Best Customer Service Chatbots: Use Cases and Examples
The Best Customer Service Chatbots: Use Cases and Examples
The pace of business change is only getting faster as the pressure to streamline processes, economize and offer customers better service all compete for your time and investment. Leading the way into the digital business era is the customer service chatbot, an increasingly common feature on websites, apps and social media to help your users and drive engagement.
IT Saving Businesses From Extinction
Many business leaders, economists and pundits are so immersed in the triple-threat perils of Trumpism, Brexit and the Chinese slowdown that they fail to consider the wider picture. The world is due for a pause in growth if not a crash of recession. At that point, every business will become fixated on survival and conservation through cost savings, redundancies and adapting the use IT to improve how they work.
During the 2008 crash, and the years that followed, IT-based savings were the saviour of many businesses, as they dumped legacy infrastructure and high-cost tools for cloud and common off the shelf (COTS) technology, with a push to mobile-based working. And we can expect another round of similar activity come the first waves of economic purse-tightening during the next downturn.
While cloud and mobile were saviours over a decade ago, the next recession will see rapid investment and growth in AI-based services, and the move to bot-based interactions with machine-to-machine services removing human interaction from many tasks, while business leaders, analysts and consumers become increasingly reliant on instant, smart digital advice.
With the global economic landscape looking increasingly chaotic, all types and sizes of company are acting now to reduce their cost base and prepare for the “AI future.” “digital business era” or whatever you want to call it.
Already, forward thinking and innovative businesses have been through several generations of chatbot, starting with script-based chatbot development that augmented traditional reception desk or call center tasks. Then came the first generation of AI improvements such as natural language understanding and natural language processing. Now, we see the first commercial bots with access to deep AI that can process complex queries, understand and analyse the emotion within a conversation and much more.
Whatever level of bot your business needs, there are plenty of services on the market, but your business will need to ensure the bot meets the needs of the customer and the business to make it a success.
The Basics of Chatbot Success
The maths is simple, call centers cost money and the efficiencies of scale have long since bottomed out, making them less attractive wherever they are based. Having your own staff tied up in customer service calls or dealing with simple queries is also time-consuming and inefficient.
Which is why the chatbot has taken off greatly in the last couple of years, with approaching a million using Facebook Messenger to provide customers of all types of business with a 24/7 presence and fast answers to deal with queries order pizza, book flights or health appointments and many other tasks.
Over those generations and improvements by developers, chatbots have rapidly moved from technological curios to providing a valuable service. They’ve seen a big improvement in utility and a reduction in errors, helping drive increased customer engagement and increasing levels of user satisfaction. Meeting customers where they are also makes people more likely to accept bots.
As with any technology, bots for customer service are not an easy fix - although they are easier to deploy and lower-cost than many other options - they require time to develop, understanding of the technology and how it can benefit your business. In the rest of this piece, we’ll see how they can help improve the services that your business provides, and highlight examples that can serve as a basis for your own projects.
How To Improve Customer Service With Chatbots
The key universal benefits of chatbots and AI or virtual agents are 24/7 accessibility, instant response to queries, the ability to escalate important or complex tasks to a person with the added bonuses of easy data capture, instant dashboard metrics and the opportunity to upsell or query customers.
Whatever the focus of your business, any company that deals with a growing number of customers invests time and effort in customer relations, services and retention. Banks or airlines with millions of customers do so on a massive scale, while utility providers fight an endless battle to keep usually grumpy customers happy, or happy enough to prevent them switching.
At smaller scales, medical practices and car workshops are replacing receptionist tasks with chatbots. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops are moving to digital ordering through apps or bots, while startups of all types can use a bot to handle reception and other tasks, when they lack the staff or funding in place for such roles.
Any business can develop a chatbot, using either existing scripts or coming up with a series of questions that address the company’s key pain points. And the arrival of a bot doesn’t mean the company has to slash staff, most bots enable workers to focus on key high-value tasks, only dealing with customers when the chatbot promotes a query that it recognises as urgent or important to a staff or team member.
The Best AI Chatbots to Improve Your Customer Service
When it comes to the speed and convenience offered by automating your customer service systems, there are a range of AI, voice and virtual assistant, and chatbot vendors on the market. Most are provided as cloud service with on-premises options, charged at cloud subscriptions rates, while some offer free basic versions with extra services charged for.
From the big cloud names including Amazon, IBM with its troubled Watson AI, to Google with its many cloud and help services. Microsoft is refocusing having recently reconsidered its Cortana voice assistant plans. Salesforce and other business tool vendors have their own bots, making for a highly competitive landscape.
The big names would all love to ensnare you in their ecosystem and upsell other services, and there are questions over transparency about AI data and black boxes being stored in their clouds. All of which might have a company happy with an Office or Email suite wondering how suitable the giants are for all your business needs.
Specialist vendors offer a more focused service, usually purely focused on delivering a chatbot that can be integrated into a website, app or on social media to help improve the company’s presence and efficiency for customer engagement.
SnatchBot, for example, offers fully functional chatbot for free using SnatchBot, featuring multiple-language support, natural language processing, script- or template-based design approach with no coding skills required.
SnatchBot offers a set of templates for the most common use cases that can easily be converted to meet your business needs, and as it’s all operating in the cloud, your bot can be updated whenever a revision is needed or a new feature needs adding.
Many other bot-building services are available all the way up to IBM and Salesforce tools, but chatbots remain one technology that is surprisingly accessible to any business.
How Chatbots can improve customer service in banking
“All banking leaders understand how a perfect customer service would give them a competitive advantage and that’s why they turn to Chatbots!” – Avi Ben Ezra, Chief Technology Officer of Snatchbot.
Tech-savvy clients are always looking to get quick solutions and personalized help that will boost their experience. This is why Chatbots are such a valuable asset.
When implemented as a part of customer service, Chatbots can automate the whole process of serving customers. This means that no customer will be left out and everyone’s questions will be answered in time. Furthermore, customers will get a single comprehensive channel on which they can get all the information they need.
All of the work of talking to customers is automated, meaning that there is no need for large call centers where dozens of employees talk to people. This reduces costs dramatically and improves efficiency. On top of all these advantages, Chatbots are available 24/7 and they can give people answers whenever they need them.
What can AI chatbots do for your customer service?
While a lot of hype about chatbots continues to circulate and generate interest, the actual opportunities for AI chatbots need to be clarified. Beyond the common data held in customer support scripts, sales and FAQs, they can add context and depth to conversations.
AI bots for support and customer service can deliver context to chats, beyond how a script operates. At a high level, if the bot sees keywords or terms, it can adapt the message. Or, if it detects concern or worry in what a user is typing, it can adjust its tone and provide further information to allay any fears.
One of the key benefits of AI chatbots is that they can be trained and taught what to say, and self-learn from live conversations about how best to respond. Bots that go through rigorous training based on large sets of data are more aware of what people will ask and how to best respond to get to a positive outcome.
The AI through learning will make fewer mistakes or errors, and can increase customer engagement by taking a personalised approach to conversations, taking cues from time, weather, user activity or other information to create a more natural conversation.
In Hong Kong, HSBC Bank has Amy, a bot uses AI to operate in both English and Chinese, and has an embedded customer feedback feature, allowing her to learn and improve her knowledge over time to deal with wider queries. Note the clarity of use case and notifications about privacy and data collection on the front page.
Are Chatbots are killing customer service?
With all this technology this is some concern that chatbots may kill off customer service values, or turn people away from businesses that use them. For a start, with tens of thousands of businesses launching bots, that concern seems to be overblown. While bots may generate outsized headlines when they go wrong, their rapid adoption sees the boosting customer services in huge numbers of use cases.
Take Rose, the chatbot and digital concierge at the The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. Launched in 2017, she is doing great service for the hotel, and meeting huge numbers of customer needs without stressing out the staff. She provides high levels of engagement and success, helping drive revenue and customer satisfaction. Rose is evolving to help do more for customers, and is one of the leading examples of a smart bot making customers as well as the business happier.
One problem that some businesses have is they roll out their chatbot as the minimum viable product (MVP), the bare bones they need to get the bot started. That is likely not good enough for most customers, and the business needs to look to adding more customer services benefits rather than the kudos of having a chatbot up and running, especially if it underperforms on launch.
The main issue for any business is that they need to:
- Prepare customers for the arrival of the bot and prepare the ground for its launch
- Provide a clear list of expectations about what the bot can and cannot do
- Monitor results and feedback, and update the bot to improve performance.
Preparation includes a FAQ in places where the bot will appear, highlighting what technology it uses, how people are supposed to interact with it, and how it secures and protects privacy.
Expectations highlight what the bot can do, from taking bookings or providing information. And perhaps a plan of what features will be added in future to create interest in the bot.
Finally, when launched, project leaders need to ensure the bot meets those expectations, is delivering a very high level of success and satisfaction, and fix problems that are weighing down on success via logging and analysing interactions.
At the start, as with online chat and other customer service initiatives, many people may be concerned about artificial intelligence driving the customer experience, but the technology is fast becoming a part of consumer culture and accepted as the norm across huge areas of business.
From airlines to fast food, banks to auto firms, the growth in bots continues, with many brands using bots as the voice of their brand in new and interesting ways like fashion label Ted Baker and Amtrak’s Julie who sits proudly on the company’s website top bar and has saved the company millions of dollars and travellers huge amounts of time.
Brands already have a strong sense of identity, making developing their chatbot easier. For those starting out on brand building they need to:
- Ensure the bot is fun and engaging, with active opportunities for all types of engagement.
- With that in mind, avoid being rude or overly-familiar.
- Be consistent - don’t say one thing to one person and then change that message for another.
- Use the right tone of voice - However hip or professional the brand, remain polite.
- Don’t be afraid to say “sorry” over a mistake, however small.
With brands big and small relying on bots, there are plenty of great and some not-so-great examples in plain sight to base your efforts on.
How to stop chatbots ruining customer service
The key to preventing a chatbot having a negative impact on your business and customer service reputation is to launch it with a range of fallback positions. That is, if the bot can’t answer a question, it can either send an email to existing support agents for a quick response, switch to a live agent or live messaging window for instant escalation, or provide a phone number or other contact point for a real agent to jump in and address the issue.
Whatever option, the user still has to feel valued, and the bot should not be presented as a failure. The agent should note the issue, feed that back to the bot development team and find a way to fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again. For situations where the bot simply ends the message with an “I can’t help you” alert, further work needs to be done to avoid these situations, as they are more likely to results in a customer leaving.
To ensure people try the bot, benefits such as sales discounts or priority booking should be offered. Take AirAsia and its new bot AVA as part of a new app that is offering 19% flight discounts for early users to drive interest and adoption.
AI Chatbots and Virtual Agents are the future of customer service
Whatever the initial skepticism and pushback against bots, they are already popping up across huge numbers of business, marking the future of customer service. As the technology starts to mix with virtual agents and virtual assistants, the term chatbot might not be around for too much longer, as more adopt voice (in most common languages, via the power of AI) as a way of communication.
That will help them work in virtual assistant environments like Siri, Alexa and other places, including front of house kiosks or office reception. Text won’t vanish completely, as privacy and environmental considerations mean people will sometimes need to or will prefer to use a keyboard, either on their phone or at the desk.
Also, chatbots will borrow features from virtual assistants, like the ability to auto-order consumables or turn the lights on for when you get home. These benefits as part of a customer service package will appeal to any service-focused business that wants their bot to offer that little bit extra.
AI bots and their back-end tools will also be able to access customer records, sales history and other information to find topics of value and use to them. They might help the business reel in new prospects, renew subscriptions and more.
As chatbot technology gets smarter, and they become more widely seen, bots can pop up as part of online adverts that people click on to start a meaningful conversation straight away. People will see them on streets and shopping malls, offering to help them find products in stock, or to preorder items, while airports and other transit centres will soon see kiosks take over from the massive queues at a customer reception desk.
People will be able to use a bot on any device (as brands continue to push smart technology in kitchen appliances, cars and other areas). And, as businesses adopt other new digital concepts like blockchain and cryptocurrency will find bots making it easier for customers to understand and make transactions from the easy-to-follow guide of a bot rather than leaving consumers at the mercy of private keys, encryption codes and digital wallets.
And, as adoption increases, people will be more willing to use them in wider circumstances, helping healthcare brands and medical facilities as the first line of enquiry and initial triage. Whatever the bot, the more sensitive its nature, the greater degree of care required during announcement or launch.
Take for example the Babylon health bot that was launched claiming it could beat real medical professionals at tests. Whatever its benefits antagonizing the medical profession was never a good idea and a backlash against the quality of information and advice it provided soon followed.
With most companies now offering a web or app for customers and consumers, the chatbot is just the next part of that digital evolution. As commerce and customer sevices changes, in the near future all businesses will focus chatbots to make communications and processes easier, add a smiling, always-available face for customers to turn to.
While most companies will need to maintain human customer support for complex issues, as the bots get smarter, over time that need will recede, and within a decade the human touch could be a thing of the past for a huge majority of interactions.
AI and Chatbots will show all businesses the way forward for customer service
Both in terms of numbers of bots and technology evolution, chatbots are on a clear trajectory to benefit business and improve customer satisfaction. While NLP and other steps are improving the basic processes that bots use. Full-power AI can rewrite the rule book for what bots are capable of.
We see some chatbots already fielding millions of interactions a day in China and India, with their huge customer bases. AIs using the power of big data analysis can monitor that massive number of conversations and link common threads together, driving responses toward the best or most useful answer and providing a better service.
With so many strong showings from bots around the world, we are already well past the point of worrying if a bot will upset a small percentage of users. The savings to the business and the value to the majority of users is already proven and growing.
All your business needs to do is focus on how to best address your customers’ needs, from answering the right questions, saving on calls, with seamless handoffs to agents when needed.