The Dos and Don’ts of Chatbots
New research from Gartner reveals that 25 percent of customer service operations will use virtual customer assistants (VCAs) by 2020. VCAs and chatbots already exist within the CX space, but this prediction reveals AI technology is without a doubt the future of CX.
But these advancements, while exciting, might spell trouble in the coming years. For one, not all consumers are completely sold on chatbot technology: One recent study revealed that only 35 percent of consumers want brands to use chatbots at all. Secondly, with general public anxiety around the future of AI on the rise, brands must walk a tightrope when introducing chatbots to a cautious consumer base.
The fact that many brands still fail to map their digital customer journeys properly only intensifies these challenges. Without a firm understanding of the customer experience, you risk doing real damage by introducing new technology, regardless of what that technology is.
That said, chatbots are coming. Once brands master them, customers will grow to expect them — meaning your brand needs a strategy for overcoming these initial obstacles to provide the best customer experience possible. Whether your brand already offers chatbots or is planning ahead, there are few dos and don’ts to keep in mind:
Simplify basic interactions
The strength of chatbots lies in the convenience they provide. In an ideal situation, a customer with a simple request or question (that can’t otherwise be answered through a quick browse of the website) can contact a chatbot to get an immediate solution. Since more than half (53 percent) of customers are likely to ditch an online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question, chatbots used correctly can deter cart abandonment.
For example, a customer wondering if a product is in stock at a certain location could quickly ask a chatbot. In this situation, both the customer and the brand saves time and effort. This illustrates a simple, transactional touchpoint that doesn’t require the finesse of a customer service associate, who now has more time to address more complicated customer concerns.
Make it natural
Any interaction with a chatbot should be natural and organic. In other words, customers should never know they are interacting with a robot. This doesn’t mean you should intentionally deceive customers, but if shoppers are coming to your brand with questions, they shouldn’t feel like they’re talking to a machine.
This largely relies on the AI technology powering chatbots. An effective chatbot uses natural language processing technology to communicate like real people, supported by machine learning strategies to constantly improve. It takes both time and tech to polish a strong chatbot, which means no skimping on investments if you’re using chatbots in your CX.
Use chatbots when a human touch is needed
Sometimes, AI just doesn’t cut it. Humans, not robots, are best equipped to deal with inevitable frustrations like damaged products, missed deliveries, or negative customer service experiences. In emotional situations, human customer service associates can respond with empathy and ensure shoppers are satisfied.
If a customer engages a chatbot during an emotional or complicated situation, your brand should automatically transfer the customer’s call to an online customer service associate to alleviate the situation and prevent it from escalating. This relies on your chatbot’s ability to recognize when it’s time to transition. For example, chatbots should be able to sense shifts in a customer’s tone or emotionally charged language and immediately alert a customer representative that it’s time to take over.
Use chatbots to handle sensitive information
Data security concerns are top of mind for online consumers. In fact, more than six out of ten (64 percent) only shop with brands they know are responsible with data. With shoppers more cautious of potential data breaches than ever, it’s your job to reassure them their personal information is safe. That means it’s best to avoid using chatbots when consumers exchange sensitive information, like credit card numbers or other financial data.
To get the most out of chatbots, listen to your customers
As with any emerging technology, it will take time to integrate chatbots perfectly into the customer experience. But the best way to speed that process along is to ask questions of your customers and listen to the answers.
What does their journey with your brand look like? How do they currently access information? What’s causing friction, and what works well? It’s critical to understand these touchpoints before implementing chatbots and to learn how chatbot technology might improve their experiences.
Chatbots may be new to your brand, but the principles of an excellent CX still apply: Learn what your customers want, and offer it. By listening to your customers, you ensure that chatbots create positive experiences for shoppers that keep them loyal to your business long term.