How Chatbots Are Solving Today’s Customer Service Problems

While true artificial intelligence remains years or even decades out of reach, AI-based messaging tools exist today that are solving real-world problems. Case in point: chatbots. According to Forbes, a staggering 95 percent of customer interactions will be supported by AI tech by 2025. At this very moment, chatbots are already helping combat some of today's biggest customer service challenges, serving as a valuable weapon in the corporate world's arsenal for improving the customer experience. That's to say, if companies are actually using them in the first place (which they should be) and developing a strategic approach that enables chatbots to offer a next-generation, revolutionary customer experience as part of an overall AI-based messaging support system.

One of the biggest advantages chatbots provide when it comes to dealing with customers is that they are always there and always running, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This is a huge operational advantage, especially for call centers. Chatbots can greatly relieve the pressure and inquiry volume for call centers by handling basic questions and issues on their own or seamlessly routing customers to live agents who can address the more pressing, complex customer service issues that still require a human touch. This, in turn, can drastically reduce call wait times and increase the efficiency and quality of these engagements.

So, how can organizations start developing successful customer messaging experiences using chatbot-assisted support? It starts by understanding the current capabilities bots can offer. A productive and effective chatbot should be designed to field customers' inquiries and issues and immediately present a series of diagnostic questions to quickly define the type of problems they're facing (product-related, billing issues, etc.). From there, the bot should either show customers the solutions to their issues or route them to the appropriate live agents who can address and resolve them. The interaction should be both seamless and painless for all parties involved.

For companies where money is the top priority, consider this: The typical contact center expert costs $7 to $10 per call. By using a chatbot, that's the same amount of money the tool can save per conversation. Multiply that per call savings by millions of interactions a month and it's no exaggeration to say chatbots facilitate extreme cost savings. A less quantifiable but equally important savings measurement is a human worker's time. Chatbots can free up time for more valuable work. Companies that implement chatbots to automate administrative tasks can then better leverage the talent of their employees. It's an inexpensive implementation as well—in most cases, it only adds up to pennies. Sure, the right software and capabilities need to be put into place to create productive, cost-effective chatbots, but once that initial expense is out of the way, chatbots can really start to make it rain savings and humans can focus on being more innovative in the workplace.

Chatbots don't just have to be at the beck and call of customers in need; they can also strike up proactive conversations with prospective or established customers as well. In fact, chatbots are a convenient way to engage with consumers—they're simple, mobile-friendly, and can essentially talk the talk with consumers when the moment of emotional interest in a brand or product is detected. This use case circumvents the 2000-era way of thinking in which companies wait for consumers to discover their websites, products, or content and slowly work their way into commerce experiences on their own. In essence, chatbots are inspiring what's best described as conversational commerce. This sort of customer experience can lead to higher basket values, reduce cart abandonment, and spur greater levels of customer satisfaction.

While the current generation of chatbots can offer this functionality, more advanced chatbots that are starting to take shape will hopefully gain a more sophisticated understanding of what customers expect and desire, and businesses can then better use chatbots to improve operations and customer service.

With chatbots now automating many customer interactions, humans are free to take advantage of contemporary tooling around them. For example, applying machine learning toward deciphering customer patterns can lead to more intelligent routing of customers to experts. It can even enable chatbots to directly refer customers to the exact pieces of information they're seeking.

Messaging is becoming increasingly foundational for both customers and enterprises, as noted in Mary Meeker's 2018 Internet Trends Report. Chatbots represent a prime avenue for bolstering this trend. The technology is readily available, typically lightweight, and generally easy and inexpensive to install and use. In fact, the global chatbot market is projected to pass $1 billion by 2025. Within this market, 45 percent of end users currently prefer chatbots as their main modes of communication for customer service. These figures illustrate just how profoundly chatbot-assisted messaging is reshaping customer care for the better. As the role of messaging in consumers' lives continues to grow and AI-based messaging tools continue to penetrate the enterprise, chatbot-assisted support will only become more ubiquitous and utilitarian.

Philip Say is vice president of innovation product management at Sutherland.