When it comes to talking about technology, almost nothing says “the future is here” more than the recent resurgence of Chatbots. Always an intriguing idea, Chatbots have a long-endured history when it comes to digital interactions. One of the first – if not the first – Chatbots ever created was published in 1966 by Joseph Weizenbaum, a computer scientist at MIT. Known as Eliza, this particular Chatbot was programmed to parse words a user entered into their computer and match them to fit a list of scripted responses. It was intended to mimic human speech and conversational patterns.
Even as far back as Eliza, however – long before computers became a common household item that is almost necessary in order to live in the developed world – debate over bots and their use was high. Weizenbaum himself, for example, rejected the idea that Chatbots were supposed to be anything other than a tool. Those who used Eliza, however, were treating her more like a friend. This push and pull from one extreme to the other has characterized both the creation, the design, and the ultimate use of Chatbots.
Today, Chatbots are used in a variety of functions. You can find them created as apps or included in customer service pages. Some of them are highly stylized and designed to have an engaging personality that mimics a lively human conversation. Others are far more “to the point”, providing simple answers to simple questions without the quips and banter. In the end, the exact role the Chatbot is intended to serve will help dictate its design. And regardless of whether it is used as a customer service representative or takes up the role of a “friend” offering advice about nearby restaurants or comparable services, the truth is that Chatbots are used in a wide variety of industries. When implemented correctly, they can really help ensure a successful customer experience (CX). For learning more about customer experience, read Why Digital Customer Experience Strategy is Critical for Your Business and How To Get IT RIGHT.
“The idea behind a chat or text service solution is that it is a quick connection and much faster than emailing. One of our clients recently said the average customer service issue using emails can take ten days to resolve. Chat takes 12 minutes. Now there is an automated or bot solution that is taking instant chat or text to the next level. First the obvious. A computer/bot can handle more customers at one time than a customer. Second is that the customer doesn’t know he or she is talking to a bot. It can seem human. And, based on the customer’s reaction and questions, the computer can tell if the customer is frustrated. At that point, the computer switches the conversation over to a human. It’s seamless. Regardless, the customer is taken care of. All of this points to a better experience for the customer.”
–Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert and Professional Speaker.
This post will take a look at the idea of Chatbots as well as some of the more successfully integrated ones. The idea is to explore the potential future of Chatbots as they affect CX.
How Chatbots Promise To Supersede All Other Customer Service Channels
Anyone who was a voracious internet user in the late 90s or early 2000s might be surprised to hear the assertion that Chatbots are making a big comeback. Indeed, back when Chatbots made their first mainstream appearances attached to things like AOL’s instant messenger, AIM, and MSN Messenger around 2001, the results were fairly varied. Public opinion wasn’t too impressed with these early attempts, however, and in general it proved to be fairly easy to “break” Chatbots even as time passed. They were notorious for giving incorrect information or reacting poorly to certain questions or topics. The bots aren’t to be blamed, of course – that’s just how they were programmed.
Well, technology has changed and bots are back – and they’re more useful than ever. In fact, they’re already working behind the scenes to help create the internet experience that users know and love. Google uses them to offer users the most accurate search results, for example, and the majority of the most prolific editors on Wikipedia are bots. Much of the traffic that goes through our online social media presences is bot-based, and they even make up most of the Wall Street stock market, with 70% of all trades being automated. Big companies use them to help perform automated service and essentially manage their businesses, with much of the “heavy lifting” being done by bots and the management process being performed by employees. Is it really a surprise, then, that Chatbots are poised to become the new top avenue when it comes to customer service?
Chatbots are the perfect solution to the increasing problem of offering effective and immediate customer support regardless of where the customer in question is located. This helps take “business hours” out of the equation and allows customers to contact businesses and find the support and information they need right away. One of the reasons they’re so successful is because Chatbots are now pretty good at mimicking human conversation. Many companies use them to help man their “live chat” customer service channel, for example, and still, others use them to answer customer texts or emails, too.
Chatbots fill a need. Today’s customers are used to living in an online world where they don’t have to wait in line or hold their questions until a more convenient time for the company in question. No, they’re accustomed to receiving instantaneous gratification. Anything less is going to seem somewhat lackluster in comparison – and if there’s one area where businesses want to impress rather than annoy, it’s customer service. Chatbots are the answer to this issue because they add to the customer experience and make the customer’s life a little bit easier.
What Chatbots Mean To Customers And How Will They Add To Customer Convenience?
To customers, Chatbots are more than just a means to an end. They are increasingly useful tools that have the potential to act as personal assistants, enabling individuals to book flights, order food, or parse the latest news with a quick query, be it voice or text-based. In fact, Chatbots are the equivalent of a whole force of employees when it comes to improving the customer experience.
Sometimes today’s customers want to have their hand held through the trickier parts of their consumer journey. While fulfilling this need is patently impractical when human employees are involved, it becomes far easier to accomplish when adding Chatbots into the picture. As far as customers are concerned, they’re receiving first rate customer care that offers them the undivided attention and accurate information they demand. Don’t count Chatbots as only being useful in situations where a customer is looking for procedural information regarding a return or something similar, either. Chatbots can prove invaluable to a wide variety of situations.
Customer experience is a varied art and can encompass a number of different needs. Perhaps a customer is looking for current inventory information to ensure that they can find the product they want before making a trip to the store or going through the buying process. They might want to know the current movies playing at the movie theater, for example, as well as what time each is available. Perhaps they’re attempting to book a tour or a room without having to call in and wait on the line to speak with a customer service representative.
In all of the above instances, Chatbots fulfill a much-needed role. They add to the customer experience by giving customers unlimited access to information they need. They help customers perform their actions and do so with limited fuss or hassle, ensuring that the customers are happy and satisfied with their experiences. On the other side of the screen, Chatbots are great for companies because they can provide an in-depth level of customer support without hiring a legion of customer service representatives to be on call at every hour of the day. Chatbots can also help eliminate language barriers without the cost of hiring someone to translate full-time. They are useful and diverse tools that are poised to take over the customer service experience – and they’ve already found a home with some of the best companies out there.
How Big Companies Are Leveraging Chatbots To Deliver The Best Possible CX?
Big companies are jumping on the Chatbot bandwagon early in order to improve their customer service levels as quickly as possible. Some of them ae used to answer specific questions in a conversational manner while still, others are offering a sterile but highly effective and streamlined user experience. This section of the post is going to take a look at some of the most effective and popular Chatbots currently being used by some pretty big names.
Chatbots come in all different shapes and sizes. Take Foursquare’s bot Marsbot, for example. Marsbot is a Chatbot that works to learn a customer’s likes, dislikes, and behavior in order to provide useful information to a user before he asks. The bot aims to suggest relevant restaurants, bars, and cafes before the user even feels a need to ask. It works in the background to create a great user experience that helps ingratiate Foursquare into their users’ good graces, in other words and does so as effortlessly as possible.
King of “Mexican” food, Taco Bell has become an increasingly popular fast food entity as the public desire for tacos and burritos, as well as a number of novelty items, has only grown in appetite over the past decade or so. Many users hate ordering at the window, however, and that’s especially true if their order has anything specialized about it at all. Most people can sympathize with the hassle of attempting to order a customized taco or burrito bowl without confusing the employee taking the order and holding up the whole line at the drive-thru.
That’s why Taco Bell created TacoBot! TacoBot is a handy Chatbot that enables people to place orders without even switching from some of the more popular messaging apps like Messenger or Slack. They can do this without ever having to speak to another person! It’s an easy process that attracts a lot of customers – one that perhaps even encourages individuals who wouldn’t normally buy Taco Bell to give it a shot as an easy dinner option.
Digibank is, arguably, world’s first such bank that has introduced Chatbots at all its customer service touchpoints to meet the concerns of the customers. This Indian bank, in an attempt to make banking hassle-free, has introduced virtual assistance to answer customer queries instantly with a 24×7 virtual assistant. This virtual assistant, a Chatbot actually, used an exceptional artificial intelligence to respond to customer queries.
Quartz launched a much-lauded iPhone application earlier this year that aimed to turn something as simple as reading the news into a revolutionary user experience. Instead of watching the television, listening to the radio, or even searching the web, users can turn to Quartz’s Chatbot to receive the latest news and information in a handy and easy to read conversational format. They don’t have to click links and move to external websites, either. The Chatbot can give them all of the information they need, complete with video and gifs, directly inside its interface. The bot does provide optional links, of course, that make it easy for users to find even more detailed information should they need or want it.
Summing Up – Future of Chatbots
It should be clear by now that the future of customer service, as well as a number of things, lies with Chatbots. These handy little bots are being used to do everything from order a cab, find a new bar, ask questions about a specific product or service, and even booking flights. It’s no wonder, then, that the possibilities it presents for the customer service experience seem nearly unlimited. In fact, Chatbots are already successfully in place in a number of retailers and are helping customers all the time. As time passes and the bots gain even more functionality, it’s almost a certainty that they will become the next big thing when it comes to providing an excellent customer experience.
If you are looking for any help on building a Chatbot or any digital solution for a better customer or employee engagement, please contact us at [email protected].