Chatbots for Customer Service – A Business Guide

Chatbots are one of the most exciting and important contemporary customer service technologies to be successfully put to use in contact centres around the globe. In many ways, they represent the beginning of the AI revolution that is expected to sweep across the customer service industry in the coming years. While many businesses have already adopted the technology and others plan to do so soon, there is some confusion as to how to best use chatbots for customer service.

Though the most efficient way of doing so is to work alongside a chatbot specialist with the expertise and experience required to design, develop and maintain a custom bot, we’ve developed this business guide to offer insight into how to get the best from chatbot services.

  1. Cutting costs – doing more with less

There can be no doubt that chatbots are a money-saving technology. They reduce the number of human agents fielding calls, free up others to concentrate on more valuable work and, once up and running, require minimal investment. However, to reduce chatbots to the status of a simple money-saving device is to miss the potential in them entirely.

Those businesses that implement chatbot technology are benefitting from a lot more than just lower customer service costs. To think of chatbots in such reductionist terms is a missed opportunity.

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As Foresters argue, the implementation, maintenance, and optimisation process is a journey that can teach businesses a great deal. Not only will they reduce their spending, but

‘enterprises can obtain deeper customer insights, improve customer and agent experiences, and transform cost models.’

Chatbots provide organisations with a direct, conversational link with their customers. They can collect data, analyse behaviour, streamline services, ask questions, and request feedback – all while resolving issues that the customer needs fixed.

So, despite being a cost-cutting tool, customer service departments and businesses as a whole would do well to avoid thinking of them exclusively in those terms. Instead, they should be thought of as a technology that allows your business to do more with less.

  1. Chatbots for customer service – automating routine enquiries

Though we’re not yet in a position where chatbots can automate all customer service processes, there is a wide range of tasks that they can perform entirely on their own, without the need for any human intervention. This is important, as automation of end-to-end business processes is key to customer satisfaction.

Automating routine enquiries not only cuts costs, it also ensures they’re carried out faster, more effectively, and with minimum fuss. If businesses can cut waiting times, respond to high-volume enquiries with greater speed, and resolve them without ever transferring the customer to a human agent, you benefit from both reduced expenditure and improved customer experience.

  1. Information gathering and agent automation

However, chatbots aren’t only used to automate end-to-end transactions. They also have a role to play in those interactions that still require human intervention. For instance, many chatbots are used to facilitate agent automation – the process by which parts of an agent’s role are automated to allow them to provide a quicker, more efficient and more accurate response to enquiries.

Chatbots for Customer Service - A Business Guide

Consider how much time an agent spends at the start of a call asking for personal information, authenticating the caller’s identity and establishing the nature of their enquiry. None of these actions are particularly complex but they take up a considerable amount of time. All of them can be automated by a chatbot.

This means that, when a customer is put through to your agent, they’re able to focus exclusively on providing a solution to the problem. Not only that, but they have all of the customer’s personal information and history on-hand to help them.

  1. Free up human agents to realise their potential

This ability to augment human agents by automating those tasks that don’t require key human characteristics (empathy, nuance, emotional intelligence), frees up your human agents to focus on those tasks that do require these qualities. While many see chatbots as a means of cutting customer service costs by limiting the need for human agents, those businesses with vision are preparing for a system in which chatbots improve agent performance.

In this respect, businesses need to develop a strategy that utilises chatbots in a way that maximises the time and effort human agents spend on tasks that require their full skillset.

Whereas dedicating large amounts of time to simple data entry tasks does not realise agents’ full potential, complex customer issues that require a human touch do. Relieving your agents of basic enquiry handling also allows them to step away from the phones to focus on other workstreams and projects, reorienting your customer service department away from the under-siege, firefighting mentality and towards an environment in which you’re able to build for the future.

  1. Understand your customers

Chatbots offer a unique insight into how customers interact with a business. It allows the organisation to record the type of language customers use, what kind of questions they ask, where they’re having problems, and what reaction they have to certain types of advice or response. All of these factors can be used to give a business a better idea of who their customers are and how they behave.

Chatbots for Customer Service - A Business Guide

This is essential information for any marketing department and not only allows you to improve your chatbot’s use of language and tone but to also better target all other outgoing communications. Chatbot transcripts can also be used to discover what customers want from products, how they feel about pricing, or what they enjoy about your branding. In this respect, they’re an invaluable resource that must be put to good use.

  1. Grow your knowledge base

Your knowledge base is a resource that allows agents to find answers to common issues quickly and efficiently. It’s also an important source of data for chatbots and AI applications that utilise Machine Learning (ML).

In many ways, the success of your chatbot depends on ensuring it has access to all the information it needs to interact with your customers in an efficient and accurate manner. This means growing your knowledge base and providing your AI technology with more and more data with which it can refine and improve its understanding of customers, their issues and the best way to resolve them.

For this reason, it’s important that all businesses continue to update and grow their knowledge base – ensuring your chatbot keeps pace and develops to meet any new issues and challenges that arise. One of the greatest strengths of chatbot technology is its ability to grow and develop – all you need to do is keep feeding it data.

  1. Build a more proactive website

Websites remain the first port of call for many customers searching for answers to their problems. Despite this, websites often adopt a passive approach to helping the customer resolve their enquiry. They rely on the user correctly navigating their way around the site and finding the information or resource they require. Of course, this doesn’t always work.

Chatbots for Customer Service - A Business Guide

Chatbots offer businesses a way of making their website more proactive. When intelligently integrated into a site, they can be designed to pop-up when a customer lands on the page and immediately provide them with an interactive channel that will direct them to the correct resource, resolve the enquiry without the need for human intervention or connect them to the channel or agent best suited to their needs.

  1. Intelligent routing to the most efficient channels

As we’ve already mentioned, chatbots don’t necessarily need to provide a solution to an enquiry to be useful. In fact, developments like intelligent routing may prove one of the most valuable tasks a chatbot can perform.

Intelligent routing is the process by which a chatbot directs a customer to the most suitable human agent available, ensuring that they reach the right person at the first time of asking. This results in reduced handling time, fewer transfers and far less customer frustration.

On a basic level, intelligent routing can mean simply directing a customer to the right department for their enquiry. However, integrated alongside more advanced AI technology, chatbots are capable of a great deal more.

For instance, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Sentiment Analysis technologies are able to interpret customer intention, allowing chatbots to narrow in on the purpose of the enquiry and match the caller to an individual human agent. AI applications can also keep track of agents’ individual skill sets and ensure that the customer is served by an agent with the exact skills required to resolve the enquiry. This is particularly important when you’re running a large and busy team of multi-skilled employees.

  1. An easier way to measure performance

Monitoring agent performance and establishing customer satisfaction can be a tricky business. While we have a wide range of qualitative metrics available to measure the success of the customer service system, they’re not always easy to deliver nor are they particularly reliable. In this regard, chatbots can help in several different ways.

Chatbots for Customer Service - A Business Guide

First and foremost, they’re an excellent means of delivering a customer service satisfaction survey and gathering feedback. Though some customers will hold on to answer a satisfaction survey on the phone, a large proportion don’t. With chatbots, customers are much more likely to complete a quick survey after the enquiry has been resolved.

Secondly, AI and NLP technology can be leveraged to analyse the language in every single chatbot interaction and uncover patterns and trends that offer insight into how the customer feels about the service provided and the business more generally. This opens up a whole new area of analytics for your customer service department to take advantage of.

  1. Ensure your business is secure

Customer service departments and local government organisations are incredibly popular targets for scammers. This is mainly due to the fact that they retain large amounts of their customers’ sensitive personal data. The issue is exacerbated by the unfortunate truth that human agents are often easily fooled by fraudsters.

Chatbots are able to automate the identification process. An automated identification process not only reduces the amount of time it takes to verify that someone is who they say they are, it also provides safeguards that most people will struggle to breach. Foresters recently released a report in which it detailed how replacing a human agent with a chatbot enabled a business to cut the verification process from 10 minutes to 3 minutes. In the process, ‘the company found that approximately 4% of total chats were phishing attempts.’

  1. Make the most of 24/7 support

One of the key ways in which chatbots have revolutionised customer service is by facilitating 24/7 support. Customers are increasingly pressed for time and demand access to services at a time and place that suits them. Failure to provide this access is likely to result in customer dissatisfaction and loss of business.

Chatbots for Customer Service - A Business Guide

By automating relatively simple enquiries, chatbots ensure businesses are able to provide some around-the-clock support. However, businesses do need to consider what happens when a chatbot cannot resolve an out of office hours enquiry and can’t pass it on to a human agent.

In such a case, there are several options available. Chatbots can be designed to offer a call-back service for the next day or ask if the customer would like to submit a written enquiry that can be responded to by email. Alternatively, they could direct the customer to online resources that may be of use.

What Next?

Like any customer service technology, chatbots can be deployed in ways that maximise their potential and ways that fail to do so. Though many companies have introduced them as a simple cost-cutting tool that’s capable of automating basic enquiries and processes, chatbots for customer service can benefit your business in far more powerful ways. This guide has attempted to provide some insight into how you can use bots to take full advantage of the technology.

If you would like to find out more about how Inform can help your business build, develop and integrate chatbot technology that meets your specific needs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Editors Note: This post was originally published in December 2018 but has since been completely updated so it stays relevant, accurate and valuable to our readers

Have a question or want further information on improving customer service using chatbots? Our expert team have been providing customer contact solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line.