Clearly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ushering a new era of convenience and service. I am reminded of this absolute truth anytime my three year old bounces into the kitchen and asks Alexa, our Amazon device, to tell her a joke or play her favorite song. The AI genie is undoubtedly out of the bottle, and there’s no telling how far this technology will go to enhance our lives.
One thing is for sure: AI in customer service is no longer a far-off dream, but a present reality. How can contact centers harness the power of AI to improve customer engagement? Read on to find out how.
1. The power of NOW
Customers today expect an immediate response to their needs. Forrester Research Group determined that customers expect an email reply within 6 hours. For social media queries, the expected response time is even shorter, with 53% of respondents saying they want a reply to their brand tweets within an hour (which jumps to 72% if it’s a complaint).
By installing an on-site chatbot service, websites can provide customers with the immediacy that they crave. Typing a question, problem, or request into the chatbot text field is as easy as a click and a few keystrokes, making customers more engaged than ever before. Of course, companies must ensure that they are equipped in terms of technology and manpower to respond to the volume and variety of customer needs.**What are chatbots and how are they revolutionizing customer service**
2. The human element
IVR (interactive voice response) technology has enabled customers to self-service their simple account needs for quite some time. “Press one to make a payment on your account” is a robotic phrase familiar to many customers using the phone to contact a company for routine service tasks.
AI, however, has the capacity to provide this same convenient service in perhaps a less robotic way.
Chatbots that are enabled with computer-based learning data systems have the potential to deliver a much more customized, conversational, human-like chat experience to users. Customers who want a digital version of the human experience don’t have to wait on hold or listen through an annoying IVR menu.
As the sophistication of technology continues to grow, so will chatbots’ ability to provide human-like service without human inefficiencies.
3. The not-so-human element
Despite AI’s human-like qualities improving over time, it’s the not-so-human characteristics of chatbots that some people actually prefer. In a survey of 2000 Americans, 80% said that calling a customer service line is inconvenient. 53% of people would prefer to fulfill their service needs via text message versus the phone, and millennials in particular despise talking to customer service representatives on the phone. Typing into a chatbot service will no doubt gain in popularity in the years to come, with digital natives preferring digital, non-human service options.
4. Anticipation versus reaction
As AI in customer service continues to evolve, the goal will be not merely to react accurately to customer needs, but to anticipate them. Linking chatbots with customer data that is already stored in a company’s CRM system means the chatbot can be aware of a customer’s history of spending and service habits. In some cases, additional data may even be extracted from a customer’s behavior across the world wide web, enabling the bot to make purchase or up-sell suggestions that actually speak to the customer’s real-time needs.
Highly evolved chatbots of tomorrow may even be able to anticipate and execute the needs of the customer on its own, according to Daniel Hong, senior director of product marketing strategies for 7. “Here’s where the data about the customer fuels experience to make it personalized and anticipatory and contextually aware.”
In short, the sophisticated customer service chatbot will know customers as well as they know themselves.
5. One-stop shopping
Keeping customers engaged means companies being available at a moment’s notice according to customer impulses and on-the-spot needs. Customers who are visiting a company website can reach and be reached by chatbots who possess the capability to perform virtually any function that could be executed through the website itself or even a human agent.
“Customers no longer tolerate the hassle of finding and downloading apps on the go… they just want to go ahead and converse with the enterprise.” Following the omnichannel wave, chatbots, enabled to communicate and function across channels, could be the new common thread that unites all channels.
Smarter than humans, more agile than machines, chatbots have the potential to be the personal brand assistant of each and every individual customer. What’s more engaging than that?
6. Never stop developing
The true potential of evolved AI in customer service resides in machine learning. To be useful, AI must be smart, and to be smart, AI must always be learning. In the realm of customer service, this means that chatbots must constantly be fed with up-to-date information gathered not only from customer habits, but from integrating with CRM software, crowdsourced tagging, and VOC data. Albert Einstein once said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
AI that is not designed to be ever-evolving is behind before it even begins. Ongoing learning is key to keeping customers engaged.
The rise of chatbot technology no doubt has CEO’s and shareholders eager to harness it for cost saving purposes. But any company worth its salt knows that focusing on the customer experience is central to success. In today’s era of immediacy, near-constant engagement is what customers want and expect, and next-generation chatbots are best positioned to respond to this expectation.