By Gabe Larsen, VP, Growth Kustomer
As the holiday shopping season approaches, superior customer service will play a critical role in capturing a share of the shopper’s budget and decreasing shopping-related stress. To help customer service teams be more responsive, more and more brands are using chatbots, a digital tool that replicates and automates human conversation and acts like virtual employees. Interestingly, chat apps have already surpassed the use of social media for answering customer service questions. And with research showing that nearly 70% of customers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative, it’s a tool that customers are looking for this year.
The Chatbot Advantage
Chatbots offer three immediate benefits to customer service teams that can help elevate the overall customer journey: faster response times, better agent utilization and data collection on what customers need.
- Faster response times: Using a chatbot ensures that customers get the help they need when they need it, since the format works 24/7. Instead of risking customer frustration with waiting in a queue until a customer service agent is available, a chatbot can respond immediately to customer needs, which may range from product questions to returns and exchanges. In addition, by allowing chatbots to handle initial information gathering, agents are able to join and resolve conversations faster if escalation is needed.
- Better agent utilization: As customer service demands increase as more people shop online, it’s critical for customer service teams to work as efficiently and effectively as possible. Instead of expecting agents to answer the same question over and over again, chatbots remove basic, low-level questions from the workload. By reducing the number of messages agents receive, brands can increase the efficiency of their support operations and agents can focus on the more complex questions and tasks.
- Data on what customers need: Chatbots automatically collect and analyze customers’ questions and issues. Instead of manually reviewing conversations or asking agents for anecdotal insights, chatbot-fueled data is organized and aggregated for intent. For example, chatbots can play an important role in tracking orders and providing updates on delivery. This is never more important than during the holiday season when customers expect the fastest possible delivery windows.
Chatbot Best Practices
As holiday shopping heats up, now is a perfect time to make chatbots part of your brand’s customer service strategy. With these best practices in mind, you can deliver a merrier holiday shopping experience, one that today’s customers are certainly seeking at the end of a challenging 2020.
Start with hello: It’s best when first getting started to start with one or two simple use cases to automate, such as “Where’s My Order?” or “Return Status.” From there, companies can learn from what works and how their customers prefer to interact with a chatbot before building something more elaborate.
Deploy conversational AI for more elaborate tasks: Natural language processing and machine learning make it possible for chatbots to understand and respond to customer intent, not specific keywords. This allows the chatbot to keep up with the way each customer thinks, communicates, and switches topics, ultimately leading to higher understanding and better resolution rates across all conversations.
Understand your metrics: The containment rate shows the percentage of conversations totally handled by the chatbot, which along with customer satisfaction, is a key metric in evaluating the performance of the bot. Ultimately, a well-defined bot program will be able to communicate increased agent efficiency and customer satisfaction, which equals a reduction in the cost of care.
Know when to handover: It’s important to point out that a chatbot doesn’t replace a human agent, but it is effective at resolving low-level queries. Once a chatbot can’t answer a question or resolve an issue, the handover to a human must be efficient and seamless. Asking a few questions just prior to the handover can provide agents with added context for the conversation and route to specialized teams. In addition, chatbots can be effective in information gathering and a bit of troubleshooting before a customer is routed to the right agent, resulting in reduced call times.
Focus on the customer: Customers are the ultimate judge of the success of a chatbot. It’s important to identify the right segment of customers that prefer automation versus a direct human connection. Automation may be more helpful at the end of interaction than at the beginning, so it’s critical to determine at what point during the interaction it’s best to deploy.
This holiday shopping season is sure to be the ultimate test of brands’ ability to deliver a stellar customer service experience, especially as consumer behaviors and expectations continue to shift in an increasingly digital shopping world. The brands that are able to leverage the benefits of chatbots within their customer service strategy will be much more likely to turn holiday buyers into loyal customers.