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As companies grow, so does the amount of communication required between them and their customer base. Historically, the solution has been to add more live representatives to handle incoming questions and concerns. But additional human resources also mean added business costs. Technology presents us with an elegant solution: chatbots.

This solution might elicit a collective sigh from consumers who are used to outdated chatbots with limited functionality, stilted speech and a cold effect. That said, chatbots can lead to frustration, but they don’t have to! 

The case for using chatbots is clear. They can chat with multiple users simultaneously, providing needed information within seconds. As your first level of customer engagement and support, they provide an opportunity for responsiveness and efficient problem-solving. The key is using an advanced chatbot that is more like a warm and capable digital ally who is lively, engaging and has valuable answers and solutions in real-time. Fortunately, technology exists to make this a reality. 

Chatbots as digital allies 

As online communication continues to grow, businesses must adapt to how they interact with customers. Research from McKinsey cites that 25% out of 2,400 business leaders surveyed stated that they increased artificial intelligence (AI) adoption due to the pandemic.

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Breaking down communication barriers between customers and businesses with intelligent digital assistants can not only help companies grow, but can also give end-users more control over how they communicate with those entities. After all, text-based communication is an efficient way of bringing businesses and customers closer together.

Natural expression is key to customer satisfaction

But chatbot interactions should be empowering, allowing customers to express themselves with businesses online in a way that feels simple, convenient and natural. They should make it easy to resolve queries and problems in ways that leave customers feeling fully satisfied and heard. In fact, more than half of the respondents in a recent study by Forrester identified more satisfied customers as a top benefit for personalized customer service interactions, such as chatbots.

It’s important to care not just about conducting business efficiently but also about helping others. Good customer relations matter. While chatbots empower companies to deliver an improved customer experience and good customer service, they don’t replace a human. Instead, they are here to help us in a way that feels natural, with rich and interactive messages. The results are undeniable: A Gartner report found that companies that use chatbots in their sales strategy can achieve up to 30% higher conversion rates.

AI chatbots: Improving customer experience 

As stated previously, companies have seen a 30% sales growth by using chatbots, but how do they actually find the solutions for customers? First, some chatbot basics. There are two kinds of chatbots: rule-based and AI chatbots.

Rule-based chatbots work on an if/then basis, meaning they are a bit like actors, delivering preprogrammed responses. So let’s say a customer asks to reset their password. The chatbot will pick up keywords like “reset” and “password,” delivering a response such as “Sure, I can help you with your password reset,” and then it will provide the needed instructions. While such chatbots can be programmed with personality, at the end of the day, they can easily fail to match questions to answers if, for instance, spellings are off or questions are asked in ways that avoid using established keywords. They are also unable to learn from past experiences and can’t pick up on context.

AI chatbots, on the other hand, leverage some newer technology to make them better conversationalists. That includes: 

  • Natural language processing, which helps chatbots understand how humans communicate to replicate manners of speech and understand the context of conversations, can deliver the correct response even if spelling mistakes and jargon are present. 
  • Machine learning, which allows chatbots to identify patterns in user input, making the best decisions based on past interactions with users. 
  • Sentiment analysis, which helps chatbots understand how end-users are feeling. 

Like their rule-based counterparts, AI chatbots need to be trained with predefined responses, but that’s sort of like giving a growing child a basic vocabulary on which to build as they learn. As AI chatbots gain more practice, they can deliver a higher degree of sophistication. 

Integrating chatbots with your other tech

Moving past strictly conversational tech, let’s talk about another important functionality. Good chatbot products should integrate with popular messaging channels and tools, such as Facebook and WhatsApp. In other words, it’s important to meet customers where they are.

A versatile chatbot should not only integrate with popular messaging channels, but also with commonly used platforms, such as Shopify and Google Analytics. 

Because even the best AI chatbots will have limitations, they should be able to perform warm transfers to live agents when it’s necessary, and create and pass on help tickets when they don’t have the answers, very much like a live agent might escalate a question they can’t answer. In addition, once an end-user’s question or issue has been resolved, an AI chatbot should wrap up the conversation in a natural way. 

AI chatbots also present an opportunity for training live representatives. For example, chat transcripts allow live representatives to see where interactions go well, or where they could go better, allowing them the ability to engage in follow-up. These interactions allow agents to be better prepared for future situations, cutting down on time spent trying to find a solution.

In the previously mentioned Forrester study, out of 100 customer service decision-makers surveyed, 62% shared that more productive agents were a top benefit of implementing systems similar to AI chatbots. 

One traditional entry barrier to using AI chatbots was the long development time because chatbots must be customized to unique company needs. But today, chatbot providers are making it easier to deploy chatbots with ready-to-use templates that can be customized to fit individual business needs, bringing chatbots online quickly using visual builders, with little or no coding required. And because chatbots let you integrate expertise from your entire team, you can be sure to deliver the answers end-users are looking for. 

The business case for using an AI chatbot is undeniable. Today’s technology allows these digital assistants the ability to help companies connect to their consumer base and help end-users like never before. While deployment can seem daunting to small companies without tech teams, the barriers to entry are lower than ever. As the usage of AI chatbots grows across industries, AI chatbot platforms that use machine learning and have the most input data from which to learn will lead the pack.

Dariusz Zabrzeński is head of ChatBot. 

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