In the business world, everything is about customer-centricity these days. Every industry you can think of is saturated with options for its consumers – whether its retail stores to do your regular grocery shopping, or financial institutions for committing to a lifelong decision, such as opening an investment account. Unlike yesteryear, no market sector is without a multitude of choices for today’s customer, and you need to be intently focused on your customers’ needs at all times – or else lose out to your competition.
While many industries are monopolized by one or two major corporations, they’re at the top for a reason. At the same time, brands that were once go-to options for the mass public have dissolved due to an ineptitude of keeping up with constantly changing consumer demands. The attunement to what your customers desire is the focal point of what needs to be done, why and how. No matter the means you choose for executing a customer-centric feature, it always needs to start by thinking about things from the perspective of your customer.
Businesses have long since been guilty of thinking about their product solely from their viewpoints, and not of the customer. It’s a tale as old as time. Many, if not most businesses presume what a customer would prefer, and under the circumstances they would prefer all that to. Statements that begin with ‘I think the customer would like this because…’ or ‘That’s not what a customer would prefer because…’ are common in meetings. After all’s been said and done, the final outcome is poor, or it’s just downright shocking – because it was unexpected.
This is what distinguishes the successful brands from the rest. Truly customer-centric brands aren’t afraid to go against the grain and execute operations that resonate to their customers, and not their own perceptions of what customers could possibly want.
As elaborated above, the journey to customer-centricity starts with sincerely shifting perspectives from yourself (if you’re a business owner) to your customer. Chatbots, therefore, are a tool that help execute whatever strategy you have proposed, and contribute to the final objective. It is by no means the only way to do so, but in consideration to the fast-paced advancement that has been dedicated towards chatbots, it’s not surprising to see many companies deploying them to meet their own customer service requirements.
Web development agencies worldwide have received an influx of proposals to develop custom chatbot frameworks, and web development companies in Sri Lanka are no exception. Businesses are gradually starting to realise the value in chatbots, and how they can contribute to excellent customer experiences, understanding and overall service.
Chatbots are programmatic service agents that are developed to answer common or key questions. They’re somewhat similar to virtual assistants, in that they also aim to meet the mutual goal of assisting users. However, chatbots are more business-focused, while virtual assistants such as Alexa or Siri function on a broader context that ranges across most consumer-focused categories.
While the rising popularity of chatbots and virtual assistants is due to the helpfulness quotient of both technologies, they’ve still got a long way to go in terms of understanding users better. Virtual assistants, for example, are still unable to comprehend specific requests, and may only scan a limited range for goods and services than is required. However given the potential that these technologies possess and the increasing demand by businesses to implement the same, development is in the works and it will only be a matter of time until we pay witness to greater marvels.
While factors such as better customer service and understanding are quick and basic reasons, let’s dissect these, as well as a few more notable (but uncommon) perks of this otherwise independent robotic customer service system.
1.The fundamental reason: better customer service, of course.
The key hook of chatbots is the fact that they’re on 24/7. This means that they can attend to customer inquiries at any day and any time – from Sundays to 3 AM. Unlike live chat, there’s no need to tell your customer to wait until the next morning or working day to get an answer to their quandary. And why should you? With your competition just moments away from impressing your customer, you want to be proactive, sans any downtime, and impress your customer instead.
What’s more, basic or common questions don’t even need to reach a human agent. Chatbots are competent enough to take care of them, without any human intervention. Even though many inquiries may be too specific to be taken care of by a chatbot alone and the conversation may have to be stalled until somebody can actually get in touch, automatically and instantly answering basic questions may make all the difference if someone’s looking for a quick clarification shortly before purchasing something.
Some chatbot applications have taken it to the next level by enabling purchases from the chatbot platform itself. There’s no need to shift programs and go back to the site or app, in order to purchase. The chatbot can facilitate purchasing, provide tracking, payment information and much more. This further sets the tone for a brand that is passionate about stellar service, but is also fast to serve the same.
All these factors come together to sustain overall great service, on the part of chatbots. These, though, are value propositions which only impact the customer. The advantages of businesses are just as many (if not more) and they help drive satisfaction across the board, for all stakeholders alike.
2.More power to your employees: get them to focus on the things that truly matter.
The daily duties of traditional customer service agents involve monitoring email inboxes, live chat platforms and/or answering calls that come in through the hotline. While this commitment can be rather monotonous from a job satisfaction point of view, it can also account for high overhead costs to the company. New technologies have long since been notorious for causing redundancies due to deskilling, but the opposite has proven to be true in many situations than one. Today’s newest technologies are empowering those that did the job manually before, by tackling tasks of a more strategic or analytical nature.
Chatbots, along with the technologies that make it possible such as AI, have been under much scrutiny for causing job redundancy. However, the reality is that human competencies can never be completely replaced by machines and bots, simply due to the fact that machines cannot process complex sentiments as intricately and intelligently as humans. While such technologies are being developed to emulate the human way of thinking, the fundamental processing of emotions is seldom easy to replace.
Therefore, chatbots can be a resourceful tool that takes care of your customers as well as your employees. As chatbots free your agents from doing menial administrative tasks, they now have the opportunity to nurture the skills required to contribute to strategies or executive decision-making.
3.More than just help and smiles: the additional superpower to also unlock analytics.
With every interaction your business makes with a customer, be it potential or existing, you gather valuable data. What they like or dislike, what their special preferences are and when they would like to be contacted are just some examples. Likewise, chatbots are also sources of such data. They go a notch above and prove to be absolute powerhouses, since they can offer insights and also act on the same.
Especially when social media is involved, this becomes even more streamlined. For instance, depending on the nature of a customer inquiry, ads that are specific to one’s needs can be targeted via the chatbot itself, or even via the social newsfeed. Coming back to the topic of acquiring insights, big data (numbers that are collected) can be made better sense of through business intelligence tools that can be proprietary to the chatbot framework, or integrated externally.
In fact, integrating your chatbot with other applications such as a CRM system can prove to be immensely resourceful – both for heightening the quality of the customer service you provide, as well as for your marketing and evaluation efforts. For one, the key benefit of modern day CRM systems is that it has the capability of consolidating all the channels your customers can use to get in touch with you (calls, email, web and social media) into a singular, holistic dashboard. That way, if a customer has contacted you through varying channels, their entire record can now be visible all in one go, thereby making it easy on your customer service staff.
Now that there’s no need to hunt for details across departments that focus on different channels, the quality of service received by the customer also increases, thereby making it more helpful, faster and streamlined. Apart from that, the chatbot-CRM combination can further level up marketing efforts, and churn data to reveal actionable insights.
Ensuring your customers an experience that’s valuable as it is enjoyable is one of the hallmarks of an admirable brand, in today’s day and age. However, achieving customer-centricity is easier said than done, since a highly consumerist society is now replete with an endless array of choices for today’s average customer. While being customer-centric is undoubtedly the mantra for standing out from your competition, it still sounds like an arbitrary goal. So how do you quantify it, and most importantly – what do you do to get there?
Customer-centricity requires a paradigm shift in a number of contexts, particularly in re-calibrating the way you think about your customer. Simply guessing what you customer may like or need (even in the face of what’s trending) just isn’t going to cut it – getting into your customers’ shoes about their needs and likes is what will help you understand what you need to deliver. This can be done through one-on-one customer feedback, which includes everything from app reviews to simply carrying out a survey of customers who have recently purchased from your business.
Once you realise what your customers truly desire, the next step is – how? This is where chatbots come in. Featuring a platform that has been programmed to handle inquiries, chatbots are now vastly popular with businesses in the wake of automating several areas of their customer service duties, including notable social media platforms. Akin to virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Ok Google, chatbots are more business-focused, and depend on its allocated business database(s) to answer questions and offer suggestions.
While not the whole and sole solution to attain complete customer-centricity, chatbots are still immensely resourceful tools to help you get there. That’s why they’re growing in popularity, and more businesses want to implement them in order to assist customers better. While improving the standard of customer service is one of the highlights of chatbots, they also provide a host of other benefits that resonate to your customers, employees and your business overall.
While the focal point of chatbots is the ability to handle basic customer inquiries with no human intervention, what makes it truly convenient is its ability to work 24/7. Now, any customer, no matter where they are located can be attended to even during inhospitable hours – be it in the middle of the night or on the weekend. In a business world where competitors are waiting to convert customers, providing them the information they need and as soon as they need it, ensures retention as opposed to losing them out to your competition.
Once your agents are freed from performing menial and monotonous tasks that can be taken care of by chatbots, they now have the opportunity to tackle leadership positions that involve strategic and analytical duties, not to mention any of the more complex tasks (such as highly specific questions) which cannot be handled by chatbots. The data gathered though every chatbot-based customer interaction will also serve as a data powerhouse, giving businesses the insight they need to enhance their marketing efforts.