Migrating from Live Chat to Messaging, Bots, and AI for Superior Customer Service Experience
Live Chat: An old reliable?
Despite the renewed interest over the past few years, the live chat industry is not new and has been around for the past 20 years or more with vendors like LivePerson, Live Chat and RightNow (currently Oracle Service Cloud). Originally conceived as a way to provide better online customer service, new entrants to the market found more recent success in applying the technology to drive increased sales, as e-commerce companies looked for new ways to improve conversion rates, keep customers engaged in the sales process, and stop them from navigating away.
This new application of an older technology has become all too common on websites today, driven by the explosion of companies like Intercom and the success they have had with making it easy to embed a little icon in the bottom right of the web page to connect the unsuspecting browser (i.e. the customer) with a sales agent. It has, in some situations, become the online equivalent of the annoying shop assistant who pounces as soon as you walk into the store, rather than waiting to be asked a question. The days of being an anonymous user, browsing the internet for hours without interruption, are dwindling rapidly as companies improve their ability to identify, track or re-target users where live chat technology is then used to inject an inside sales person into the process.
Drawbacks of Live Chat
- Higher Costs of Human Agents. And therein lies one of the drawbacks of live chat. It still requires human intervention – sometimes unwanted – and incurs all the costs, scheduling issues and problems associated with scaling the back-end of a 24×7 web front-end. Live chat for sales makes complete sense as long as it is when the customer asks for it but what of the customer is looking for help outside of normal work hours? The live chat solution can’t help the small- and medium-sized companies who can’t afford to staff a sales line 24×7. And even then it becomes expensive for all but the largest companies.
- Customer Experience Limited by Continuous Sessions. As for the technology itself, it is an older concept developed before the advent of digital transformation. Live chat functionality uses session-based technology that requires both parties to be present. Indeed, one of the principal frustrations of live chat in a support environment is that the customer has to be present and waiting all the time. And, all too often the connection to the live chat agent breaks down, requiring the customer to launch the chat window and start from scratch, just like a telephone connection that drops where you have to call back and go through the frustrating waiting game again.
- Wait Times Increase Dropped Sessions. One of the main selling features of live chat for customer service applications was the ability to handle multiple service chats simultaneously – agents often handled up to 4 or 5 people at the same time and so when they write “I just need to look at your account” chances are they are helping someone else. And herein lies the issue that most customers have. You have to wait until the customer service agent comes back after researching something, or more likely solving someone else’s issue. In the meantime, if you try to multitask or switch screens, invariably the session will drop or the agent will return when you are trying to do something else. If you aren’t there are waiting, they will drop the session – don’t forget, they get paid by the number of sessions they handle in a day! Few customers today have long intervals of time where they can sit and complete a long and continuous session.
- Live Chat Not Designed for Digital Consumers. In the meantime, digital transformation dawned. AI has exploded into our everyday life. Millennials have become the dominant driving force and the primary interaction channel became the mobile device. Three trends in particular are working to create a new environment for customer engagement
- the rise of mobile as dominant channel of interaction
- the rise of messaging and super apps, and
- the ease of access to AI technologies, and natural language understanding in particular
To help explain the advantages of messaging over live chat, watch this short video.
The Age of Millennials, Mobile, and Messaging
Mobile has overtaken the desktop as the primary means of interaction and this has helped create an “always on” culture, and one in which personal and business interactions overlap. Millennials in particular live their lives centered around their mobile device and in chunks of time, rapidly shifting between tasks and applications, between personal and business. They no longer want to phone a customer service department, wait online for hours or even talk to a service or sales person. They want instant self-service and they want it when they are available, not when the company wants to deliver it. It’s no wonder that Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human. The fundamental shift from web-centric, continuous sessions, to asynchronous mobile-centric engagement model means that live chat in its original format will no longer work.
In parallel with the rise in mobile, we have seen an exponential rise in the growth of messaging apps – to the point where they surpassed social media apps a few years ago. Indeed messaging is a core part of the social media experience today, as is the desire to access everything from within this one environment. Hence the rise of the super app – a messaging environment from which we can access services, browse products, make purchases and track deliveries, all from within the one messaging environment. Popular apps like Facebook’s Messenger and China’s WeChat are moving quickly in this direction because they see it a competitive channel for the customers attention. Once a company has engaged with you in that environment, they will want to offer you all the services and products they can from within it. New digital strategies or customer engagement models have to be able to support this new super app channel and customers will demand that they can easily switch between channels without a loss of information or without having to repeat themselves.
The Future is AI
And finally, we have seen the explosion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to the point where many leading venture capitalists believe that all software and applications will have to have some form of embedded AI to survive in the future. The so called FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) have all invested billions in AI but more importantly, they have made much of this technology available as either open source code or as publicly-available APIs. Anyone can access powerful machine learning and speech processing technology. This is driving innovators and startups to create new ways of engaging with customers and solving problems. Speech recognition and natural language processing has become more advanced and accurate, making it almost impossible to discern a human from a chatbot when it comes to simple everyday transactions. These technologies will allow companies to provide superior levels of service and customer engagement through all sorts of digital channels, including old fashioned web. And customers will start demanding the type of 24×7 service that goes along with their 24×7 lives.
ServisBOT – Transforming Customer Engagement
At ServisBOT we have found a way to harness these technologies and focus on the demands of the modern customers to deliver a better system for customer engagement than the dated live chat. Our approach is:
- Built around messaging and chat channels – both custom branded chat windows as well as popular social media messaging options.
- Designed for a mobile-first world with easy integration into mobile apps or mobile web but can also be deployed on a traditional website.
- Completely asynchronous where sessions don’t drop. The customer can start a conversation, pause, and continue a conversation hours later without having to start all over again – all while logging conversation history in the system of record.
- Seamless communication where a customer can move between a mobile, social and web channel without losing any information or context.
At the heart of the solution is an Army of Bots underpinned by the latest AI and conversational technology that is designed to improve customer engagement across multiple use cases. This engagement can be in the form of inbound customer service or sales but can also be any customer journey that triggers workflows that achieve specific outcomes. For example, journeys such as new customer onboarding, retention and winback campaigns, appointment scheduling, premium customer service, claims handling and policy renewals, can all benefit from bot technology. The customer engagement can be initiated by the customer or proactively by the company. It offers the opportunity to provide a rich media interaction which can be a focused and guided journey, such as filling out an application form or booking a flight, to a free format conversation such as responding to FAQ, or retrieving account information.
Multiple factors are reshaping how customers engage and interact, calling into question the merits of focusing solely on live chat. The digital revolution has sparked a cultural shift towards new ways of communication that have changed customer expectations forever. Businesses now have to interact seamlessly across multiple channels (traditional and digital), respond in the customer’s timeframe and not theirs, and deliver exceptional experience at speed. Messaging, bots and AI are set to shape the future of an exceptional customer service experience. How will live chat evolve to remain significant and valuable?
For another view of why we believe messaging and bots are a superior alternative to live chat, check out this short video: http://bit.ly/2jh4oe1 .
Read more about how bots can be a simple, yet powerful, way to transform customer engagement. Download our eBook: 10 Use Cases for an Army of Bots in Customer Engagement.