By Swati Kungwani

A recent study conducted by Eptica found that 64% of customers do not mind interacting with automated chatbots and more than 50% are willing to accept the use of intelligent voice assistants in seeking the answers to their queries.

Welcome to the age of AI-based conversational solutions in the form of chatbots acting as virtual assistants. The statistics are pointing towards the wide acceptance of the automation-driven customer support. Chatbots – the digital human agents are redefining the customer service phenomenon. It’s all about 3 A’s – automation, artificial intelligence and analytics.

Chatbots use natural language processing to understand and map the words and text. With the power of artificial intelligence, chatbots develop learning and gather information to become more efficient and replicate human tasks and language. They analyze the collected information from all the interactions and enable businesses to deliver a flawless and personalized service with effective decision-making.

The Brighter Side

Gartner suggests that chatbots will be an important part of over 50% of medium to large enterprises by 2020.

The readiness of the businesses as well as the buyers turns us towards the advantages of using the chatbots. Undoubtedly, these conversational solutions have made their way to become a prominent part of the business strategies. Let us have a look at the pros of using chatbots.

Always Available, Accurate and Amazing

Unlike human agents, chatbots don’t ask for holidays. They don’t fall sick and have no emotional or mental wellness issues. There is no scope of stress due to overtime and extra work. In a nutshell, they are always available. A company employing chatbots to serve their customers need not worry about their absence or adjust their schedules. The organization can deliver the promise of ‘24×7’ customer service.

Chatbots extract the templated information to answer the queries and help  customers. There is almost no scope of errors in the case of pre-defined questions. The accuracy rate is quite high. They are able to serve customers in an expected manner. Also, there is no room for typing errors or missing information.

Reduced Expenses, Increased Returns

A business always aims to multiply its returns and reduce expenses. One of the most effective ways in the area of customer support is using these conversational solutions. There is no extra cost incurred on infrastructure. It reduces labor costs, money spent on employee benefits and other similar expenses. Chatbots don’t need any extra investment. They can be a part of the commonly used apps.

Once developed, these chatbots can be scaled up and down easily to manage multiple requests. A significant advantage of chatbots is that they are embedded in the commonly used apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. as well as on a business website itself which makes it easier to maintain all the conversations and increase ROI. Chatbots can be developed to tackle all the first-level simple interactions, reducing the need to hire and pay more to the staff.

Excellent and Personalized Service

Personalized service is always a better option. A customer feels delighted when the business offers him/her exactly what they need. Chatbots use AI and make extensive use of data from the conversations to understand the customers. The insights derived from the analysis enable chatbots to deliver personalized recommendations. It also opens up the avenues of cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

Customers get their answers quicker. The speedy and consistent service tempts them to return again and continue the business association. Chatbots drive more user engagement with personalized questions asked to gather their exact requirements. Also, it’s an all-inclusive interface for conversation and support which can even navigate them to the right human agent as per the rule.

Shorter Response Time, Higher Customer Satisfaction

The ‘two-way’ instant interaction is more powerful than the conventional customer service options. Customer satisfaction is reportedly higher when they get quick fixes. The customers are no more irritated by waiting on hold or seeking an email response. Besides that, the ‘standard’ tone of response is maintained in each interaction. Unlike human agents and their mood swings as well as the changed behavior, chatbots keep it uniform and showcase a brand image.

Customer satisfaction is of supreme importance. A satisfied customer will not only repeat business but also help with ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing. With Chatbots, there is no need to download separate mobile apps. Considering the competition in the market, keeping a customer happy is no easy job. But, thanks to chatbots for representing the business and addressing the concerns as quickly as possible yielding customer happiness and loyalty.

The Darker Side

As per the Chatbots magazine, it is noted that an average chatbot-customer conversation doesn’t go beyond the first two messages. It is also reported that 40% of users never get past the first text, and 25% leave the interaction after the second message.

Every coin has two sides. Chatbots are no exception. Being machine of a kind, they are not error-free. It can create a chaos for a business if they don’t pay attention to the negative side of the automation. Some of the cons of these conversational solutions include the following.

Chatbots Cannot Handle ‘Unpredictable’ Humans

Humans and their behavior are totally unpredictable. On the other hand, chatbots are programmed devices. They are innocent when it comes to slang and sarcasm. They cannot reply back in the same tone when a customer tries to play around. Sometimes it can be indeed a waste of time when the bot faces baseless queries and keeps answering them out of nowhere. Chatbots lack the smart way to tackle and unwelcome certain unimportant issues.

Not Everyone Is Ready for It

The new-age millennials are quite familiar with the technology and its applications. But, a business must have a bigger perspective including all age-groups. One cannot expect the older generation to deal with a programmed bot. Chatbots are more popular among tech-savvy buyers. Also, not all businesses are prepared for the chatbot revolution. The businesses dealing with sensitive data and complicated processes cannot afford to rely on the machines unless they are proven to be completely free of errors.

The Missing Human Touch and Trust

Customer service is the aspect of business requiring human intervention at some or the other stage. One of the biggest drawbacks of the chatbot part is the lack of human element which may cause trust issues for the end-user to share his/her information. Neither they can understand human emotions nor can they sympathize with them. A chatbot’s responses are limited to canned information which means anything beyond that might lead to an unresolved query.

Complexity Leads to Higher Costs

As far as the purpose is simple and well-defined, chatbots are quite beneficial. Going gets tougher when the need arises to develop complex chatbots. Setting up artificial intelligence solutions come at a cost. A business must consider this cost otherwise it may not serve the purpose making profits. The whole process of defining the operations, setting up, implementing and using a complex chatbot can consume a lot of time, money and efforts.

The Final Word?

A recent study revealed that 87% of the surveyed retailers aim to give a new dimension to their customer experiences by leveraging the new-age AI tools over the next 24 months.

There is no denying that the conversational commerce will grow over time. It’s no more just a buzzword. It’s rather a mainstream customer service concept. Despite few drawbacks, the use of chatbots will continue to rise and gain popularity. The key to the current confusion is to understand where and how the cost-effective chatbots can fit into your business to increase customer engagement.