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Understanding the growing role of chatbots in customer service

With customer relationship management (CRM) practices now playing such a huge role in the business development of companies of all sizes, the strategies and technologies used by the IT sector to maximise efficiency in this area are always under the spotlight. Managing customer interactions and improving business relationships with customers by assisting them and recognising their needs has never been more important. 

However, CRM systems now go far beyond simply amassing and analysing Big Data and are concerned with how the interactions themselves are undertaken. As a result, firms are incorporating new methods of communication between themselves and the consumer, with the chatbot being one such example.

Human touch

In the past, a great deal of customer contact took place mainly by telephone and larger companies and international organisations could offer extended or even 24/7 contact lines by utilising overseas call centres. While the personal touch of actually speaking to someone can be beneficial for creating a relationship with the customer, the addition of new technology means businesses may now consider whether having a call centre is a suitable use of resources.

The point of moving call centre work overseas was to cut costs and onshoring can involve large investments and continuing overheads. Recent developments in advanced technologies powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that can listen and provide relevant information in actual conversations are already transforming this area of customer contact.

Machine learning processes that can operate in a live chat scenario mean that chatbots are now appearing with increased frequency, which allows businesses to interact with customers in a timely and relevant way. Research from BI Intelligence found that U.S firms could save as much as 30% on customer service costs by using chatbots for support services. 

Live chat

Online 'live chat' services are more than just messaging processes in a different wrapper. Forbes magazine recently quoted Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as saying “people-to-people conversations, people-to-digital assistants, people-to-bots … that’s the world you’re going to get to see in the years to come.”  This essentially reflects the idea that as billions of people already use messaging apps, text/SMS messaging and other services provided by platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, they will happily accept communicating with a chatbot that is designed to mimic human interaction.

There are numerous advantages to using chatbots for customer service, as they offer the opportunity to provide the consumer with information at any point in time. Add in the ability to collect data and chatbots can be the first step towards building a detailed picture of a customer base. While it might be too early to talk about chatbots replacing call centre staff, they can definitely be a useful asset supporting staff and providing customers with the information they crave.

Read our related article: Could chatbots revolutionise your business?

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