June 13, 2019
Customer experience

How to automate customer service without compromising on a good first impression

Conversational AI can help businesses nail that all-important first impression while successfully automating large volumes of existing online traffic.

No amount of world-class marketing or branding is enough to overcome a bad first impression. Successful companies know that they often only get one chance to impress and therefore put a lot of capital, resources and effort into making sure that new customers get a smooth start to their journey. But as increasingly more businesses take their customer service online, how do you ensure a great first impression when most of the interactions are being automated?

Managing chat traffic at scale is now a necessity

The shift towards live chat as the leading method of contact for online customers has pushed many companies away from traditional channels - like phone and email - to engage with their customers through digital conversations. The chat channel is no longer just a “nice to have”, but an absolute necessity as 89% of consumers desire to talk with businesses via messaging platforms when they have questions or need help.

The rise of chat as a principal channel for interacting with customers has brought the volume and frequency of online chat traffic to a point where it is impossible to manage by relying solely on human operators. Consider the recurring problem that banks and other financial institutions face when unexpected system downtime leads to periods of irregularly high chat volume. Scaling up staff at such short notice to manage this increase can be costly and complicated - not to mention stressful for staff as customers hammer support asking why they can’t log into their accounts. A bank can incur enormous financial and reputational costs while a cycle of employee frustration and bad customer experience perpetuates until the system is back up and running.

To be better equipped to engage with customers, more companies have implemented artificially-intelligent virtual agents to help manage incoming traffic. The adoption of virtual agents is growing at a rate where they are expected to power 85% of all customer service interactions by 2020. However, to stay on the right path to customer service excellence, it is important to remember that even the most groundbreaking technology on its own won’t take you the whole way. There is a lot more to consider and plan for than simply choosing a platform or supplier for a virtual agent.

The key to successfully automating customer relationships

The digital age has made life a lot easier for consumers - including their ability to switch between brands on a whim. Faced with more options to choose from than ever, the first impression your company makes could be the difference between winning customers over or losing them to a competitor.

Until now, companies have made sure to pay close attention to details that ensure a good experience. But automating online interactions means that you will inevitably be automating a large portion of the first contact customers have with your company. If a virtual agent is not built on the right technology, businesses can run the risk of making a bad first impression or, worse yet, driving existing customers into the arms of a competitor over something as basic as implementing a chatbot that can only respond to questions by giving the opening hours of your customer support center.

Fortunately, this situation is easy to avoid as long as companies know how to separate outdated rule-based or syntax-based technology from conversational AI. This distinction is important to make because, as the underlying technology of a new breed of virtual agents, conversational AI ensures that customers are no longer met with a program that is limited to trying to match keywords in queries with the most-likely scripted answers. Instead, they engage with a sophisticated solution that asks questions and seeks to fully understand the situation before providing information, guidance and assistance.

Furthermore, an AI-powered virtual agent can be actively trained, meaning that your highly competent human agents can take on the role of AI Trainers, helping to optimize and improve the model. By infusing their extensive knowledge and your brand’s personality into a virtual agent, the stage is set for delivering consistent first impressions that go above and beyond customer expectations.

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