Smart Chatbots Take Customer Interactions Beyond One-Way Communication

Today's connected customers won't settle for anything less than satisfying and efficient customer experiences. And when looking for answers to their questions, they're no longer willing to wait on hold. Due to these new customer demands, chatbots have quickly become the biggest thing in digital customer experience. In fact, Forrester Research recently found significant growth in online chat adoption, which sat at about 38 percent in 2009 and grew to 65 percent in 2015.

These chatbots can be a valuable resource for customers looking to self-serve online. However, the challenge is ensuring the tools don't become frustrating or appear to offer non-personalized responses.

This is especially true for customers who are looking for answers to more complex questions. An unhelpful response impacts business' bottom line by sending customers to the call center, and it can ultimately push their business to competitors. The key to avoiding these traps and meeting customer expectations is to take chatbot technology beyond a simple one-way transfer of information.

How? The answer is conversational chatbots, which drive smarter customer interactions and make for more happy, loyal customers. By incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies into chatbots, customers can expect fast, accurate answers to their questions. While traditional chatbots are a great tool for handling quick questions on-the-fly, smart bots are better equipped to handle more intricate, two-way communications, easing customer frustration by dropping the script, personalizing responses, and offering a consistent experience.

Getting rid of scripted interactions.

When it comes to chatbots, the root of customer frustration is the fact that conversations often feel like talking to a robot. Typically, bots are pre-programmed with specific keywords and will provide a short set of answers only if the question is asked using keywords that match. The problem is that humans do not communicate in formal, keyword-centric phrases, and everyone has his own way to ask the same question. Take, for example, an online shopper. When looking for details on shipping timelines, one customer might ask, "What are the standard shipping times?" while another might ask, "How long does it take for my purchase to arrive?" A simple chatbot would likely be looking for the "shipping" keyword, and therefore might not pick up on what the second customer is asking, forcing the bot to bring back an error message. Chatbots with keyword-based responses put the burden on the customer to communicate in specific language to receive service rather; the business certainly isn't making it easy for him. In the end, this will result in a frustrated customer who is ready to move on to competitors.

Meanwhile, smart chatbots leverage artificial intelligence to completely drop the script. By taking in contextual cues from each query, bots can pick up on what customers are asking regardless of which specific words they use in their questions. This technology truly supports customers and their individual journeys, ensuring proactive and fulfilling experiences.

Beyond simply offering responses based on general customer questions, smart chatbots can also connect to individual customer profiles and histories to offer the most relevant and actionable reply possible. Granting account access to a smart bot opens doors for customers to ask more personalized questions.

Furthermore, chatbots can tailor responses and offer suggestions based on account history. For instance, a chatbot can offer relevant recommendations for future items based on past purchases and product reviews. This distinct ability to provide a tailored response makes the customer experience that much more seamless and satisfying because it truly replicates a human interaction.

Offering a consistent experience by implementing bots across channels

Consistency is key in providing a holistic customer experience. Companies can't simply implement a chatbot on their mobile apps and expect customers issues to dissolve. Instead, business must look to include these smart chatbots across all of the channels where their customers are interacting; this means desktop, mobile and social, among others. They also have to ensure that they're offering consistent messaging across these channels. In the end, this means that all customers will receive the same accurate information.

To move completely beyond one-way interactions with customers, companies should ensure their chatbots can communicate and share knowledge with each other. Once this is possible, a customer will be able to leave the social chat and move onto desktop and pick up right where she left off, eliminating her need to repeat information and, therefore, her frustration.

As chatbots and their many use cases continue to evolve and diversify, companies should look to incorporate smart, two-way communication capabilities. While traditional tools were a great starting point for the self-service market, they no longer fit the needs and demands of today's connected consumers. Moving chatbots beyond simple interactions to providing more tailored, seamless conversations will drive a more effective digital customer experience.

Lior Bachar is head of product at Nanorep.