Chatbots are increasingly becoming a prominent feature in the customer service experience. Whether at your computer or on your phone, no matter where you want to reach customer service representatives, chances are high your first interaction, be it voice or digital platform, will be with some form of a chatbot.
Of course, deciding what type of bot makes the most sense for your business, budget and needs will entirely depend on your unique goals. What holds true for everyone though, is that a properly implemented and facilitated bot will improve user experience on both ends of the line.
The question is then, what’s the best bot choice for you? There is a lot to consider. What is ‘best’ for one is not best for all. That said, adding the benefit of artificial intelligence (AI), could help improve customer service satisfaction, and thus, the business’s bottom line.
What is an AI Chatbot?
An AI chatbot is one that you can interact with via text, voice, or both as you naturally do and get a meaningful response instantly. At its core, the bot has a brain powered by AI. It breaks down what you said, or typed, to identify words, sentences and even the sentiment. It then quickly analyzes the context (e.g., when a caller says “I’d like to book a table for two for dinner,” the bot understands that “book” means “reserve” and not a “publication”) to formulate a relevant response and/or follow-up action. Based on your preferences and past behaviors, the bot provides a personalized, conversational, human-like experience.
Along with the AI brain, comes memory. It not only remembers conversations but, can also learn from them and improve over time. The more interactions, the smarter the bot becomes. An AI powered chatbot provides a lot of advantages over chatbots that do not include AI. That’s not to say that it’s always necessary. It is to say it only enhances what your chatbot can do.
AI Chatbot: Key components
Today’s leading chatbots come with a set of seven key capabilities and components. The absence of, or weakness in, one or more can make or break your chatbot project. Consider this your little CX cheat sheet.
An AI Chatbot Offers Omnichannel User Interface
- Supports both voice-based and chat or text-based interfaces and has a customizable user interface (UI) of its own.
- Integrates with messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Business Messages, Apple Messages for Business, WeChat and more; based on your business strategy, you can deploy your bot in one or more channels.
- Supports rich input and output: For example, the bot understands emojis, and can send you rich multimedia content in response (e.g., pairs of shoes shown in a carousel).
- Captures voice, detects language, transcribes speech to text (natively or through an integration), and identifies and isolates speakers such as agent vs. customer, which is key to understanding who said what.
An AI Chatbot Offers Natural Language Processing
- Between capturing user input and generating a response, an AI Chatbot processes massive amounts of input; that’s where NLP comes into play. NLP is the bot’s ability to read or parse human language text.
- Uses NLP to process text captured by the UI or, for voice input, the text that’s converted by the speech-to-text (STT) capability.
- NLP analyzes sentiment to identify and categorize users’ opinions based on what they expressed about a topic/product/experience, etc.
- NLP massages user input: It fixes typos and understands slang, synonyms, unusual sentence structures based on how well it’s trained.
- NLP also contains a vocabulary for out-of-the-box use or it can be custom trained to suit your unique business needs (e.g., vocabulary for different industries or lines of business).
- Translates text from one language to another so it can be appropriately handled (e.g., French Canadian to English for analysis).
- May support unsupervised learning; the bot is not restricted to the training data and can learn in real time.
An AI Chatbot Offers Intent Recognition and Handling
- Understands user intent even when the query is structured in uncommon ways.
- Leverages machine learning to match the appropriate intent “handler”
- Contextualizes and groups intents into structured buckets to better guide the handler to formulate relevant responses
- Handles responses primarily via decision-tree flows, whereby certain intents trigger specific responses.
An AI Chatbot Offers Contextual Awareness
- Learns from previous conversations ad recalls and reuses that information in future, relevant conversations (e.g., customer prefers to be addressed by their first name only).
- Considers user context (e.g., page where the interaction is occurring) and user preferences (e.g., preferred delivery address set in an app).
- Uses data pulled from integrating with operational systems like CRM, billing, case management, etc.
- The stronger the capability, the more human-like and predictive the interactions.
An AI Chatbot Offers Response Generation
- Leverages natural language generation (NLG) to handle multiple intents in a single response (e.g., “I’m looking for a pair of blue denims, ideally a straight fit, in a 34 waist.”). The bot composes a single response that matches all the intents expressed.
- Supports text-to-speech in voice channels to relay back to the customer, often via an external service that integrates with the bot.
- Supports self-personalization, enabling you to add personality characteristics, generate human-like voice, and give it a style and tone that matches your organization’s values.
An AI Chatbot Offers Escalation Management
- Routes requests to a human agent, or an alternative handling method, when it cannot understand or handle an intent.
- This is crucial to ensure interactions although not fulfilled by the bot, gets the attention of another system or human
An AI Chatbot Offers Analytics and Monitoring
- Provides reporting insights, ideally in real time, into the bot’s performance.
- Offers information on intents that the bot was unable to handle so you can work on training the bots for those specific intents.
- Provides insight into the overall quality of interactions regarding intent matching, handling, and escalations.
Whether you go AI or without, having a chatbot in your customer service arsenal is table stakes for businesses who want to stay current and their customers, satisfied. Understanding your unique needs, and those of your customers, is the first and most vital step to get you moving along in your journey to provide the best possible customer service experience.