Sep 3, 2020 7:54:00 AM
The customer service chatbot market is still growing and finding its place in the world.
It developed at a rapid speed over the past couple of years and, since humans’ ability to adapt to technology is slower than the pace of technological innovation, older concepts or beliefs about chatbots are being used to make sense of the new chatbots arriving on the market. This leads to misconceptions or, as we want to call them, myths.
These myths are causing companies to avoid chatbots, thereby missing out on opportunities to scale their customer service and, as a result, they’re falling behind their competition. It’s very unfortunate, but understandable: Lots of companies got burned when chatbots first entered the markets and word of mouth travels fast in the business community. The technology wasn’t mature, the solution was buggy, ROI was not there and bots could almost never achieve the business results they promised. So now, understandably, companies might hesitate for a long time when considering a chatbot or decide to look for solutions elsewhere.
These myths need to be busted! Customer service departments have tremendous business potential and chatbots are a key part of any modern service experience. I hope to give you an insight into some of the misconceptions we encounter, but also help you understand more about how chatbots are installed into existing systems and what to look for when choosing a customer service chatbot.
When chatbots first arrived on the market, almost every single one of them was a customised solution. The buyer knew they had to invest in IT and customer service resources to train the chatbot and implement it on their website or app.
This “high maintenance” reputation stuck and led to the general assumption that launching a chatbot is always a lengthy and painful process that takes months and requires an army of dedicated resources.
While this is still true for a handful of vendors, for most this is not the case. The market has largely matured and most vendors offer some sort of “out-of-the-box” options. Implementing a chatbot widget and going live can be as easy as copying six lines of code to your website.
These days chatbot companies also have UX and product designers on hand to train the initial version of the bot. Which is to say, the technology has improved greatly in terms of usability. Most chatbots now have an intuitive and user-friendly platform that allows the user to easily train and maintain the chatbot without needing any coding skills—which brings me to the second myth.
Customer service managers are wary of any projects that require a lot of resources, because they know they’ll have to fight hard to get what they need. It’s not easy to get developers on the service floor or negotiate a bigger budget for new and potentially expensive tech solutions. To add insult to injury, the upper management will often question whether the customer service project will really yield any benefits, or achieve a positive ROI.
Some types of chatbots do indeed require a large investment of time and resources. If you were to pick a chatbot that’s based on NLP (natural language processing) and allows users to freely type in their questions, then you’ll usually need a lot of developer time to get it up and running. And this is most likely where the confusion started: Most of the early commercially available chatbots were custom-made NLP bots (IBM Watson, anyone?).
While NLP chatbots can benefit those companies that can afford them, what are smaller companies supposed to do? Luckily, today there are other choices. Sure, the market is still developing, but chatbot technology has come a long way in a short period of time.
There are lots of customer service chatbots available that you can configure in just a few hours—not months.
The difference is, they don’t use NLP. They’re based on either static or dynamic decision trees. You can easily train new solutions into them without any need for a developer.
Your customers love talking to you. I am not doubting that and I am sure you have lovely service reps. But just for a second, put yourself in the customers’ shoes. You have a simple question. Would you rather ring up and get put on hold for ages, or wait for an average of 12 hours for a reply to your email? Or would you prefer to be instantly guided to your answer? According to a report by Zendesk, customers find waiting for a reply to an email or queuing on the phone to be the most frustrating aspects of interacting with a brand. Of course, when it comes to more complex requests that require empathy and judgement—like if a parcel gets lost on the way, or an order has arrived damaged—then a customer service agent should absolutely be involved in the interaction.
But for simple Q&A cases, it doesn’t make sense to involve the service team—and customers agree. Consumers overwhelmingly feel that a fast response time is the most important attribute of the service experience, and according to a study published by Usabilla in 2019, 54 percent of respondents said they would always choose a chatbot over a human customer service representative if it saved them 10 minutes.
So why not relieve your agents of the repetitive tasks that a chatbot could handle and allow them to focus on requests that require empathy and a human touch?
Now of course we’re only talking about customer service chatbots here and not about virtual assistants or chatbots that are used to drive sales.
I know this is not the most common myth, but let me explain. Obviously when we think about chatbots for customer service, the first thing we imagine is a chat interface that interacts with customers and solves their problems. But aren’t we forgetting something here? What happens if the chatbot does not provide the right answer? After all, it would be an illusion to say that a chatbot can solve every request, because some requests simply cannot be handled through automation.
Chatbots should make it easy for customers to talk to an agent if needed. In chatbot terms this is called “a handover”. Handovers should be designed in such a way that they:
1) create a seamless experience for the customer
2) give agents a transcript of the customer’s interaction with the chatbot
3) collect all the relevant information from the customer in one go (e.g. through a form)
A well-executed form within a chatbot can save the customer service team from sending multiple emails as they try to gather everything they need to process a request. It allows agents to get straight down to work, solve requests faster and avoid unnecessary email ping pong, all of which is vital for delivering a superb customer experience.
To be honest, this one is my favourite, because it comes from a place of empathy towards the customer service teams. Chatbot solutions can seem threatening, as they promise to “save costs” and “deflect tickets”. What will happen to the service teams?
Understandably, people are afraid of losing their jobs and some service managers avoid bots because they’re actively looking out for their teams. Others are worried about their CSAT scores plummeting. It would be terrible to sack people in favour of technology and then have it backfire in the form of reduced customer satisfaction.
I am going to let you in on a little secret. If a chatbot provider believes that they can automate 100% of interactions, then they don’t know what they are talking about and don’t really understand people in general, or the importance of empathy.
In fact, chatbots make service teams happier and service departments a better place to work: 92% of companies in a Forbes survey reported an increase in their overall employee satisfaction after introducing automation.
Chatbots solve the easy, repetitive requests, so that agents can focus on what really matters. For example, reassuring the long-time customer who is worried that their child’s birthday present won’t arrive in time, or the upset elderly lady whose online medicine order has been delivered to the wrong address. Only a person—a skilled customer service agent—can empathise with those customers and find appropriate solutions that will rescue the relationship and keep them loyal for years to come.
As we’ve seen, the customer service industry is full of pesky, sticky myths about chatbots. Were you familiar with one or more of these myths? Did you think they were true? If so, I hope I’ve managed to bust them for you and demonstrate how customer service chatbots are in fact a viable option for many companies who are striving to improve their service experience.
Chatbot technology should be approached from a perspective of AI-human collaboration: chatbots solve easy, standard enquiries and make customers happy, while allowing agents to deliver better and faster results on complex requests. Keep in mind that simplicity is key nowadays. Customers want to interact with user-friendly chatbots if they have a simple question and they want to talk to an agent when the situation is a bit more complicated.
Bisho is an account executive at Solvemate. He really enjoys finding solutions to customer painpoints and being social at events and workshops. In his free time he loves doing sports, being in nature with friends and eating his mum’s food.