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The Truth About Chatbots Today

It’s never been more important to offer an excellent customer experience (CX). This means it’s also never been more important to have a CX strategy in place.

Research shows that satisfied customers generate 2.6 times more revenue than those who are lukewarm. At the same time, unhappy customers can leave negative reviews that scare away future business. Ultimately, companies need to keep customers as satisfied and well-served as possible.

This is where a CX strategy comes into play. It informs every interaction between a customer and a company, creating a seamless, engaging, and helpful experience. Too many companies make a great first impression but lose customers when they need further engagement or assistance. If well-implemented, a CX strategy minimizes friction throughout the entire customer journey — not just at the initial contact or endpoint.

Chatbots are one of the most powerful tools available to help make this goal a reality. This technology communicates with customers and gives them an on-demand source of information. Customer questions receive immediate answers so that confusion doesn’t degrade the customer experience and drive people to the competition.

Chatbots are a smart addition to any CX strategy and are quickly becoming a mainstay customer service tool. But it’s important to know what they can and can’t do before making them an integral part of your operations.

The Truth About Chatbots and Customer Experience

First and foremost, for chatbots to communicate effectively and aid customer service agents as contact center tools, they have to understand a broad range of topics. They also need to adapt to variations in communication styles across age ranges and population groups. Further, if chatbots can’t maintain context history (similar to short-term memory) throughout interactions, they lose the conversational thread as customers bounce between subjects.

Behind the simple, natural-sounding conversation that good chatbots can offer lies sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) technologies driven by massive amounts of data. How chatbots handle and use that data matters.

Even the best conversational chatbots struggle to carry on extended conversations or understand every query presented by customers. To ensure these tools don’t impact the customer experience in a negative way, many companies primarily use chatbots to handle initial contact and answer basic queries, then seamlessly transition to a human customer service agent if and when necessary.

Transitioning smoothly from chatbot to agent requires careful chatbot design. The agent should know the context and important details of the ongoing chatbot-customer conversation the minute they take over. Ideally, that information appears in a highly consumable desktop interface that highlights what information or assistance the customer needs next.

Conversational chatbots will only get smarter and more “human-like” with time — and likely more quickly than you’d expect. But for now, it’s important to utilize chatbots in ways that play to their strengths and avoids their weaknesses.

The truth about chatbots is that they’re great customer service solutions — but not when they’re relied on as the only customer service solutions.

Today’s Chatbots in Action

The present and future of chatbots are best understood by looking at two of the most popular products in use right now.

Amazon’s Alexa helped give an identity to chatbots. Even more significantly, it brought chatbots off the website, out of the phone, and into the fabric of everyday life. With more than 40 million users in the U.S. alone, Alexa shows just how much chatbots are becoming part of people’s daily lives. Amazon plans to incorporate improved context history and topic understanding into the technology and utilizes innovative features like Voice ID and interaction history for better personalization.

Google Assistant has a smaller user base but offers a number of unique features, too. Enormous amounts of search data show Google how people seek and explore information. Drawing on this data gives Google Assistant a broad understanding of topics and general interactions so it can satisfy almost any query. It can also provide better responses because Google knows what topics are trending at any given time and can adapt the chatbot accordingly.

Given what chatbots can do now and where the technology is headed, they will continue to become an essential part of customer service — something that can make or break the success of the customer experience. The technology can be a strategic business tool that enables you to bolster your customer service, but keep in mind that it’s not a catchall solution. Using chatbots as one part of a well-thought-out CX strategy will allow you to see maximal results and returns.

To learn more about chatbots, contact us today.