Right now! That’s how quickly your customers want a response that solves their problem. They don’t want to wait for the next available customer service rep. They don’t want to be shuffled from one rep to another. And they don’t want responses that don’t solve their problem.
Providing effective customer service is increasingly challenging. Customers want to talk with live reps, but staffing live reps leads to wait times – which customers also don’t want. That’s why e-commerce businesses increasingly use customer service bots, also known as chat bots, to solve customer problems.
What Are Chat Bots?
Perhaps the best way to explain what chat bots are is by explaining what they’re not. They’re not the exasperating interfaces of old that were based off a limited number of scripts. If the customer’s problem fit one of the existing scripts, things went fine. But if it didn’t, the interface would cheerfully keep inundating the customer with solutions that had nothing to do with the customer’s need.
Today’s customer service bots have discarded the scripts of old and form a true bridge between the customer and as much of the company’s knowledge base as is needed to solve the problem. They use artificial intelligence (AI) to interact with customers and meet their needs.
Why Use Them?
Online customers have increasingly turned to chat services such as Facebook Messenger and Slack to communicate in real time. In July of 2016 the number of Facebook Messenger users passed 1 billion. Slack, in less than three years of existence, went from nothing to 5.8 million weekly users.
With consumers communicating in such numbers on these and many other chat services, it would be foolish for e-commerce businesses to ignore chat bots, which are easily integrated into chat services.
What Are They Capable Of?
As leading customer experience management firm nanorep notes, today’s state-of-the-art customer service bots go far beyond the script-based bots of old. Gone is the need to predict the questions customers will ask and script canned answers – and then hope that customers won’t ask questions you didn’t anticipate.
Today’s smart bots can determine what customers want from the context of what they say. They rely on Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms that enable them both to understand and respond in natural human speech, as if customers were interacting with a live person. Today’s chat bots are also far more flexible than past ones. They’re not like the old, one-size-fits-all models. Truly, your imagination is the only limit to what they can do.
Want it to find shipping data? Easily done. Process a return? No problem. Help customers find an item and take their order? Connect them with technical support documents or a technical support person? All easily doable. You can even use your bot to automate internal business tasks, such as scheduling meetings, sending customer data to your CRM system, software updates and much more.
Are there times when your chat bot might hit a dead end, like the old, script-based bots? It’s possible. Never underestimate the ability of customers to uncover a need so unique that your chat bot can’t find an answer. Yet, unlike the old, script-based bots that would trap the customer in an endless loop of irrelevant information, today’s chat bots can recognize when they’re stumped, and send the customer to the proper bot – or live person – to get the answer.
Establishing Your Strategy
The almost infinite flexibility of chat bots requires thought about how best to use them. Plugging any and every capability you can think of into your chat bot can result in an ugly mess – just like crowding every bit of information about your business into one solid wall of text on a single web page would drive your visitors away.
Taking the website analogy one step further, you should ask yourself many of the same questions you would ask yourself when redesigning your website:
- How can this improve what we already have?
- Who do we anticipate using this?
- How will we acquire those people?
- What do we want it to do for them (and for the business)?
- What tools are best suited for achieving the outcome we want?
- How can we measure its effectiveness?
What Resources Does It Need To Access To Provide A Seamless Experience Using It?
Working through these questions is not easy. There are plenty of variables to consider. There are plenty of platforms, tools and options to compare, too. However, the more clearly you define what you want, the more effective your result will be.
Taking Your Next Step
Look at your business. Determine ways that chat bots can help it serve your customers more effectively. Map ways that chat bots can help you accomplish those goals and how you can measure the results.
When you take advantage of the ways that chat bots can streamline your processes and offer your customers a better experience, you’ll notice an improved ROI. Not only that, but you’ll likely find yourself expanding your reach, as people who use the rapidly growing chat platforms increasingly find you to be easy to access and interact with.