Dealing with the scepticism surrounding chat bots.

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In customer service, chat bots can significantly enhance the customer experience. Not only from the customer’s perspective, but they are also a great way to streamline business operations.

There are two essential parts to delivering effective customer service: a great team and great technology. The best technology can push the boundaries of what an operational team can achieve by streamlining processes and allowing advisors to focus on enquiries that need a human touch, all while reducing costs.

However, according to our latest research, when customers were asked for the channel they believe is the most likely to deliver a poor outcome, chat bots emerged as the most common response (36%), highlighting the current scepticism surrounding the technology. This is likely due to businesses using them for jobs that are beyond their current capabilities, and not having human operators immediately accessible. This is often done to cut costs quickly, which is not a sustainable approach to introducing them to business operations.

More encouragingly, when asked whether they would – in theory – be happy to deal primarily with AI-powered customer service bots provided the technology progresses sufficiently, nearly half (44%) said yes.

As customers do seem open to chat bots, should the technology improve, businesses should use this opportunity to show that when implemented correctly, they can offer a seamless customer service experience, that doesn’t damage customer relationships.

Why chat bots?

There are some indisputable benefits to introducing chat bots and the technology is improving constantly. Their ability to recognise and learn language, make their own decisions, and know when to hand over to a human, makes them an important tool for most businesses.

Allows for flexible working

With a fully or partially automated customer service system, AI bots can do all data gathering, and manual processes, significantly reducing the workload and strain placed on operators. This is particularly important considering that now more than three-quarters of organisations offer hybrid working. Chat bots and flexible working go hand in hand as the technology allows customer service teams to deliver high quality customer service regardless of location.

24/7 Customer care

AI technology can also allow businesses to introduce 24/7 customer care, meaning businesses can always keep customer satisfaction high. Considering that the number of smartphone subscriptions worldwide predicted to rise to 6.5 billion this year, the way customers interact with customer service teams has changed forever. People are accessing customer support whenever it suits them, meaning businesses need to be readily available at all times.

Chat bots can support teams making the move to 24-hour customer care, as they can be available when human operators can’t. However, one of the most common mistakes that businesses make with chat bots is not having a direct route to a human operator, should customers need to speak to one. Provided an operator is available, bots can be a great first point of contact for simple issues, cutting down the waiting time of customers with more complex issues.

Speed and efficiency

A key advantage of implementing chat bots is the speed and efficiency of complaint handling they provide. According to our recent research, when asked what they believe are the three main components of a good customer service conversation, the vast majority of people said short waiting times (61%), and having their query dealt with quickly and effectively by an operator (60%).

Ultimately, consumers are simply looking for a swift and effective resolution of their problem or query. Whilst it may be increasingly necessary to offer customers a wide range of choice of channels and availability, if the customer is having their problem solved quickly, they probably won’t mind using a chat bot.

How to implement technology effectively

It is important to consider both the implementation strategy and the technology itself before adding it to a business’s customer service operations. Working with an outsourced team can assist customer service teams by providing chat bots or helping businesses to make their own, specialist to the company and sector. Having technology that is specifically tailored to the business itself will allow for greater response efficiency and overall greater customer satisfaction.

Additionally, is it undoubtable that a human element to customer service does need to remain. In our research, 34% of people stated that one of the main components of bad customer service is not having the option to talk to a human. There are some aspects to care that technology simply cannot yet provide including having sensitive conversations about affordability and conveying emotions of respect and empathy. Therefore, whilst the technology remains at its current level, companies need to maintain a balance between bots and human operators.

Final thoughts

Considering the scepticism surrounding chat bots, integrating them into customer service operations may seem daunting for businesses not wanting to see their customer satisfaction suffer. However, implementing AI technology can have some significant benefits to both the quality of service offered and the workload of representatives. Therefore, by ensuring that the right technology is introduced, with the aid of human operators, both businesses and customers can enjoy a more streamlined and effective customer service experience.

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Martin Brown

CCO at FM Outsource

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