What Savvy Businesses Need to Know About Chatbots Today

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Chatbot technology has been on the rise for quite some time, but the global pandemic of the last year and a half significantly accelerated adoption. When consumers were forced to make purchases from home and engage in more digital activities than they had in the past, chatbots were more widely embraced.

Many businesses are still lagging in adopting chatbot and support automation technology, unsure of how consumers truly perceive it and how it will affect their brand. This is why Solvvy decided to initiate a research study to find out how people interact with business chatbots, how they feel about them, and what businesses can do to make the most of this fast-advancing technology.

What Do Consumers Say?

In mid-2021, Solvvy partnered with a third-party research firm to anonymously survey more than 1,000 consumers across the United States who use customer support chatbots from businesses. The survey questions were geared specifically toward industries such as banking/financial services, retail/e-commerce, and consumer services. This article offers a high-level overview into the collected responses, insights and trends that companies should keep in mind when considering adding a chatbot to their customer support efforts.

Finding #1: Chatbots are Table Stakes

For a while, chatbot technology was the shiny new penny in the world of business applications – it felt like a value-add to have, but not really essential. Those times have changed. Today, consumers expect to see chatbots when browsing online or seeking out customer support options. If a business doesn’t have one available, they’re likely to go elsewhere. The same applies if the business has an outdated or legacy chatbot instead of an accurate, intelligent one. Consumers are likely to be disappointed and will go elsewhere if they get better, more personalized support. To stay ahead and keep customers happy, businesses must not only adopt chatbots, but also must ensure those chatbots offer the best technology.

Finding #2: A New Segment of Chatbot Users

Solvvy’s research also uncovered the emergence of two distinct categories of chatbot users. “Standard Users” engage with chatbots a few times per month, usually to ask basic questions or troubleshoot an issue. The new segment of “Power Users,” conversely, actively seeks out chatbots. They may return to them daily or weekly and are more likely to use them for personalized or advanced needs. Incredibly, Power Users already represent about one-third of users, according to the findings, and they will continue increasing in prevalence as chatbot technology becomes more widely used.

Finding #3: Chatbots are a valuable digital teammate to your agents

In the past, businesses have cited concerns about chatbot quality and their impact on the organization’s existing customer service team. The truth – which was again confirmed by this study – is that chatbots and customer support automation are now the go-to way to enhance agent productivity.

In cases where a customer has a simple question, the chatbot resolves the issue then and there – reducing tickets and freeing up agent time to focus on more challenging requests. In other cases – where a chatbot question is more complex or requires a human touch – new chatbots don’t simply ‘give up’ and kick a frustrated customer over to the agent. Instead, intelligent chatbots are able to ask questions that help clarify the customer’s issue or collect crucial information and then pass that information in real-time to agents, making them more productive. Customers love not having to repeat themselves and everyone loves faster resolutions, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Finding #4: Customer Experience is at Stake

Finally, but arguably most important of all, chatbots improve the experience that buyers have with your brand. In fact, the research showed that the primary complaint consumers have with customer support interactions is long wait time, with 53% of customers giving up after waiting for a live agent in under 10 minutes. Having the ability to achieve instant resolution via an intelligent, well-designed chatbot completely eliminates that wait. Additionally, consumers often view chatbots as more convenient than live agents since they’re available 24/7 and able to effectively deliver the most up-to-date knowledge and policies.

Chatbots are also able to offer more personalized support today than ever before. When asked about a chatbot that could deliver personalized services, nearly half of respondents in the study said they would prefer that chatbot over waiting for a live agent. Modern chatbot personalization takes many forms from delivering different types or levels of support to an individual customer based on the products or services they use to making different contact channels available to customer segments based on the time of day or context of a particular conversation. In the event an agent is needed, modern chatbots can now be configured to route the consumer to the “right” agent/queue and provide context to the support team which prevents customers from having to repeat themselves.

What Does the Future Look Like?

So now that chatbot technology is expected and widely embraced, where do we go from here?

There are a few key predictions about what’s next in this realm in the years to come:

  • Power Users will outnumber Standard Users as the latter group gets more comfortable using advanced chatbots for a variety of needs.
  • Chatbots will also continue to shift expectations, offering consumers a faster, easier way to address their issues and making them less likely to churn.
  • Chatbots will provide omnichannel support, being present wherever customers engage with a brand and not just in one place.
  • Personalization and speed will continue to increase as the technology evolves, serving more consumers and an even wider range of issues.

Consumer perceptions about chatbots have run the gamut for many years – from skepticism to excitement, reluctance to acceptance – and nearly everything in between. But in this highly digitized modern world today, it’s clear that next-generation chatbot technology is not only expected by consumers but highly desirable. The companies who adopt these modern bots will be the ones whose service levels will elevate and whose brands will shine brightest in the coming years.

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