It can’t have escaped your notice that chatbots are now a big part of our everyday lives.

Over the last four years, many of us have hooked up smart speakers and voice-activated virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. These bots have begun to help us undertake everyday tasks like setting up reminders, turning on the lights, getting weather or travel updates, and creating to-do lists in a quick and convenient manner.

Back in 2016 Gartner predicted that by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse. With the number of digital voice assistants in use forecast to hit 8 billion by 2023, the knock-on implications are clear: consumer expectations of fast and convenient real-time customer service interactions are set to rise exponentially Indeed, a recent customer engagement study by Salesforce found that 75% of customers expect companies to use new technologies, like AI and chatbots, to create better experiences.

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Exploring the Benefits of Chatbots

Today’s chatbots have become increasingly sophisticated, thanks to fresh advances in artificial intelligence, and the use of chatbots in customer service industries is growing fast.

•	Chatbots can help businesses save 30% on customer service costs by speeding up response times and answering up to 80% of routine questionsAccording to a recent survey of 5,000 consumers in six countries, 80% of people who’d interacted with chatbots in the past year had done so to resolve a customer care issue.

Consumers in European countries proved the most eager to take advantage of chatbot messaging (65%), followed closely by respondents in the US (50%). Meanwhile, a staggering 70% of people aged 18-34 in all countries surveyed said chatbots are their preferred option when interacting with brands. This should be music to the ears for those companies already using AI-driven chatbots to respond to basic customer inquiries or undertake simple service requests, like updating an address.

With today’s connected consumers demanding round-the-clock service and real-time responses, chatbots are proving to be the ideal technology for boosting the ability of organisations to cost-effectively handle customer queries and elevate the customer experience (CX):

  • Chatbots can help businesses save 30% on customer service costs by speeding up response times and answering up to 80% of routine questions
  • At 73%, chat has a higher customer satisfaction rating than any other channel
  • 94% of US consumers dread contacting customer support, because it means navigating endless automated self-service menus, long waits on the phone, or being repeatedly transferred
  • 63% of customers are happy to be served by a chatbot, if there’s an option to escalate the conversation to a human
  • 77% of organisations say that using AI-powered chatbots diverts high volumes of repetitive simple customer service requests, leaving contact centre agents free to focus on more complex and higher value inquiries.

Research from Salesforce reveals the investment race in chatbot technologies is now well underway, with an increasing number of companies planning to enable self-service scenarios that allow them to deliver relevant information faster, reduce customer waiting times, and automate the handling of routine issues such as resetting passwords or tracking orders.

By eliminating the repetitive nature of routine calls, these organisations also expect they’ll be able to boost the morale of their human agents and so reduce contact centre personnel attrition rates.

While media, tech and financial services companies currently lead the fray where chatbot usage is concerned, firms in the travel and hospitality, consumer goods, and healthcare and life sciences sectors have ambitious plans to catch up fast.

What Do Customers Think?

Chatbots, virtual assistants, messaging and other AI technologies are already helping transform call centres around the world. What’s more, it appears that customers are more than open to using chatbots to get answers to simple queries.

Asked to evaluate the potential benefits of chatbots, a survey of people in 195 countries who had used online chat to start a conversation with a business found they identified the top benefits of doing so as:

  • 24-hour service (64%)
  • Getting an instant response (55%)
  • Getting answers to simple questions (55%)
  • Ease of communication (51%)
  • Getting complaints resolved quickly (43%)
  • Getting quick answers in case of an emergency (37%)

Today’s time-pressed customers don’t have the time to wait around for agents to answer their most basic questions, and just over half say they now expect the brands they interact with to be available 24/7.

From reporting a power outage to scheduling a shopping delivery, consumers are more than willing to deal with an AI-powered chatbot compared to having to wait to talk to a person on the phone. Indeed, indications are that for some consumers, interacting with a chatbot is preferable for certain routine tasks, like checking their bank or account balance.

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Conversational Commerce – The Next Frontier

From streamlining the entire customer service process to being immediately available, chatbots are proving a hit with customers – especially if the interaction is personalised and saves them time.

When it comes to customer support, chatbots are being deployed to handle a wide range of queries. From providing information on products and services to resolving questions about billing, pricing, orders and shipping times.

A growing number of companies are also utilizing bots that allow customers to self-schedule appointment bookings or improve how they engage with customers. For example, the banking and finance sectors are increasingly using chatbots to understand customer intent and direct customers to the right service.

But with more and more customers now looking to pay bills or make purchases via a chatbot, it looks like the opportunities around conversational commerce are about to lift off. For that to happen, consumers will need to be assured they can purchase with confidence, and for that reason, security and compliance are of the utmost importance. Thankfully, there are digital payment solutions that take all of this into account and enable organisations to take full advantage of chatbots.

The Rise of the Bot: Using AI-Driven Chatbots to Transform the Customer Experience
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