How is the in-store retail customer experience evolving?
American retailers appear to be facing a crisis. Brands like JC Penney, American Apparel, and Sears are all closing stores and customers there...
The (ro) bots are among us, and willing to answer our questions by email. Whether they are simple or sophisticated, bots could redraw the landscape of the customer experience, both in B2C and B2B.
There are already more than 11,000 bots ready to discuss anything on Facebook Messenger. Call them bots, chatbots, conversational agents or robots; whatever the name, they have arrived in force, ready to reinvent the customer experience.
Using artificial intelligence, messaging software can communicate with customers almost as naturally as a human would. Today’s main messaging tools can use bots (Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.), and they are also found on many other platforms (Axa, KLM, Uber, H&M, Sephora, Skyscanner, Wall Street Journal, and more).
While some bots only provide basic information (product catalogue links, delivery dates, etc.), others aim to sell a product or service: the botlist.co directory provides an early glimpse at the incredible creativity of start-ups in this area.
Here are four reasons to watch the bots:
Well-designed bots can instantly run thousands of applications, operating 24/7, without the same costs that are generated by hiring additional people.
They analyse customer requests and promptly provide relevant answers. When more in-depth help is required, or the stakes are too high, the contact is referred to an advisor so there is no gap in service. This eliminates or greatly reduces wait times.
For brands, the real challenge is only automating only what has to be automated, while reserving the most vital tasks for human advisors. At this stage of technological development, we must think of bot integration in terms of them complementing our people, rather than replacing them.
The old adage that customers always prefer the “human touch” is false. Around half of them consider it important to resolve their own problems without contacting a customer service team.
Bots are well-suited for speed, autonomy, and reducing emotional cost and personal commitment for customers (for example, they can use SMS to allow customers to avoid a conversation).
For many brands, mobile apps have not lived up to their initial promise. Customers are quick to uninstall them, and they rarely allow for regular contact to be established with users.
Today, the public expects to encounter more bots than apps. And they want 24/7 service, quick responses to simple questions, ease of communication and an easy process for logging complaints. Bots could, therefore, succeed where apps have failed, or supplement the unsatisfactory areas.
The majority of bots are simply software able to answer standard questions. If we add artificial intelligence, they can become virtual assistants.
Sage recently unveiled Pegg, an intelligent accounting assistant. Users send “him” documents (like receipts and expenses) and then ask questions like: “What receipts do we have for this month?” or “Who still owes me money?
The ultimate goal of this approach is for users to interact with software and databases, rather than undertake difficult tasks themselves that could easily be automated. This is a promising development for the customer experience, and it extends across multiple complex sectors, including health and technology.
With the help of bots, customer experience can remain a natural, human process while incorporating the best technological elements and enabling true self-service.
What do you think of the potential of bots and AI in customer service? Leave a comment below and let me know, or get in touch on LinkedIn.