Are chatbots actually beneficial for call centers, or are they really just a new fad?
Though 80% of consumers have interacted with a chatbot at some point, only around 23% of companies are currently using them in their customer service. At some point, call centers will need to take chatbots seriously, considering:
- Can chatbots speed up our workflows and operational efficiency?
- Is a chatbot a cost-effective way to scale our service and availability?
- Are there any ways a chatbot could automate or eliminate manual work from our agents?
- What percentage of customer service requests could be handled by a chatbot?
As AI grows and develops quickly, now is the time to consider what these questions mean for your company, and to understand what chatbots are, what options are available, and how these options could benefit your company.
Understanding Chatbots: The Basics
So, what exactly is a chatbot?
Chatbots are software solutions that use artificial intelligence to communicate with a user, either through an app, website, or even over the phone. Chatbots use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to perform basic tasks, understand and respond to simple questions and help customers connect with the right department or agents.
There are two basic types of chatbots: rule-based chatbots, which generally respond to questions with predetermined answers, or AI-based chatbots, which use machine learning and NLP to understand and respond to customer questions. Within these two types can be a variety of iterations, including:
- menu or selection-based chatbots
- keyword recognition based chatbots
- machine learning or AI chatbots
- linguistic-based chatbots
- voice chatbots
Regardless of which kind of chatbot you implement, they can have many advantages.
The Advantages of Using Chatbots in Call Center Services
It seems like chatbots are a must in today’s call center environment—but what benefits do they really provide? And more so, do customers actually want them? Take a look at the most recent data:
- 62% of customers say they would try using a chatbot instead of waiting for a human agent to take their call.
- 68% of customers say that a quick speed of answer with chatbots is a major advantage.
- 72% of consumers want to be able to find answers themselves without having to call customer service.
Chatbots can definitely be a solution to create more self-service options, deliver faster service and allow customers to get help whenever they need it. Here are five more key benefits of using chatbots in your call center.
24/7 customer support. A key advantage of chatbots is the ability to increase your availability for customers. While hiring additional staff members to cover overnight shifts can be expensive and difficult to manage, implementing a chatbot means customers can get support whenever and wherever they need—without a wait.
Scalability and efficiency. Similarly, chatbots can really help scale your customer service, and not just in regards to availability. Chatbots can help an essentially unlimited number of customers at once, unlike human agents, making your customer support much more scalable and efficient. In addition, post-call work is reduced, since the chatbot software can be programmed to make CRM updates automatically, and customers get more efficient service as well with no wait times to use a bot.
Chatbots can also make your human-powered agents more efficient as well. With a chatbot as a self-service option, many consumers will be able to get help on their own, or find FAQs or help articles via the chatbot to solve their problem. As a result, chatbots help to reduce the number of customer service requests that are routed to a human agent, resolving easy questions through the bot and freeing up human agents to work on more technical or detailed questions.
Cost savings. Obviously, implementing a chatbot which can handle hundreds of customers simultaneously—with no breaks, no benefits and 24/7 coverage—is cheaper than hiring human agents. Of course, chatbots can’t handle all aspects of customer service, which is why a combination of human and chatbot agents is the most cost-effective and efficient blend. Relying on human agents to manage all customer service tasks—even low-value tasks that can easily be automated—unnecessarily increases costs.
Improved customer satisfaction. Not surprisingly, with faster service and increased accessibility comes improved customer support and satisfaction. However chatbots can help with more than just on-demand, speedy service—chatbots can also pull data from CRMs and other software to create personalized interactions, strengthening customer satisfaction. They can also allow you to improve omnichannel support by implementing chatbots to monitor channels such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
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Since many chatbots follow pre-programmed rules or decision-trees, they’re also more consistent than human agents, and can help deliver consistent, quality support that adheres to your company policies in each conversation, which further strengthens satisfaction.
Gathering customer data and insights. Chatbots are also a great way to increase your customer data collections and analysis to get clearer customer insights and improve personalization. With a chatbot, you can easily gather post-interaction feedback through CSAT surveys or other quick questionnaires, and you can easily record and analyze transcripts for sentiment, satisfaction and other customer preferences, questions and needs.
Chatbots in Action
Many companies are now using chatbots regularly to help customers place orders, set appointments, check order statuses, start returns and more.
For example, consider the Domino’s pizza chain. Their chatbot is integrated with their Facebook page and monitors Facebook messages. It’s a button-based chatbot, which allows customers to select options from a menu (i.e. “Do you want to… place an order? Track an order? Contact customer service?”) and provide short responses to interact with the chatbot. These types of simple bots are easy ways to allow customers to quickly perform simple tasks or get help with basic questions.
Other companies as varied as Hubspot or H&M have chatbots on their website that allow users to chat with customer service, ask questions about the product, receive personalized advice, or get other help, all without leaving the webpage. Such chatbots not only provide effortless self-service for customers, but they also drive engagement and strengthen customer satisfaction.
Challenges and Considerations When Implementing Chatbots
That said, despite all the benefits and successful implementations, chatbots have their own challenges as well. One of the biggest challenges of implementing a chatbot successfully is considering—and understanding—customer preferences. While customers want fast and efficient service, they also want effective service—to get their questions or issues resolved on the first call—and they want a friendly, knowledgeable agent they can trust. Sometimes a chatbot will do the trick—but other times, customers just want to speak to a human. Setting up your chatbot to account for and accommodate varying customer needs while balancing human and bot interactions is key is ensuring it will be successful.
At the same time, you also need to find the right kind of chatbot for your customer needs and business goals. In some cases, a button- or keyword-based chatbot will be effective enough, especially for managing very common and simple customer questions or concerns. However, in other cases, an AI chatbot will be more effective and will require more training on your branding and products to be able to provide useful service.
Finally, as with any software, you’ll need to ensure your customer’s privacy and security when using chatbots. Many chatbot software and providers have security and privacy concerns top-of-mind, and have integrated safeguards into their tools, but you’ll also need to consider it internally as well.
The Future of Chatbots in Call Center Services
As machine learning (ML) advances and chatbots become more “intelligent” and human-like, chatbot usage and implementation is set to increase and become a larger and more important call center channel. Current predictions are forecasting an annual growth rate for chatbots of 23% by 2030.
But what does this mean for customer service?
Unlike some doomsayer predictions, chatbots will not eliminate human agents or customer service—rather, they will enhance it and make it more effective and efficient. With smarter and more effective chatbots available to provide customers with initial support, route them to the right agents, or provide self-service help 24/7, customers will be able to get better service, whenever they need it, and getting connected with the right human agent will become easier and easier.
In addition, as chatbot skills and intelligence expand, it’s expected that they’ll be able to increasingly offer better and more personalized service, allowing them to support more stages of the customer journey and be useful for more tasks and functions. For example, instead of simply helping a customer place an order or make an appointment, a chatbot in the future might be able to suggest best appointment times based on that customer’s schedule or Google calendar, or provide personalized recommendations for products based on past order or search history.
Is a Chatbot Right for Your Call Center?
As chatbots become more mainstream, almost every call center could benefit from using one. If you or your call center are looking to:
- reduce costs and improve cost-efficiency
- increase scalability and expand your call center support
- expand availability and provide 24/7 service
- strengthen customer service and satisfaction
- provide human agents with increased support and resources
then implementing a chatbot can help you improve cost-related and operational efficiency while also improving service levels.
At Global Response, we’re experienced at implementing the latest in modern technology for our clients, from omnichannel support to chatbots, modern CRMs to advanced telephony and IVR systems. Our digital solutions and best-in-class technology allow us to provide strong support for your customers and an ROI that’s beneficial for your business.
Ready to see how a chatbot can help transform your customer service? Connect with an expert from Global Response today and we’ll show you how.
Faster and on-demand customer service are just two ways that chatbots improve customer experiences. They can also provide stronger personalization and make it easier for customers to get self-service as well as connect customers with the appropriate customer service team when needed.
Chatbots can be difficult to implement effectively—two major challenges require understanding your customer preferences and knowing how to balance the role of chatbots with human agents. If customers want to talk to a human agent, a chatbot should be able to connect them to someone right away. However, well-programmed chatbots should also make it easy for customers to get simple tasks and information taken care of on their own. In addition, not maximizing chatbot functionality—and requiring human agents to do tasks that could easily be automated—decreases cost-effectiveness and productivity.
As NLP and ML processes improve, chatbots will continue to get smarter and more human-like, increasing their effectiveness in call centers and customer service and expanding their functionality. We expect that chatbots will continue to become a key channel for call centers and become more advantageous as their functionality expands.