On May 8th, 2019 Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, who was presenting the Google I/O 2019 gave a live demo of a telephone call. It was not any ordinary telephone call. It was a telephone call that even Alexander Graham Bell would not have imagined.
The call was made by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) chat agent – Google Duplex! Right from the smirk expression that denotes impatience to voice modulations that humans use during conversations, Google Duplex nailed every single second of the presentation.
Somewhere during the presentation, Sundar Pichai threw a stat that went like this: “60% of the small businesses in the USA do not have an online booking system.”
But, hey! What does an AI-based chatbot and an online booking system have in common? Let alone an online booking system, how can a chatbot be a catalyst for customer service?
A chatbot is an Artificial Intelligence-based computer program. It is capable of carrying out a normal conversation via auditory or textual methods.
Over the past 5 years, Artificial Intelligence has developed far better than it ever has in the past fifty years. The explosive growth of textual and voice data can be attributed to that growth.
With that growth came the mushrooming growth of chatbots. Now don’t mistake chatbots with the live chat software that most websites of today have. They are different from each other like chalk and cheese.
How is a chatbot is different from live chat software?
Here are some differentiators that set a chatbot and live chat software eons away from each other.
Always on ‘working’ mode
Chatbots respond to user queries round the clock with zero downtime. Live chat software, on the other hand, requires to be manned by a sales personnel or a support personnel. That makes them limited to availability during working hours.
Canned responses to FAQs
Chatbots are basically computer programs that are trained to respond to customer queries in a specific manner. They are fed with canned responses — standard answers to repeated queries. For instance, for an online travel booking website, FAQs about bookings, cancellation procedure, cancellation charges, etc. could be given as input for canned responses.
Live chat on the other hand is human-driven. It is highly dynamic and hyper-personalized. The conversation is driven by the tone and the specific need of the user. It is the same nature of live chat that makes it difficult to scale.
Segmentation of user queries
Chatbots intelligently segment user queries into apt buckets. Imagine a website visitor who lands on the home page and wants to navigate to a specific section in the FAQ. Without a chatbot it will take the user quite a long while before the apt solution article can be found.
A chatbot, on the other hand, can take input from the user as to what kind of queries they have and direct them to the right page or category of pages. It makes the user experience for finding information effortless.
A live chat agent might also be able to do the same, but it is the speed and efficiency with which it is done that makes the difference. A chatbot undeniably is faster and efficient.
They are continuously learning
Thanks to Machine Learning, the subset of Artificial Intelligence, chatbots have now the ability to learn. They can pick up cues from customer conversations to determine the urgency, predict what the next query would be and also provide proactive support that will make the user experience better.
An experienced live agent can definitely cater to customer queries proactively. But, like unicorns, they are hard to find and harder to retain.
Now, to the burning question.
Can a chatbot deliver better customer experience?
The fact is, knowingly or unknowingly you would have encountered a chatbot at least once. Right from Facebook to Domino’s Pizza, chatbots have penetrated every digital landscape where customer interactions happen at scale.
Data proves that customers also prefer to talking to chatbots over mobile apps. The Salesforce 2018 State of Chatbots Report found that 69% of users chatbots for quick communication with brands.
Quick answers to questions, getting 24-hour service, quick answers to complex questions are some of the reasons why chatbots trumped apps.
Undeniably, chatbots are here to stay. A couple of them have already started winning customers.
Here are some such real-world stories of chatbots making a difference to customer experience.
Bank of America
Banks have long since grappled with the challenge of scaling customer support. Especially for critical emergency situations like lost credit cards.
Bank of America flipped the switch to turn the challenge into an opportunity for splendid customer service. They rolled out a chatbot called Erica which allows users to carry out specific banking activities like fetching credit score, blocking lost credit cards, monitor bill payments and so on.
GoPro — the action camera brand is renowned for its unique voice and personality. Named ‘Greg’ GoPro’s chatbot goes a step ahead and gives users adventure ideas for which they can take a GoPro as a companion.
In 2019, customer experience is the new brand. Delivering a splendid customer experience is what makes brands to separate themselves from their competitors. Chatbots with their artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities can help brands deliver a better customer experience that their business was missing out on so far.