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The benefits
of chatbots
for improving
customer experience

Author: Rose de Fremery

Organizations are looking for smart ways to efficiently serve customers, with an increasing focus on learning how to improve customer experience with chatbots. According to Gartner, "investments in technologies focused on the customer are rapidly becoming a top priority for customer service and support (CSS) leaders."1 During the next two years, technology investments are expected to shift from rep-enablement solutions toward chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics tools aimed at understanding customers. Here's a look at the benefits of chatbots for customer experience as well as some considerations to keep in mind when deploying customer-facing chatbots for the first time.

The benefits of chatbots for customer experience

One of the most important chatbot benefits is that they allow organizations to meet a key expectation among some customers: 24/7 availability. While human customer service representatives are only available to customers during their shifts, chatbots never log off—they can instantly respond to simple customer queries at any hour of the day. Chatbots can provide assistance across various channels, such as messaging apps, SMS messaging and live website chat applications. With tech-savvy customers and digital natives seeking digital self-service options 67% of the time (before the pandemic) over other options for resolving their requests, chatbots are essential for a high-quality customer experience.

Chatbots provide crucial first-line support to a human customer service team, allowing the team to simultaneously serve more customers in less time without adding to the headcount or sacrificing quality care. When a chatbot doesn't have the answer to a particular question, it can relay that request to an experienced human colleague for follow-up, even sharing contextual information that will aid in a rapid resolution. Organizations can improve customer experience with chatbots in this way, pairing the efficiency of AI-enabled interactions with human expertise. Considering these benefits of chatbots and more, many businesses regard them as valuable assets to their customer engagement strategy.

Customers' perceptions of chatbots

Organizations may harbor some lingering concerns about a perceived consumer distaste for chatbots and other new technologies, and this may make them hesitant to deploy chatbots in customer-facing roles. Although it's true that customers worry about how brands use their personal data, it's not necessarily the case that customers dislike interacting with chatbots. According to Verizon's white paper The Human Connection, 56% of respondents are comfortable with fully automated interactions, while just 16% of them express discomfort with the concept.

These findings demonstrate a recent evolution in customer sentiment regarding the benefits of chatbots. Almost half of respondents (47%) have grown more positive about these interactions in the past two years. Interestingly, although few customers view chatbot interactions as human, 48% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 say it's entirely possible to have a human connection in a fully automated interaction.

Organizations have a meaningful opportunity to improve customer experience with chatbots if they approach these interactions with the care and thoughtfulness required. To earn customers' continued trust and win over the holdouts that need more convincing, organizations may need to give customers the option to engage with a human when needed and when available. They must be transparent regarding the use of customers' personal information.

Considerations to keep in mind with chatbots

Even when organizations win the precious customer trust necessary for a successful chatbot customer experience, they must be careful not to lose it. Customers may initially feel comfortable engaging with a chatbot, but that positive feeling may only last if they continue to have good experiences with chatbots.

Customers themselves confirm that this is the case. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the respondents to Verizon's recent survey want companies to be honest about using AI-powered bots to guide interactions, and age doesn't significantly change their viewpoint when it comes to this practice. Forty-one percent of respondents would even reduce their involvement with a company that wasn't forthcoming about its use of chatbots in customer-facing roles. Organizations should set their chatbots up for success by being open with customers from the beginning about who—or what—they're talking to.

Although one of the benefits of chatbots is that it's possible for them to mimic human interactions, they aren't human beings and shouldn't be expected to deliver the same experience as their flesh-and-blood counterparts in the customer service team. If customers discover they've been talking with a chatbot instead of a person, they may feel deceived. So, rather than allowing customers to assume the agent they're chatting with in a messaging app or through text is a fellow human, brands should include a brief message at the beginning of each conversation disclosing that the agent is a chatbot, and offer an option to chat with a live person.

Improve the customer experience with chatbots

As organizations consider how customer service can be improved with AI, they're increasingly deploying chatbots in customer-facing roles. There are many ways to improve customer experience with chatbots; for example, by offering 24/7 omnichannel customer service on demand and empowering the chatbot to escalate complex queries to a human agent, with context included, when appropriate. As organizations explore the benefits of chatbots, they'll find compelling reasons for adding these virtual assistants to their customer service teams.

Although customers might once have flinched at the notion of talking to a chatbot, they've grown more comfortable with the idea. Customers simply want the option to talk to a human when needed, and they expect transparency with the use of their personal data. Organizations should let customers know upfront when they're interacting with a chatbot, so they don't feel they've been duped later on when they notice something wasn't quite entirely human about the conversation. By taking these considerations into account, organizations can tap the powerful benefits of chatbots and deliver a satisfying customer experience.

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The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.

1Gartner, Press Release, Gartner Says Customer Service to Significantly Increase Investments in Chatbots, AI and Analytics Over Next Two Years, Gloria Omale, August, 16 2021.

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.