4 Ways Chatbots Can Enhance Customer Experience

Nearly two-thirds of customers will not wait longer than two minutes, and more than half of customers will leave a company after one poor service experience. Unfortunately, no one likes to wait for help.

Chatbots are rapidly gaining popularity, largely because today's consumers want instant, 24/7 access to information and assistance. In fact, about 69 percent of customers prefer to skip the call center line and go the self-service route for simple help. Chatbots offer businesses a way to enable customers to get immediate service, improving overall customer satisfaction while managing operating costs.

Here are four effective ways that chatbots can enhance your customer experiences and become a valuable member of your customer service team:

Enable customers to self-serve.

Call center and live chat volume have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and average resolution time has increased from about 18 seconds to more than 20 minutes according to an ISG report.

The goal is not for a chatbot to address all needs, but to serve straight-forward, repeatable requests so that live agents can focus on one-offs and more complex issues.

A leading North American distributor of electricity and natural gas earlier this year deployed a chatbot powered by Salesforce Einstein to provide its residential customers with self-service for routine tasks like making payments or requesting new service. The company had been experiencing taxing call center volume and needed to maintain customer service while alleviating stress on its call center. Its chatbot now serves roughly 8,000 customers per month.

Manage operation costs.

Chatbots offer an effective way to provide customer service at scale while keeping costs manageable and predictable. Customer service operating costs are high and the ability to manage those costs is important for all companies regardless of size or industry.

Due to the pandemic, customer experience and service has become more important than ever. Call centers have seen a surge in demand from consumers looking for frictionless answers to their questions.

Companies across many industries are turning to chatbots. Juniper Research predicts that by 2023 chatbots will help save up to $11 billion per year in the banking, healthcare, and retail sectors alone.

Using the chatbot, a Texas utility company was able to deflect 30,000 calls and live chats in three months. Using analytics, chatbot dispositions were compared to historical calls to correlate the shift in handling. Based on an industry benchmark of $3 per customer service call, this is resulting in a savings of $30,000 per month.

Connect to rich data.

While many companies have started implementing chatbots, many of the bots are simple and rely on pointing users to additional help articles for assistance. The ability to integrate and execute complex tasks like verifying identity, checking account-specific data, or disputing a charge are what really adds value, contributing to what users really want in a chatbot: an intelligent and convenient way to access accurate information and service.

One of the top reasons for utility customers call is to inquire about bills and get help with making payments. Call center agents might need to check multiple systems or documents to assist customers: find the account billed, review generated invoices, look at the customer's contract, as well as pull in relevant knowledge about the scenario (perhaps it had been an unusually hot summer, driving up electricity usage).

Chatbots can be built to integrate back-end systems to access and analyze data, provide customer feedback, and determine when it is necessary to connect the customer with an agent for additional information.

By integrating a chatbot with Salesforce (CRM) and a payment service, a Texas utility company was able to authenticate a user and accept credit card or ACH payment, all directly within the flow of the chat.

Maintain the human element.

Chatbots can engage users conversationally, allowing users to ask open-ended questions rather than being restricted to structured menus, similar to how they would interact with another person. Chatbots can even be trained to understand common ways (even hundreds of ways) that specific inquiries are framed by humans through artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP). This analysis, workflow, and responses are the backbone to chatbots' personalities and help bring the brand to life.

Of course, NLP is far from perfect, and it is a work in progress that requires continuous improvement through collecting and processing environmental feedback, even for humans. When chatbots have trouble deciphering requests, they can transfer users to live agents so they can get help immediately. An admin can review and categorize these requests to make bots smarter so they can properly categorize requests next time. The smarter chatbots become, the better they are at conversation and the more rewarding the customer experience they can deliver.

Chatbots have the potential to enhance your customer experiences by promptly delivering accurate information and top-notch service that is personalized, emulates a human-to-human interaction, and is available whenever needed. Providing immediate service helps retain customers and attract new ones.

Subi Philip is the Salesforce practice lead and a partner at MRE Consulting.