The rise of the AI bots may sound like a sci-fi horror scenario, but in reality, the growing industry of bots isn’t scary at all—it’s a technology that brings real, tangible benefits to businesses and customers alike. Bots are already a big part of the customer service landscape. In 2018, the bot market was worth $1.274 billion and predictions anticipate it reaching $7.5 billion by 2024.
Customers are quickly coming around to the idea of interacting with bots. 60% of consumers have used bots to communicate with a business in the last year, and 48% say they’re willing to chat with a bot for customer service. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not bots make sense for your business, here are the main things you need to know about using AI bots in customer service.
What are AI customer service bots?
Customer service bots are a technology that delivers interactive answers to customer questions in real-time. Companies provide the bot with pre-written instructions for the most common questions customers have, and the bot serves up answers in a conversational format. Customer service bots powered by AI (artificial intelligence) use the aggregated data from every customer service interaction they have to learn what works best and improve responses over time.
5 ways AI customer service bots help
Some businesses may feel initial discomfort at the idea of replacing human interactions with conversations powered by robots. But customer service bots aren’t about removing human agents from the equation. They’re meant to be deployed in specific scenarios where they provide benefits to agents and customers alike. And when used that way, they deliver significant benefits.
1. Customers get answers faster
As self-service options grow in popularity—over two-thirds of consumers say they prefer self-service to talking to a representative—bots make it that much easier for customers to find the answers they need on their own and fast.
During peak hours, agents face a queue of customers. They have to help one before they can get to the next. Bots never deal with that. They can supply answers to any number of customers simultaneously, and with zero wait time.
89% of customers say getting a quick response to their customer service questions is important when making decisions about which companies to buy from. And chatbots can deliver faster customer service at all hours, whereas humans have pesky needs like eating and sleeping. When consumers in one survey were asked what they considered the main benefits of bots, the top two answers were getting round-the-clock customer service (64%) and getting instant responses to their questions (55%).
2. Agents spend less time on repetitive questions
Bots can’t provide an instant resolution for every customer service issue, but there’s a large category of customer service interactions that don’t require the complexity of a human response. If your skilled agents are spending hours answering simple questions like “What hours are you open?” or “When will my order arrive?” that’s not a good use of their time.
Bots can take over answering up to 80% of those sorts of routine inquiries.
That’s good for agent morale. No one enjoys spending the day providing tedious cut-and-paste style answers. In fact, 79% of customer service agents say that when their responsibilities are focused on handling complex issues it improves their skills, and 72% believe it makes them more valuable to the company.
3. Bots can aid in personalization
The most obvious use for customer service bots at this point is to deflect the straightforward, commonly asked questions that have an obvious response. However, if the bot technology integrates with your other systems, you can start to personalize the information you present to visitors.
A customer service bot could tap into your customer relationship management (CRM) database to determine if someone visiting your website is an existing customer or a prospect. For an e-commerce company, when a current customer visits your site, the bot can suggest relevant options like, “Hey welcome back, would you like to check the status of your recent order?”.
On that same site, a brand new visitor would instead see a different starting point: “First time here?! Want to see our most popular items or learn about our company’s story?”.
In addition to delivering personalized experiences right off the bat, customer service bots can relay relevant information when there’s a bot-to-human hand-off. The bot can track if your customer has tried to self-solve their issue already and let the agent know which help center articles and webpages the customer has visited. Agents can avoid repeating answers the customer has already seen, which saves both the agent and customer time.
4. Bots work on multiple channels
Customer service today is omnichannel. Forrester has reported that 95% of customers use three channels or more in a single customer service interaction. In addition to the most familiar channels like email and phone, customers are increasingly turning to messaging applications like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. That’s a lot of different places customers now expect brands to be available on, and who knows what new channels will be added to the mix in the coming years.
The good news is that bots can be omnichannel too. You can deploy bots to answer the common questions that come in over email, across your website, on Slack, and in your various messaging apps. The more places you set up your AI bot, the more you offload work your agents would otherwise have to take on.
By making sure your AI bots are connected to the rest of your tech stack you can use them to provide a self-service experience across all your channels. Customers get the answers they seek, in a shorter time, on the channel of their choice.
5. AI bots will only get smarter
A great aspect of AI bots is that they learn. An AI customer service bot will track how customers respond to every answer they provide. As they collect data on customer interactions over time, they’ll continually analyze that information and turn it into meaningful insights.
With every year, bots are getting better at understanding the sentiment behind the language people use. They’re learning new languages and picking up on the nuances of different ways of phrasing things. They have a perfect memory and use it to keep track of what works and what doesn’t in every interaction they have.
With the information your customer service bot gains, it will learn which answer is the best response in each situation. It will get better at determining which questions can be answered with a link to a help center article, and which are best transferred over to a human.
AI bots are already good at learning, but with every year (and that year’s worth of data), they’ll only get smarter. You and your customers get to benefit from that.
AI bots and agents: A collaboration that benefits everyone
AI bots won’t be replacing customer service agents. Customers will always want to know they can access a real person for issues that benefit from that personal touch. But for the simpler answers that don’t require a customer service agent, they offer a speedier solution that saves agents time and work AND gets customers the answers they need faster than humanly possible.