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Why chatbots have become integral to customer service


While Artificial intelligence (AI) won’t replace humans in the customer service (CS) space, it is rapidly changing the roles of agents and the experiences of customers for the better. Customer service leaders are also realizing that cutting costs, improving operational efficiencies, and investing in new tools and systems is only part of a successful customer service transformation. In order to improve key customer metrics such as CSAT, they need to invest in digital tools that leverage AI and their agents’ expertise to deliver superior customer experiences.  

Since every customer wants a simple and prompt solution to his or her problems — all efforts and investments must be supportive of that one essential goal. An increasing number of customer service leaders realize this and are turning to AI-powered chatbots as a result and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Here are just a few reasons why customer service teams around the world rely heavily on chatbots to help with their operations: 

1. Touch-free resolutions: Chatbots naturally guide customers towards resolutions without agents getting involved. Chatbots maintain the appeal of person-to-person interactions without disrupting the customer experience, and without burdening agents with problems that can be solved by AI.  

2. Scalable Solution: Since chatbots are not limited to working with a single customer at a time, volume becomes a non-issue. Cloud based deployments of bot also allows scaling lines of communication with customer with ease. 

 3. 24*7 Instant results: When customers interact with chatbots, wait times are virtually eliminated as chatbot solutions are available 24*7 and provide instant solutions to customer issues 

In this article, we’ll explore in depth about how chatbots fit into a mix of new customer service initiatives to improve how you allocate customer service resources and maximize not just customer service efficiencies, but CSAT scores as well. 

What matters most in customer service 

As a customer service leader, one of your key customer KPIs is to maximize CSAT, which depends not on cost savings or efficiencies, but on how well you service your customers’ needs. When facing internal pressures and a growing volume of customer issues, it’s easy to lose sight of that metric, and your efforts may not always end up in the right place.  

For example, customers actually prefer to start by finding solutions to problems on their own — 81% of customers across industries try solving problems on their own before contacting any support staff [1]. Customer service leaders who invest in agent-support over customer self-service tools may have failed to consider this fact. They may have robbed customers of an opportunity to better service themselves while simultaneously burdening agents unnecessarily.   

Also, most customers (51%) expect 24/7 access to solutions, and they expect those solutions to come quickly, no matter the source. That’s because live interactions allow consumers to continue with their online activities rather than put time aside for a customer service interaction. Chatbots provide a ‘live’ experience at scale, so customers’ most desired service experience is always within reach. 

Why it’s getting harder to achieve a high CSAT 

Achieving high CSAT is becoming an elusive goal for customer service leaders today because of these reasons –  

  1. Customers prefer ‘live’ interactions which are expensive. The rising costs of live service make achieving high CSAT difficult; in fact, the cost per live service contact increased by 42% between 2009 and 2014 [1]. This makes providing high CSAT ‘live’ interactions difficult without increasing costs significantly. 

  2. Lack of consistent subject matter expertise among churning service teams. Customer service teams face attrition rates as high as 24%: This turnover makes it impossible for leaders in traditional customer service environments to maintain an educated, experienced team long-term or to build a strong foundation for future learning [1]. 

  3. Rapidly changing products, services, and technologies across industries. The expertise issue is exacerbated by the rapid evolution of both products and technologies across industries. Agents need more time to understand these changes — time they may be spending on generic customer service interactions.  

  4. Higher turnaround and wait times due to high service volumes. As organizations scale their operations and expand to more offerings or geographies, incoming customer queries also increase without a proportional increase in support staff. This leads to long wait times and dissatisfied customers. 

Customer service leaders must correct the imbalance between (a) customers who genuinely need agents but cannot reach them, and (b) customers who occupy agents’ time but might be even better served by a smart self-service tool. They must also apply new methods to agent training and preparation, ensuring agents have high-level goals like retention, loyalty, and CSAT as priorities. Automating customer service processes in intelligent ways that contribute to scalability and satisfying broad customer preferences and queries is critical to meeting these goals.  

Chatbots as a cornerstone of high-performing support organization 

Today’s leading organizations engage with customers on their terms as they increasingly service transactions, inquiries, and problems through digital channels. They increasingly leverage technology solutions which allow organizations to successfully resolve growing volumes of customer queries in digital channels, without adding to operational costs associated with traditional support. Automated chatbots have become one of the most successful self-service components of this new customer service environment. They not only excel at helping customers solve their own problems in most contexts; they also allow customer service teams to improve service quality and operations for agent-customer interactions as well.  

Chatbots cost a fraction of standard support costs; they can execute otherwise time-consuming, repetitive back-end processes while navigating between multiple systems; and as the machines learn more from customer usage chatbots grow in sophistication, providing more desirable outcomes for customers in increasingly complex interactions. According to McKinsey, “With the evolution of bots and virtual assistants focused on chat, such channels are poised to become the gateway and triage medium for all of today’s live telephone contacts.” [2] 

By their nature, chatbots reduce costs and average handle times (AHT), and free up agents’ bandwidth to take on more complex, nuanced customer issues. According to a 2019 Forrester analysis, agents’ roles will become more specialized with higher-touch, less-frequent customer interactions, while customers will interface with AI self-service technologies with more general quandaries and queries [3].

In time, chatbots and other automated tools will establish a new precedence for customer satisfaction as customer service teams work towards more ambitious goals. The agent’s role will become more than simply resolving customer issues — it will be nurturing customer relationships at critical moments and deliver new levels of customer satisfaction and long-term business value.   

Deflection Bot from AnsweriQ

AnsweriQ’s Deflection Bot is one such Chatbot solution which uses AI and natural language processing (NLP) to understand customer intent before suggesting the best answer to the customer’s query. Deflection Bot displays relevant answers from content repositories — enabling customers to service themselves instead of making them wait, or unnecessarily occupying the valuable time of agents. The tool can even automate relevant back-end processes, such as cancelling or refunding orders, all without an agents’ involvement. 

AnsweriQ's Deflection Bot can deflect queries (left) and automate backend processes (right)

With Deflection Bot, a case is only transferred to an agent if the tool has exhausted all its automated capabilities. Those capabilities can only improve as the AI familiarizes itself with the service team’s subject matter. And since Deflection Bot delivers resolutions instantly, the tool provides satisfactory results for customers more quickly, maximizing CSAT scores on an increasing share of resolution types. To setup a demo and try Deflection Bot, click here. 

Chatbots represent nothing short of a ‘win-win-win’ scenario for customer service leaders. They are a win for customers, who can access faster, live solutions — on their own, and at any time. they are a win for the organization, providing rising CSAT scores, reduced costs, and improved AHT. Finally, they are a win for agents, who no longer waste time on repetitive questions and issues, focusing instead on impacting complex problems.