If you’ve ever visited a website and been greeted by a human-like pop-up asking “How may I help you?”, you’re not alone.
According to Comm100, nearly 50 percent of consumers already engage in automated conversations with chatbots. And, according to Gartner, these numbers are growing.
Gartner predicts that 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate chatbot technology across customer service channels by 2020. The same source reports that in 2017 fewer than two percent did so, marking a huge jump in adoption of this technology in a relatively short amount of time.
With any business trend, organisations can feel pressure to adopt quickly, fearful that they will miss out on revenue and engagement opportunities if they do not use the same technologies as their competitors. However, simply deploying the latest technology does not guarantee companies will immediately begin delivering a great customer experience.
Organisations should be thoughtful in the way they strategically plan before implementing chatbots – AI-powered or not – to ensure that they are contributing to a positive customer experience, rather than just masking existing CX flaws.
How digital body language can guide when – and when not – to deploy a chatbot
A recent report by Juniper Research estimates that chatbots could help lower annual business costs by more than $8 billion by 2022. Chatbots also increase efficiency. By using AI-powered chatbots to process simple requests – account balances, due dates, etc. – agents have more time to have more personal, in-depth interactions with the customer via live chat.
These in-depth interactions also include successful sales conversions: the American Marketing Association reported that live chat increased sales by up to 20 percent.
With chatbots increasing efficiency and live chat boosting sales, bringing technology into customer interactions seems even more enticing than ever before. However, companies must consider how they will design their bot strategy so that it helps – rather than harms – Customer Experience.
I spoke with Tim de Paris, CTO at Decibel, a Digital Experience intelligence company based in Boston and London. He shared his thoughts on how chatbots can actually damage a customer’s experience if deployed ineffectively.
“To make a chatbot successful, organisations must have insight into how users are feeling about their experience,” he said.
“If a chatbot pops up asking the user if he/she needs help during an experience where they clearly don’t need help – like right when the page opens, or when he/she is already engaged in a positive experience – the chatbot interruption will only irritate the user, pushing them away rather than serving as a helpful assistant.”
According to de Paris, bots should be equipped to understand users’ digital body language: is the user engaged and ready to purchase? Or showing signs of confusion through scattered mouse behaviour? By being able to identify user pain points, brands can determine the best time to interject with a chatbot.
For example, if a customer is bouncing from page to page on a website and showing frantic mouse movements, clearly showing signs of frustration, the chatbot should step in to help, and even potentially pass the interaction off to a human agent who might be better positioned to help.
Conversely, if a customer has viewed one page for a significant amount of time and is flipping between shirt colours, he/she could be toward the end of the funnel, about to make a purchase and just contemplating last minute details. In this case, the chatbot should stay quiet, avoiding interrupting the customer’s decision.
“Only when organisations have insight into users’ digital body language with the right digital experience technology can chatbots be deployed at the most effective time,” said de Paris.
Best practices for implementing chatbots
Chatbots are immensely useful in boosting the efficiency of a company’s contact centre, but they are not a ‘one size fits all’ tool. Some bots can analyse text with natural language processing (NLP), whereas others only offer predetermined response options for users to interact with.
To successfully bring chatbots into the contact centre, companies should begin by being honest about the chatbot’s capabilities. By being up front about what a bot can and can’t do, customers will know right away what they can achieve in their interaction with a bot, and companies will understand when it’s time to transfer an interaction to a human agent.
Some chatbots are most helpful with basic questions – generating account balances, sharing business hours, etc. – but an agent should be brought in whenever the customer’s needs go beyond the bot’s capabilities. It is important that contact centres identify when a customer’s needs would be better serviced by a live agent based on a range of other criteria such as status, shopping cart value, geography, or the relative value of their query – every company will have a threshold above which they would prefer the question gets handled by a human.
Once a company deploys a chatbot, it should take advantage of all the metrics that the service provides to fine-tune the applications as needed to offer the best interaction. This includes feedback from post-chat surveys, recorded wait times, conversation lengths and customer satisfaction scores. This data can be used to identify trends as well as areas of strength and areas that need improvement.
While continuously using the metrics that the chatbot provides, businesses should be prepared to maintain the chatbots for best performance outcomes. Implementing a chatbot is not a ‘set-and-forget’ solution, but requires constant monitoring and improvement to best serve the agent and the customer, leading to a better interaction across the board.
After all, positive Customer Experience leads to more customer conversions.
Chatbots are here to stay, and if companies are going to use them, they need to know how to do so successfully and efficiently. By bringing a personal, customised experience to prospective buyers on digital channels, companies can improve the customer experience and increase revenue.