24/7 real-time customer services are increasingly the norm in our always-on digital culture. Businesses that fall short of this requirement do so at their own peril, putting themselves at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
Thanks to the advent of the customer service chatbot, this needn’t be the case.
Customer service chatbots can deliver responsive around the clock automation at scale, and in doing so bring modern customer service driven practices to the fore.
This article will enumerate the numerous benefits of customer service chatbots to business. But before all that, it’s important to establish some ground rules: i.e. what do we mean by a customer service chatbot?
What is a Customer Service Chatbot?
A customer service chatbot is a computer program capable of simulating human to human conversations in order to automate a variety of customer service tasks that are usually performed by web pages and customer service personnel.
These tasks can range from the routine answering of FAQs, right through to more proactive and intelligent “suggestions”, such as the suitability of certain products and services.
A well designed and integrated customer service chatbot can serve a multiplicity of users over numerous channels—without interruption.
In the process, customer service chatbot automation liberates agents to perform more value-added tasks.
How Do Customer Support Bots Work?
But how does a customer service chabot work independently of humans, you might ask? What’s more, how can it solve specific knowledge based customer queries, which are dependent on context and intent?
Well to answer these questions we first need to take a closer look at the technology that drives a customer service chatbot.
Customer Service Chatbot Technology
In essence, customer service bots come in two varieties: Rule-based and artificial intelligence AI.
Rule-based customer service chatbots plot conversations and provide “scripted” responses to questions. They do not, however, have the capacity to learn from these interactions and would fail to establish “intent” outside a specific chat context or set of rules.
On the other hand, an ai powered chatbot harnesses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) processes to give it a greater, human-like “intelligence” or ability to “think”.
These components of artificial intelligence mean that AI bots are much more conversationally advanced, capable of learning, and able to establish contexts and intentions, than their rule-based contemporaries.
AI bots also have the ability to analyze and process large amounts of data relating to the “natural” language spoken by humans, as well as being able to act on that same data.
The Roles and Benefits of Customer Service Chatbots
Let’s examine some of the key areas of customer service chatbot deployment and the benefits it brings.
Automated Customer Service and Support
Not surprisingly, automated customer support duties are the mainstay of customer service chatbots.
Chatbots can be deployed to provide non-stop real-time support across a number of communication channels—from web to social media. In fact wherever your customers choose to engage.
This can significantly boost a business’ responsiveness and operational efficiency.
Customer service chatbots can automate a whole range of customer support team duties, across numerous business sectors, and in multiple languages. Bots can answer questions, direct customers to relevant services, and take bookings.
This level and scope of automation serves to liberate skilled personnel from the burden of repetitive daily tasks, allowing them to perform more value-added activities and optimize workflows.
Resolve Issues and Answer Questions
Businesses often use chatbots as the “front end” of online live chat sessions.
By virtue of their conversational proficiency and the ability to tap into conversation history, customer service chatbots have the capacity to answer a slew of customer questions.
Whilst engaged in this way, they offer the additional operational benefit of being able to gather information relating to any given issue—customer name, order details, problem type—which can then be referred to in all future interactions, or, if the need arises, forwarded to a live chat agent for further assistance.
Providing responses to FAQs is a basic requirement of any self-respecting customer support team. Employing a bot to field frequently asked questions is not only an efficient use of resources, it is also more interactive and engaging than a run-of-the-mill static web page.
Chatbot managed FAQs can take on a variety of forms, from interactive quick replies to set questions, right through to trained AI niche bots responding to “free-form” text inputs from users.
FAQ mobilized bots can be tailored to meet brand, industry, and audience requirements.
Chatbot personalization enhances customer experience and is a key feature of customer service chatbot functionality.
AI powered chatbots are capable of providing data-driven, tailor-made solutions, based on previous conversations and interactions.
By deciding on the personality, characteristics and even the language of your bot, you not only widen your field of operation, but also improve every stage of your customer’s journey.
This degree of personalization—matching personas to audience segments— is a major advantage for businesses that operate in what are known as “multiple verticals”, or many different niches.
Consistency of Voice
For a customer there is nothing worse than receiving divergent or even conflicting messages from a support team or teams.
Voice, tone and language are all variables that are decided on at the design and implementation stage of a customer service chabot’s life. Once they are, the chatbot will never deviate and always stays on message.
This ensures a consistency of voice across all communication channels.
Courtesy of NLP—and its subsets NLU and NLG—artificially intelligent customer service chatbots are capable of conversing with a customer base in an interactive and natural way. This provides a significant boost to existing and new customer engagements right across the board.
Conversational intelligence of this kind comes from an ai powered chatbot’s ability to draw on structured data to select appropriate answers, as well as being able to recognize intentions and topics in order to maintain conversation flow.
This capacity to simulate human to human conversation and mimic its fluidity, emotion and personality, significantly increases the scope of applications of conversational AI chatbots.
Streamlined Customer Support
Not to be overlooked is the impact internal systems and workflows have on customer services.
Customer support chatbots can help schedule meetings, manage tasks, and engage with other employees.
All this leads to a more efficient and focused customer service personnel, capable of delivering a better customer experience.
And with no necessity to scale up by extending customer support hours or employing additional agents, chatbots deliver cost efficiency too—across mobile, digital, and social channels.
Customer Service Bots and the Customer Experience
Of course customer services can go beyond the basic problem solving variety into more predictive and intelligent areas of customer experience, such as product recommendations and relaying relevant information regarding products and services.
By tapping into customer knowledge bases and customer histories, customer service chatbots can significantly enhance the customer journey, which in turn helps drive new revenue and boosts the prospect of “upselling”.
AI customer service chatbots have the ability to anticipate customer needs and initiate productive conversations.
AI chatbots in particular rely on expanded data, for pattern recognition, establishing contexts and drawing on conversation history, so that they can formulate the best responses.
This means that an effective customer service chatbot implementation and deployment is dependent on a well-structured knowledge base.
Chatbots are skilled at tapping into knowledge bases in order to tackle a variety of customer questions.
These interactions not only draw on actionable customer information but harvest useful data for the future. ML assists with the structuring of this newly acquired data.
Learning on the Job
Machine Learning is an intrinsic part of artificial intelligence. ML driven chatbots use data and algorithms to mimic a human’s ability to learn through experience.
This puts a customer service chatbot on the front foot when it comes to resolving issues, answering questions, and other forms of customer assistance.
Thanks to ML, chatbots have the ability to automatically improve the quality of support that they offer—based on these past interactions.
Adding Skill Sets
ML is only one aspect of your chatbot’s ability to learn on the job. Chatbots, like humans, can also improve their skills through customer service training.
Bot customer service training comes in the form of introducing your chatbot to commonly encountered questions and then providing the ideal responses.
These “implanted” questions and corresponding answers can then be matched by the chatbot in a live chat context. This kind of fine tuning provides a personalized professional touch to your online support team.
Quite simple really.
Predicting Customer Behavior
AI Customer service chatbots can gather and analyze user histories, and conversations, to provide valuable insights into anticipated customer behavior in the future.
These data-driven “insights” are highly actionable in relation to customer service strategies. For example, bots are able to offer personalized services, as well as send reminders and important customer notifications.
Conversation history can also be used by customer service bots to take a more proactive role by engaging shoppers online and making recommendations.
By drawing on these live chat repositories, chatbots are transforming the definition of customer service.
Chatbot analytics are vital when it comes to formulating the very best in service and customer support.
Customer service chatbot platforms often provide reporting along with the option to collect actionable user data.
Some chatbots can also be connected to your CRM. This level of integration better facilitates the mapping and understanding of the buying journey.
Reporting gives you the potential to optimize knowledge bases in the service of clearly defined customer service goals.
Helping Customers Along The Sales Funnel
Though lead generation and sales aren’t the strict domain of customer services, customer service bots are capable of providing customer assistance during the buying journey, if so required.
Chatbot lead qualification and augmentation functionality, in the form of personalized, targeted messaging, can guide existing and would-be customers alike along the sales funnel and, in doing so, greatly improve the overall customer experience, CX.
By analyzing customer data, customer service chatbots can better determine how to direct a customer or what information he or she might require. This means leads can be processed and conveyed to sales representatives, or a CRM team, in a much more effective way than would otherwise be possible.
Offering the right conversation flow is beneficial to both customers, businesses and conversion rates. Studying each customer and their journey can lead to actionable improvements in chatbot responses and behavior.
Social Customer Support
Customer service extends beyond the precincts of a traditional webpage. Customers need to reach you on platforms they already use.
Social media customer service is the practice of using social tools to resolve customer questions or concerns on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram
These “social tools” can be used to delegate, schedule updates, re-post, segment, create bulk actions, and analyze customer conversation histories, to deliver the very best in social media support.
Social media offers businesses a dynamic way of engaging with new and existing customers. This goes some way to explaining why 2 billion messages are exchanged every month between businesses and customers on Facebook alone.
Meeting Customers on Multi-Channels
In an evolving digital landscape, in which social messaging apps and channels are rapidly proliferating, it’s essential to deliver customer service and support across a range of platforms. This way you can always be where your customers interact with your brand.
Cross- or multi-channel engagement is a vital component in providing a coordinated customer experience.
This is where omnichannel features come in. An omnichannel customer service chatbot platform facilitates personalized interactions across a variety of platforms—such as web, Facebook Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp, Zoom, etc.
Multichannel communication is much easier to manage through one chatbot platform inbox. This is where unified inboxes come in.
A multichannel unified inbox that draws on “structured” knowledge bases, delivers joined-up, seamlessly coordinated customer care.
Multichannel unified inboxes allow you to manage all your conversations in one place—regardless of the channel they came from.
Back Office Integration
Integration is intertwined with multiple channel joined-up engagement. Integration allows you to connect your AI customer service chatbot across a range of business tools and core systems, such as WordPress, LiveChat, etc.
By incorporating Application Programming Interface (API) technology, chatbots can help integrate your core business systems and share actionable customer information and data across different software systems, like your CRM for example.
Back office integration is critical in the creation of intelligent customer knowledge bases.
Hybrid Customer Solutions
Certain scenarios might require a hybrid, Human in the Loop approach to customer care. Some AI powered chatbot platforms give you this option with HITL functionality.
A chatbot with HITL can provide frictionless “handoffs” or transfers to human agents when there is a breakdown in understanding or a gap in an area of customer support.
Ideal when a human touch to a high-value inquiry is required.
Building Your Own Customer Service Bot
All right, so you’re convinced. Customer service chatbots are just the thing you and your business need to keep you on a level footing with your competitors.
The question is how do you go about building and implementing bots into your pre-existing systems?
No-code chatbot platforms have heralded the beginnings of smart digital solutions, at scale, and for every budget. Building a bot for Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or the web, is no longer the preserve of web designers and programmers.
Drag and drop, template based bot builders have brought the benefits of automated, conversational bots within the reach of every business type and size.
KPI—The Customer Satisfaction Metric
But what are the key performance indicators? And how do you measure the success of chatbot implementation when the self service nature of messaging bots means your contact center has limited access to end user experiences?
Fortunately there are a number of customer satisfaction and loyalty metrics, such as NPS, CSAT and CES, to calculate and grade the efficiency of your chatbot’s customer support.
The idea is that the higher the customer satisfaction score resulting from a chatbot interaction, the higher your satisfaction/loyalty metric score will be.
Before we conclude, a word or two on the subject of virtual assistants.
Virtual Assistants incorporate text-to-speech (TTS) and voice recognition application program interfaces (APIs) to enable the formulation of responses to spoken dialogue.
So-called virtual assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant, possess all the AI chatbot attributes of being able to recognize contexts, user intentions and histories.
However, it is worth noting that when it comes to customer service, virtual assistants are only equipped to make suggestions, and are usually incapable of resolving queries on their own.
In business a differentiator is a distinguishing characteristic that gives your company a distinct competitive advantage.
By delivering 24/7 support and instant responses through a conversational, chat based interface, you effectively boost engagement and the overall customer experience.
Customer service chatbot implementation has the potential to provide you with just the right degree of distinction to set you apart from your competitors.
In customer service terms that can make all the difference.
Q. What is a customer service chatbot?
A. A customer service chatbot is a computer program which is capable of simulating human-like conversations in order to automate a variety of customer service tasks
Tasks that would otherwise be performed by FAQ pages and customer support teams.
Q. How do you use chatbots for customer service?
A. Customer service chatbots can be deployed to automate a whole range of customer support team duties, across a spectrum of business sectors.
Customer service chatbots are capable of responding to questions and incoming messages, as well as more predictive behavior, such as directing customers to relevant products and services.
Chatbots are often used as the “front end” of online live chat sessions. Mobilized in this way they not only improve customer support but also harvest actionable customer information.
Q. Are chatbots good for customer service?
A. Customers often cite 24/7 support and instant responses as being the main reasons for interacting with chat bots.
Measuring the success of chatbot implementation is a little more difficult because contact centers have limited access to the end user experience.
Customer satisfaction, and loyalty metrics, such as NPS can calculate and grade the efficiency of your chatbot’s customer support—the higher the customer satisfaction, the higher your NPS.
Q. Does Amazon use chatbots for customer service?
A. Amazon uses the AWS Chatbot to monitor and interact with its web services.
AWS Chatbot can be integrated with Slack channels or Amazon Chime chat rooms, to receive real time notifications and faster responses.
Amazon is implementing chatbot technology for better automation across all its online channels to drive sales through customer interaction and streamline customer relationship management (CRM).