Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Guest Blog: The Do’s and Dont’s of Using Chatbots for Customer Service

This week we feature an article by Reuben Yonatan who writes about how using chatbots for customer service properly can be a powerful customer service tool. Chatbots can be great for handling basic customer support functions, communicating with customers when a rep isn’t available and more. – Shep Hyken

Many small businesses are looking for ways to streamline communication. They know customers want fast, accurate information as soon as they need it. According to some reports, 41% of customers expect a business to answer an email in just six hours. But, only 36% can respond that fast. Social media is even more demanding on businesses. Today’s consumer wants to find a business’s Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram page, type a question and receive a knowledgeable response nearly right away.

Is your business able to pay someone to do this and keep up with the demand?

It’s a Challenge That Chatbots Aim to Take On

A chatbot is an important tech tool available to most businesses. Its goal is to help speed up a company’s ability to provide important information to consumers. They work much like a messaging app in that a person types a question and the software goes to work to answer it. They use data from what the customer is saying to personalize the interaction. Because they can mine significant amounts of data in moments, chatbots can be very powerful.

More so, some reports indicate chatbots are money-saving tools companies can’t overlook. They could reduce your customer service costs by as much as 30%, according to some providers.

Are Chatbots Really an Ideal Solution for Customer Service?

A chatbot has limitations like all technology does. What’s most important in any customer service interaction is providing your customer with exactly what they need and providing personalized service. No matter what the situation, you need to foster a sense of support and caring to ensure your customer comes back to you.

Provide Quality Service First

Bots are not a solution to poor customer service. If your organization is struggling to provide quality service due to your policies, product, or service, putting a chatbot in place cannot resolve the problem. It could be part of the solution, though.

People Still Want and Expect Humans

Chatbots can be a good solution to most needs, but they cannot (and should not) replace the human that’s available when questions are complex or a consumer’s need is not met. Don’t forget the human component of your business.

Implement These Best Practices for Chatbot Use in Your Business

Chatbots offer benefits:

  • They cut down on the amount of labor you are paying to answer phones.
  • They can tackle most questions immediately.
  • They speed up customer service in most cases.

Chatbots do offer drawbacks:

  • Simply, they are not human.
  • They have limited ability in some situations.
  • They can frustrate customers when the software isn’t ideal.

How do you find a balance? You put in place some specific best practices to help ensure your customers are getting the quality service they need without the frustration that’s often behind it.

#1: Make it easy to use and reliable.

Be sure your customers’ expectations are always met with chatbots. There’s no sense in trying to “hide” them, but you do need to focus on creating an easy-to-use interface.

  • Use the message format. It’s what customers already know how to use.
  • Keep the software up to date to avoid glitches.
  • Test and test it again! Be sure it’s working exactly how you want it to.

#2: Make it as natural as possible.

When creating your chatbot, it’s essential to ensure a chatbot feels comfortable to use.

  • Keep it in a conversational tone. It’s important for it to use language your customers recognize and use daily.
  • Use some expressive, emotive aspects to help ensure the conversation seems personal. A smiley face here or there works well!
  • Incorporate “common” language. Contractions are good! Exclamation points can work well for positive situations.

#3: Ensure your chatbot aligns with your brand.

View a chatbot as an extension of your brand — it’s the first interaction many consumers will have with your company!

  • Use language that fits your brand. Incorporate phrases you use in your marketing material.
  • Use your brand’s colors.
  • Implement graphics that fit your company.
  • Use images of your employees (if they approve).

#4: Make navigation simplistic.

Using a chatbot should not disconnect the user from your website. You want them to go back to sign up or buy from you.

  • Link back to the main page within the chat window.
  • Incorporate links in the responses from the chatbot to pages of your site that provide actionable steps for the user, such as a page to order a product.
  • Add an information button in the format to give users the ability to read an FAQ.

#5: Keep responses short.

People online do not read blocks of information. They want answers quickly and easily.

  • Provide short answers to questions.
  • Instead of a detailed description, link to the answer on your website.
  • Keep messages to less than 63 characters (or about two lines).
  • For mobile, no more than three lines of text will work well.

#6: Use multiple devices to test functionality.

Your messages look different from one device to the next.

  • Check online access via your website.
  • Determine if changes to your mobile format are needed (i.e. spacing, layout, or links).
  • If your chatbot links to or through Facebook, make sure the format works well.
  • Test and test again!

#7: Let them pay you!

A common request of chatbots is the need to pay a bill or buy a service. Make it simplistic!

  • Incorporate a “pay now” link into the chatbot that leads to the direct payment page.
  • Don’t redirect too much. Provide the most direct route to making a purchase.
  • Tell them it’s a secure link to a payment portal.

#8: Give them options.

Consumers are more likely to respond if you give them specific steps to take, but give them options along the way.

  • List the answer, then offer a secondary option.
  • Instead of saying “this is your answer” say, “let’s consider the options” and provide multiple choices.
  • Provide links to answers, but give them more than one. Keep the user in control.

#9: Always keep it thankful.

Again, this is an extension of your brand. The skills you teach your customer service reps need to happen here.

  • When they arrive, use their name followed by, “How is your day going?”
  • Incorporate thank you in a sincere way. Say, “I’m glad you asked me that.”
  • Thank them for talking to you.

When Not to Use Chatbots for Customer Service

Recognize when using chatbots aren’t the best option. Don’t use them in situations your customers may think are emergencies, such as disputing a claim or getting medical advice. You also always want to ensure there’s some level of background support available. Don’t use them as the only tool for your company, in other words.

When used well, chatbots can be a powerful customer service tool. However, it’s important to customize them to fit your business’s image, brand, and customer service goals. Remember, they are not a cure for bad customer service, but they can amplify your good service practices and help reduce your customer service costs significantly.

Reuben Yonatan is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP and GetCRM — trusted VoIP and CRM comparison guides that help companies understand and choose a business communication solution for their specific needs. With a 10-year track record in building, growing and strategically shaping operational functionality in all his ventures, Reuben assists SMBs align business strategy with culture and improve overall corporate infrastructure.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.

Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article: How To Humanize Customer Service For B2B Organizations

 

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