Get Real, Improve Customer Service with Bots?

It’s common for customers to complain about automated help. Whether it’s an ineffective IVR system that frequently routes calls to the wrong agents or a chatbot (automated assistant or virtual assistant) that can’t answer a simple question.

In recent years automated customer service has gained a bad reputation for leaving customers fuming. So when companies are looking for ways to improve their customer service, their first instinct usually isn’t to rollout more.

However that assumption is a missed opportunity. Thanks to advances in machine learning, during the past several years automated systems like intelligent virtual customer assistants (bots, chatbots) have come a long way. Instead of behaving like the simple chatbots of yesteryear, these new AI chatbots are built on very sophisticated technology.

As a result, they behave so similarly to humans and are so well informed that they provide excellent service—enough to easily deflect at least 10% of customers’ first contacts. And that translates into improved customer service and serious cost savings.

Common reasons for first contact

Customers today are eager to find their own answers. However, if they can’t easily self-serve on your website FAQs or your app, they’ll call your support center. Depending on your industry, customers will initiate first contact for a variety of issues.

Often, though, they fall into some common categories, such as making a complaint, handling a billing issue, checking shipping status, or making a return.

Once they start the call process, customer dissatisfaction escalates as soon as they encounter long wait times or get routed to the wrong agent. That’s where you have a big opportunity to improve your customer experience with a well designed customer service chatbot.

How “intelligent” are today’s virtual assistants?

Intelligent virtual personal assistants can be deployed on almost any interface, including voice response, mobile apps, SMS, the web, and instant messaging.

Customers can communicate with them in natural language, rather than just single words like “yes” and “no.” This is possible because on the backend virtual assistants run every communication through language models.

As a result, not only do they understand conversational language but they can also respond to customers in a way that mimics natural speech.

And for those that are unable to perform well, there are reasons that are correctable. (Read: Why Chatbots are not Living up to Promises)

Once a virtual agent understands what a customer wants, it uses a response-matching algorithm that is tied to a company’s backend data, making each virtual agent only as smart as the resources it has been connected to. The more data, the better.

One of the most recent innovations that has really helped with making virtual assistants “smarter” is that significant engineering resources are no longer required to connect with custom APIs. Instead, data sources like CRM systems, FAQs, internal corporate databases, voice transcripts, and live call transcripts can all provide virtual assistants with valuable information. This data can be translated into deep machine learning that creates progressively higher and higher levels of intelligence.

If customers require follow-up actions, such as payment processing, the assistant can even perform transactions. The best virtual assistants essentially mimic your top customer support or help desk agents.

Deflecting first contact is really about respecting your customers’ time

According to Forrester’s North American Technographics Customer Experience Survey, 77% of U.S. online consumers say that “valuing my time” is the most important part of customer service. Virtual assistants have a big impact how much time it takes for your customers to resolve their issues.

There are numerous situations that cause customers delays when they’re attempting to resolve their issues. Perhaps they submit a ticket after business hours, or they call during a busy period, or they contact web chat but live agents are unavailable.

When there’s a virtual assistant that’s available 24/7 and scalable that can quickly answer questions, the typical customer can get issues resolved right away, thus reducing time in queue from hours to minutes.

Moreover, with fewer issues in the queue live agent efficiency improves. Now, live agents can deal with issues that are more complex, which speeds up the time in queue for customers who can’t be helped by the virtual assistant.

AI technology reduces your operating costs

Not only do intelligent virtual assistants have a huge impact on customer satisfaction, they also impact company costs by deflecting customers away from live agents. At minimum, 10% of a company’s current ticket volume is reduced. Usually it’s a whole lot more. Six months after a system goes live, here’s what the typical reduction of contact volume looks like:

Considering that chat conversations cost the average company upwards of $9 each and phone conversations upwards of $12 each, that 10% can really add up. Do a quick calculation: Multiply 10% across the board on your customer service costs. That’s the conservative estimate of how much you can save.


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To learn how an intelligent virtual assistant can help your company improve its customer experience and save on costs, we have put together a concise Solution Brief that explains how our technology could work in your organization.

Download our Brief to learn whether our machine learning-enabled chatbots could help you improve your customer service.