Being available for customers when they need you is an important part of running a successful business. A well-handled response to support requests can help improve conversion rates of potential customers, and goes a long way towards retaining existing ones.
The reality of providing good customer service can be somewhat demanding though. Having people with sufficient knowledge and skills to deliver quality service costs money, and can take them away from other tasks if that’s not their sole function.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is increasingly automated to help make the interaction between client and supplier smoother; signing up to a mailing list, downloading a returns form, or even reporting a credit card as lost and ordering a replacement can all be done without speaking to a human being. Is it time that this included customer query handling?
Customer service chatbots
In addition to publishing contact details, many websites now offer visitors a live chat feature where they can exchange instant messages with customer service advisors. It is increasingly common for sites to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to screen requests, often without the user even knowing that the ‘person’ they are talking to is in fact a chatbot.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is computer software which is programmed to simulate conversation with human users. It can be ‘taught’ to respond in a customer service context by pre-loading the system with frequently asked questions and the appropriate response. If a more detailed answer is required, the system sends a flag to a human user so that they can step in.
The rewards and limitations of customer response chatbots
Using a customer service bot to handle live chat requests can be terrific, especially if you’re regularly dealing with the same questions at high volume, or even if the volume is low but you don’t have the resource to personally deal with absolutely everything if other options are available.
Allowing a computer chat system to respond to the more straightforward queries gives a greater sense of personalised service beyond publishing a list of frequently asked questions, though it’s always well worth doing that too.
Service chatbots do have their limitations though. The system needs to ‘learn’ and be set up to recognise a query to be able to select the correct response. Most off-the-shelf software will help you design a tree of questions and answers, but that does mean user input is needed somewhere.
Human input and customer query management
For all their programmability, customer response software is always going to need a human manager. Rather than thinking of chatbots as a replacement for a human resource, it probably makes more sense to see them as a tool in your customer service toolkit.
Your human knowledge and experience is freed up to deal with more complex queries, or to concentrate on other tasks, whilst your customers still feel they are getting a personalised service. The beauty of software response means that your company can suddenly respond to multiple queries at the same time, without requiring greater human resource.
Data collection for marketing insight
Obviously human advisors can collect data which can help shape your marketing strategy, though having an automated system which records useful statistics is not a bad source of information. For example, knowing at which point of their website visit your customer needed to ask a question can help you review the content which is published there.
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