Customer service has always been a crucial determination of success for any business. Did you know that 91 percent of unsatisfied customers will not return for a repeat purchase or service? That's not a stat you should be taking lightly.
While many organizations have invested more resources in better training their customer service representatives, the recent wave of artificial intelligence (AI) programming is changing the name of the game, mainly through robotic messaging capabilities--a.k.a, chatbots.
Although once dreaded for their overly-standardized responses, chatbots are becoming a competitive feature of a business's consumer experience strategy.
In April, Facebook made a major announcement on its bot plans; Google also recently launched Allo, a new messaging app which integrates AI.
But beyond these examples, chatbots also present brands with an opportunity to improve customer service.
Here are three of the most common obstacles that customers encounter when seeking assistance, and how a chatbot can help:
1. "We're sorry, but we're experiencing unusually heavy call volumes."
This dreaded message is usually followed by an unsympathetic "Goodbye" and a click.
Overloaded call centers can greatly inhibit delivering good customer service. Human representatives can only feasibly handle one call at a time, and often can't conduct online chats quickly enough to serve every inquiry efficiently.
Enter chatbots: as an intelligently pre-programed platform, the bots are capable of handling hundreds to thousands of customer inquiries at once. That means customers can be connected with assistance in real time, 24/7.
According to Richard Smullen, CEO of Pypestream, which has developed a proprietary messaging platform supported by chatbots, "businesses that have call centers need to embrace mobile messaging if they want to delight and retain customers."
He said that automation can reduce costs and in the messaging, bot space, costs are drastically reduced when human agents are able to be replaced with intelligent automation.
"With every company, there are only a finite number of questions customers ask," Smullen added.
He also said that maintaining a human element is very important, as chatbots should improve customer service, save customers time or streamline their buying decision, such as customizing a product order or helping with a specific request.
2. "You are calling outside of normal business hours. Please try again tomorrow."
Humans need breaks and free time. Unfortunately, that means businesses must close and may be unavailable for urgent customer assistance at odd hours.
According to Smullen, brands should not be scared of messaging platforms, because they can't control the message at all times. Bots are always on and available for customer service.
Smullen adds "our Intelligent Automation approach to chatbots provides the right balance between defining a chatbots' communication, content range and specific business processes, while also providing personal flexibility within the conversational flow."
"The appeal of chatbots for businesses is they offer brands a chance to be where consumers are: messaging. While smartphone owners only use a handful of apps, messaging apps are the platform of choice for consumers with more 1.6 billion global users this year," Smullen said.
3. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."
This is perhaps the worst roadblock a customer can encounter with a customer service representative, and was especially pervasive with the old robotic reps.
Today's new wave of AI technology, however, is empowering programmers to create highly personable chatbots that can quickly understand more about the customer than any human employee could uncover.
But, Smullen specifically noted that as companies embrace chatbots for customer support, driving down the cost of traditional call centers, it's important that the focus remains on opening up and improving direct dialog with customers.
"As the AI technology that powers bots improves, consumers are going to continue to enjoy better experiences with the businesses in their life and interact with them in much the same way they would interact with a friend," he said.
Makena Owens contributed to this article.