We all still have our grumbles and gripes, but let’s agree that customer support these days is markedly different--and much better--than it was in the past. Part of the reason may be that consumers have generally begun asserting themselves more and voting with their wallets, sending clear messages to brands with subpar support that they need to get with the program.
Another part is probably that businesses across the board have also begun embracing mobile channels like SMS, messenger services, and chat as viable options for customer engagement instead of just relying on the old call center model.
A recent Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) survey, summarized nicely here by VentureBeat, illustrates the migration toward mobile customer support. The survey of 6,000 people from nine countries showed that approximately two-thirds of consumers have used a chat app to communicate with a business. Among SMS users, that number grows to nearly three-quarters.
At face value, the numbers may be a bit surprising to some because, though SMS and chat apps have been around for years, it’s taken a good while for businesses to figure out how best to use them. Now, with the emergence of chatbots and virtual assistants, businesses of all shapes and sizes have the ability to capitalize on the ease and convenience of mobile platforms to up the ante on customer service.
Chatbots to mobilize FAQ
Enterprises have invested hundreds (if not thousands) of hours and untold amounts of money building “knowledge bases,” which basically amount to what we’d all recognize as frequently asked questions. To build the FAQ list, they’ll send out surveys, post feedback forms on the website, and ask their customer support team what questions they hear most often.
FAQ have traditionally been nothing more than a sequence of typical answers to typical problems. They’re usually static answers on a static web page, sitting around just waiting for a visitor to type in the exact phrase or keyword contained in the FAQ to visit the page.
“Waiting” is the operative word here. In conventional FAQ, customers have to figure out how to navigate to the specific question they’re looking to answer. They can use any manner of search function they want, but the onus is still on them to go and seek out the information. And, if they don’t know the exact keywords or phrases to use in their search, it’s highly unlikely they’ll find what they’re looking for–rarely a recipe for a good customer experience and long-term brand loyalty.
Instead, businesses should look to mobilize their FAQs and deliver the information to visitors on their own terms. Chatbots–automated communication tools that process natural language over a variety of platforms (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Skype, live chat, text, etc.) and actually transact–leverage existing FAQ information as the foundation of a customer interaction and natural language processing (NLP) to cross-reference the *meaning* of a query with the data already in the company knowledge base.
The result is an interactive experience reminiscent of asking a live human support agent to help customers find exactly the right FAQ or data point they’re looking for, even when they type in a completely different keyword or phrase.
For example, a traveler looking for information about airfare for a pet might type in the search bar or help section, “Can I carry on my pet?” Standard FAQ searches won’t turn up many, if any results. However, an AI-powered chatbot–functioning as a virtual agent using a familiar chat interface–can understand that the customer is really asking, “can I bring my dobermann” and give an appropriate, relevant answer on the spot.
More advanced chatbots, can even offer links directly to other related content and topics to help ensure that the customer’s questions have been fully answered to dramatically reduce inbound customer support tickets, increase self-service rates, and enhance your customer’s experience.
“That sounds hard and expensive”
Despite the immense amount of talent out there, building a useful chatbot can take several months to build and deploy. Between the custom coding, testing, and rollout, chatbot development is a serious undertaking.
Developing a chatbot is usually an iterative process that starts with hard-coding rules for the system’s response based largely on guessing what a human will say, then evaluating what people actually say, and updating accordingly. It’s a ton of work, time, and money that most organization simply don’t have (or want to expend).
Hand-crafted chatbots made simple
But that doesn’t have to be the case. As with every technology, the more mature it becomes, the faster it can be developed. New platforms allow businesses to significantly accelerate–even halve the time required–building and launching a chatbot.
These acceleration platforms allow you to take advantage of advanced NLP technologies to transform your existing knowledge base (your FAQ) into a chatbot experience that you can deliver in days or weeks, not months. These shortcuts eliminate long development cycles, and the need for expensive and time-consuming coding or having to train up staff to get it done.
With as much as 66% of consumers already using mobile and chat apps to interact with brands and a larger contingent on their way to doing so, how long can your business really afford to wait to jump in the game?
Click here to learn more about quickly building intelligent chatbots for Facebook, Skype, and your website.