business messaging blog
How to integrate your chatbot into your customer service strategy
Scott Navratil

The use of chatbots by brands for customer service purposes has really taken off in 2017 and it looks like the trend will continue in coming years as companies see the value in developing a chatbot capable of handling customer complaints and questions at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately, a lot of brands are rushing into it and making mistakes as a result. Chatbots are complex computer programs that require extensive testing and lots of trial and error to make them effective. Before you invest the money, you need to have a plan for integrating it into your current customer service strategy. Here are a few things to consider.

Chatbots aren’t a replacement for human customer service agents

As with many new technologies, chatbots started out with an overhype phase with many claiming that chatbots would allow companies to get rid of customer service teams altogether. If you envision a chatbot that can perfectly resolve any and all customer service interactions alone, you’ll be disappointed. The fact is that the artificial intelligence that goes into chatbot programming simply isn’t capable of perfectly replicating human speech yet. No matter how hard you work to test your bot and correct errors, it will still keep making more of them because it’s impossible to predict every possible interaction it will ever have. A good chatbot can do things that your best live agent never could like remembering forever the relevant personal info of every single customer it chats with. But a live agent you hired yesterday will be able to understand many of the things that a customer says that a chatbot would not be able to understand.

So plan from the start to integrate your chatbot into an existing team and not to try and replace that team with a computer program.

Not every customer will want to talk to your chatbot

Chatbots are great at speeding up wait times because they can reduce call and chat session volume by taking care of some of the simpler matters unassisted. Brands understandably want to direct customers to their chatbot first and to a live agent only if the chatbot fails. But not everyone of your customers will welcome the experience. The Uncanny Valley is a known phenomenon in which people are unsettled by things that are humanlike but not quite human. Plus there will always be customers who prefer the human element in customer service interactions. Be mindful of this demographic by first of all making it clear to customers that they are talking to a bot and not a person up front so they aren’t made uncomfortable when it starts to become apparent. Also give customers an option early on in the interaction to wait for a live agent so that no one feels forced to converse with a bot if they don’t wish to.

Share information

Your chatbot could learn a lot from transcripts of customer service interactions between humans so make those available to your chatbot development team. Likewise, your customer service team will be more adept at catching errors in the way your chatbot is approaching customer service interactions and their access to chatbot-customer interactions can be helpful in catching and fixing these mistakes. The better your company is and sharing information between the human and computer elements of your customer service strategy, the better off you’ll be.

Chantel Fullilove

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