The right balance between chatbots and personal contact
We hear it all the time: service should be good, fast and personal. The bar has been set high. Digitalisation of customer contact offers the solution. It delivers a huge boost in efficiency and ensures that customers are helped quickly, 24/7. It’s all very nice to improve efficiency and accessibility, but how do you preserve the personal touch in this digital age?
Chatbots have become a valuable addition to webcare for many organisations. That’s unsurprising because they offer huge benefits for organisations and customers. Technology delivers a huge boost in efficiency. Repetitive, simple questions can easily be handled (at least in part) by a chatbot. Consumers, too, are satisfied with this: they get a quick and practical answer. But it’s the combination of automation with people that ensures success.
This article was previously published on Frankwatching.
People versus technology
While we were long ‘afraid’ that the automation of processes by bots would result in less human contact, we can now state that the combination of people and technology ensures success. Expressing sympathy and empathy is still an important task and added value of the human webcare agent. There are innumerable situations in which real human contact makes the difference: from incident management to personal advice.
But that doesn’t prevent a chatbot from being a valuable addition to the team that now works on webcare. A smart set-up of a webcare tool – combined with a sound webcare strategy – will often enable the webcare team to work as efficiently and effectively as possible. A proper set-up ensures that all channels are displayed in one overview, that complete and relevant search queries are set up, and that agents can work together easily.
In your webcare strategy, you determine things like which tone of voice you will adopt, how you will respond to complaints and compliments, which channels you will use, and what role automation will play. Besides speed and quality, using bots and AI for webcare is particularly interesting because of their efficiency.
As virtual employees, bots can take over simple tasks from service agents or the webcare team. Bots can answer simple questions quickly or do prep work, such as requesting customer details. Straightforward tasks like updating CRM systems and tagging messages can also be performed by a chatbot.
Giving chatbots a personality
To get the most out of your digital colleague, it’s smart to give the chatbot personality. Research shows that chatbots are perceived as more human when they communicate with a ‘human voice’. This is achieved by integrating one of these three elements into the conversations:
- informal language
- personalisation (like calling someone by their name when greeting them)
- engaging rhetoric
The latter is a way to encourage a sense of mutual understanding, for example by having the chatbot ask for feedback during a conversation. Here are a few practical tips that can help personalise your chatbot:
- Choose a tone of voice that suits your organisation. Is this tone formal or informal? Do you use GIFs and emoticons?
- Do you see your chatbot as male, female or gender neutral? Research by Ardion Beldad and colleagues (2016) shows that consumers often attribute human characteristics to products. Your choice of gender may depend on the type of product or service your organisation offers.
- Choose a recognisable appearance (an avatar). The visual design should fit with your organisation’s corporate identity.
- Give your chatbot a name. Many organisations choose a name that is related to their brand or product.
Successful chatbots in practice
Often chatbots are used to answer customer questions, but they can also be extremely helpful to an organisation’s employees. PostNL had a chatbot built to answer employees’ HR questions. For example, the bot can help the IT service desk reset a password or report a malfunction. Whereas HR is only available during office hours, the chatbot is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s a great example of a chatbot that adds to both efficiency and employee satisfaction!
Or think about the Dom chatbot at Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s wants to make things as easy as possible for its customers, who can use the chatbot to easily place, repeat and track an order. The entire ordering process is automated with the bot.
Emirates Airlines chose an innovative approach and is integrating AI technology into display ads on their website. The chatbot asks visitors what kind of travel they are looking for and uses personal data and the context of the current webpage to make a personalised suggestion. This AI ad turned out to generate 87% more engagement than the standard display ad. It’s a terrific example of a chatbot in which technology takes over the entire sales process from an employee.
Automation and personal attention: the best of both worlds
It’s obvious that chatbots can help customers and employees, and bot technology will only get smarter. But service agents need not fear digital competition. Instead, it’s the cooperation between man and machine that creates an outstanding customer experience!
Letting chatbots answer simple questions leaves employees more time to handle complex customer enquiries. Their work becomes more meaningful, which results in greater job satisfaction. And the customer? They benefit from the right balance of a fast digital service when possible and personal attention and depth when necessary!