Chatty Cathy or loquacious bot? That’s the question stumping more than a quarter of consumers as AI-powered chatbots rise the ranks at many organizations. Research from Gartner predicts that by 2022, 85% of customer service interactions will be powered by chatbots, and that the average person will have more conversations with bots than their own spouse. The rub? A recent study conducted by PwC found that 27% of consumers surveyed said they weren’t sure if their last customer service interaction was with an actual human or a chatbot.
These are staggering figures, making a clear case for why companies are looking to AI and chatbots to continue digitally transforming and become customer experience leaders. If consumers are receiving quality service, and can’t discern whether it’s from man or machine, then chatbots are well positioned to rule over the customer experience throne. The virtual love affair with chatbots between both consumers and businesses is only just beginning as chatbots proceed to literally change the face of customer experience, with sights set on becoming an eventual staple in every customer’s journey.
Artificial Intelligence, Real Customer Service
The rise of chatbots in the customer service realm is proving both beneficial and lucrative for many businesses. By 2020, 80% of businesses will be using or in the process of designing their own chatbots. According to Juniper Research, chatbots will create a cost savings of more than $8 billion by 2022. That’s because the AI and machine learning that powers these bots is stepping in to automate cumbersome, repetitive tasks so that human customer service reps can tackle more nuanced, complex problems. This combination of technology and human drastically improves speed, efficiency, retention and overall satisfaction when it comes to customer service.
With chatbots on deck to answer basic queries and better connect customers to the help they need, customer service agents have more time and bandwidth to build better relationships with customers thanks to the automation of smaller tasks. AI and machine learning offers companies deeper insight into customer outcomes for improved future strategies and actions, making these technologies the new standard for those looking to prioritize customer experience.
An AI-powered chatbot that can go beyond standard customer service to deliver an experience that is truly personalized to the individual is an invaluable asset for any company. A great example is Bank of America’s chatbot, Erica. Erica lives inside of the bank’s app and can assist customers with anything from checking their balances, to making payments, to offering advice on how to save money through the use of predictive analytics and AI. That foundation enable Erica to offer personalized financial recommendations for users, reducing the stress on actual bank tellers and freeing them up to assist in more complex, pressing customer experience matters.
With chatbots freeing up humans to focus more on value-added customer service, the end-result can be exceptional customer experience. Companies that are devoting the time and effort into understanding the needs of their customers and designing chatbots around those needs to better support them will become true customer experience leaders. As Philip Say, VP, Innovation Product Management at Sutherland Labs states, “brands that take calculated chances with chatbots to create better experience and value for their customers are going to be further ahead than their competitors that don’t.”
Consumers Are Embracing the Bot
When it comes to getting what they want fast, consumers are caring less about who is facilitating their desires. Zendesk conducted research on more than 50,000 of their customers and found that a top driver in customer satisfaction is the time it takes for a company to resolve customer issues. AI’s ability to automate simple interactions leads to the faster, more efficient transactions that customers crave.
In fact, PwC found that 62% of consumers believe AI can reduce the time it takes to get answers while still being highly tailored to their preferences. On top of that, 38% believe AI can offer a superior one-to-one personalized experience over a human. This reinforces another finding from Zendesk’s research – the fact that customer preference is increasingly moving more toward resolving issues without the involvement of another human. In the mind of a consumer, bots can do it just as good, if not better, than humans can.
Foster Customer Connection and Engagement
Companies looking to capitalize on the benefits of chatbots must start with a fundamental understanding of who their customer is and work from there. Only then can a successful chatbot be built that accurately provides support and solutions for customers. That was the mentality that birthed our very own chatbot at Sutherland: Aiden. “At Sutherland, we advocate looking at journeys, being pragmatic and opportunistic to where and when to apply these tools to maximize customer satisfaction,” Say explained.
Of course, as a tool created to converse, conversation is the most crucial aspect when it comes to designing chatbots. If a chatbot can’t keep up with human conversation, or fails to strike a natural and helpful dialogue, then it’s not of much use. Perfecting conversational design and flow is critical for chatbots to provide useful customer experience.
In addition, conversational design offers companies a chance to engage with their customers in a way that is more personal and on brand to drive home customer awareness and retention, according to Say. “Conversational design can be a unique opportunity to spark an enjoyable engagement that delivers a solution while building a customer connection.”
To that end, companies should also view chatbots as a means of redefining their conversion funnels and enhancing their business processes. An effective, engaging chatbot can take a prospective customer from merely curious all the way through to an actual sale. At Sutherland, we utilize Aiden as a means of streamlining and augmenting a typical cold-call to refine our sales qualification processes to create a more engaging user experience that converts more customers. With the right content, a personality-fueled chatbot can educate a prospective customer, gather relevant data on them and essentially use this information to convert them into a paying customer by offering real value and help.
Download our latest white paper Bots for Business Impact: What You Need to Know to learn more about how companies are using chatbots to do more with less.