What is a Chatbot?

Everything you need to know about Chatbots and Virtual Agents for Customer Engagement — get all this information and more in one eBook.

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Chatbots are your Best Agents

While chatbots have been around for a while, they are not all the same. “Chatbot” refers to a broad range of technologies that allow consumers to use a conversationa interface to interact with companies and accomplish tasks.

How do Chatbots Benefit Organizations?

  1. Automate Customer Service
    Chatbots allow customers to self-serve and get answers to a range of questions quickly and easily at any time of day.
     
  2. Contain Costs
    Using chatbots to handle a range of customer questions deflects customers away from more costly customer service channels, lowering costs without impacting customer satisfaction.
     
  3. Handle Growing Volume of Customer Queries
    Chatbots are able to converse with and assist multiple customers at once. They never tire, and can be trusted to provide a consistent level of service around the clock, including on holidays and weekends.
     
  4. Complement Human Agents
    Chatbots excel at handling repetitive work that can become tedious to human agents. Additionally, if a customer is escalated from a chatbot to a human agent, the chatbot will transfer the entire conversation history, preventing the customer from having to start over, and allowing the agent to quickly and easily identify and solve the customer’s issue.
     
  5. Improve Customer Satisfaction
    Today’s customers want to self-serve and find answers on their own in the moment, without having to pick up the phone or email and wait for a response. Chatbots provide the experiences they expect.
     

Are All Chatbots the Same?

Simple Chatbots

Simple chatbots are the most pervasive chatbots on the market today. Similar to an FAQ page, they’re created for casual use and are designed to deliver an entertaining experience for customers. If a simple chatbot doesn’t know an answer or can’t understand a customer question, the stakes are relatively low for the brand. For instance, we don’t really expect Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa to know all the answers. These are examples of “unbound” chatbots that have no specific context to operate within.

Intelligent Chatbots

For the vast majority of businesses, chatbots need to be smart to be effective. Intelligent chatbots are able to interact with customers in real-time to resolve issues, conduct transactions, and answer questions. Intelligent chatbots can also predict customer intentions and offer specific help when they detect that a customer may need assistance. For example, if a client has visited several mortgage pages and pauses on a specific page, the chatbot can proactively engage the client and offer assistance.

The Three Stages of Chatbot Maturity

  1. Informational
    Understands natural language to provide answers to questions posed

  2. Personalized
    Presents user-specific responses by connecting to enterprise systems and clarifies user intent using menus or simple questions

  3. Transactional
    Guides the user through a series of steps to complete a task (can also be conversational) and can integrate customer data
     

How Do AI Chatbots Work?

Intelligent chatbots are able to integrate with enterprise systems, leverage big data, and use artificial intelligence (AI) to help customers resolve issues and conduct transactions. Here’s what intelligent chatbots can do for your organization.

  1. Capture Data in Real Time
    Intelligent chatbots capture the customer’s identity, attributes, and engagement data, and any feedback the customer provides— all in real time. For example, the chatbot determines:
    • Date, time, physical location, and device information
    • Whether the customer is on the web or a mobile app
    • Whether the customer requested to engage with a chatbot or received a proactive invitation
    • Where the customer was on the website or mobile app when they began the interaction with the chatbot
  2. Use Internal Data
    Using data such as customer profile and preferences, value to the company, location, industry, and amount of money spent in the past year gives the chatbot more insights about the customer. This data is gathered from various sources and is typically available in customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
     
  3. Combine Data to Predict Customer Intentions
    Chatbots develop an understanding of what the customer wants/needs by combining all the data signals. This helps make the conversation contextual and more natural when the customer engages the chatbot.

  4. Engage Customers
    Customers can invoke chatbots themselves when they need assistance, or chatbots can proactively engage customers.
     
  5. Understand What is Said
    Chatbots take each message written or each utterance spoken and run it through natural language models to understand what the customer said. This interaction is contextual and personalized to the customer. The chatbot achieves this by leveraging information such as the web page the customer was on when they engaged with the chatbot and their customer profile.
     
  6. Formulate a Response
    Once the chatbot understands the customer’s intent, the response matching algorithm determines the correct response and assembles it from knowledge bases and CRM systems.
     
  7. Determine Follow-Up Actions
    If the customer provides feedback that he or she is satisfied with the chatbot response, the chatbot closes that intent and waits for a new intent. If the customer requests the chatbot to help “pay my credit card bill,” for example, the chatbot will determine the appropriate follow-up actions such as asking the customer for a password and then completing the transaction.
     

Learn more about the inner workings of intelligent chatbots and see what features and capabilities set them apart from simple bots. 
Not All Chatbots are Created Equal: The Intelligence Question.

See Intelligent Chatbots in Action

Learn more about the many ways chatbots can automate and improve your customer experience.

Where Will Chatbots Benefit Your Business?

Chatbots aren’t just here to make life easier for your customers – they offer dramatic improvements in a number of areas.

Sales and Marketing

Chatbots can generate more leads, attract more customers, and increase revenue from existing customers.

Customer Service and Support

Chatbots can handle routine questions and tasks, freeing up more time for staff to deal with more complex, value-added services.

Partner Programs

Chatbots can help partners get the information they need to support their customers quickly and effectively.

Employee Assistance

Chatbots can:

  • Help train new employees
  • Provide human resources assistance
  • Assist contact center agents with questions

Customer Insight

Chatbot conversations create the opportunity for cross-organizational analytics and insights. Marketing, product, sales, and customer service benefit from a shared view of customer trends and voice of the customer insights.

So You Think You Want a Chatbot?

Learn how to assemble an RFP that will ensure you get the best chatbot for your business.
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The Business Case for Chatbots

Defining your business case starts with understanding your desired outcomes for deploying an enterprise chatbot. Maybe you want to reduce call volumes in your contact center by as much as 50 percent. Maybe you want to reduce shopping cart abandonment by 10 percent. For enterprises, these outcomes could mean tens of millions of dollars in cost reduction and millions in increased revenue. Here are some ways to predict and measure a chatbot’s return on investment as part of your business case.

  1. Reducing Costs
    Deflecting live chats, email, and phone support through self-service automation reduces operational costs for your contact center.
     
  2. Supporting Growth Without Increasing Costs
    By handling more customer interactions with a chatbot and deflecting the number of interactions that require a live agent, you can grow your customer base, expand your geographic footprint, and introduce new products and services without increasing your human capital costs.
     
  3. Monetizing Self-Service
    A chatbot gives you the opportunity to build and grow new revenue streams through proactive offer management and reduced shopping cart abandonment.
     
  4. Improving Customer Loyalty
    Reducing customer effort keeps customers coming back, which in turn, keeps your profitability higher as your customer lifetime value increases. Happy customers also refer their friends to your brand.
    Learn more about the value chatbots can offer your business.
    The Business Case for Chatbots.
     

Will Chatbots Displace Human Agents?

No! Chatbots actually help human agents work smarter in a number of ways.

  • Minimizing menial or repetitive work for agents by deflecting interactions
  • Mining agent interactions to learn new customer intents and agent solutions
  • Reducing average handle time by suggesting responses while the agent is chatting with the customer
  • Maintaining the context of previous interactions, thus avoiding starting over

Find out more about the future of customer service and how your organization can strike the right blend of bots and human agents.

Success Right Out of the Box

There’s a lot that goes into deploying effective chatbots. To help you find success faster, we’ll ensure your bot follows these essential chatbot best practices.

Respect Form Factors

Especially with mobile technology, there is limited “real estate” to create your chatbot experience. We’ll provide a clean design that honors the customer’s expectations about how and where the conversation will unfold.

Integrate With Enterprise Information Systems

Effective agents (both live and virtual) need access to enterprise systems and data to resolve customer questions and issues.

Stick To Chat-Like Interfaces

Customers know how chat works; we adhere to general chat best practices to make the experience intuitive and easy for customers to use.

  • Talk in the First Person
    Chatbots communicate the same way people communicate. Phrases like “How can I help you?” and “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” are first-person phrases that go a long way to make the interaction feel human and engaging.
     
  • Use a Conversational Tone
    In situations where your chatbot needs to provide legal or policy information, we preface it with conversational human sounding language, like, “Here’s what I found for you. Click this link for the details of your policy.”
     
  • Stay Aligned with Your Brand
    We’ll help ensure you use language that is consistent with your brand. You don’t want the chatbot experience to stand out as something that doesn’t quite match the feel of the rest of your digital experience.
     
  • Be Consistent with Agent Best Practices
    Chat agents know to offer answers and information one piece at a time, rather than dump a long block of text into a conversation all at once. Your chatbot will do the same.
     
  • Make Handoffs Feel Personal
    When chatbots hand the customer over to a live agent, they’ll preserve the context of the conversation so agents have full insight into what was already discussed. This prevents customers from having to start over or repeat themselves.
     

Be Contextual and to the Point

Customers need help and may be impatient, confused, or overwhelmed at the moment of interaction with your chatbot. Your chatbot will tell them what it knows about them and draw from available data points to make the experience as efficient as possible.

Align With Your Brand

When designing your chatbot, we make sure that it looks like a natural part of your brand’s experience. By following your company’s standardized color palette, fonts, imagery, and other aspects of your brand identity, your chatbot won’t stand out for the wrong reasons.

Don’t Ignore the Humans

While AI technology has advanced, we’re still at the beginning of its evolution. Even intelligent chatbots aren’t totally self-learning. You still need humans to supervise their learning, analyze and prepare training data, and integrate chatbots with enterprise information systems. Our experts can take care of that!

Out-Of-The-Box Industry Knowledge

Our chatbots come equipped with out-of-the-box intelligence about industry practices, terminology, and customer journeys. This will help you automate 20 percent of customer journeys right away; then apply AI and machine learning to achieve a further 50 percent or more automation.

Make Maximum Use of Chatbot Conversations

We mine the hundreds of thousands of conversations your chatbot is having in real time to judge customer sentiment, drive increased customer understanding, create new products, and adapt to changing customer needs. From there, we help you unlock the intent and understanding that comes from analyzing conversations.

Ready to Chat?

Pay for results, not technology. Contact us today to get started with your chatbot deployment.