Chatbot challenges: five steps for improving the customer conversation

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Chatbots have become essential to the way many organisations approach customer service, but how can the effectiveness and impact of chatbot strategies be improved? James Matthews, UK & Ireland Country Manager at CM.com, explains.

Despite widespread investment in chatbots as a customer service tool, new research has revealed that nearly half (47%) of business decision-makers think that basic chatbot interactions prevent them from optimising the customer experience. In addition, 54% of customer service agents agree that limited conversational capabilities, poor integration with other systems and an inability to hand chatbot conversations over to a human are barriers to better service, leading to regular customer complaints.

Simply implementing a chatbot, therefore, is not a panacea for great customer service. The conversational capabilities and sophistication of bots will always determine the quality of the experience and customers’ happiness. As a result, businesses should carefully consider the use of chatbots, their level of intelligence and their role in the customer journey. In doing so, there are five foundational points to consider:

1. Define your chatbot strategy

According to a report by Forrester, organisations often deploy chatbots for the wrong reasons, particularly those who focus on using them to automate agents and cut costs. Instead, chatbot strategies should be based on improving customer service and optimising the teams’ work already in place. A smarter strategy focuses on a defined customer service use case, such as integrating bots into a website and then scales up to different channels and situations. This also applies to organisations using the technology as part of a wider digital transformation strategy where automation is a key part of the process.

2. Give the chatbot a job description

Chatbots are available with a range of capabilities and levels of sophistication, and when implementing them, it’s important to define their role internally and to make sure customers understand their limitations. Entry-level, ‘scripted’ chatbots, for instance, have a defined conversation flow usually based on closed dialogue. The bot will offer customers different choices based on preset rules, and there is no real scope for interactions to deviate from the script. However, advanced bots powered by AI technology learn from customer queries and engage in much more meaningful customer conversations. What’s more, they can be integrated with existing contact centres, ERP and CRM systems to draw on data relevant to each customer journey.

3. Focus on personalisation

Chatbot tone of voice is key. Conversations should be personalised and designed to exhibit a natural flow that balances friendly chat with professionalism. Customer expectations should also be met. For example, if they have supplied their name and address, the bot should then have access to the rest of their data to not supply lots of detail. Again, bots that are integrated with other systems can impress customers with their ‘knowledge’ and are better placed to help deliver effective outcomes.

4. Escalate to human chat

There are occasions where even the most sophisticated chatbots can’t help customers with a query or solve a particularly complex problem. Similarly, customers might not want to get into a chatbot conversation, perhaps because of a previous experience or they quite understandably want person-to-person communication.

There should be clear and defined processes to hand the conversation over to a live human agent in these situations. In practical terms, if a customer specifically asks to be passed to a human customer service representative, it should provide a full list of options and avoid frustrating their request.

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5. Innovate, innovate, innovate

Sophisticated, AI-driven conversational chatbots are designed to improve over time, and continual innovation is key to the process. For instance, review and refine conversation content and processes based on real-world experience and customer feedback. Ask customers for their opinions on chatbot experiences and whether conversations have met their needs. Also, consider how chatbots can be integrated with other customer-facing communication channels, such as WhatsApp, or consider using voice bots when customers prefer contact via a phone call.

Chatbots are a powerful tool for delivering business benefits and improving customer experience. However, their impact is always greatest when they have a defined role, and their level of sophistication is right for the job they are given. As organisations look to increase their use of bots to raise customer service standards, more powerful conversational capabilities are crucial if customers are to receive the high levels of care and communication that have become so important in today’s digital economy.

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Amber Donovan-Stevens

Amber is a Content Editor at Top Business Tech

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