In the 24/7 Economy, Chatbots Can Take the Strain
Online chat is a customer service channel that suits both businesses and their customers. Leveraging the power of AI can make it even more effective.
Automation via artificial intelligence can be a double edged sword when used in a customer service setting. Done well, it provides 24/7 availability, reduces waiting time and cuts employee costs, resulting in a win for everyone. But the consequences of getting it wrong can be disastrous from a PR and brand reputation perspective.
The way chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) to provide useful responses to customer queries is core to whether they are a hailed a triumph for technology or a customer relationship disaster. Let’s find out more.
Customers prefer online support
Given that we do everything from banking to grocery shopping to hanging out with friends through online web pages and apps, it seems logical that this is also going to be the platform of choice for seeking customer support. Opening up a chat window has the convenience and speed of picking up the phone, but allows for the conversation to be memorialised in writing, providing an instant record of the entire support session.
However, where AI is concerned, there is a need for businesses to tread carefully. We have all experienced the telephone equivalent, where we try to navigate an automated system – it more commonly results in anger and frustration than in slick, effective service.
Chatbots using NLP to take customer service to the next level
Part of the frustration with automated telephone systems is their severe limitations – typically, callers will be provided a list of options, and when none of them fit the reason for the call, the irritation starts to take hold as the caller desperately tries to find a way to confuse the system into giving up and handing over to a human.
Some online systems work similarly – many websites have an FAQs section aimed at answering the most common customer service queries, and if you frequent ecommerce sites like eBay and Amazon, you will be acquainted with their systems that try to “work out” what you want.
The new generation of chatbots, however, delivers an experience that is closer to dealing with a “real person” – and just like their human counterparts, the longer they spend working in customer services, the better they get at resolving queries accurately.
NLP is a tool that brings structure to unstructured data – in other words, it allows automated systems to understand the meaning behind the complex phrases that people use in everyday life. When combined with machine learning, it means the chatbots get better at understanding customer queries and providing the answers they need.
Getting the infrastructure right
Of course, while understanding the question is hugely important, it only goes so far – the chatbot also needs to have access to the right answer. That means smooth and seamless connectivity between the front-of house client interface and back-office applications is absolutely vital, so that the system has access to stock availability, pricing and anything else a customer might ask about.
Even a couple of years ago, that might have presented a big problem, and progress could have been stymied by siloed legacy systems. However, in recent years, there has been a greater shift towards company-wide enterprise management systems that draw everything together.