Customer Service Chatbots Need the Same Level of Care as IVR

Consumers remember too well the “your call is valuable to us” message while grinding their teeth, stuck in customer service hold-hell on the phone. Businesses shouldn’t make similar mistakes just because the chatbot eliminates that particular bugbear, being casual with your customer service bots will only lead to more problems.

The drive to chatbots as a 24/7 always-on solution for customer service is one of the major appeals of the technology. Businesses from startups to enterprises use them to reduce the pressure on call centers or service agents and to triage serious issues while letting the bot take the load of typical queries, improving the customer experience.

While early bots, when the technology raced up the adoption curve in recent years, only answered simple queries. We’re already at the point where modern bots can answer more complex problems, understand user sentiment, take orders or appointments, link to useful information, provide sales support and even help boost ecommerce.

But the more businesses add to their bot, the greater the chance of confusing, distracting or losing the customer. But, before that, back to basics. While your IT, sales, customer support or marketing teams might want to launch a bot quickly to compete with rivals, it takes time and effort to build the best-possible bot.

Build the Best Bot You Can

Regardless of how you build the bot, using internal developers, a cloud platform, or using a bot developer. The bot needs clear aims and goals, both for the business and the customer. It needs to provide a clear business benefit, and needs a person or team to take responsibility for meeting those goals.

Anything less will likely see the bot treated as a curio or experiment, and when things go wrong because no one is paying enough attention, it will be left to wither, annoying customers and damaging the business or brand.

Treat the bot as you would any major business project. Take time to understand the market, what your competitors’ bots do, and how they are presented to clients. Using the budget available, create and test the best bot possible. Natural language processing and AI are common features in bots, allowing it to be more adaptable, and shouldn’t be avoided because they sound controversial or threatening.

Focusing on the use of clear language and answering questions that customers need answering as fully as possible. Intensive testing should highlight where people get confused or are lead down a conversation path they weren’t expecting. Clarity and brevity are essential, as are a helpful-sounding name, tone of voice and a degree of warmth for the bot.

While many customer service bots will replicate the scripts of IVR solutions, that might not be making best use of the technology, see what value the bot can add to the conversation and the business before launching.

The Big Launch

During the incubation period, explain to both internal and external partners and users why the bot exists. Most bots are used to free up valuable work time, not to make people redundant. Highlight the benefits it offers, what the future plans are for it, and explain that artificial intelligence isn’t going to eliminate roles, despite the hype behind the technology.

When it comes to launch, ensure all your customers are aware of the bot and what it can do for them. Then launch it across as many platforms as you can to ensure it gains visibility. Brave or confident businesses remove some of their other customer service avenues to let the bot take the strain.

From launch, the bot needs to be closely monitored to ensure it meets customer expectations and satisfaction levels, with high-quality positive outcomes. The company also needs to ensure it meets the business goals in time savings, retentions or new customers, sales or other efficiencies.

Customer service bots have all the analytics tools needed to measure and monitor quality, the drive to “know your customer” can be improved by using chatbot metrics. If not enough people are using the bot then marketing efforts need to be improved, and a companywide effort, not just one department or service, needs to be involved in pushing the bot.

All of these efforts need to be recorded with reports on how issues were resolved and solutions found. Larger businesses will need to operate multiple bots, and learning the process of building a good customer support or other bot is key to future success.

Yes, chatbots can be deployed as a quick and easy solution to some customer service problems. They are ideal for a crisis, when other support avenues fail, or if the business is flooded with orders or queries after a major problem. But as a growing part of the company, bots need to be treated as a serious project with the resources and monitoring worthy of something that could transform how businesses communicate in the coming years.