25 per cent of customer service operations will involve the use of chatbots by 2020, according to Gartner – a significant jump from the two per cent of companies using them in 2017.
And there are no signs of this growth slowing. As intelligent chatbot technologies get smarter, quicker, and more intuitive to human behaviours and preferences, businesses will be competing in a race to the top to provide the best and most innovative customer service. Before long, customers will expect chatbots to be a standard part of any service.
Alongside artificial intelligence and omnichannel engagement solutions, Gartner named chatbots as one of the top three technologies set to have the biggest impact on customer experience projects in the next three years.
According to a 2018 Gartner survey, almost half of Australian consumers had engaged with a service chatbot in the 12 months prior, yet only 35 per cent of those reported their interaction produced a solution. With customer engagement, retention and revenue on the line for laggards to this quickly moving trend, it is crucial to get on the front foot and get the technology right from the start.
Here are my top five considerations for businesses starting the process of deploying a chatbot, to ensure it will align with both organisational outcomes and customer expectations. Get this right, and you will define and simplify the customer experience, bringing long-term loyalty to your business.
1. What problem are you trying to solve?
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ chatbot.
Understanding your customer journey, current user experience and key pain points all have a part to play in choosing the right chatbot platform for your business needs. Depending on what the business need is, a chatbot can be designed for specific campaigns, topics, Q&As, self-service interactions, workforce efficiency, lead generation, process automation or customer triage before hand-off to a human agent.
Sitting down with stakeholders and defining the problem at the very start of the process ensures the chatbot is designed and deployed to meet the specific needs of your customers and deliver real value to your business.
2. Does the chatbot need to support multiple channels?
While customers are increasingly scattered across different digital platforms, they still expect their customer experience to be the same regardless of which channel they interact with. If you deploy a chatbot on your website, the same chatbot needs to be optimised for mobile applications, social media, and even voice channels.
3. Will your chatbot know when to interact with your customers?
Using a chatbot that intelligently knows when to best engage with a customer is important.
Rather than bombarding a customer with requests to interact, intelligent chatbots know when it is the right time to intervene with a customer. If a customer is getting through a transaction or enquiry smoothly on their own, then leave them alone. If they are struggling, then a well-targeted chatbot can assist at the right time.
4. Does the chatbot incorporate natural language processing and speech support?
Every interaction a chatbot has with a customer can produce valuable data on the types of questions being asked, the different ways they are being asked and what the answers required to satisfy the customer, might be.
To achieve this, chatbots need to be able to clarify conversationally with a customer before an answer can be given, This is essential when trying to ensure that a conversation feels like it is natural and could be with a real person.
A chatbot needs to be able to understand, recollect and continuously learn from this data as this will allow it to improve and evolve with your customers’ needs. By utilising machine learning at this stage, the chatbot can be further developed to better respond in a more natural way.
Using a chatbot with conversational artificial intelligence, will deliver a better, more ‘human’ like customer experience than one which employees, directed dialogue techniques.
5. Can you back your chatbot with human-centred design, industry experience and domain knowledge?
While a chatbot will be continuously improving its expertise, there is always going to be a point at which it can’t answer or understand a customer’s question.
This is where a conversational design expert is important. Conversation is an “art” as much as a “science”. Engaging experts that have a strong history in conversational design can make the interaction more human-like and remove friction in the customer experience process.
6. Can you measure the impact of the chatbot?
If you followed the initial process of defining the business need for deploying a chatbot, your success metrics will be clear.
A graphics interface allowing access to rich analytics about the conversations that your customers are having with your virtual agent is critical in measuring how well the chatbot is delivering value/ROI to your business and meeting your customers’ needs by addressing their pain points.
Chatbots are set to have an incredible impact on customer service and experience in the imminent future, and the pace at which the trend is developing can be intimidating to those businesses that don’t know where to start. Following these few tips can help break down the process and ensure that the business and customer needs will be met, and will continue to be met as they evolve.