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5 Ways to Improve Your Customer Service with Chatbots

Mark Oppermann

5 Ways to Improve Your Customer Service with Chatbots

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is just getting sophisticated enough to start being used in in the professional world.  A few years ago IBM’s Watson, a question answering supercomputer capable of answering questions delivered through natural language, made history by beating out two of the all-time winningest contestants on the game show Jeopardy.

Watson’s run on Jeopardy was just a proof-of-concept, showing the potential capability of a powerful supercomputer. Watson’s intelligence is now leveraged by multiple companies and industries including a cancer research center where Watson helps make utilization management decisions for lung cancer patients, an application called ‘The North Face’ where Watson helps guide online retailers, and has even been integrated with Bon Appétit magazine’s database to perform recipe generation-just to name a few.

The applicable uses for Watson are seemingly endless, but not all companies that have ventured into the blossoming realm of AI have had such favorable results.

Facebook, for example, just incorporated chatbots into its Messenger app  Poncho, the weather-forecasting cat, spends a lot of his time misunderstanding and requiring the user to rephrase. Not only does Poncho take an hour to respond, but he also seems to rely on the user’s ability to speak “chatbot” rather than adapting to the user’s language.

The technology is certainly available and capable of taking a substantial amount of burden off your staff. But with any new technology there are precautions that have to be taken, or else you might end up with a Poncho instead of a Watson.

Here are a few ways that you can leverage chatbots to improve your customer service.

1. Don't over extend your chatbots

We're all used to small levels of automation in our daily lives. Whether it's touch screens on parking meters or self-service kiosks in McDonald's, as long as it works and is unobtrusive, humans like software. The key is to make sure that whatever way your customers want to communicate and whichever channel they want to use, be there for them. Using the latest tech is pointless if your users have to go further to get what they want.


2. Be engaging

Chances are you've already cultivated an online following, and people will respond if you're providing something that catches their attention. Be thoughtful and fun when curating your online presence. Gauge the interests of your customers, and be sure to respond when they reach out to get the conversation going.


3. Provide options for efficiency

Chatbots and AI are still very much a work in progress, and it may be years before they are effective enough to provide 100% error-free support. But the utility for chatbots is very much available today. An easy way to increase customer satisfaction and provide improved customer service is to return any customer query with a series of 2-3 possible answers. Customers will be less frustrated if their question is answered in as few iteration cycles as possible--having two wrong answers accompanied by one right answer is better than a series of back and forths with consecutive bad answers.


4. Avatars add emotion

No one likes interacting with senseless robots--chatbots included. Attaching an avatar to your chatbot gives it a human look and feel which makes customers engaging with them more empathetic--having more patience when the wrong answer is delivered, and less likely to get frustrated and call in for a live agent.


5. Always give your customers an out

There's nothing more frustrating than when you want to speak to a human for customer service and you get forced into dealing with a chatbot, or a voice-command phone tree. Always have a button that a customer can press and start chatting with a human agent in the chatbot text window, or a phone number that can be called for immediate assistance.


If executed correctly chatbots can do a lot to help your business, improve your customer service offering while reducing your agent's workload. If executed poorly you can find yourself in the middle of a public relations disaster--like Microsoft's Tay. Chatbots and AI are only getting better and more refined, integrating your own chatbot today will ensure your business is in the right place to get the most out of the cutting edge technology.

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