We previously discussed Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems and how they have dramatically developed over the past few years with better scripted applications and the fact that it is another layer to your customer service proposition.
So this brings us nicely on to yet another layer of the customer service model: chat bots.
A chat bot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence (AI), that you interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product.
You are probably wondering “Why does anyone care about chat bots? They look like simple text-based services… what’s the big deal?”
Good question. We will tell you why people should care about chat bots.
It’s because for the first time ever, people are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks. (Source: BI Intelligence).
They are certainly heating up conversations among customer engagement executives these days. Chat bots have been around since 1994 and have matured to the point that they can be used effectively for real business applications. And now thanks to Facebook’s recent announcements and a demo of chat bots, the topic is top of mind.
So how do chat bots impact your digital engagement strategy?
Some see chat bots as the future of customer service. Some say they’ll give it a week. It’s really early days still to gauge either way. There is no real data yet on how many people have started to use bots for service and how effective they find mobile automation. We’re talking about the potential here for bot technology to enhance the customer experience as messaging apps consolidate use cases as one-stop customer service, commerce and content hubs. Facebook has turned up the heat by opening up its Messenger platform to thousands of brand developers to launch chat bots, and businesses have quickly gone into bot-building mode to be able to offer customers a blend of automated and agent-assisted interactions. Kik, WeChat, Line et al have also been innovating on this.
Hang on a minute…
Most people who have tried to use automated voice services have felt the pain when you’re not understood, you give up and want to talk to a real person. This is true, and obviously the quality of the AI brands deployed is critical so bots can effectively parse natural language, understand requests, mimic simple human conversations and learn on the job. There will always need to be an option to connect with an agent if bots get confused or people want to talk a real person. But, the future could be bright for the early adopters that get the balance right.
So, what do consumers think?
Research by myclever gives a strong indication that consumers are ready for these types of automated services (although face-to-face is still the number one channel choice). The agency asked 1,000 UK consumers about the technology and found that 46% of respondents thought chat bots would be a quick solution and unlock the immediacy and convenience of online services. Meanwhile, 40% said they would use bots as a link to connect with the right agent to help them. Round the clock service was seen as the biggest benefit for 68% of participants in the survey, followed by quick answers to simple questions at 54%.
And, it’ll be first in, last out
“Consumers are clearly ready for a new customer experience and think chat bots would significantly improve online services, so those in customer service need to get ahead of the competition, adopt Bots and lead the way in the future – before someone else does.” (Rob McNair, managing director, myclever).
So, here are a few examples of how businesses which have been quick out of the starting block are testing chat bots – with a service edge
Pizza Hut is simplifying the ordering process by launching a chat bot on Messenger. Once people have placed an order – a receipt and order number is then sent via the Messenger conversation – and hey presto, it’s on its way.
London City Airport
London City Airport passengers can send their flight number via Messenger on the day they are flying to receive personalised, real-time flight and departure information.
Cheap Flights’ interactive bot on Messenger helps people to search for flight, travel and hotel information with the added benefit of weather, currency and emoji searches too.
Netflix uses its bot to recommend stuff for people to watch. It works well if you are clear about what you want to watch or use a film example of what you like. It’s only compatible with Messenger.
American Express’s bot on Messenger provides transaction and purchase-related content. It also sends reminders for flights for its travelling community and makes restaurant recommendations.
KLM passengers can receive flight documentation via Messenger: booking confirmations, check-in notifications, boarding passes and status updates.
H&M’s bot on Kik helps consumers with fashion tips. It asks questions to learn about what you like and uses product pictures to find out more. It then suggests style choices based on your answers. If you like what you see the bot sends you to its mobile website to buy.
Building human connections
There is a real potential for chat bots to increase efficiency by answering simple queries and FAQs or by letting customers book a flight or order a pizza, say. It adds another self-assist layer to web and IVR. But, there will always be a need for agents to build a human connection and handle more complex interactions via messaging apps and other social channels. Connecting with a live agent is still the number one choice when it comes to service.
To find out more, and how IPI could assist your contact centre, register for one of our October roadshows, Voice of the Customer – Voice of the Contact Centre.