Think back to the last time you interacted with a company's chatbot. Maybe something you ordered online never arrived and you needed to check the delivery status? Perhaps you wanted to request a refund for a canceled event? Or possibly you were like David who tried to get details on carry-on luggage from his airline.
"Hi there, I'm flying to Rome in two days and can't find the carry-on luggage dimensions," he asked the airline's chatbot. "Can you help me out?"
After a couple of seconds, the bot churned out a response: "All you need to check-in for your flight is your six-digit reservation number, email address used at the time of booking, and your travel document. Check out our video guide for the step by step process below."
Not very helpful, right?
Sadly, this poor experience is all too familiar for consumers. Many chatbots aren't smart enough to understand natural language requests. Others lack access to the right data to field good answers. Either way, it leaves customers feeling frustrated and does little to ease the burden on human agents.
But it doesn't have to be like this. Support leaders know that optimizing their chatbots can deflect support calls, resolve tickets, and free their human agents to handle the trickiest challenges. Such improvements drive better customer experience, which in turn positively impacts key metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).
Fortunately, stepping up your chatbot's self-service experience is simple. It starts by adding artificial intelligence (AI).
What is an AI-powered Chatbot?
AI chatbots look and operate like normal chatbots. There's just one key difference however: they're smarter. A lot smarter. They use natural language understanding, natural language processing (NLP), and natural language generation to comprehend and communicate with the people they're interacting with.
They're big business, too. This year, the business market for virtual assistants — a.k.a. Chatbots — will grow 15% to more than $7 billion, according to Gartner. Let's take a look at why organizations are investing in AI-powered chatbots.
Why should you use an AI-powered chatbot?
Standard chatbots are great for simple questions. Where they fail is when customers ask complex or unique questions. From the consumer's perspective, it's frustrating when it is not obvious what chatbots can and can't do. So they'll spend five or 10 minutes talking to a chatbot before working out whether or not it can help. If a chatbot can't help, all they've done is waste their time. It's a poor experience and incredibly frustrating.
In the end, some customers will resort to traditional support channels like email or phone. Others will look for help elsewhere — potentially from your competitors — in an era of decreasing brand loyalty. But AI-powered chatbots can help fix all of this.
Here are six ways they can benefit your business:
1. Faster resolution
We're living through the era of instant gratification. On-demand streaming, two-hour deliveries, round-the-clock support. People want their content and answers now. In fact, 81% of customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.
Chatting with a live person over the phone or online is time-consuming, and customer frustration increases with wait time. This hurts your NPS and CSAT scores, creates negative sentiment about your company, and increases the likelihood of negative agent interactions.
Enter AI-powered chatbots.
These bots can deliver direct answers to your customers' questions immediately. While AI-powered chatbots can't answer every question, they can handle the lion's share of the work, freeing your agents to focus on the most complex issues.
2. Around-the-clock support availability
The notion of offering support between nine and five was outdated a decade ago. Just because your agents haven't punched in, doesn't mean that your customers don't need help. Customers want support on their schedule — whether that's early in the morning before their kids are up, at midday over lunch, or in the evening when they're unwinding with some Netflix.
Staffing a contact center around the clock is (likely) prohibitively expensive. But offering round-the-clock support via technology? That's a different story.
AI-powered chatbots are always on. Morning, noon, or night, they're there to answer your customers' inquiries. Not only does this help by delivering support on your customers' schedules, but it also reduces the ticket backlog for when your support agents do clock in.
3. Reduced support costs
Frontline labor accounts for the bulk of contact center budgets. But staffing isn't only a financial problem. Hiring, training, and retention are all tough challenges in their own right. Scaling a human-powered contact center is expensive. Doubling your headcount requires twice the budget. AI-powered chatbots break this linear link, allowing organizations to scale more affordably.
For example, AI-powered chatbots can support contact centers through new product launches and peak seasons. It's faster, cheaper, and more elastic than hiring new labor. That's not even accounting for operational efficiencies. For every second chatbots shave off handling times, call centers can save as much as $1 million in annual customer service costs.
4. Provides agents with more time
Time is a contact center's most valuable resource. The more time your agents spend on complex calls, the better. Unfortunately, agents often get tied up with straightforward requests and simple but time-consuming conversations.
This shift might seem minor, but it's not. It helps your bots and agents play to their strengths. For example, customers often face repetitive issues. It makes no sense to have skilled agents repeat pre-scripted answers time and time again. They'll get bored and demoralized. AI-powered chatbots, however, can deliver a faultless response a hundred, thousand, or million times in a row without breaking a sweat.
5. Constantly gets smarter, faster
Old technology was rigid and static. Unless the developer released an update, products stood still. Artificial intelligence works differently. It learns, evolves, and improves as it consumes more data. For example, give your chatbot long enough and it'll learn to understand your customers' natural language — complete with typos and slang.
It goes further than comprehension, too. AI-powered chatbots use dynamic re-ranking to evaluate answers and identify optimal responses.
6. Serves customers the way they want to be served
It might come as a surprise but most customers' natural instinct is to self-serve. According to Zendesk, two-thirds of people would rather solve an issue on their own than speak to a company representative. More specifically, 70% of consumers say they prefer messaging over calling for customer support.
Welcome to the age of AI
After years spent hearing about the potential of artificial intelligence, we're starting to see the positive results of impactful business applications. While older chatbots performed simple functions well, they lacked the intelligence to really help customers. That's all changing. It's time to give your chatbot a brain.