Customer service and the tools to deliver it are changing fast, every business should recognise that. Your customers certainly are, as everyone from pensioners down to teenagers are increasingly exposed to chatbots and AI across a wide range of services. The growth and reliance in these services will only shift the landscape further in the direction of automation.
The American marketing obsession with baby boomers is finally coming to an end, as Generation Y (born ‘80s-’99) takes the reigns as the biggest spenders and most influential audience across the planet.
However, their neat bracketing system tends to ignore a world where older folk are smartphone literate and active on social media. While teenagers are going their own way, ignoring anything their parents did like Facebook and Twitter, preferring new and more personal tools. One example, over half of Gen-Z types (born mid-90s to mid-2000s) would book a holiday based on an Instagram post – you can almost hear the tourist companies spamming their feeds with Magaluf pictures now.
Whatever the platform customers use, banks, airlines, healthcare industries are all going full-chatbot fast to deal with the vast number of queries they have to handle. Most simply transport their customer support helpline scripts into chatbot form, but progressive companies see the benefits of making bots smarter to deliver different levels of nuance or advice. These are fast being followed by smaller businesses using bots to book appointments, offer support while the workers are not available and delivering 24/7 information.
If your business is starting to think seriously about customer experience and service for the first time, there are plenty of resources available, with a common theme of using intelligence, analytics and data to generate the best results.
One thing these generations have in common is fast-growing exposure to AI services, virtual assistants and chatbots. In a few short years, chatbots have grown from static-point solutions providing a few answers to specific questions to bots or smart kiosks that can handle many inquiries, or virtual assistants who can pick up the same conversation across many devices. Whatever the service, their growth and adoption has been phenomenal, with Facebook Messenger bots being the most numerous, but if the generations are using different tools, then how does a business offer a broad range of customer support options?
Across business sizes, support costs vary, but the collective figures are immense with U.S. companies alone spending an estimated $112 billion on contact center work and technology annually. Of the 270 billion incoming customer service calls, over half still go unresolved, resulting in around $41 billion in losses, and who knows what cost in lost customers or future sales.
Chatbots are the present and future solution
The practical solution for any business is to be where most of your customers are. The same question was tossed about and discussed much during the rise of social media. Do we need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest or elsewhere? Most businesses settled with customer service access on their website, perhaps in their app and on the key locations where they could see most of their customers waving at them for help.
In today’s technology terms, omnichannel is the buzzword for being everywhere, only needing and updating the one chatbot or AI service, but publishing it across different platforms. SnatchBot’s omnichannel feature can deliver your chatbot on Facebook, Slack, Skype, Telegram and via API to a host of other presence points.
Having just the one bot reduces complexity, means your business only needs to make a few changes as new queries and answers are needed, and as text chatbots add voice and translation services, they become more accessible and help your business grow globally.
As the bot is used more, the business can see where it does well, and update it to address weaknesses in clarity or unsuccessful outcomes. AI bots can be trained on data or use natural language processing to learn this themselves, while even a scripted bot can become a feature of power and expression.
Customer located, now focus on engagement, satisfaction and beyond
Another current debate is whether the chatbot should be the sole point of contact, allowing the business to save time and money on call centres or in-house phone support? Those with mature and experienced chatbots are increasingly removing other services, which suggests a great deal of confidence in their bot.
Those newer to the chatbot and AI game should always have a “talk to a real agent/staff member” option for those rare times when the bot just won’t cut it. And there are many businesses where the personal touch remains essential. But, having figured out where your customers are, and using a chatbot to deal with their essential queries and services, you have won half the battle. Congratulations!
The second half of the battle is to make your chatbot and customer service good enough to drive successful outcomes all the time (or 99% given some customers are never happy). With high success rates, customers will come back, and at that point, many businesses will start to wonder if they can use chatbots to:
- Upsell, acting as broader agents to offer new or improved services, consumables and so on to people who have used the bot before.
- Make new sales directly, offering related products or services to other existing and new customers.
- Accept wider levels of input beyond customer service (acting more in the virtual assistant role).
Going back to the start of that list. Upselling is the easy part, as demonstrated by the many pizza or fast-food ordering chatbots that can nudge people toward an extra-large deal, a round of deserts or to pop up on Messenger a week or month later reminding customers of a new special deal.
Linking your company’s chatbot to a customers’ sales history can help remind them when it is time to order a new printer toner, fish pond filter, cleaning products or whatever. Or, when it is time to book a dentist checkup or car service, the customer is ripe for a deal.
During those chats, it can offer upselling services to the gold package, or a bulk-buy promotion, all as part of a conversation the customer finds increasingly natural, and all it takes is one or two clicks to agree, with the reduced friction of automated shopping or checkout.
Making new sales is more of a challenge as the bot will have less information to go on. But using statistical data and analytics gathered through chatbot use, businesses can see who is more likely to accept a sales offer from a chatbot from their responses. Focusing on the more willing types, sales chatbots can form a relationship with the customer, showing them narrowing ranges (in fashion sales) for example.
Chatbots do this well through menu-responses, such as “Hello there, are you interested in a new hat/jacket/trousers/shoes? Let me show you what we have in stock today… ” Building the relationship should be based on how your best salespeople work, using their knowledge to build a bot that is accessible and engaging.
Finally, customer service chatbots can move beyond their initial role and become full-service bots, depending on the market. The most obvious example is in hotels, where the chatbot has been extended from booking rooms to becoming a digital concierge, helping people through their stay, ordering extras like taxis or breakfast, helping with local knowledge and providing useful details for business travellers or tourists.
Any business with extended contact or time spent with the customer, from hospitals to home smart devices, those with customer loyalty schemes can all look to this example to move beyond customer services.
The future of bots
Having built up a relationship based on good customer service, any business can evolve its chatbot to increase the value to both the business and customer, where appropriate. And, as a business grows, it may find it needs a marketing chatbot to go along with the support one, or perhaps bots offering different tiers of support information.
Rather than letting each department build its own siloed chatbot, having one bot deal with all inquiries simplifies the business technology and keeps costs down.
As we approach 2020, your company might still be looking for its first bot, but there are many who moved their bot from the website to social media, to Alexa or Apple Business Chat and other appropriate platforms. All of which sounds complicated, but is usually the matter of adding an API or linking a service.
Perhaps the best news is that anyone can build a chatbot, it is not in the realm of website design or app building. Small teams can create the perfect chatbot for your business and then expand its role and platforms as the company grows. This makes them one of the more democratic features of the technology spectrum where any worker in the company can provide valuable input, from reception and their patient tone, to experts who can provide key answers to tricky questions.
All of this is important in driving their acceptance and understanding within the business, which will make customer acceptance easier. While the rise of the chatbot is inevitable, having people onside and aware of the technology makes it much easier.
Chris Knight writes about where technology will take us next, from the power of neural networks, artificial intelligence and chatbots, to the endless worlds promised by augmented and virtual reality. From the latest in gadgets and hardware to how digital businesses can use technology to grow, Chris makes the future clear and understandable to all.