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How to Build an Effective Customer Service Chatbot

It’s been proven – chatbots are the most innovative new customer service solution. It goes without saying that poor customer service is the key reason for churn – and the reason that chatbots deliver such effective service is that they provide the type of service the modern consumer expects: instant, convenient, and consistent.

Therefore, if businesses want to maintain the highest standards, a chatbot program is the answer. Already, more than 67% of companies are using a chatbot for customer support, with many more launching AI initiatives. However, chatbots are not the solution in unto themselves; their effective deployment requires a strategy. In this article, we discuss how to get the most out of a customer service chatbot.

Why do businesses need a customer service chatbot?

Before discussing how to build an effective chatbot, we will introduce the advantages of a customer service chatbot in more detail. Namely, chatbots provide the standard of service that consumers have become accustomed to. Now, customer expectations are broadly influenced by large, digital corporations they encounter daily. For instance, consumers expect every interaction with a business to be of a similar standard to their experience with tech giants like Amazon. They want around-the-clock support, instant service, instant fulfillment, and next day delivery. Although this might seem like a tall order for smaller businesses, a chatbot can help them deliver this level of service. Below are the key advantages:

  • Agility – chatbots can instantly respond to customer queries and retrieve information from databases instantly.
  • Availability – a customer service chatbot is available 24/7, which means you can serve your customers any time, anywhere.

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  • Automatisation – artificially intelligent customer service agents can operate entirely unsupervised, allowing human staff to deal with more complex tasks.
  • Scalability – chatbots can attend to any number of customers, from just a handful of inquiries to hundreds or even thousands.
  • Usability – chatbots can be integrated into tools customers are familiar with, like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
  • Economy – a virtual customer service agent is far more cost-effective than hiring and managing the number of human staff you would need to deliver the same level of service.

customer service chatbot

5 points to build into your chatbot strategy

However, deploying a chatbot is not a quick fix for all customer service issues. In order to generate maximum return on investment, companies need to make sure they have strategy in place alongside their chatbot initiative. Alongside a well-developed strategic framework, businesses can ensure they maximise their chatbot’s value and deliver enhanced customer support. Below, we detail five things to consider when developing your customer service chatbot.

1. Collect all the information we can about customers

We’ve already discussed the influence that big brands like Amazon, eBay, and Apple have on customer expectations. As a result, consumers expect their interaction with businesses to be fully personalised, like Amazon recommendations or Apple Music playlists. With chatbots, businesses of any scale to work towards delivering this standard of personalisation. When it comes to collecting customer data, chatbots are an invaluable tool – which companies should leverage to maximum effect. With the granular data captured through chatbots, companies can begin to deliver unique customer experiences.

2. Allow the customer to control the conversation

An integral part of delivering a personalised customer experience is allowing the customer to feel empowered. After all, most analysts agree that consumers are more empowered than ever before – and they like it that way. With a chatbot, you can create a customer service environment where the customer is in control. As opposed to visiting a static FAQ section, an interactive virtual customer service agent creates an environment where the consumer can lead the conversation. These interactions not only guide customers through the sales funnel, but they also facilitate greater satisfaction by putting the customer in the driving seat.

3. Implement empathy, conversational features and NLP

Chatbots allow companies to provide friendly, hands-on service to every customer in an immediate and cost-effective manner. By developing conversation features and Natural Language Processing, developers can create chatbots that engage the customer on a human level. Put simply, Natural Language Processing – otherwise known as NLP – is the technology Siri and Alexa use to understand verbal commands. Now, this technology is more widely available and brands can deploy these programs to make their bots personable, empathetic and helpful.

4. Use chatbots to help real customer service agents – not replace them

Although huge advancements in NLP allow developers to create amazingly life-like chatbot programs, they can still make mistakes. Therefore, it is important to remember that chatbots should complement and enhance existing customer service efforts, not replace them. For instance, there will be occasions where a customer will ask a chatbot a query they’ve never encountered before. Without human support, the customer will get stuck, causing frustration. As a result, developers should integrate alerts that let human agents know when they need to jump in to resolve a situation. Not only does this make sure customer service expectations are met, but it will also free up more time for agents to deal with complex requests, as opposed to spending hours handling monotonous FAQs.

5. Always improve

This is perhaps the most important aspect of chatbot strategy – to remember that chatbot development is a process of continuous improvement. New technology is always enhancing chatbot capabilities, so it essential that in-house developers and the IT department are abreast of advancements. Furthermore, companies should ensure that their chatbots are constantly fed new data to develop the program’s existing knowledge base.

Strategize and develop to deliver better service

Once, consumers would dread encountering a chatbot; now, they are an essential aspect of a modern customer service toolkit. For instance, research shows that up to 40% of consumers don’t care whether they are served by a robot or a human, so long as their question is answered. However, when developing a chatbot strategy, it is essential that management keep this question-answering imperative at the forefront of their plans. Although chatbots are certainly indispensable tools for increasing agility and reducing costs, businesses need to carefully plan their approach to ensure their chatbot enhances customer satisfaction.

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