Talking about the future: making the most of chatbots and conversational AI

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Contact centers have embraced chatbots as an effective way of delivering a great customer experience to consumers: it reduces the load on human agents and frees them up from routine inquiries to perform more complex jobs. By embracing chatbots and conversational artificial intelligence (AI), you can truly transform your customer service operations.

SAP estimates that by the end of 2019, digital channels will have overtaken traditional channels and replaced the phone as the primary customer service channel for consumers born after 1960. To underline that, Gartner predicts that by 2022 phone conversations with contact center agents will account for just 12% of customer service interactions, down from 41% in 2017.

What is conversational AI?

Conversational AI lets you automate your customer contact mechanisms and enables simulated conversations. You can use chatbots and conversational AI across all touchpoints and engage customers on their terms. It is timely and customers can engage with you 24/7. There is less waiting for a human contact center agent, and there are no peak or off-peak hours where staff levels are lower or higher based on call levels. Customers receive an instant response, and research has shown that answering customer queries inside one hour makes converting that lead seven times more likely.

Consumers now also prefer messaging, and that means offering an omnichannel system. Gartner has forecast that by 2020, 40% of mobile interactions will be managed by smart agents, while according to Forrester, over 30% of customers expect to see a live chat option on a website. Messaging company Twilio has found that 3 in 10 consumers would give up phone calls to use messaging. Messaging and chatbots deliver convenience and are great engagement tools: engagement drives stickiness, which drives loyalty, which in turn drives growth and revenues.

Another big benefit of the shift to chatbots and conversational AI is that they are scalable in ways human agent operations are not. So if you launch a new promotion or product at a certain point and anticipate a spike in user queries, you can quickly and easily handle a large volume of user inquiries by scaling up your chatbot and AI resources.

The importance of omnichannel

Chatbots and conversational AI are part of the omnichannel mix: omnichannel means giving customers the experience they expect and interacting with them on their terms via any app and to any device. It lets you provide a more cohesive and personalized customer experience that gives them more enjoyable interactions with you. Omnichannel has now become a business imperative: companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers versus 33% for companies who neglect omnichannel.

Next-level customer engagement

It makes sense that AI-powered chatbots are the next step in customer engagement. Many people are used to interacting with Alexa or Siri in their personal lives, so why wouldn’t they do the same when dealing with a company or contact center?

Facebook IQ data found that there was markedly enhanced activity in chatbot discussions from January 2017 to January 2018, with around a six-fold increase in chatbot use by consumers. And, in addition to transforming your customer contact operations, chatbots and conversational AI can be used to take your customer engagements towards a pre-determined goal: call to action buttons within apps or on websites can guide users to particular targets, making your chatbot a conversion tool. You can encourage the customer to your checkout page or to share their great customer experience on their social networks.

Chatbots and conversational AI will thrive in multiple industries. While online retail might be the number one vertical for them – according to Statista in 2017, 34% of consumers said they would rather answer e-commerce related questions and queries by means of a chatbot or virtual assistant – further research demonstrates their potential for healthcare, telecoms and more. A fifth of consumers would be happy to deal with chatbots for banking services or financial advice.

The progression from voice and handsets to taps and swipes seems firmly in place now, and more and more users will continue to expect and prefer messaging and chat as their chosen way of engaging with you. Chatbots and conversational AI are the way to ensure you give them the customer experience they demand.

Read more about chatbots, your new digital workers.

 

Steve Harris

I’ve been writing about technology for around 15 years and today focus mainly on all things telecoms - next generation networks, mobile, cloud computing and plenty more. For Futurity Media I am based in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a close eye on all things tech happening in that exciting part of the world.