by Mikko Rindell
on December 18, 2020
How to Reconnect with Customers Using AI Customer Service Chatbots
To have a successful business, you need customers. And for your business to remain successful, you need loyal, returning customers. This means ensuring you meet customer needs — quickly, and without fuss.
Long-term, recurring customers give stability. You can and should build your business offerings and customer experiences around them. Just bear in mind, round-the-clock customer service is expected as standard and that patience is a rare commodity.
Failure to meet customer needs is considered a bad experience. This can be fatal to your relationship. Sub-par customer service costs a business up to half of its customers. If you are lucky enough to retain your customer after a mishap, this number could rise to 80% after two negative interactions.
In the age of social media, bad news travels almost instantly. Some 60% of disgruntled customers will spread the word about inferior customer service they’ve experienced. A single tweet can seriously harm your business’s reputation, especially if an affected customer has global reach.
So, what does good customer service look like in 2020? It entails using these key performance indicators that you should implement and follow :
- Availability 24/7
- Rapid response times and resolutions
- Knowledgeable, friendly interactions that make customers feel valued
- Personalized relationships between your brand and customers
If you meet these expectations, consumer loyalty is likely to follow, offering many benefits. Arguably, the most important is your strategy’s financial impact. Repeat customers spend up to 300% more than new consumers. That’s a potential profit increase of up to 95%. Additionally, satisfied customers share good experiences with their friends and family, creating new opportunities.
Being part of the global economy creates a new challenge for customer service agents: providing uninterrupted, quality support around the world. Installing customer service chatbots is one way to fill this void. By implementing chatbots into your business strategy, you can ensure a great overall customer service experience that keeps your customers connected with your brand.
What is a Customer Service Chatbot?
A customer service chatbot provides instant answers to basic and frequently asked questions. AI chatbots can be programmed to respond through popular mediums like Facebook Messenger, Zendesk, Intercom, or even as a standalone window on your website’s homepage. Find out more about what chatbots actually do here.
Chatbots can mimic the cadence and mannerisms of a human. However, it’s critical that the chatbot introduces itself as an automated service and asks if the customer would prefer to deal with a human agent. This gives your customer the option to bypass AI assistance based on their preference, or to take advantage of the speed and efficiency afforded by a chatbot.
Chatbots are advantageous in many ways. Perhaps most importantly, your customer will receive an immediate response to their query. There will be no queues, no waiting in line, no time spent on hold while a resolution has to be discussed. If your chatbot cannot rectify the customer’s problem at once, it will connect them with a human who can. AI chatbots do not need rest breaks, or to stop and refuel for coffee or lunch. They are available 24/7, servicing the consumer needs around the globe.
Customer service AI chatbots are not simply troubleshooters, either. You can use a chatbot as a digital assistant. This technology books appointments, records feedback, answers questions, provides detailed information about your products and services, and even upsells consumers and processes purchases.
Hiring and training staff to serve these functions is costly and time-consuming. Also, humans can only respond to so many requests at once. We only have one set of ears, one mouth and one pair of hands. With AI chatbots handling day-to-day tasks, your staff is free to dedicate their time and attention to the issues that matter most, like serious or unique pain points that require a personal touch.
The only limit to an AI chatbot is your own imagination. Chatbots can be programmed to interact in whatever way you see fit, with responses tailored to your business niche and appropriate to your brand image. If you still need to be convinced about the abilities of AI, check out these 25 successful examples of customer interaction with chatbots.
How to Reconnect with Customers Using AI-Powered Service Chatbots
Demand for chatbots is growing. Almost half of all customers now prefer to engage with support departments via text message, chat windows, or messaging services.
This is primarily because people have limited time. They don’t want to wait for answers. Why waste precious minutes trying to get through by telephone when instant messaging is so much more convenient?
A question can be posed and the customer is free to continue their day. Instead of being expected to remain on the phone, customers can check for updates at their convenience using electronic communication. This is a critical factor for many today.
Look at this from the customer’s perspective. They are experiencing an issue with a product or service, which is frustrating in itself. Being unable to use something they've been paid for that has potentially become essential to everyday life becomes vexing.
If the customer is expected to adhere to somebody else's schedule to have their problem resolved, they may feel the company is holding their time ransom. Vexation turning to frustration is considered to be the root cause of the problem. This is where customer service becomes substandard and loyalty is lost.
Younger customers, especially Millennials and Generation Y, rely heavily on social media to communicate with each other. Their relationships with brands and service providers is no different.
A survey of consumers ages 18–24 shows how they approach customer service issues. Social messaging profiles and apps were the top choice for 17% of these users. What's more, written messages were deemed the easiest and most convenient way to communicate with a business for 61% of customers.
This is why chatbot use is growing. In 2019, the chatbot market was valued around $2.6 billion. By the end of 2024, this is expected to swell to $9.4 billion. That's an annual growth rate of 29.7%. Chatbots are the choice for smart businesses.
Implementing chatbots early is also a smart move. Despite looking like a no-brainer, digital communication remains comparatively rare in business. Just a third of companies provide the essential knowledge base and community forum that customers crave. Even fewer offer the opportunity to communicate via chatbot or instant messaging. That's a lot of customer satisfaction — and, by extension, earning potential — being left on the table.
How Can Chatbots be a Valuable Customer Service Tool?
Efficiency is at the heart of a chatbot's value. This efficiency can be broken down into four core strengths:
- Speed and Consistency
- Natural Language Processing (NLP)
As previously discussed, chatbots can assist customers 24/7. Whatever issue they’re experiencing, it can be resolved.
Waiting for available human agents is often a long, frustrating experience. As each minute (or hour) passes, the customer gets more disgruntled.
Human agents might not be immediately available to help for many reasons. For example, during busy periods, there aren’t enough agents to dedicate time and attention needed for the demand for support. In unforeseen circumstances, such as outbreaks of illness, companies may be short-staffed. In a global business market, time zones can become a barrier to real-time communication.
Having availability 24/7 makes all the difference to customers. They feel heard and respected, while being assured that action will be taken. Even if communication with a chatbot is just the first step of a longer journey, initiating conversations immediately with customers is essential.
Speed and Consistency
Speed of response is among the most important barometers of customer satisfaction. Businesses must adapt to this era of instant gratification. Patience is no longer a virtue; over half of all customers expect to be connected to a customer service representative within five minutes. Around 28% expect a similar response time from a live chat function.
Chatbots provide this speed more efficiently than any human. They immediately process and memorize data. Based on questions asked and language used, chatbots can immediately point customers to a resolution. If the problem is commonplace or solvable through logic, the chatbot will be able to suggest a resolution.
If human assistance is still required, chatbots can save time by gathering important information beforehand. Customers quickly grow frustrated at having to repeat themselves. Explaining a problem time and again, or regularly repeating personal information, grows tiresome. Approximately 97% of customers also express concerns about providing personal data, fearing this will be misused. To ease customers’ minds, chatbots can replace the arduous and intrusive process of filling in forms.
In addition, humans make mistakes. A customer may receive two different responses to the same issue, perhaps because something was misheard or misunderstood. This can be frustrating for a customer. Whose advice do they act upon? Why does the support team not have a unified approach?
Chatbots are not immune to mistakes. It is possible for chatbots to misunderstand a question or request by focusing on the wrong key words. Chatbots can also go rogue. A famous example of this is Teppo, a chatbot designed by GetJenny for insurance providers Turva. Teppo made headlines for a while following a mishap, enjoying celebrity status as the Finland's most famous chatbot.
The good news is that fixing errors with chatbots is simple. It just takes attention from an expert human. Once corrected, the chatbot will again perform its duties to maximum efficiency. The learning curve of a chatbot is also much faster than that of even the smartest human.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Natural Language Processing, or NLP, is how an artificial intelligence chatbot understands the commands being provided. Popular examples of NLP include voice-activated virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, and text-based tools like Google translate.
NLP is a form of go-between between humans and computers. Machines like to work from simple commands. Think about coding, where basic commands such as, “run” are all-important. Humans have our own cadence and style of speech, which is considerably more elaborate.
NLP simplifies the latter for a computer, enabling artificial intelligence to understand what a customer is saying and asking for. NLP will extract keywords from a customer’s message and rapidly translate them for the chatbot, so it can provide an appropriate response. AI can be programmed with a range of different responses. Eventually, the intention is for AI to think fully for itself and interact exactly like a human. Technology has yet to achieve this aim though.
Mistakes can still happen with NLP, meaning that a chatbot does not always understand what is being said. The aforementioned Google Translate is a good example of this. It is largely accurate, but a spelling error or semantic use of language can be lost in translation.
To this end, it should always be made clear that a chatbot is artificial. If customers want to speak to a human, they might be displeased to find they are unwittingly interacting with a chatbot. Don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes. If it becomes obvious that an AI is posing as a human, you risk losing trust. This, in turn, is a fast way to lose business.
Many customers are content to deal with a chatbot if it replicates the human experience and, most importantly, resolves an issue or answers a relevant question. Above all, customers want to have their voices heard and their problems solved quickly. If a chatbot ticks all these boxes, the customer will walk away happy.
Chatbots can 'soften up' a customer before launching into a call-to-action, or cross-promoting relevant tools and materials. They build conversational relationships by engaging with customers first. This is invaluable for promoting services and upselling.
Immediately encouraging a first-time visitor to make a purchase can appear desperate or aggressive. Chatbots have time to listen to what the customer has to say, acknowledging concerns. Based on this information, the chatbot will make a suggestion.
This could be content that relates to your business, such as a downloadable eBook or an email course. Alternatively, the chatbot can point the customer to a detailed website that answers and resolves all queries. This is not cold or impersonal. It’s a natural progression of conversation, based on needs and desires the customer expressed.
By using a chatbot like this, you don’t tie up service agent’s time. Humans will be aware that other customers are attempting to make contact. With limited time, they may be keen to resolve issues quickly. Chatbots have all the time in the world and have no need to act in haste.
Ways to Use Chatbots in Customer Service Strategy
Artificial intelligence is a wonderful tool, but it is not appropriate for every business. Before you commit to AI chatbots, consider your business model and how chatbots could improve your customer service strategy. Start by asking yourself two simple questions: What are your business objectives and how will AI help you to achieve them?
If you are confident that artificial intelligence will improve your business offerings, learn the risks. Security concerns are key. If you have a small business, you might not have the resources to deal with the large amounts of data AI needs to operate.
Your customers’ personal data could be stolen. Also, malevolent hackers could program your AI to insult customers, or redirect them to obscene images and websites. Be aware of the risks involved with AI security, and have an action plan ready to manage and resolve attacks beforehand. A third-party AI chatbot provider like GetJenny has the expertise on-hand to guide you through the prevention process.
Also be aware that AI's greatest strength — the reduction of human interaction — can also be considered a weakness. There is no denying that AI speeds up the customer service process. But don’t allow your customers to feel like they have lost a personal connection. Humans and AI should work together to forge a customer service dream team.
This is eminently achievable. The rule of thumb is simple. Make each customer feel like a valued human being, not a problem to be solved. Your customer is not a case number; however, 61% of people feel this way when interacting with businesses.
Personalization is a way to solve this using AI chatbots. Remember a customer's name and use it periodically in conversation. If a customer introduces himself as James Hargreaves, have the chatbot ask, "may I call you James?" early in the conversation. Add some personality to your AI chatbot, too. Do not have it speak in cold, robotic sentences. Bring the flair and personality of your brand into its answers.
If you discover your customers dropping off during chatbot conversations, investigate when and why. Find common patterns. Are customers forced to jump through too many hoops, constantly asking questions without getting results? If so, streamline the AI process, ensuring that customers get the fastest possible response. Every interaction with a chatbot should bring your customer closer to their solution.
Study the conversations between customers and your chatbots, too. Customers are like snowflakes — no two are identical. Every customer will have a different set of questions and circumstances. Build your chatbot to be able to face unexpected curveball questions. A fast learning curve is critical.
Never overlook the importance of customer data gathered by chatbots. Every purchase a customer makes provides insight. Chatbots remember everything. Go through your analytics and build a customer profile. Use this knowledge to make recommendations for future purchases. This enhances trust in your business, making customers likelier to return.
Ensure that your chatbots are easy to locate. Don't force customers to hunt for support. Display your chatbot prominently throughout your website and popular social media platforms. Integrate them with customer service software, too. Zendesk, SAP Contact Center, and Genesys Contact Center are great examples that supported by GetJenny.
Above all, ensure that your chatbots and human staff remain interchangeable. The purpose of a chatbot is to make communication easier for your customer, and to provide faster response times with satisfying issue resolutions. AI cannot be relied upon to resolve all customer issues by itself, though. Customers expect to have the opportunity to transfer their concerns to a human.
This unified approach will build trust in chatbot technology. This, in turn, activates a healthier customer base. The more comfortable a customer feels discussing a problem with AI, the more loyal they will become. Never underestimate the importance of resolving customer issues quickly and efficiently.
How to Keep Your Customers Engaged via Chatbot
If you expect your customer base to embrace chatbots, it is your responsibility to create an engaging experience. Master the balancing act between offering enough interaction to keep a customer engaged, but don’t overwhelm them with options.
Program your chatbot with a decision tree structure that gets your customer the answers they need as quickly as possible. There is nothing to gain by prolonging a customer's interaction with a chatbot. The sooner a problem is resolved or a query is answered, the happier a customer will be.
Design your chatbot with the same care that you take when making a new hire. Just like human employees must share the values of a business, chatbots must reflect the qualities of a brand.
If your business caters to a young audience, it could be fine to use emojis and slang terms. This is all part of a chatbot's charm and personality. However, this approach might not be suitable for a more serious firm. The important thing is to tailor your chatbot personality to your brand values.
Treat your chatbot as an information gatherer at the first stage of contact. Take the initial response as an opportunity to learn why the customer is getting in touch, and what they hope to achieve. Ensure the chatbot relays this information to any human agent who needs to step in.
Use this data to get the customer to the right person or department efficiently — without wasting the time of customers or service agents. Over two thirds of customers dislike having their calls passed between departments, or being asked again for information already provided. Remember the golden rule — use chatbots to speed up customer interaction, not double up on a customer’s responsibility.
If James Hargreaves gets in touch to report a software fault that a chatbot cannot resolve, relay the conversation to a human agent. Your agent can then open the conversation with, "I'm sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your program, James. I can see the issue. Let's resolve that for you."
In this example, the chatbot saved your team time, and simultaneously made the customer feel as though they were fast-tracked to the appropriate resource for help.
Key Take Home Messages
Artificial intelligence is here to stay. And it will continue to help companies innovate and improve their processes in customer service, sales, marketing, billing and more. Take advantage of AI. Outrun your competition with increased efficiency, personalization, and employee satisfaction while improving customer experience.
Your AI Chatbot Checklist:
- Customers expect 24/7 customer service and rapid response times. Chatbots meet this need, forging a stronger relationship between brands and their audiences.
- Many customers, especially younger generations, actively prefer interacting with a business through text. Chatbots meet this desire and do it at scale.
- Chatbots are programmed to operate at all hours, in any language, using any tone of voice. There are no limits to how chatbots can interact with your customers. Let it reflect your brand personality.
- Chatbots are not humans and won’t replace the human interaction experience. But, by working alongside human colleagues, chatbots can free up agents’ time and improve team efficiency.
- Chatbots provide consistent and accurate answers to customer questions. Chatbots are only capable of dealing in facts. They are not impacted or distracted by external factors, such as physical tiredness or environmental issues. This means a chatbot’s advice can be trusted.
- Review and analyze conversations between customers and chatbots to build a profile of your audience. Use this information to continue meeting and exceeding your customers’ expectations.
- Chatbots should be easy to locate on a website and seamlessly integrated with customer service software.
- If a chatbot cannot resolve a problem, or the customer is growing frustrated, transfer to a human agent ASAP. Do not let the customer become increasingly frustrated at an inability to meet their needs.
If you feel that chatbots will benefit your business, GetJenny would love to help you. If you remain undecided, we can help guide decision making. The process is simple — just get in touch and request a demonstration. Making use of our integrated AI technology, we can show you how chatbots can make a real difference to your company.
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