Chatbots. You’ve heard of them, you (perhaps unknowingly) interact with them, you’ve seen them develop free will and cause humans to lose power over machinery in sci-fi movies. But what are chatbots, and what do they mean for the future of customer service?
Imagine you order a shirt from a retailer. That shirt arrives with a rip in the seam. Now you have one of two options:
Email customer service to voice your complaint. Three days pass with no response. Call the customer service phone number and wait forty minutes for the next available customer service representative, only to be told they can’t help or that they will transfer your call to the appropriate party. And you hope at some point you’ll just get the replacement shirt.
Send this text: “My order was damaged. Send a replacement to my shipping address.” Voila.
Not a tough choice, right? That’s what chatbots are all about. Chatbots are computer applications that mimic human interaction using artificial intelligence. They have the power to completely transform the way you interact with the internet through quasi-conversations.
And chatbots are popping up everywhere. Siri and Alexa are chatbots you might already use on a regular basis. Facebook made chatbot history when it launched over 11,000 bots in its messenger application. Barbie, The Washington Post, H&M, and other household names use chatbots to change the way customers interact (and hopefully fall in love) with their brand.
With the rapid progression of chatbot technology, we’re likely to have a customer service revolution on our hands sooner than we think. Until then, here are three ways you can take your customer support further with chatbots:
1. Make Processing Payments A Breeze
Many chatbots can take and process payment in exchange for products. And let’s be honest; if there’s any process you would want to make easier for customers, shouldn’t it be collecting payment? It doesn’t take a genius (or an average human) to record credit card information, so use a chatbot to complete the task for you and free up your time to handle the things that do require a human touch.
Once a chatbot processes a payment from a customer, it saves that payment information. Your customer support employees can then transfer the information into your knowledge management solution; if a payment problem arises that a bot can’t handle, your employees can quickly access the customer’s payment information without forcing them to retrieve the credit card from their wallet and repeat information they have already shared.
2. Get The Right Information To The Right People
You can only have so many customer service representatives. There aren’t always enough of them on your team to ask every single prospect or customer the right questions to make sure you’re getting them the answers they need. And as much as you wish you could clone your wonderful team, you just can’t (we’re not quite there yet). But with the learning capabilities of artificial intelligence, chatbots are the next best thing.
H&M is making the most of chatbots in this regard. When customers visit the website, the company’s bots set out to learn the visitor’s taste. They display side-by-side photos of clothing and accessories and ask “which do you prefer?” until they gain an understanding of the viewer’s style. They then use this information to suggest products. If the customer likes the products, they can immediately check out with information the bot has already saved, saving the usual time and hassle of online checkout and improving the customer experience.
For your organization, this means the next time a customer requests an “outfit” recommendation, the chatbots (and your customer support reps, if they’re harnessing information in their knowledge management solution) will know precisely which metaphorical cocktail dress will suit the customer’s needs.
3. Chatbots Don’t Sleep
Your customer service team works (roughly) normal business hours. But wait for it… your customers work normal business hours too. So who answers their questions when they go home for the day, cozy up on the couch with a glass of wine, and indulge in some online shopping? Chatbots.
Because chatbots are capable of remembering past conversations and replicating them, they can continue to offer service independently while your reps catch some shut-eye. Bots can correct invoices, process payments, suggest appropriate products, replace damaged shipments, and more so that the quality of customer service doesn’t suffer just because a transaction occurs outside of business hours.
All this sounds pretty great, right? Well, bots are a step in the right direction toward streamlined, efficient, non-headache-inducing customer service. But if any of you have tried to use Siri to solve a problem, you know that chatbots aren’t perfect, and that’s where your (human) representatives come into play. Chatbots and customer service representatives can work together to ensure the most pleasant, personal experience possible for your customers.
Notice any trends in the three best practices above? Bingo! Use the customer knowledge your chatbots collect to build your company knowledge base. One of chatbots’ greatest attributes is their ability to collect customer data from their conversations. Bots can feed this information to customer support representatives in real time, so when your customers do require human interaction, there’s no need to repeat information they’ve already shared. Respecting your customers’ time will make them feel like a valued partner, and — fingers crossed — increase customer loyalty.
And then, of course, there are some situations that a chatbot can’t handle. There will always be a new scenario they haven’t yet learned to deal with, or an upset customer that demands human interaction. In these cases, your team needs to be prepared to offer service as quickly and seamlessly as the bots themselves.
If you follow these best practices and integrate the information your chatbots collect with a knowledge management solution, your customer support reps and chatbots will grow smarter with time, provide the most informed support to your customers as possible, and never keep the customer waiting again.
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