How Chatbots Can Improve Customer Experience

At this point, the question is not so much “to chatbot or not to chatbot” as it is “what will the chatbot do?” and “who will build it?” and “on what channel, for what purpose?”. As the prevalence of AI increases in social media spaces, digital marketers from every industry, regardless of whether they plan to have a chatbot now or in the future, must eventually answer these questions for their brand. Recently at Spredfast, we took a dive into bots ourselves.

On May 23, we sponsored an Adweek webinar titled, “Can Chatbots Provide a Great Customer Experience? How Top Brands Automate Social Service Practices.” The webinar, hosted by Adweek’s publishing director Stuart Feil, featured leaders in the chatbot space from Booking.com, General Motors, and Spredfast—these experts shared what they’re doing to automate their social customer service and customer care. We’ve rounded up three salient takeaways regarding what you need to know about chatbots today.

How to Understand the Current State of Chatbots

Kevin Morris, SVP of Product at Spredfast, shared his thoughts on the current state of chatbots. The AI environment is still pretty murky, Morris explained, but things are starting to come into focus. We have a better understanding of the realities of AI and chatbots than we did even last year, he said. As early as last year, digital marketers were wondering whether or not we were on the verge of customer care becoming completely automated, and whether or not that prospect was a good one. But it’s clear now, Morris said, that chatbots and humans will interact together for bot cost deflection—and to create great customer experiences. Here’s where we are today regarding AI capabilities for social customer care:

Today, marketers must ask where we want to plug in these new automated capabilities to existing workflows, and, importantly, where humans will still come into the equation. Ongoing human interaction is still a focus as chatbots today mainly perform three tasks: resolving the simple, assisting the agent, and inspiring the customer. Here’s what each of these tasks looks like:

  • Resolving the simple: Chatbots can automate FAQs to free up agents to answer questions that are more subjective.

  • Assisting the agent: Chatbots can also make agents more effective as they answer customer questions by capturing required data (email, phone number, order number, etc). Agent-facing chatbots can make interactions more effective by recommending content to agents (suggested responses based on context, suggested offers, and more), and they can resolve simple tasks, like this example:

  • Inspiring the customer: Finally, chatbots can create unique customer experiences (one-off marketing promotions, making recommendations, and more) that inspire brand interaction.

Humans are still your brand’s most valuable assets, Morris said. When your chatbot hits a limit in their customer interaction—which they will—Spredfast can make the transition from chatbot to agent as seamless as possible. Read more on our newly announced chatbot capabilities and partnerships alike.

Humans are still your brand's most valuable assets.

 

How to Tell If Your Brand Needs a Chatbot

Brennen Buckner, a Lead Product Manager on Booking.com (a leading travel site) heads up the team that’s building the brain behind Booking.com’s Facebook chatbot, as well as all of the site’s conversational interfaces.

Now that we have a better idea of what chatbots can do, we can ask the question of whether a chatbot makes sense for your business, Buckner explained. There’s a lot of opportunity in chatbots for your partners as well as for your customers, he added:

Essentially, Buckner said, whenever time is cut for your business or your partner, you have value from your bot. Chatbots can help you build your brand by aiding with visibility and scaling—they can get positive interactions to more customers. But chatbots cannot improve an already poor customer interaction, Buckner noted. They can only further and improve what the humans are already doing well, so be sure you have a solid customer care plan in place before launching a bot.

Whenever time is cut for your business or your partner, you have value from your bot.

 

How to Tell if Your Customer Wants a Chatbot

Rebecca Harris is the Global Head, Social Center of Expertise at General Motors, a group she helped implement several years ago. Harris shared GM’s perspective on whether or not customers want chatbots. She explained that GM now has two out of three customers requesting that their issues be resolved on social, which is essentially a request for a chatbot, even if the customer doesn’t realize it. In fact, Harris said, the majority of their customers really want all of their problems to be solved via Twitter. Though GM isn’t ready for that reality quite yet, chatbots are helping them to meet customer demand for resolution of issues via social.

Buckner seconded Harris’s perspective. He said that even when customers aren’t explicitly demanding a chatbot, one could still help your customer care experience. If people are expecting outcomes from social channels, chatbots could help. For example, if people are Tweeting your brand asking repeated simple requests, like questions about deals, that’s a good sign that a chatbot could aid your care efforts, Buckner continued.

Even when customers aren't explicitly demanding a chatbot, one could still help your customer care experience.

 

For even more info about chatbots, including how to sell the idea of chatbots to your company, especially when customers aren’t explicitly asking for them, listen to the entire webinar on demand.

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Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.