Each year, customers are expecting not only more interaction, but faster and more direct interaction with brands. This trend has seen many businesses experiment with chatbots as a potential solution. CMO is anticipating that 2019 will see brands truly embrace the chatbot/agent relationship so that they can automate the “boring stuff” and free up time to focus on customers.
So, are chatbots really all they’re cracked up to be? And where do they fit in the CX picture?
One of the key ways in which chatbots can enhance the customer experience is by improving efficiency. Chatbots allow for companies to answer customer issues and queries autonomously and in great volumes. Chatbot capabilities are continuing to move beyond basic customer support to fulfilling functions for the customer. This means that they can take on the role of a personal shopper, order supplies, book business travel, schedule meetings or even update a customer’s bank account- the list goes on.
Chatbots can therefore reduce the amount of time employees would spend on time consuming tasks so that this time can be redirected to other areas in the customer experience journey. An example of an effective chatbot introduced to improve the CX journey is Vodafone’s TOBi. It became the telecom industry’s first chatbot to complete a customer transaction from start to end in the UK, boosted conversion rates online because of the customer support availability it offered, and made the sale two to three times faster than the traditional website.
Chatbots can also help employees to analyse customer conversations. A chatbot conversation can guide sales agents to the best result and fastest resolution when a problem arises, as well as highlight at what point the customer chose to continue or discontinue with their path to purchase. This information can be of value when training staff about the factors that lead to a higher conversation rate, as well as provide teams with an easier means to monitoring customer conversations.
Despite these positives, there’s still a way to go for chatbots before customers are won over.
Many still question whether chatbots are sophisticated enough for our needs and would therefore prefer knowing they are talking to a human. In addition, many customers prefer knowing that they are messaging in real-time with actual staff because they find the chatbot experience too impersonal.
Another big concern is data security. Many are unsure of who can access their data from the chatbot, despite many businesses now building their chatbots within their own private channels. Not only do companies need to have the ability to govern what is stored, but customers need to have a say in what their data can be used for and by who.
The first step before even introducing a chatbot should be looking at the entire customer journey as a whole. A chatbot is only as good as the journey it is a part of, and for this reason it cannot and should not be introduced as a band aid solution. Chatbots need to be fully integrated so that they assist the process rather than disturb or confuse it.
Where they can be effective, however, is when used in conjunction with employees. The intention shouldn’t be to replace humans, but instead to assist them by reducing their time spent on medial tasks. The bots can help to give customers personalised, helpful experiences while still providing the opportunity for human intervention along the way if needed.
There needs to be a balanced relationship between bots and humans for strong CX, and this can only occur if a collaborative approach is taken.