Using messaging bots for customer service

What is a customer service bot?

Customer service bots interact with the customer on behalf of your business, enabling customers to self-serve online by drawing on specific business rules and a knowledge bank to answer common questions and requests.

Customers can reach out to your company by sending a message to your customer service chatbot via a messaging platform like Facebook. Using the rules you give it, it will decide whether it can resolve the issue or if it should redirect the query to a human agent. The bot will pass on all the relevant information it has collected to the customer service representative.

A chatbot’s autoresponder function enables it to give immediate answers to questions like:

  • What time do you open today?
  • What is your refund policy?
  • Is product X in stock?

Depending on the complexity and capability of the bot, it may not be able to answer more complex inquiries such as ‘How do I exchange one of the items in a bulk purchase?‘ This is where your human team steps in to help.

Why use bots for customer service?

Chatbots make initial customer contact and ongoing relationship maintenance easier for organizations to handle while enhancing the experience for the customer at the same time. These days, most consumers expect organizations to be available to respond to queries 24/7 – they no longer want to be put on hold or receive an email response for basic information requests on your product or service. Chatting in real time with your company’s customer service bot should be an easy, enjoyable experience for your customers.

In addition to answering FAQs, you could also give your chatbot the capability to:

  • Recommend new products
  • Perform simple transactions
  • Conduct customer surveys

Automating a significant amount of your customer service function means you can reduce the amount of employees completing manual tasks and focus them on complex tasks your bot can’t handle. Your employees become the escalation point rather than first contact, increasing your return on investment as labor costs drop. Customer service bots can also help you streamline your sales and engagement processes.

In addition to performing basic transactions, they also collect a significant amount of customer data, which you can use to inform your overall business strategy as well as specific functions including customer service and marketing.

How do customer service bots work?

You can host the customer service bot on your website or integrate it into popular applications like Facebook Messenger or SMS. The latter approach is becoming more and more popular as organizations recognize the potential of bringing their product/service into the space where people are spending the most time, rather than expecting them to seek you out.

Basic customer service bots are easy to build – they function on rules and respond to specific commands, but they don’t learn any more than you teach them, and the user experience can be a bit awkward as they have trouble accommodating the nuances of natural language. Bots that use machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) get smarter as they interact with more customers. These complex chatbots can be more difficult to create, but if you have the right software partner to guide you, it’s definitely worth the investment.

How do I build a customer service bot?

You can choose a personable avatar to interact with customers or just host a basic chat window. Bringing in third party expertise during the planning stage will help you create a bot that fits your audience and functions fluidly from the outset. They’ll work with you to define the message templates, including text, images and call-to-action bubbles, based on your knowledge of your customer base.

To ensure your chatbot uses natural conversation, and is as ‘human’ as possible you should invest in an experienced chatbot developer. They will show you how to train your chatbot properly and update its knowledge bank regularly as you gather more insight from customer interaction. There’s nothing worse than a chatbot that continues to give the wrong answer or can’t understand a question.

Good chatbots aren’t really noticed by customers, as they streamline the experience so well that customers don’t register any issues. On the other hand, bad chatbots can infuriate customers and quickly undo all of your efforts to drive engagement and build strong relationships.

When building a customer service bot, make sure you understand the processes and resources that sit around it. What platform do you want to use, where does the knowledge bank sit and how will it escalate issues to human resources? An experienced bot developer should be able to devise a solution that best meets your business requirements and provides a superior user experience to your customers.

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