Imagine you buy a pair of shoes online and when they arrive, they don’t fit.
Disappointed, you jump on the company’s website to enquire about replacing them with a larger size. You call the customer support number, hoping someone is there on a Saturday. They’re not, so you put the shoes aside and make a mental note to call on Monday.
Life happens, and you forget all about it until Friday. You call the support number in your lunch break, only to be placed on hold. As time ticks by, you become increasingly irritated by the whole process and decide that perhaps online shopping isn’t so great after all.
When you finally talk to the customer service rep, you’re annoyed and rude. They become defensive and abrupt and when it’s all over, you’re sending them back for a refund with no plans to ever purchase from the company again.
Now, let’s go back to the moment when you tried on the shoes and found that they didn’t fit.
This time, imagine heading to the company’s website and as you’re about to search for the returns process, a box pops up and says, “Would you like to chat with a customer service rep?”. Pleasantly surprised, you click yes. A chat window appears that says, “How can I help?”
You tell the chatbot that the shoes are the wrong size and you need an exchange. It asks for your account details, notes the product code and replacement size, and gives you an address to send the return. Taking all of ten minutes to resolve, you realise how simple online shopping is and vow to do more of it - with that company - in the future.
This is a common customer service scenario. It demonstrates how clever companies are leveraging new digital technologies, such as chatbots, to improve customer experiences.
Able to provide fast, reliable, and consistent support, chatbots are redefining B2C relationships with their ability to simulate normal human conversations via text or phone.
Here are three ways chatbots are revolutionising the customer service landscape:
‘Help’ is a strong word – and when a customer sings out, the company that delivers first usually reaps the rewards.
Today’s customers expect quick, effortless service. A chatbot who never sleeps and has no regard for time zones is able to support customers whenever (and wherever) they need it.
Most customer service queries are simple to resolve, and follow a predictable pattern. Chatbots can be taught (either by sets of rules or machine learning) to make instant connections between a customer request and the most efficient outcome. If the request is too complicated, they can easily transfer to a human who then has all the necessary information to take over with ease.
Chatbots also predominantly work through messenger apps, which are incredibly popular due to their ease of use and natural efficiency. The desire to text has, in many ways, replaced the desire to pick up a phone and make a call.
Within organisations, chatbots enable improved efficiencies by freeing up resources and allowing staff time to focus on higher level objectives – instead of constantly resolving menial customer requests.
AI-based chatbots can be programmed to collect and interpret masses of data, in order to generate an understanding of a customer’s needs or preferences.
Through their acquired knowledge, they provide highly personalised service – such as offering new product suggestions, identifying promotions of interest, or even reaching out to wish the customer a happy birthday.
Far from being reactive, chatbots allow brands to explore proactive new customer engagement strategies that they may not have previously considered due to time and cost constraints.
For example, many companies design their websites and interfaces to avoid the need for customer service. After all, long chats with customers can be a huge drain on resources. However, chatbots are capable of handling multiple customer interactions simultaneously, and for any length of time, without any extra effort.
And this presents an exciting question: what would the future of customer service look like if customers were invited to engage as frequently as possible? What new levels of customer intimacy could be achieved?
The availability and cost effectiveness of chatbots, combined with the needs of today’s connected but time poor consumers, has created the perfect opportunity to explore Customer Service 2.0 – where immediacy, efficiency and personalisation reign supreme.