"Creating strategies in this new age of customer interaction will pivot on striking the right balance between humans and chatbots."
Cast your mind back to a couple of years ago, amidst the hype around chatbots beginning to an impact within modern enterprises, you'd have good reason to believe your job may have been at risk. Positions across an array of industries were earmarked to be threatened by the introduction of these technologies - from doctors, salespeople, support staff and customer service agents.
Fast forward to today however, and it’s clear this hasn’t been the case. Far from replacing humans, online chatbots have been hugely influential in supporting human efforts in the workforce - notably in the customer services sector.
And with the huge rise in e-commerce shopping in the past few years, these digital communication platforms are beginning to provide real value for brands. Webchats are undeniably effective for consumer-facing organisations, reporting higher customer satisfaction and reducing human-errors over email. As such, it’s no surprise that chabots are now being rolled-out in such volumes.
Humans vs chatbots?
As more and more industries adopt chatbot technology, the volume of interactions they need to deal with also increases. Deploying webchat alone, however, barely reduces contact costs - prompting many users to push for automation.
While chat is key to driving sales and aiding customer satisfaction, leaving the whole channel at the mercy of an algorithm would ruin the benefits at this point. There is yet to be a bot that fully comprehends the technicalities of human language and behaviour.
There’s no denying that when it comes to customer interactions, brands cannot hide behind chatbots. Whilst shopping experiences may be becoming more and more digitised, the reality is that there is no replacing the human connection between consumers and brands. Yet, when bots are put to work alongside human contact staff, the level of customer engagement can be heightened to a new level of satisfaction.
Creating strategies in this new age of customer interaction will pivot on striking the right balance between humans and chatbots. So let’s look at what they each do best:
Availability: Automated chat services are available 24/7.
Volume: The number of webchat requests grow each year. While servicing everything manually isn’t a viable option, algorithms don’t suffer under high loads.
Efficiency: Customers expect near immediate responses, which can be a challenge for support staff.
Repetition: Organisations often face the same queries over and over again, which can be a drain on support staff’s time. These FAQs are ideal for off-loading to technology.
Personal touch: For ecommerce retailers, the biggest challenge is replicating the in-store experience online. People buy from people, and it’s essential that brands should look to connect their people with prospects both instore and online.
Uniqueness: Bots aren’t capable of answering complex questions. If your prospective customers want to know whether an item is available in another colour, or if they would like to know whether it will go with a pair of shoes, then they may need a support representative to make a recommendation.
Empathy: When an interaction isn’t going well or the customer is dissatisfied, noone wants an apology from a chat bot. Only human customer experience experts can understand the nuances behind customer services grievances.
Expertise: Often, prospective customers will have extensively researched a product before purchasing, so any further questions they have will require an expert answer than only a human can give.
The customer service agent of the future
To those brands looking to stay head on customer experience, it’s becoming more and more apparent the future is not about treating this as a binary decision, but blending both paths together for an enhanced customer service. The best support agent is not a bot or a human, but a cyborg.
It is a little-known secret that a large number of webchat conversations involving robots are actually assisted by humans who approve or correct the bots’ responses. Having these systems goes a huge way towards freeing up valuable staff time, relieving them of time-intensive tasks that can easily be automated. Agents can thereby focus their efforts on human qualities, experience and expertise to ultimately add value to their businesses.
So what would this hybrid look like?
Qualification: If some queries can be serviced automatically, not every interaction needs to be sent to agents without the time to resolve them. Start webchats with an automated Q&A session to ensure all the required information is available before beginning a chat with a human expert.
Assess the customer journey: Not knowing what stage of the online journey the customer is at makes it all the more difficult to increase understanding. Are they a prospect or a three-times customer? Is this a sales or a support query? The difference is critical, and tying your chat tools in to your CRM is the way to understand it.
Be honest: Rather than expose your bot to questions it cannot understand, risking consumer frustration, be upfront - disclose who your contact is talking to, and state how exactly the auto operator can - or can’t - help.
Escalation: Creating a fallback solution such as an escalation to a human will enable you to avoid providing your visitors with a deceptive experience.
Route to the expert: When a question requiring a high degree of category knowledge is identified, it should be routed not to just any staff member but to an independent expert with the highest equivalent product knowledge. Identifying those questions and having the requisite knowledge available on-top is key.
With the world of e-commerce becoming increasingly fraught from competition, customer satisfaction is set to become a definitive factor in whether or not brands will thrive in this new purchasing environment.
Deploying solutions such as webchats are now one of the best drivers of sales, and is increasingly delivering consumer satisfaction for brands in a way never experienced before. Far from replacing workers, chatbots are helping augment human capabilities within the workplace, and ensuring brands have the best of both worlds.