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Valuing a customer’s time and making them feel acknowledged and supported during a care center or help desk conversation is one of the most crucial factors to consider when developing customer care and experience solutions. According to Forrester, 73% of customers say that the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service is to value their time.

Psychologically, the feeling of being unable to get help immediately, or “not being in control of a situation,” spurs anxiety, frustration and anger, all of which can signal a brand has lost a customer for life. Regardless of the varied acquisition costs across different businesses, customer loss is an expensive proposition, especially when it can be prevented through careful stewardship of the customer experience (CX).

When talking about empowerment, control and self-service as factors for winning the CX game, organizations immediately look to measure those needs in time to resolve an issue. Time is the single greatest indicator of an issue’s severity, as the longer it takes to resolve the issue, the more critical it becomes.

Considering areas of opportunity for reducing customer hold time and increasing the likelihood of getting them to the right person the first time – not to mention the time and workload reduction for human employees – skillful deployment of chatbots offers a winning strategy. While chatbots will never replace the human component of CX, they have shown to increase customer retention significantly, loyalty and overall satisfaction.

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To understand the key areas where chatbot use is most effective and the impacts it can have, customer experiences are segmented into three distinct groups that follow the CX journey: Front-line, requires follow-up and customer critical.  

Front-line means first defense

Front-line chatbots offer several unique opportunities for brands to quickly resolve minor issues, gather real-time customer feedback and even retain/regain customers early. Critical wins for front-line chatbot deployments could include the ability to answer a question, reset a forgotten password, or resolve a billing issue, all before real frustration has set in.

These are categorized as short duration resolutions, essentially any concern that can be resolved in under 15 minutes. According to Tidio, over half of consumers (62%) would rather talk to a chatbot than a human agent because of the wait time reduction.

Similarly, the choose-your-own-journey resolution allows customers to regain control of the support process, so long as a wide-enough array of options are presented in a logical support flow. Some additional forms of front-line resolution include off-hour support, mobile multiscreen functionality & guaranteed follow-up, on-the-go resolution and knowledge quick hits.

‘Requires follow-up’ adds experience value

There are instances where instead of answering a question swiftly and succinctly for a customer, the chatbot has instead served as a frustration filter in two key categories: reduced wait time at the moment for the customer and a guaranteed path to the proper person who can solve the issue on the next touch.

These instances are categorized as “requires follow-up,” with the caveat of specific, not general, care. Simply closing the chat with “someone will be in contact” does nothing for clarity or peace of mind that the issue will be picked up properly and instead spawns customer anxiety which can lead to frustration and, eventually, disassociation. Whenever a process requiring additional support has been initiated via chatbot, the AI system must deliver clear and concise instructions for next steps and follow through.

When looking at how chatbots have revolutionized the support process for this category, organizations must evaluate how follow-up support channels can be customized to customer needs, for example alerting the customer to an exact timeframe for response, clearly identifying what will be included in follow-up.

Additionally, the ability for chatbots to be concise hints at another key element during this phase of resolution: customization. In CX, customization can bridge the gap between the perception of good service and the reality of it. Can the bot address the customer by name?

Can it detect subtle language differences and gather the context of slang? Apart from resolving issues at this stage, chatbots should also be able to provide recommendations, accurate responses and next steps based on user behavior patterns pulled from the interaction. Since follow-up scenarios are often longer interactions, ensuring the chatbot can interact in a personalized capacity helps lower stress and anxiety throughout the process.

Customer critical is experience imperative

Often including the likes of breached accounts, missing products, delivery delays, failed refunds and more, customer critical scenarios are never a desired situation for any company and thus require white glove care. In these scenarios, the bot journey should be able to swiftly move a customer from the chat conversation to a live agent.

Because these events need to be frictionless, great emphasis must be placed on the learning and development not just of the human escalation agent, but the learning AI solution behind the chatbot as well. A well-orchestrated customer critical situation will undoubtedly highlight a brand’s commitment to understanding the AI-to-human synergy and a poorly orchestrated one will have the very opposite effect.

Strategy + deployment = success

Chatbots personify the ever-evolving synergy between AI and humans. For customers on the receiving end of chatbot service, control over their resolution journey comes in the form of shortened experience times, greater satisfaction in resolution outcomes and longer-term brand loyalty.

As for brands, smart activation of chatbot tools will see lower overall contact center costs, increased CSAT score and improved operational efficiencies.

As an added bonus, showcasing a well-rounded AI-to-human balance in recruitment efforts can even lead to better-trained, longer-retained contact center employees. Ultimately, the marriage of chatbot tools to traditional human interactions will be the key to revolutionizing the field of CX.

Jamie Kennedy is the director of digital strategy and customer experience solutions at HGS Digital

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