Let’s chat ‘Chat Bots’ — how can they add to the customer experience?

Published on
July 26, 2017

You know those virtual help-desk pop-ups so many Facebook pages and websites seem to be using these days – ‘live chat’ at your fingertips?

There’s been much interest in chat bots of late, and increasing use by company websites as a customer service salve. At Rowland, we’ve been dabbling in natural language processing to understand text and sentiment to inform what we do. This has sparked a discussion about chat bots and their potential across various industries.

So should your company consider a chat bot?

Many companies are using chat bots as a customer service solution, and rightly so, because bots can:

  • always be there to respond in real time
  • answer commonly asked questions in seconds
  • schedule appointments
  • order a product or replacement
  • order you a pizza and get it delivered to your door.

Chat bots allow companies to reduce the workload on the easy questions, so the customer support team can focus on improving customer experience. Extracting data from the questions and their frequency, and how easily the question is being solved, may inform the customer experience strategy in the future.

We see the use of chat bots as an opportunity to upskill members of a contact centre team in a different area — the reduction of ‘admin’ time can free people up to add value in other areas.

With an increasing number of our clients asking us about bots, we have been exploring bot technology from a service customer service perspective, which is of course a key touchpoint for ‘brand promise’.

One potential chat bot pitfall is that every time a customer contacts a bot, the human element is lost — a risk worth considering.

You can’t ‘set and forget’ a chat bot, so their repertoire must be constantly expanding and responding to customer need and produce value for you, rather than a one-time sugar hit.

If a bot’s limitations are not clearly communicated to customers, and the customer feedback that comes through bot/customer interaction is not eventually reaching a living, breathing human at the other end, significant reputational damage can occur.

Just as the visual style of your company’s brand has been carefully considered, its online personality (language, tone, etc.) must also be consistent and genuine.

Using natural learning processing, the bot can be trained to seem more human, to an extent. From a technical point of view, that can be a big task.

If it is unclear whether your company’s online ‘persona’ is a person or a brand, your bot will probably be unclear too.

Bots can be scripted to act and seem like human beings, providing a semblance of empathy, understanding, warmth and humour to customer interactions.

Social media, in particular, provides companies with a more intimate way of connecting with an audience by providing them with unique insights, brand interaction and/or exposure. Facebook is leading the charge when it comes to bots — jump online to see some of the cool things they’re doing.

So should my company have a chat bot?

Bots are an exciting opportunity and are set to grow as a tool as artificial intelligence develops. Ultimately, they will probably become indistinguishable from humans.

If your company is getting a huge influx of easily answered, quickly resolved questions, it might be time to think about using chat bots as the first port of call for customer service.

Talk to Rowland’s digital team if you are toying with the idea of a bot. We’d love to help.