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What to Look for in a Customer Service Chatbot

5 minute read
Phil Britt avatar
All chatbots aren’t created equal.

All chatbots aren’t created (or implemented) equal. Some will provide customers with excellent CX, while others will leave a trail of frustrated customers in their wake. So what should you look for in a chatbot?

Marketers and others who work with chatbots listed the following six features as being the most important.

1. Intelligence and Analytic Skills

"Excellent chatbots can analyze the context of a respondent’s message and perform corresponding actions based on predetermined rules,” said Stephen Light, CMO and co-owner of Nolah Mattress. However, these features come at a cost. 

Companies on a tight budget can look to less expensive chatbots with fewer capabilities, but don’t expect these cheaper options to study and analyze their customer’s message like a smart chatbot, Light cautioned. He further recommended companies opting for the less expensive chatbots to limit interactions to a set of predetermined routes.

Related Article: A Good Chatbot Is Hard to Find

2. Accuracy and Preciseness

Some chatbots are confusing and provide inaccurate answers to certain questions, Light said. “It is critical to choose a chatbot service provider with a clean track record of accurate results.”

Light recommended testing a chatbot with a small sample of volunteers before launching the service to your entire customer base. If respondents encounter problems and find the chatbot frustrating, it's time to troubleshoot.

3. Ability to Integrate with Other Systems

“One of the most overlooked factors in evaluating a chatbot is the integrations,” said Sarah Jackson, owner of Instapot Life. “It's paramount to make sure your chatbot properly integrates with your CRM or customer service system either natively or through a third-party connector. Make sure to ... understand exactly how data will be passed through your systems. Have your development team read through API documentation and ensure they are satisfied. If your chatbot data is siloed it can create long-term complications.”

Related Article: What Makes a Chatbot Tick?

4. Ability to Identify Customers

Integration with certain systems will allow chatbots to identify customers in order to hand them off to the right customer service agent, said Aaron McWilliams, 1Dental.com director of marketing.

“One of the most advantageous features to have with your chatbot tool is the ability to intelligently validate customers and pass them along to the right team member because it allows your chatbot to become a lead generation tool as well as a helpful customer service tool,” McWilliams explained. “If you can find a good chatbot that identifies potential new customers based on their interest and needs and then qualify them based on this criteria, it can end up saving your sales team time and help them win more business.”

Learning Opportunities

McWilliams added: With the right type of personalization, communications can turn interest into advocacy, so finding a chatbot that allows for some type of personalization might be the differentiator.

When evaluating chatbots, it’s critical to look for chatbots that can manage lengthy conversations, and feel more human.

5. Complex Conversation Capability

When searching for chatbots, it’s crucial to choose bots that don’t just capture a visitor’s name and email address with basic lead capture forms. Some “chatbots” are truly just a message that recognizes first-time visitors and asks for their contact information, said Bruce Hogan, CEO of SoftwarePundit.

“Bots are most beneficial when they can be designed with complex workflow builders, or decision-tree style builders, to have active back-and-forth conversations with website visitors,” Hogan explained. “For example, you want the bot to proactively engage with visitors, provide answers to frequently asked questions, and route visitors to the correct internal department. These more complex bots will take more responsibility off of your customer service team and offer around-the-clock support, as chatbots work while your team is offline.”

Hogan added that having chatbots feel as human as possible benefits CX. So look for chatbots that make the conversations feel less “robotic.”

Hogan explained: “For example, some chatbots can be programmed to wait a number of seconds before responding to visitors. On the visitor’s end, it’ll look like someone is actively typing a response; meanwhile, it’s just the chatbot waiting a “human” amount of time before responding with its pre-programmed message. Some bots can also recognize returning customers and will send more personalized messages based on the number of sessions a visitor has had on the site. Small details like these often put customers at ease and make conversations feel slightly less transactional.”

Related Article: Calling All Linguists: The Messaging Bots Need Help

6. Ability to Personalize

If the customer has decided to interact with the bot, it simply means he or she is expecting an immediate solution, said Kelsey Chan, marketing manager for CocoSign. “Your chatbot should have a personality that matches your target audience. Add images, widgets, and various versions to enhance its personality and create better user experience." Chan also suggests looking for chatbots that can move beyond the current context to offer suggestions on other available services or offers.

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