Customer service has been an age-old problem for companies in all industries, in the last few years chatbots have been replacing phone numbers on company websites. The shift in customer engagement has brought both positives and negatives but can only be seen as the future.
Starting on the websites of the usual suspects, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon, chatbots are now a regular fixture for much smaller companies. In early 2018 it was reported that 57% of UK customers are acquainted with the chatbot.
Positives – Chat to me
Chatbots will transform your customer service by eliminating waiting time. The impatience of customers is staggeringly high, a 10 second delay in the playing of a video online leads to 50% of viewers abandoning the site or closing the video. This impatience means that your customer service has to be slick in order to retain customers. Chatbots are central to this, instead of waiting to talk to someone at a call centre or emailing and getting a reply days later chat bots create an instant interaction. Just like the internet chatbots are “Always On”, it is not limited to employees working 9-5 and then after this no support for hours. This is central to their attraction, even if the problem is not solved your customers have a feeling of progress after the chat.
Chatbots are not only a tool for customer service but can be used as an additional sales force, they can promote or advertise their products and services. Starting a conversation with the customers can make their interaction with your website much easier, by helping users access information quickly they will be more inclined to return in the future.
The development of chatbots rapidly increased when Facebook allowed businesses to deliver automated customer support, e-commerce guidance and interactive experience through its messaging service. The contact businesses now have with 2.2 billion monthly Facebook users is a monumental development, your business can now contact customers on a website they use daily. Again, this can be used both for customer service as well as sales, customers can order products over Facebook or get a daily digest of news stories from the BBC. If you do not develop chatbots on social media then you are deliberately narrowing your customer base and shutting down a world of possibilities.
Negatives – Talk to the hand
Like the majority of Artificial Intelligence, chatbots can only deal with predictable information. If your company’s communication with customers is generally in depth then chatbots may not fit your business. They are inflexible, programmed for certain responses and want to quickly find out the what the user wants. If the user does not know what they want or desires a long conversation about their issue chatbots are not a suitable system.
Chatbots are also victims of the impatience of users, the majority of users do not progress past the first two messages from the bot. 40% of users never pass the first message and another 25% drop off after the second. While the patience of users may be a difficult barrier to break there is still hope for chatbots, not viewing the bots as machines but characters with their own style and even name could help the retention of customers.
Finally, like humans, chatbots make mistakes. They are not perfect and mistakes should be expected. They can be faster and more precise than a human customer assistant, but can also get confused by user’s requests.