Chatbots have started a paradigm shift in customer service technology

Get customer service right, and you’ve got an advocate for life. Get it wrong and it can damage the perception of your brand and, as a result, your balance sheet.

Today’s consumers are more refined and demanding than ever. Instant gratification, whether in the form of 24/7 food ordering, taxis or information, has become such a large part of our life that limitations in service delivery, like hold times or untrained staff are causing brands high levels of customer attrition.

An estimated two-thirds of customers have left brands due to bad service, so when Mark Zuckerberg addressed his audience at this year’s F8 conference, he seemed to provide us all with a glimpse of customer service nirvana in a burst of slick, fast and efficient exchanges.

As smartphone owners, we already interact with bots every day, from automated text messages for reservations, shipments or payments to daily news alerts, Siri, Cortana or Google now. Many have yet to learn about the brilliance of chatbots as well as how it will revolutionise customer service technology.

Countless brands and journalists discussed how using this technology will revolutionise everything. But will we all be communicating with bots in a few years? Is this the tipping point for how brands interact with customers? One thing seems clear; this is where disruption meets innovation in a technological tour de force.

Taking customer experience to a new level

We’re now standing at a crossroads where established industries that are reliant on legacy systems must innovate or fall behind as they try to compete with agile, digitally native start-ups.

> See also: Beyond chatbots: how AI will help fight cybercrime in the IoT

Scrambling to retrofit solutions into current infrastructure is a tricky challenge, as any clash between a brand and its customers could have a drastic impact not just on interaction and engagement but also on revenue and profit.

New technologies such as mobile messaging and the integration of social platforms with more established customer service technology, allow consumers to stay connected wherever they might be. With the ability to instantly connect with brands offering a stepping stone to helping solve customer service problems.

Companies that can master these new technologies will thrive in today’s customer centric environment. Those that don’t, risk becoming disrupted and sidelined by consumers.

Striking the right balance between automation and personal connection is key to good customer service. Although chatbots tend to solve problems that weren’t huge issues to begin with, an over reliance on bots could distance the customer from human interaction especially during the crucial moments that matter the most.

That said, the beauty of increasingly sophisticated and intelligent customer service apps is that the bots will know when it’s time to escalate the conversation to a live person.

Successful customer service teams will soon be a blended alliance of chatbots and human experts. Brands competing in the ever-crowded m-commerce marketplace can’t afford to lose customers based on CX failures and this means establishing a partnership between automated and human-led assistance that can create meaningful conversations and establish a genuine 1:1 experience with the customer.

Artificial intelligence isn’t equipped to deal with more complex or more nuanced situations that customers face on a daily basis. So although it’s perfectly fine to get excited about bots, it’s also critical to remember that the main reason people love messaging is because of the human being on the other end.

Chatbots: trainee advisors

The real value behind chatbot capability is the integration of chatbots and customer services within one comprehensive platform. Chatbots are designed to carry out simple tasks and simulate a conversation.

For basic tasks such as ordering flowers, getting delivery updates or making a reservation, customers don’t need much assistance making a chatbot the ideal form of communication.

However, if they need extra help, the consumer must be able to smoothly transition from a chatbot to a human, much like transitioning from a trainee to their manager. Consumers need to feel safe in the knowledge that someone is available to jump into a conversation at any point to ensure their need is met.

And it’s this ability to serve each individual, in the way they want, that will make all the difference in terms of delivering a more positive customer experience. Delegating the more basic and mundane FAQs to bots while leaving more complex conversations to advisors will have significant cost benefits for businesses.

Customer satisfaction driving business success

The real triumph of chat bots will be that by dealing with the routine and perfunctory, it will free up live human agents to spend more time with customers who need the most human assistance.

> See also: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Facebook will not be ushering in the chat bot revolution just yet

This filtering of customers according to need, may just represent the return to a service culture not seen for a long time. It will also mean customer care teams can really focus on delivering timely personalised assistance to consumers, based on their precise demands.

The need for human interaction is innate and won’t be replaced any time soon. Creating meaningful engagements that breed long-term connected relationships is crucial to driving loyalty, which in turn delivers its own business benefits.

Chatbots don’t spell the end of human customer service agents, quite the contrary. The introduction of chatbots provides an opportunity to refocus on true quality service and delivery.

Without a delicate balance between machine and human, we’ll hit a wall yet again, much as we have with Interactive Voice Response – the unhelpful bots on the other end of the 0800 number. As long as organisations understand that, then they’ll be taking a step in the right direction.

Sourced from Rob LoCascio, Founder and CEO, LivePerson

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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