Love them or hate them, Chatbots are now being taken deadly seriously. They can boost customer loyalty and save a fortune for enterprises if contact centres use them in the right way.
Compared to other innovations, Chatbots have been a slow burner. As far back in 1966, MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum's program ELIZA, fooled people into believing they were conversing with a real human. Some users even became emotionally attached, so the story goes.
Since then, businesses have tried to take advantage of Chatbots as a way of providing base-level customer service but with patchy success.
Most of us have encountered a grinning website avatar who infuriatingly answered our questions with cut-and-paste snippets from the same web page we'd just visited. For years, the bad Chatbots have been ruining it for the better ones.
But Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa have changed people's perceptions, opening up the way for other Chatbots to have their say.
Chatbots vs Spouses
When Gartner predicted in 2016 that the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse by 2020 , it seemed a bit laughable.But now the forecast seems entirely credible. Earlier this year, Apple reported that 500 million customers use Siri . Alexa is appearing in homes everywhere and some users even claim they see their Amazon assistant as 'part of the family'.
Within a short spell, virtual assistants have become mainstream and are now used by 42% of consumers, 72% of business execs and 53% of millennials, according to PwC.
Chatbot mega-trend ahead
More enterprises are starting to take Chatbots seriously. Credence Research estimated that the global Chatbots market will experience 'exponential growth' in the years up to 2023 .
Contact centres could learn a lot from Siri and Alexa: They get the basics right, offering speed, clarity and convenience. When this happens, people will use a Chatbot instinctively.
To get the most from Chatbots, you need to play to their key strengths:
Speed: According to research from Eckoh, 66% of Chatbot sessions take no more than one minute to complete, which is perfect for today's time-sensitive customers. In fact, the average Chatbot conversation takes only five 'turns'. People love the immediacy of Chatbots. There's no queuing because 'all our Chatbots are busy' or long pauses while an agent looks up the answer.
Clarity: The best Chatbots give the right answers consistently. Advanced artificial intelligence, knowledge bases and integration with back office systems can be used to create highly intelligent Chatbots today. That said, Chatbots are best at handling the mundane, repetitive tasks quickly while human agents take care of complex interactions. It's important to understand how the two should work together.
Convenience: The availability of Chatbots 24/7, 365 days a year is great news for consumers. And as Chatbot technology advances rapidly, there's more and more they can provide, outside normal office hours. Consumers are hungry for more self-service and Chatbots help to satisfy this demand.
What success looks like
From Eckoh's research into its own Chatbot solutions for a large number of organisations, 92% of users had a 'good' or 'great' journey and nearly three quarters (72%) had their issue resolved.
But aside from improved customer engagement, there are huge efficiencies too. According to Juniper Research, Chatbots will be responsible for $8 billion annual costs savings by 2022.
Just imagine if a marketing automation flow could cost the same to run for 1000 Chatbots as it would for one human? All that scalability on demand without hefty investment?
It's no wonder that Gartner estimates that 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant or Chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020 . Perhaps the most startling fact is that 75% of organisations haven't spotted the potential.
Start the conversation
It's taken a while to get here ... but Chatbots have finally come of age.
The statistics are all pointing one way: Chatbots are fast becoming an integral part of customer engagement. They can't do everything but they can fulfil many important roles in a unique way that customers value. Chatbots can also help direct people to serve themselves, eliminating repetitive enquiries traditionally handled by overworked contact centre agents.
To find out how to use Chatbots successfully with your customers, download your free copy of the Chatbot guide. With Chatbots and other smart engagement tools, it's possible to improve overall customer engagement dramatically and get a speedy return on investment without vast capital investment.
 'Gartner Predicts a Virtual World of Exponential Change' (Gartner - October 18, 2016)
 'Apple says that 500 million customers use Siri' (Business Insider - Jan. 24, 2018)
 'Amazon’s Alexa is now part of the family' (The Guardian - Nov 19, 2017)
 'Chatbots Market By Type - 2015 - 2022' (Credence Research - June 2016)
 'Chatbots to make up a quarter of customer service operations by 2020' (Computing - Feb 20 2018)
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