Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The Role of Chatbots in a post-COVID world

From single-purpose programmes that respond to common consumer queries, to advanced digital assistants that evolve as they process information, chatbots – or conversational agents – are becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to deliver proactive and personalised services to their customers.

Modern 1-1 Customer Experiences

Today’s chatbots are smarter and more useful than ever before, thanks to massive advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing. Chatbots are transforming the way we communicate, do business and interact with each other in a digital society. The same society that is currently being shaken by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is forcing global businesses in virtually every industry to rethink their customer service strategy.

With the absence of face-to-face interactions and tangible support, more companies are turning to smart, digital solutions to connect with their customer base in a time of crisis and uncertainty.

Let’s look at why you should consider chatbots for your business, which type to use, and how to tap into sophisticated human engagement to meet your customers’ most pressing needs during the pandemic, and beyond.

Chatbot options

With the wide variety of chatbots available – with wildly different interpretative skills, implementation timelines and costs – researching the different types to suit your business's needs and the demands of your customers is vital. There's no one-size-fits-all chatbot solution for every company.

For example, if you only need a chatbot to handle a few, frequently-asked customer queries, you don’t require a full-blown and expensive AI implementation – a rule-based bot will do. As the name implies, these chatbots map out conversations through a series of defined rules. Simple, affordable and quick to train, rule-based bots can be set up in a matter of days and are easy to use and understand. Employees can take ownership of the bot, intervene with conversations, and easily adjust the flow thanks to a simple, intuitive drag-and-drop system.

However, if your needs are more complex, an advanced AI bot will be a fantastic addition to your customer support team. These chatbots learn from interactions and use this information to generate their own answers using natural-language responses. Over time, your customers won’t be able to distinguish whether they’re talking to a human or a robot, but as with other cutting-edge technologies, these bots take time and effort to implement.

Chatbot benefits

Regardless of which chatbot you choose, operational efficiency and enhanced customer service are just two of the major benefits to your company. By reducing the need for constant interaction at the expense of human resources, chatbots enable businesses to serve hundreds of customers at the same time. And by engaging with people in a personal and responsive way, chatbots take customer service to the next level.

But, perhaps the greatest value that chatbots bring to businesses and customers right now is the delivery of service and convenience through messaging apps. Connecting with companies effortlessly using personal devices on their preferred chat channels is a key customer offering in this socially-distanced landscape.

Several government agencies, healthcare organisations and financial and retail companies have already taken advantage of the technology, adopting chatbots to help spread awareness about the virus and answer customer queries. 

Chatbot considerations

The far-reaching value that chatbots offer is clear, but how can you start integrating them into your customer service systems?

Customer data is a crucial starting point – before you start using a chatbot, you need to understand who your customers are and what they’re looking for. Insights from current chats – including what's being said and how you respond – will help determine what kind of chatbot solution is right for your business. Assessing your customers’ needs, business goals and chatbot requirements before implementation is important to ensure you tick all the right boxes.

That’s why partnering with a communications technology expert that offers guided chatbot support is advised – one that helps you unlock new ways to reach your customers more efficiently.

Whether you choose a sophisticated data-driven chatbot or a simpler rule-based model, chatbots are here for the long haul. Like other AI tools, they enhance customer service capabilities and improve life in our digital world – and will continue to do so long after this pandemic has died down.

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