbots provide customers with complete empowerment.

Customers today prefer text-based communication over human interaction. They also prefer to depend on chatbots for simple solutions. These AI-powered bots enable brands to stay connected to consumers round the clock, handling frequent and repetitive queries efficiently and swiftly. They significantly reduce response time and provide accurate answers each time. Bots can help brands to collect information, understand context, and analyse needs. These improve customer service and a creates a better experience for both the customer and the brand.


What’s driving the ‘chatbot revolution’?

  • Consumer demand and Facebook’s popularity are the two main driving forces behind the ‘chatbot revolution’. As mentioned above, consumers these days prefer to ‘talk’ to conversational programmes. Rather than talking to support rep and waiting for a solution, they like to take control of the situation themselves and get things done instantly without any delay. According to Gartner, “By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.” Bottom line, brands have understood that intelligent-self service is needed to enhance today’s users’ experience and have, therefore, started embracing chatbot technology. It won’t be wrong to say that chatbots are self-service game changers.
  • Chatbots are cheaper than mobile apps. Apps cost a substantial amount to develop and market. Chatbots are not just more cost effective but once developed they can be adopted to various messaging platforms. As these messaging platforms are already installed in users’ phones, they are not required to download a new software to use chatbot services. Since bots, when developed efficiently, can do the task of several apps at a time, people’s dependency on apps are also slowly lessening.


How important is Facebook to this chatbot revolution?

Facebook is actually one of the major driving factors of this revolution. Back in April 2016, at their annual F8 Developers Conference, Facebook announced the launch of the Messenger platform, ready to support chatbots. Soon after, hundreds of brands flocked to the said platform to reach out to their users. Within July 2016, more than 23,000 developers signed up for Wit.ai’s bot engine. Since then, Facebook has constantly been making its Messenger chatbots more inviting to their users by simplifying services with features like Quick Replies, Persistent Menu, secured account linking, responses with GIF/audio/video, manage/mute controls, ratings, etc.


What are the main ways in which chatbots can turn around customer service?

Let’s take a quick look at the five major ways in which chatbots could improve your brand’s customer service, no matter which industry you operate in:

1.Customised user experiences

The companies that have already developed dedicated chatbots encourage their clients to login their account details directly into the chat service’s user interface. This enables the chatbot to access the demographics, purchase history that will, in turn, help the brand to identify the customer’s preferences and therefore, solve his/her problem more effectively and serve him/her more satisfactorily.

2.Improved response time

It is no secret that people do not like waiting for several hours for a response/action after submitting a query or lodging a complaint to a brand’s representative. How about instantaneous response then? Chatbots can reply within milliseconds and provide basic solutions just as fast.

3.Better scalability

There is a limit to the number of people that a customer support team can cater to in a day. There is high possibility that most of these customers’ problems can be solved in a jiffy, while some cases are a bit more serious. Chatbots enable you to provide solutions to trivial problems quickly while sensitive cases can still be handled by human representatives. Such easy and swift access to horizontal integration opportunities that improves scalability significantly wouldn’t be possible without chatbots.

4.Broad Knowledge Base

Can you imagine having all the answers to your customers’ questions just a few clicks away? Chatbots can access company’s internal knowledge base and the whole internet and provide the best answer to every customer’s question. That means no time is spent in putting the client on hold while one looks up the answer. This also means the chatbot can keep on gaining more knowledge and becoming increasingly efficient with time.

5.Reduced expenses

Chatbot development provides an excellent return on investment. It can help to downscale the customer support team to just a few individuals in order to handle sensitive situations. This will not only reduce the company’s customer service expenditure while increasing the number of customers that can be handled at a time.   

Following the lead is alright; but can you lead it?

Constant evolution of technology has made consumers expect quick or even instant customer service. As stated above, significant portion of today’s consumers believe that businesses should be available at all times via messaging apps.

Within just a couple of months of Facebook’s Messenger Bot platform launch, 11,000 chatbots were online on the platform. Big names such as The Guardian, General Electric, American Express, Whole Foods, CNN, Pizza Hut, Weather Channel, and RedFoo have all effectively integrated chatbots in their marketing efforts.

It needs to be understood that customer service is constantly trying to incorporate all the opportunities that technology is offering. Smart businesses are moving fast to try and stay ahead of consumers’ expectations and, of course, competition.

Chatbot development isn’t very difficult and can also be done within a very short span of time. It is also a smart way to improve your brand’s customer service by leaps and bound. Providing consumers with personalised and instant support, that too without the expenses required for a live agent, can make your business stand out from others. More importantly, it can create new opportunities for your brand to get repeat customers as well as influential supporters.

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