It’s time for a chatbot

Brandon Watts, Director of Analytics

Brands are turning to AI to meet customer needs

As customer expectations shift and the transition from traditional to digital channels accelerates, brands are forced to evolve — and that process can be expensive. It’s rarely feasible to simply hire more agents to maintain SLAs; contact centers already operate with tight budgets, and the additional expenditure just isn’t possible. That’s why more and more brands are turning to automation. Automation presents a number of significant benefits for customer experience — and some challenges as well.

AI is a great way to improve customer service, as long as you do it the right way. Here, we’ll go over the reasons for automation, as well as how Khoros can help you with the process.

Why automate your customer service?

There are more great reasons to automate your customer support process than we can name in a single blog post. But here are three of the best ones.

1. Customers expect you to use AI

The most important reason to automate your customer service procedures is that by now, your customers expect it. That’s because automation isn’t just good for your bottom line; it can also help them get the information they need, faster and more accurately. Today’s customers overwhelmingly prefer digital interactions to phone calls. And digital doesn’t just mean putting chat on your website (although that is a good place to start if you’re new to the chatbot world).

Consumers want flexibility. They want to be able to reach you via social media, chat, phone, SMS, or email — whichever they prefer. Bots are critical to managing this volume more efficiently than phone operations, and at scale. As your customer service team takes in more channels, you also risk an influx of new messages. A bot won’t just greet customers and respond to their simple questions; it can also help prioritize certain conversations and route the most important ones to agents. Best of all, these workflows can be customized to meet your brand’s particular needs.

2. Positive customer experiences aren’t optional

Meeting customers where they are is no longer a differentiator for brands, because almost everyone is doing it. Leveraging automation to help customers find exactly what they need as quickly and effortlessly as possible is the new normal.

Brands who prioritize great customer experiences with proactive communication and personalized service get rewarded with lifelong customers. There’s plenty of data to show that it’s more financially effective to keep and retain happy customers than to try to win back former customers or gain new customers. In markets where competition is high, customers know they have many places to take their business where they will be treated how they want and get the experience they feel they deserve.

With this in mind, it’s clear that for brands who want to grow their business and keep happy customers, providing a strong customer experience is critical.

3. Clear financial and operational impact

Customer expectations and customer experience are vitally important, but if improving these areas doesn’t make financial sense, it’s a non-starter. That’s why this third reason to use a chatbot in your contact center is perhaps the most important of all: AI’s proven ability to make operations more efficient is good for your brand’s bottom line.

Implementing a chatbot improves efficiency and reduces expenditure in four main areas:

  • Call deflections. Most of the inquiries to any contact center are simple and easy-to-handle. A smart enough chatbot, set up with the right information and conversation flows, can easily handle these customers. This means less volume for agents to handle. Also, remember: chatbots are great, but they’re not the only way to deflect calls. Online brand communities are also excellent resources for call deflection as well as customer engagement, conversion, and retention.
  • Agent retention. Remember all those simple and easy-to-handle conversations we just talked about? There’s another way to describe them: boring. Agents who have to sit around all day answering questions like “what’s your return policy?” or “how many rewards points do I have” aren’t as engaged or interested in their jobs. And this can lead to high agent churn, which costs brands a lot of money.
  • Staffing efficiencies. If you set up your bot correctly, it helps flatten the peaks and valleys of conversation volume and makes it easier to more predictably staff your operation. A good bot softens the impact of holiday retail and travel surges, financial service tax season spikes, etc.
  • Quicker time to resolution. Bots help to reduce handle times, even in conversations where agents have to get involved. That’s because they can handle most of the simple questions at the beginning of a conversation — e.g., “what’s your order number?” — before an agent even picks it up from the queue. This means less valuable time spent on repetitive introductory questions, and more spent solving more complex customer problems.

How does Khoros help customers launch automation effectively?

So, we’ve discussed why it’s important to automate your customer service process, but what about how? Here’s how we make it easy for brands to integrate a chatbot into their contact center.

1. A bespoke approach to automation

Every brand has unique goals, needs, and (most importantly) customers. We don’t build the same chatbot for every customer — in fact, no two are exactly the same. Rather, we work with them to determine what they need, focusing on maximizing ROI at each step of the process.

We also help our customers by crafting the right messaging. This can span a range of considerations, including:

  • Brand voice: Ensuring the “bot voice” is consistent with other customer communications from your brand.
  • Developing custom messages for a variety of use cases:
    • Welcome chatbot. Greet consumers, indicate support hours, or offer expected speed-of-answer.
    • Triage chatbot. Do upfront legwork to determine consumer intent, gather initial information, and hand off context to agents for faster resolution.
    • Top issue chatbot. Fully automate resolution for the top volume drivers.
    • Conversation management chatbot. Automate select workflows (such as making payments, tracking shipments, etc.) across conversations.

2. Data-driven designs

Your data are some of your most valuable assets. They can give you insight into nearly every area of your business — not just product design and performance, but also customer care. When we build a bot for your business, we don’t like to do it in the dark. Rather, we partner with your stakeholders to analyze data and answer important questions about the automation process:

  • What is and isn’t addressable with automation?
  • What should the initial roll-out look like?
  • What should the workflows, conversation flows, and agent handoffs (if needed) look like?
  • What staffing needs will accompany each step of the automation rollout?
  • What level of customizability will benefit the process but not unnecessarily slow it down?
  • What other unique considerations should be evaluated to ensure a successful launch?

Learn more about smart chatbot designs in our blog post, Building a Smarter, More Adaptable Chatbot.

3. Focus on customer experience

Automation that delivers a poor customer experience is worse than no automation at all. That’s why we keep CX in mind throughout the process. We work with you to understand:

  • What will your customers expect from automation?
  • What can be done to set the correct expectations for customers within the automated workflows?
  • How can we gather feedback and iteratively improve the experience for customers?

4. Phased roll-out

Most organizations aren’t immediately ready to deploy automation at scale. That’s okay. Phased roll outs allow brands to quickly ramp up and make an immediate impact without setting unrealistic goals. This approach also accelerates learning to inform strategic growth of a broader automation program.

5. Operational and organizational guidance

Implementing chatbots and other automation tools frequently requires cross-functional collaboration. Implementing a bot might involve a wide variety of teams: IT, web, social media, messaging, brand, platform admins, and more. Organizing an effort across that many groups, each with its own goals and procedures, can be a major roadblock. That’s why we provide organizational guidance on how to foster productive collaboration and resource sharing that won’t bog down the process.

6. Setting goals and measuring impact

Setting goals that align with broader organizational objectives is critical for tracking success. We can help you answer the most common measurement questions:

  • What are the right KPIs for my brand?
  • How do I select metrics that will allow me to compare traditional/call center operations to newly-implemented automation?
  • How should we report?
  • How frequently should we report?

7. Ongoing support

Automation is never complete; especially for larger brands or more complicated workflows, continuous optimization is required. Likewise, you may need to rapidly change your bot’s messaging in response to a product change or even a crisis. We build in customizability so that you can handle these changes, but we also don’t want you to have to do it alone. That’s why we build custom plans to ensure that our customers are using their chatbots to continuously learn and improve.

Learn more about how Khoros can help

Automation is an imperative for any contact center. Whether you’ve had a chatbot for years or you’re wondering whether you should implement one now, we want to help you get the most out of it. Learn more about the Khoros bot or request a demo to see how we can take your brand to the next level.

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