Written by Diana Serrano
Chatbots have become ubiquitous. Gartner predicts that by 2020, the average person will have more conversations with chatbots than with their spouse. This is very good news if you’re a fan of chatbots, or very bad news if you’re a romantic.
The proliferation of chatbots is not a surprising trend. Businesses know that 67% of consumers will pay more for a great experience, so they’re finding ways to round out digital experiences with technology. As a result, there were more than 300,000 chatbots on Facebook in 2018.
However, it’s not always clear whether this strategy is working. Chatbots can clearly bring CX benefits, yet this tech also has some shortcomings. Let’s examine the good, the bad and the areas where chat alone is not enough.
A Virtual Conversationalist
First, let’s review just what is a chatbot. This software simulates human conversations, either by voice or text. Chatbots are featured in smart speakers, smart home devices and platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and LINE.
For CX, chatbots allow live conversations between customers and agents, or let customers interact directly with intelligent software. In the latter case, the chatbot simply answers questions based on a pre-programmed script. Bots that make use of natural language processing can even respond in a conversational, human-like way.
All of these features add up to a great tool for customer support.
When a chatbot is “done right,” here are some of the benefits companies reap:
Increased self-service: Customers can use a chatbot to get quick answers to routine questions, instead of waiting on hold for an agent. This helps reduce expenses. When contact center agents are free to focus on more complex, high-value issues, organizational costs can be cut by up to 30%.
Simplified customer tasks: Sometimes people get confused. Perhaps customers have questions about the company policy or a recent transaction. A chatbot conveniently located on the company’s website can point these users in the right direction.
After-hours support: Everyone has faced the frustration of trying to get in touch with a company, only to have a hard time reaching the support team during business hours. Instead of skipping lunch to make a call, customers can use a chatbot at their leisure, even on evenings and weekends.
On the other hand, here are some telltale signs of a chatbot falling short:
Poor context: Inevitably, when humans and robots chat, some details will be lost in translation. Chatbots can have a hard time making sense of a conversation when humans go too far off-script or speak colloquially. This technology also lacks the finesse of a human agent to read between the lines or bring a discussion back on track.
Too much chat: Chatbots can work a little too well. If a glut of customers jump at the opportunity to use chat, that increase in inbound messages can cause longer wait times. This result is the exact opposite of what chatbots are supposed to accomplish for CX.
Not tracking to goals: No matter what new tool a business implements, having clear goals is paramount to success. For chatbots, companies should pay attention to these metrics:
- Number of active users
- Average session length and steps per conversation
- Chatbot fallback response rates
- User chatbot ratings
CX teams should avoid falling into the trap of being simply satisfied that a chatbot works and deflects some customer questions. But details matter.
If chatbot sessions are longer than the average agent phone call, or typically involve more than a handful of steps, customers can get irritated. Also, if fallback responses are triggered too often, it can indicate that customers are asking questions the tool is not prepared to answer. When a CX team notices such trends, they should consider whether the chatbot can keep up or was configured properly.
When Chatbots Need a Little Help
We’ve discussed the best and worst case scenarios a company can experience when using a chatbot. Even assuming the best, there are areas where chatbots are not enough to guarantee a successful customer experience.
Reaching an agent: Sometimes the customer just wants to talk to an agent. Maybe they know their issue is complicated and don’t want to bother explaining it to a robot. Some companies only offer the option of connecting with an agent as a last resort, after the customer manages to thoroughly confuse the chatbot.
Scripted conversation: Chatbots are trained to do things a certain way, taking customers through a set script. The user could have a good idea of what they need, but be unable to jump right to the point. In these situations, customer effort is high, which can lead to frustration.
Lack of problem-solving: Ultimately, a chatbot is merely a routing mechanism. Customers ask questions and the system provides pre-programmed answers or surfaces knowledge base articles. So, if done right, chatbots can be excellent at pointing customers in the right direction. However, this tech has no capacity to follow through with problem-solving.
Closing the Loop
Customers just want quick and easy problem resolution, regardless of the business method or communication channel used. For instance, in critical moments when the customer is on the verge of frustration, rapid agent intervention is needed. Meeting this need fosters loyalty, which is unbeatable for the bottom line. Consider that consumers who have an emotional connection with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value.
Unfortunately, chatbots don’t always have built-in mechanisms for escalating a conversation to an agent, just as they don’t have the ability to continue the customer journey. Companies can fill this gap by integrating chatbots with other digital experiences that solve problems. This way, chat becomes a kick-off point that ends in resolution, whether customers want to make purchases, renew subscriptions, update information or more.
To create comprehensive digital experiences, businesses are increasingly turning to low-code platforms. Low-code technology allows for rapid deployment of new omni-channel experiences. For these companies, CX becomes a truly iterative process where feedback collected by chatbots turns into new digital moments.
Do More Than Chat
Chatbots are an important part of a strong customer experience program, but they shouldn’t stand alone. If your customer-obsessed team already has a chatbot or is considering getting one, think carefully about what this tool can and can’t accomplish.
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