Transforming customer service with chatbots

Vinod Chandramouli, Head ASEAN Business, Freshworks

In today’s digital world, customer service expectations are evolving at such a fast pace. Fast response times, round-the-clock availability and omni channel service sits high on the wish list of today’s consumers when asked about customer service expectations.  According to the latest e-Conomy SEA Report, Southeast Asia gained 400 million new internet users in 2020. The same reports shows that more than 90 percent of these new user’s state that they will continue to use at least one digital service moving forward. 

As more consumers come online, businesses are beginning to leverage new channels to respond to their customers such as live chat, messenger apps, and social networks. With this connectivity, more organisations are seeing the benefits of chatbots to address and respond to the needs of their customers.

Across industries, investments towards projects that utilise artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities are increasing.  A 2020 International Data Corporation (IDC) survey of more than 2,000 IT and line of business (LoB) decision makers confirms that adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is growing worldwide. Delivering a better customer experience was identified as the leading driver for AI adoption by more than half the large companies surveyed.

Using chatbots that leverage AI techniques such as natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU), businesses are able to assist with precise answers, send targeted messages and engage with users on web, mobile, and other social messengers, anytime, anywhere.

Here is a closer look at how chatbots can supplement a company’s customer service strategies:

1. Provide faster and more convenient service with chatbots

Chatbots in customer service can drastically reduce the response and overall resolution time. Live chats can answer simple question and address customers’ queries within seconds and chatbots enable organisations to provide faster and more efficient service at a lower cost. Chatbots offer an excellent solution to accelerate the service process significantly and deflect repetitive tasks that would otherwise fall on the customer service agent’s workload. For instance, customers often forget to provide account or order details in their initial message to web shops. A chatbot can automatically request for the missing information from the customer before the call is routed to a customer service agent. By the time the service agent picks up the call, relevant details have been provided. With all the necessary information already available, the agent can proceed to help the customer quickly.

2. Answer simple customer queries outside office hours

Customers can reach out to companies around the clock without being limited by traditional service hours, thanks to chatbots. It is not dependent on location and can help customers any time of the day, including on holidays and weekends. Simple questions and basic account inquiries can be handled by a system which helps customers receive answers quickly without having to deal with waiting times. For more complex issues, the system can create a ticket in the service desk so that the customer can be contacted by one of the customer service agents during office hours.

3. Improve customer and employee satisfaction

When routine work and recurring questions are handled by chatbots, customer service agents will have more time to provide better service to customers and on care not a replacement for customer service agents but as a way to supplement them. Once the system detects that the customer issue requires more attention, the call can be immediately transferred to the next available live agent and all necessary information can seamlessly be transferred at any moment to answer the customer’s queries effectively. With less time spent on answering customer queries, employees can focus on more value adding tasks, which increases employee satisfaction.

4. Reduce costs with chatbots

Chatbots can handle dozens of messages simultaneously which makes it an efficient solution to deal with an increasing volume of customer inquiries and requests while keeping labour costs down. Bots are also particularly useful in automating repetitive tasks that run in the background. For instance, a bot can tag messages with specific topics to automate categorisation (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).

AI as ally: Delight customers by leveraging the power of chatbots

For companies looking to tap the capabilities of AI-powered chatbots, knowing who your target audience is and what kind of contact they have with your organisation are essential first steps. Questions such as “How can chatbot help customers have a good experience that will increase their satisfaction level?” or “Which problems and challenges can chatbots help solve for the customers and the organisation?” need to be asked.

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 are too complex that will require empathic responses or need out-of-the-box thinking. To offer the best customer experience, customers should be able to connect seamlessly to a service agent. Chatbots should positively contribute to the resolution of customer issues and should not get in the way of the customer who wishes to interact with a live customer service agent.

To ensure that the AI chatbot is working well and is continuously improving, it needs to be monitored and assessed. 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 optimise their answers and add new questions to its repertoire, as well as point out its mistakes.

Chatbots can be implemented to handle routine work and tasks while working efficiently alongside service experts who handle more complex cases. With the right technology such as chatbots, businesses can focus on truly listening to consumers’ needs, delighting users with personalised customer service and focus on growing the business.