How are chatbots different from other customer contact solutions?

You have no business without customers. Building customer loyalty is of paramount importance. Businesses try hard and invest a lot of money to deliver superior customer experience whenever and wherever they come in contact with the business’s brand as a means to improve customer loyalty. Customer engages with a business in many ways — when they look for information, when they want to carry out a transaction, when they use a recently purchased product or when they want to review a recent experience. These interactions can happen over a number of channels: face to face, phone, email, website, mobile app and web chat.

So why do we need to engage them at yet another channel? Will engaging them on messenger services via chatbots do any better? Chatbots can deliver best practices of business-customer interaction that other channels currently offer at a fraction of the costs. Chatbots can carry out a number of conversational tasks in business-customer interaction including:

  1. Product search and recommendations
  2. Appointment bookings
  3. Ordering food and services
  4. Customer surveys
  5. Product support (in place of a user manual)
  6. Handling inbound marketing calls

This brings us to the key question: what can chatbots do that other channels cannot? Chatbots takes the best of both worlds approach and brings together some of the best features of human powered channels such as face to face, phone chat and web chat and combines them with self-service channels like websites and mobile apps besides being 24×7 and a low-cost solution.

Some of the features that chatbots offer can be classified into two types.

1. Conversational features

Whatever the task be, transactional, information search or technical support, chatbots can turn them into a conversation. For instance, instead of providing the user with a search form, chatbots ask a few questions in a conversational manner allowing the user flexibility to ask clarification questions, if needed.

Chatbots can let the user move between topics. Usually when searching to buy a product, consumers leave the search midway to find out about delivery information. Such things can be naturally handled in a bot conversation. This stop users to leave midway to look for their answers before they can resume their tasks.

Search can be made flexible by use of colloquial reference to entities such as dates or times instead of formal references.

Search can be revised by the user piece by piece after initial results have been presented.

In addition, users can mention a range of acceptable options instead of just one entity. For instance, instead of searching for flights several times for a range of dates, user can simply tell the bot, “look for flights between 10th and 20th Sep”. And if the user is flexible about destination city, he/she could just say, for instance, “anywhere in Southern Europe” and not search for each destination separately.

Bots can be proactive and send messages unasked. Bots need not just answer questions and carry out instructions but can act proactively sending appropriate messages to the user.

2. Intelligent interaction

While the ability to speak and understand natural language does not automatically make a bot intelligent, many users assume they do. Therefore a bot should be able to carry out tasks it has been designed for in an intelligent manner taking advantage of the flexibility offered by its conversational nature.

For instance, the bot can ask for more or less search parameter values depending on the database hits. If there are too many hits, the bot could ask a few more filtering questions instead of presenting hundreds of matching products. And if the database does not have any hits, the bot can make recommendations based on similarities.

Bots should be able to remember user’s preferences and use them in future searches. This can be useful to personalise the conversation to the user. For instance, in food ordering, the menu can be redesigned dynamically to suit the user, showing user’s favorites first.

Chatbots can predict depending on the conversational context, what users may want next. If it is not certain what the user might want, it can always ask the user as part of the conversation.

While the above are not inherent features of just chatbots, we believe that chatbots are the best channel for delivering intelligent conversational interaction. Such interactions can make customer tasks easy and effortless.

So to answer the question, Chatbots have the potential to provide businesses with a low-cost intelligent conversational interface to interact with their new and loyal customers. But, chatbot technology is still evolving. Many features listed here are still on their way. And as the technology evolves, it will start engaging new generation of customers who are chat and tech savvy. While live chat is voted to be the best human-powered customer service channel on one hand, Facebook messenger boasts 900 million active users on the other hand. Chatbots bring the two together: a chat-based self-service customer engagement solution on messaging platforms. Brands and businesses, therefore, need to get their chatbot strategy ready to start engaging their customers to bolster customer loyalty using this new and exciting channel.

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