Giving your customers an enjoyable customer service experience was once a bonus. Today, it’s expected. An easy experience that serves as well as delights is increasingly important to keeping customers from being frustrated or turned off their customer service experience.
As a customer service agent, which customer would you rather be waiting in the queue: one who has been waiting for a half hour in silence, with a random beep every once in a while to indicate you haven’t been disconnected? Or one who was triaged and dealt with and maybe even entertained before you begin to engage?
A better customer experience improves customer service for agents and customers alike. Sounds easier said than done? It doesn’t need to be. The first step is being where they are, when they are there, how they want to be approached.
Customers are frustrated with long wait times for calls, convoluted and confusing website FAQs, and delayed email responses. They want their problems solved or their questions answered easily and quickly without waiting to speak to someone on the phone. Chatbots help them do that, which in turn makes a measurable impact on customer satisfaction metrics such as the Net Promoter Score.
Chatbots generate true “voice of the customer” data through their conversations, which you can use to improve the chatbot experience, the knowledge and effectiveness of your agents, and your overall customer service program.
When it comes to intelligent chatbots, it’s extremely difficult to build one yourself. Many do-it-yourself chatbots suffer from limited scope, lack of understanding of customer context and intent, inability to integrate with popular enterprise information systems, greater risk of failure, higher costs, and longer time to deploy.
To reap all the benefits of a synergistic chatbot/human strategy, you should look for a provider of intelligent chatbots specifically designed for enterprise customer service. An intelligent, enterprise-ready chatbot is:
It delivers user-specific responses and guides users through the steps they need to complete a task or a transaction.
An intelligent chatbot understands what customers are trying to do and helps them get to a resolution via the quickest method (which could be by messaging or even by phone).
Intelligent chatbots don’t pretend to be human. They differentiate the experience so customers understand they are not interacting with a live agent, which helps build and maintain trust in your brand.
Intelligent chatbots recognize situations where a live agent is necessary, seamlessly hand off the interaction, and share the context with the chat or voice agent. The customer should not have to repeat any information already given to the chatbot.
When futurists announce that software robots will automate people out of jobs, it’s an easy leap to think that chatbots will automate your agents out of their jobs.
We’ve found—at least at this stage of artificial intelligence for customer experience—that companies need humans more than ever for customer service. But they don’t need them to handle a password reset. They need them to be more human, to be available to take on more complex issues and questions, and to turn difficult customer interactions into opportunities to create more brand advocates.
Chatbots help agents be the best they can be by handling more menial, repetitive parts of customer service, helping them resolve issues faster, and freeing them up to do what humans do so well: communicate with each other and build rapport.
When it comes to blended experiences, success hinges on intelligent chatbots and agents handing off interactions absolutely seamlessly.
If customers are forced to take action (e.g., leaving the window they’re in) to reach an agent, or the chatbot transfers them successfully but with none of their accompanying information, you’re actually worse off than if you hadn’t attempted automation at all.
Your customers will be frustrated because you’ve wasted their time with a cumbersome process that’s yielded no results, and your agents will be unhappy because now they must work to re-establish their rapport with frustrated customers before they can even begin to resolve their issues.
As a result, customer satisfaction with the customer experience scores plummet, conversion rates drop, costs go up, and frustration levels run high among both customers and contact center employees.
Customer Journey Analytics is a useful tool to avoid such bad customer experiences. By analyzing customer experience across all touchpoints (using proxies such as avg. time spent or drop-off rate) in a customer journey, your team can get valuable insights into the customer behavior that will help them improve the customer journey.
Some customer care leaders are concerned that using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to automate customer interactions will create clunky, robotic, artificial-feeling conversations.
In an age where the focus is on creating authentic, meaningful conversations, AI can feel to some as though it’s the wrong thing to do.
In fact, as AI makes its way into more and more customer conversations across the digital landscape, the appropriateness and the benefits of AI are becoming very clear.
With the right kind of artificial intelligence powering chatbots and other digital self-service technologies, interactions feel not only human and authentic, but right in line with what customers actually want.
Here’s how you can approach AI in your organization without fear that your customer interactions will become artificial.
To say that digital interaction is somehow a less human mode of communication is to miss how human interaction has changed. Take messaging, for example. Consumers love messaging one another. Many even prefer it to phone calls for normal, everyday conversation with family and friends.
Texting is now the most used form of communication for American adults under 50. On average, Americans also text twice as much as they call.1 Messaging powered by AI, therefore, closely mimics the interactions many humans are having now anyway.
Messaging itself has become a very human mode of communication. Rather than approach it with reservation and suspicion, companies should be downright fervent about deploying technologies that provide the ability to automate as many messaging interactions with customers as possible at scale.
There’s no question that chatbots can be used to replace human support for certain kinds of interactions, those low-complexity questions where customers can get a quick and easy answer on their own, without having to call and speak to a human.
But AI benefits are not limited to the channels in which they originate, nor does AI operate in a silo, disconnected from other channels. On the contrary, the best technologies today are adept at not only seamlessly transitioning customers from one channel to the next, but also making ensuing live interactions far easier by delivering the details of the conversation to the agent.
In this way, AI is a key performance enhancer to both non-human and human channels, delivering value to all aspects of the customer experience.
In instances where customers need help, chatbots are there to engage real, live humans as soon as they’re needed, and even seamlessly transfer customers to live agents when necessary.
Using a chatbot is not something you need hide. In the example above, the interaction declares, “I’m a chatbot.” This is not only okay, it’s to be embraced and encouraged.
Customers today actually want more automated conversations because they realize that handling simple issues without having to engage human support is faster and more convenient.
When customers are asking questions of companies, they’re often in a hurry and want things resolved as quickly as possible. They’re after results, and if those results are delivered more quickly with automated solutions, so be it. There’s no need to hide the fact that your company is invested in technology to serve customers better.
All chatbots are not created equal. The ones with the most limited capabilities are those that are capable only of serving prepopulated answers to pre-identified questions – offering an experience that isn’t tremendously superior to site search. These are the kinds of interactions that do feel sterile, robotic and clunky.
Today’s most advanced chatbots, however, are capable of handling a wide breadth of interactions that are able to answer more questions along a customer’s journey. They can even be integrated with business systems to perform a variety of tasks on behalf of the customer.
These advanced chatbots can enhance the customer experience in several ways:
Intent recognition leveraging predictive technology is able to identify the intent of the customer experience and recommend the best next step on the journey. Predictive technology can even be used to predict the customer’s next question and provide agents with the most appropriate resolution path in advance of the customer asking.
Customers can type in natural language and are given the appropriate, accurate response.
Logged in customers can be served a more relevant and personalized journey based on their online behavior, account information, shopping cart status and more.
Live agents entering the journey are informed of the customer’s prior interactions so that customers never repeat themselves, thus providing a continuous experience.
Chatbots can share all kinds of rich media including links, photos, videos, forms and more with customers right in the messaging window.
Predictive technology can also be used to deliver targeted marketing offers to customers at the right time, at moments when they are most likely to want to make a purchase, driving incremental revenues.
In order for your AI system to inspire confidence with customers, it has to keep pace with their evolving needs. Contact centers have traditionally directed ample resources toward keeping agents trained and informed on changes to content, business processes, products, market conditions, as well as evolving customer preferences and needs that impact how calls should be handled. You need to bring that same diligence and appetite for evolution and learning to your AI system. '
One way is to use a platform that is designed to learn over time. The system can be updated by a content manager, but live chat agents are in a perfect position to evaluate points along the journey where AI can improve. As agents discover new content that the AI system should handle, they can input it, so that the system is constantly learning. Tagging is just one example of how this is done. This way, the system is continuously tweaked to perform better and handle a growing breadth of issues over time.
Sometimes the language we use can taint or obscure the real meaning of what we’re trying to achieve. Yes, customers want personalized interactions, and “personalization” is a buzzword that gets a lot of attention in the arena of customer care.
But the root word “person” within “personalization” can cause distraction. What customers really want is for their journey to be customized to their needs, and the fact is, achieving this customization through automation doesn’t make the interaction any less “personalized.”
In your conversations with others, instead of personalized journeys, talk about “customized journeys” or “journeys tailored to individual needs,” because that’s more accurate to the core of what customers want. You might find this especially helpful when discussing your project with internal stakeholders.
It sounds like a small thing, but choosing the right language can help you keep your conversations focused and help you avoid unnecessary resistance to your ideas. And unnecessary resistance means an easier transition to accepting, appreciating and benefitting from the power chatbots provide to improve customer experience.