The current market is highly saturated and the tight competition among companies is leading us to another era of commerce. Consumers are always looking or the next best thing, knowing that they have plenty of options to choose from rival businesses, with everything just a click away. The battle for customers is changing its rule book – “customer service” has been overcome and we’ve entered the era of “customer experience”. And it’s all digital.
The fast-paced digital world is shaping marketing and strategies aimed at optimizing customer experience in formidable ways. Firstly, consumers expect immediate responses and simple, quick solutions to possible obstacles in the shopping process.
Secondly, businesses are constantly looking for ways to streamline and personalize the online shopping experience to resemble customer behavior and answer to their needs. Now, when you look at the profiles of top digital agencies worldwide, whichever you pick, you’ll see that the most emphasis is put not on numerous hard skills which are compulsory, but on understanding how people behave and buy online – which is an art and science in itself.
It’s a battle to keep up and stay ahead of the competition, and thanks to AI and innovative technology, there’s a new top-player in the field: chatbots.
The rise of chatbots
First things first – let’s define chatbots. Wikipedia defines a chatbot as “a computer program or an artificial intelligence which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods.” A chatbot is simply a service that is designed to stimulate human conversational patterns so that humans can interact with it via chat interfaces. Chatbots can function in two ways:
- Using machine learning: They have artificial intelligence so they are not limited to specific commands only – they understand language and learn from conversations they have.
- Using sets of rules: These are less sophisticated chatbots that don’t have an artificial brain but function by following the rules set during their programming. They’re thus limited and can respond only to specific commands without the ability to learn from conversations.
The percentage of enterprises using AI has grown from 38% in 2016 to an estimated 62% in 2018, and there’s still more to come. We can expect chatbot technology to refine and advance progressively, but what makes it so interesting and accessible to businesses at the moment is that it doesn’t necessarily have to rely on AI. Businesses of varying scale are embracing this new technology globally as a way to promote consumer engagement and customer experience, and here is exactly how.
Ensuring fast responses and simplifying organization
As we’ve mentioned at the very beginning of this blog post, consumers nowadays expect immediate responses to their queries. But surprisingly enough, reports from 2017 show us a large percentage of companies not responding to emails or taking an average of 15 hours to respond, and a staggering 99% not following up after initial interactions with customers – which is a complete waste of an opportunity to engage and build trust.
And mind you, this is all still at the level of customer service, which is only a compulsory part of the overall customer experience. Poor customer service is causing plenty of losses to companies, but it’s clear that the pace of digital marketing and e-commerce is difficult for businesses to keep up with as it requires extensive time, resources, and manpower.
That’s where programmed chatbots come in as the ultimate solution:
They can provide a level of responsiveness that even exceeds customers’ current expectations, providing immediate customer service 24/7. They don’t have to rely on AI so they’re simpler, cheaper, and easier to build and their level of comprehensiveness is sufficient for common customer queries. Otherwise, they can be programmed to direct to a designated team all queries they cannot answer.
Overall, this doesn’t only improve customer service and lower abandonment rates, but it also saves time and money effectively, so that employees can focus on strategy and more complicated aspects of the customer experience.
Sending curated emails
Email content personalization is a valuable approach to engaging consumers and building trust; a study from 2016 shows that 80% of marketers find personalized content to be more effective. You may have carefully structured multiple segments of customers on your email list, but there’s no way to deliver a personalized email to every single one.
Artificial intelligence, however, can help businesses take a giant leap within this aspect by using algorithms to record a subscriber’s browsing data and navigation patterns on your website. It can look at things such as the blog posts an individual has read on your site, total time spent on a web page, their initial interactions with branded emails, etc.
It then compiles this information to gain an understanding of how each individual interacts with your content, examining their points of interest and reading patterns in order to recommend specific content that would be most relevant to the individual.
A personalized shopping experience
We’ve saved the best for the last.
Chatbots are becoming personalized digital stylists, offering unobtrusively the help a salesman would offer you in a brick-and-mortar store.
For one, they’ve moved to where the customers hang out: messaging platforms. Now when you want to buy something, instead of browsing a specific brand’s website and going through the process of elimination, you can simply start a conversation with the brand’s chatbot on Facebook Messenger (if they have one, of course). You simply message the chatbot telling them what you’re looking for, and it provides you with a carousel of relevant options. It’s a streamlined and personalized shopping experience mirroring the experience of walking into a retail store – and it’s amazing.
We can expect many more innovations and exciting changes that AI and chatbots will deliver us in the future. They’ve already changed the online shopping experience significantly as they’re helping brands engage consumers and build trusting relationships. Customers are gaining more and more control when shopping thanks to technologies such as these, but in the end, we have to keep in mind – the ideal customer experience is best crafted with the help of both human and artificial intelligence.
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