Many retailers dream of the day they’ll be able to streamline interactions between customers and products, as well as to offer round-the-clock service while not breaking the salary budget. A chatbot can fill that void, helping a retailer reach customers 24/7 and enhancing customer experience by answering commonly asked questions quickly and accurately. That’s a particularly attractive solution when a chatbot — also called a “virtual agent” — is offered as the initial strategy, with a live agent available as needed.
In addition, chatbots offer companies new ways to improve the customer engagement process while aiming to drive down the typical cost of customer service. No longer can brands rely on a single channel for customer service; shoppers want to communicate whenever and however they choose.
Gartner research found that 25% of customer service operations will use virtual customer assistants by 2020. However, implementing a virtual agent requires a solid understanding of your customer base as well as attention to the customer journey.
Remember that time you ordered the perfect gift online and the entire process took less than 3 minutes to complete? Do you recall that feeling of efficiency and accomplishment? That’s a frictionless experience. You saw, you bought, you shipped, you finished. Brands with a customer-centric approach that offer on-target content in the perfect channel with the right context create a frictionless experience.
Many of today’s shoppers are tough customers when it comes to the retail experience, and often chatbots are held to the same high standards as human chat agents.
The tone, inflection, and vocabulary a company provides its chatbot creates a persona: friendly and polite or edgy and hip, for example. A successful bot implementation improves the customer engagement process and operational efficiency; however, the customer-brand relationship is fragile, regardless of whether the interaction is with a bot or another human. In general, PWC Research found that 60% of customers surveyed said they’d leave a company after unfriendly service. Chat queues benefit from careful monitoring for courtesy and with an eye toward reducing the average handle time per customer.
“Proactive chat” is one way to make the purchasing process easier for the customer. A chatbot can pop up on any product page to provide more information, a video or a coupon code, for instance. By providing a bevy of information, chatbots are similar to advanced self-service portals or knowledge bases. Because they help customers quickly and easily find the answers to simple queries, the idea is that the number of incoming calls to contact centers decreases, which boosts efficiency and lowers operational costs. Chatbots can also reduce overall interaction volume, including chats, emails, and social media inquiries.
Accommodating the Millennial
A study by Caravan found that the roughly 75 million Millennials in the United States are more likely to be familiar with and feel comfortable using chatbots as compared with older generations. The study also reports that 2 out of 5 Millennials think that chatbots provide better service than humans, as opposed to 1 in 5 of older generations. Bots provide an immediate, human-like response that appeals to Millennials, while avoiding the common dread felt by many when contacting live customer support.
Millennials spend approximately $600 billion annually, according to Accenture, and are challenging retailers to provide products and services in a truly seamless and novel fashion. 56% are more likely to buy from a company that offers a novel way of experiencing products and services, says an Oracle study.
As customers increasingly handle their business transactions without interacting with another human, artificial intelligence-driven technology, such as chatbots, are becoming a critical part of the customer experience.