One businessman sharing chatbot usage data with how manager. - Chatbot concept
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This article is part 1 of a 4 part article series, sponsored by Genesys.

In today’s hyper-connected business climate, your business is expected to be available to customers 24/7 via phone, instant messaging, SMS, webchat, social media or other channels.

But the number of channels and interactions happening on them will increase 28.5 percent by 2022, Gartner predicts. And if you can’t keep up with the ongoing avalanche of customer communications and queries, your business faces a number of strategic risks. For example, the average telephone interaction with a customer costs about $7, according to IFS research. So you’re spending a lot of money to have call center agents answer the same questions over and over.

Not keeping pace with customer requests and inquiries across all channels is also likely to create an unsatisfying customer experience. And, in our increasingly digital age, when dissatisfied customers can easily go elsewhere, a positive customer experience is an important differentiator, according to The Wall Street Journal.

What’s more, unhappy customers are quick to share their frustrations on social media, which can lead to brand reputation damage, not to mention loss of revenues from angry former customers.

For these and other reasons, many businesses are turning to customer service chatbots, growing the global chatbot market 31 percent by 2024, according to Global Market Insights, Inc. And by 2022, 72 percent of customer interactions will involve chatbots or some other emerging technology, up from 11 percent in 2017, Gartner predicts.

Chatbots are by no means a panacea to all customer support challenges, of course. For example, consumers have mixed feelings about interacting with chatbots. While 80 percent of consumers report positive chatbot experiences, nearly 60 percent are either somewhat or completely uninterested in engaging with chatbots, according to research from location marketing company Uberall.

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Why Chatbots are Worth Considering

Chatbots, when done well, can help your business in many ways.

Chatbots can interact with customers around the globe 24/7 across all important channels, which could be cost-prohibitive for many companies to achieve with human agents. And you speed up customer service response times for tier 1 inquiries by 99 percent via chatbots, according to IBM.

Although there’s concern that chatbots will replace call center agents, they’re actually best at augmenting human agents. Using a chatbot, you can verify a customer’s identity, gather information from the customer, answer queries, complete predefined tasks, and then pass a customer on to the available agent who can best meet the caller’s further needs.

Callers hate having to repeat their identifying information to a human agent, having just given it to a bot. But chatbots can pass off all the customer’s data and context to human agents. In addition to streamlining the customer interaction, having the data and context helps human agents provide more meaningful customer engagements.

This is what’s known as blended AI—an environment that combines the human element and machine learning to enhance the customer journey. Consequently, customer satisfaction increases 61 percent from a blend of human agents and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled interactions such as chatbots, while human agents are 66 percent more productive and 69 percent more satisfied in their work, says research firm Forrester.

Chatbots can enable you to interact with customers across multiple channels, such as phone calls and SMS, so you can deliver a more uniform, seamless experience that customers appreciate. In fact, 83 percent of consumers say the ability to move from one assisted channel (such as a web chat) to another (such as a phone conversation) is desirable, according to the Genesys State of Customer Experience report.

Because a chatbot can offer highly personalized content and offers at each stage of the customer journey, it can help increase sales and customer loyalty. A classic example is Rose, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ chatbot. Rose is playful and slightly irreverent, in keeping with the resort’s brand. Plus, Rose can answer 80 percent of questions automatically, according to the Cosmpolitan’s research. Guests who interact with Rose are 33 percent more satisfied with their stay and spend an average of 30 percent more while at the resort.

Ultimately, blended AI can deliver the most efficient and satisfying experience to customers as well as your human agents, as chatbots can free them to focus on more important, interesting, or challenging tasks.

Tips For Developing the Best Chatbot For Your Business

Get buy-in from all relevant departments. To be effective, a chatbot must be able to access information from—or deliver information to—multiple departments across the company, such as sales and customer support. Otherwise, you end up with a chatbot that can’t fully serve customer needs.

Start small, test and measure. You don’t need to launch a highly sophisticated chatbot right out of the gate. Start with the basics and add more functionality as needed. Test the chatbot thoroughly before rolling it out. And decide in advance how you’ll measure the chatbot’s success.

Don’t worry about lengthy development cycles. With some solutions, your team can build a working customer service chatbot in half a day using prebuilt apps that are specific to vertical industries.

Educate customer service support teams about what chatbots will and won’t do. Directly address any fears they have that chatbots will replace them. Help them understand how chatbots can free them from repetitive tasks and allow them to tackle more complex challenges.

Be transparent. Chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated to the point where it’s not always obvious to some customers when they’re interacting with a chatbot vs. a human. Tell customers up front they’re speaking to a chatbot. And inform them what the chatbot can enable them to do. You may save the customer—and your agents—time and frustration.

It’s All About the Customer Experience

In the coming years, the ability to interact with customers when they need you and in the channel of their preference, whether it’s SMS or phone, will only become more critical. Chatbots, when developed with an eye toward solving your customer’s problems as quickly and efficiently as possible and when augmenting your human agents, can help you deliver the best possible customer experience today and in the years to come.