How Chatbots are Revolutionising Customer Service

In today’s digital world, customer service expectations are evolving at such a fast pace that it can be challenging for companies to keep up. The number of messages and customer inquiries has significantly increased over the past few years with the introduction of new channels such as live chat, messenger apps, and social networks. At the same time, 24/7 availability, fast response times and omnichannel service is high on the wish-list of today’s consumers when asked about their expectations. More and more organizations are seeing the benefits of chatbots in customer service to address these challenges.

Gartner predicts that by 2021, 15% of all customer service interactions will be handled entirely by AI. This prediction is also supported by a survey among Gartner Research Circle members in which 34% of respondents indicated that they already implemented or are planning to implement AI in customer engagement applications. 

Organizations thus clearly see the benefits of implementing AI in their processes.  Not only is the adoption of chatbots by organizations growing, so is the willingness of consumers to be helped by a virtual assistant. A study by Accenture showed that 50% of consumers no longer care if they are dealing with humans or AI-enabled technologies.

What are the benefits of chatbots in customer service?

Chatbots in customer service can drastically reduce the response time and overall resolution time. Customers with a simple question expect a quick response, especially on channels like live chat. With a chatbot, customers’ queries can be addressed within seconds. It also increases employee satisfaction, because the work of a customer service employee becomes more challenging and less mundane. Chatbots enable organizations to provide faster and more efficient service at a lower cost. Moreover, as a chatbot is location and time-independent — it can help customers any time of the day, including on holidays and weekends. 

Let’s look into these four advantages of chatbots in more detail: 

  1. Providing faster and more convenient service with chatbots
  2. The possibility to answer outside office hours
  3. Increase customer and employee satisfaction
  4. Reduce costs

1. Providing faster and more convenient service with chatbots

According to consumer research by Accenture, 66% of the consumers surveyed in mature markets expect customer support to be faster. For emerging markets, the expectations were even higher (78%). At the same time, the number of inquiries companies are receiving, especially via new channels such as live chat and messengers is increasing. For instance, the Dutch retailer HEMA saw a volume increase of 60% on social media in the last couple of years, and they quickly realized that they needed a scalable solution to be able to continue to offer their customers good service.  

As chatbots can answer simple questions and FAQ’s instantly, they are an excellent solution to speed up the service process significantly and deflect repetitive tasks that would otherwise fall on your agents’ workload. For instance, customers often forget to provide their order number and/or email address in their initial message to webshops. A chatbot is beneficial in this case because it can aid the customer service agent by automatically requesting the missing information from the customer. The service agent that picks up the question afterwards will have been provided with all the necessary information in order to help the customer quickly. After the introduction of this type of chatbot, HEMA reported a time reduction of two hours in their overall customer conversation.

A majority of consumers in a recent survey by Arvato expect customer service to be more convenient to obtain and to be available via their preferred channel. Live chat and messaging applications are especially popular channels among consumers to get in touch with organizations.

In order to provide their students faster and better service, Erasmus University in Rotterdam introduced chatbot Desiderius on their website. The bot supports students by offering quick answers to questions regarding the enrollment process and tuition fees via live chat. As a result, the students are helped much faster and the satisfaction rate regarding the bot is no less than 90 percent.

2. The possibility to answer outside office hours

According to the Arvato survey, the majority of consumers also expect 24/7 customer service from online retailers. With an after office hours bot, customers can reach out to companies around the clock without being limited by traditional service hours. In this way, customers receive answers quickly and can be assisted at any time without having to deal with waiting times. If the chatbot doesn’t know the answer to a question it can create a ticket in the service desk as shown in the example below so that the customer can be contacted by one of the customer service agents during office hours. 

 

 

3. Increasing customer and employee satisfaction

When routine work and recurring questions are handled by chatbots, customer service agents will have more time to provide high quality and personal service to customers. As the virtual assistant takes over time-consuming routine tasks, customer service agents can focus more on the core of their job: engaging with customers and helping them solve complex issues. Chatbots should therefore not be understood as a replacement for customer service agents but as a way to supplement them.

The best results can be achieved when agents and chatbots work hand-in-hand. In this way, the conversation can seamlessly be transferred from chatbot to customer service representative at any moment. As soon as a chatbot doesn’t know the answer to a question it can immediately transfer the conversation to one of the available live agents. The live agent receives all the necessary information and can continue the conversation without break. This eventually leads to more happiness and satisfaction among customers and service agents. 

4. Reducing costs with chatbots

A chatbot can handle dozens of messages at the same time. This makes it an excellent solution to deal with an increased volume of customer requests while keeping costs reasonable. According to an article by Chatbots Magazine, chatbots can save up to 30% in customer support services. After implementing a chatbot into their service team, the Dutch retailer HEMA saw a cost reduction of 17%. Within the e-commerce sector, we have even seen a cost reduction of 36%

Apart from these uses, there are also standard bots available that are particularly useful to automate repetitive tasks that run in the background. For instance, a bot can tag messages with specific topics to automate categorization (tag bot), route incoming messages to the right employee (router bot), provide standard answers after office hours (after office hours bot) and mark messages as complete if no further action is required (complete bot). 

How to achieve the best results with the OBI4wan-Freshchat integration

As you can see, the applications and benefits of chatbots are plentiful. However, a chatbot will only show its full potential if implemented in the right way. The starting point of each chatbot project should always be an analysis of the current situation and the definition of key goals. 

It is important to know who your target audience is and what kind of contact they have with your organization. Then think about how a chatbot can help offer these customers a good experience that will increase the satisfaction level. Which problems and challenges can it solve for your customers and your organization? Analyzing historical conversational data between the service agents and customers within your Freshchat or Freshdesk environment gives you a clear picture as to where in the customer service process a chatbot would be most beneficial. 

 

Example of an analysis of historical conversational data.

Another important factor for a successful chatbot application lies in the perfect mix of technology and people. Behind every chatbot, there should be a human customer service agent that the conversation can be handed over to when necessary. There will always be customer inquiries that require empathic responses, are too complex, or need out-of-the-box thinking. To offer the best customer experience, make sure that your chatbot seamlessly connects with your customer, but also make sure that your chatbot does not get in the way of the customer and that passes the question on to the service agent if that benefits the conversation.

 

Warm hand-over between the chatbot and live agent within the Freshdesk environment

 

To ensure that the chatbot is working well and is continuously improving, it needs to be monitored. In practice, this is often a task that customer service agents take over. Ideally, they work with the chatbot hand-in-hand in the same service desk environment and know exactly how the chatbot works, which tasks it should solve and what it is allowed and not allowed to do. In this way, they can optimize their answers and/or add new questions to its repertoire, as well as point out its mistakes. 

A good chatbot platform allows you to build, monitor and improve the chatbot yourself.  With the user-friendly OBI Bots Platform that is fully integrated within Freshchat and Freshdesk, you can build your optimal customer experience with chatbots through a custom conversation builder, AI-driven intent detection and easy business rules editor. 

 

The chatbots can be implemented inside Freshchat to handle routine work and tasks while working efficiently alongside service experts who handle more complex cases. In this way, you ensure both happy customers and employees. 

Cover image illustration by Kalaimaran Jeyagandhi