Chat Bots: Automated Service Meets the Human Touch

Many brands these days count personalization as a top priority in customer experience. Customers value their time and look for efficiency, yet they still want experiences tailored to their needs. Automated service delivered through such technologies as IVR and click-to-chat buttons can ensure efficiency, and the prospect of connecting to an agent provides the human touch that customers continue to seek. Yet such practices may soon become a thing of the past with the emergence of chat bots, a power tool for brands that just may deliver the best of both automation and personalization accented by a human touch.

Chat bots, defined simply, are a kind of service that people can interact with through a chat interface using textual or audio means.

They possess an intelligence capability, such as the kind used in virtual assistant or live chat programs, and provide accurate answers through an artificial intelligence function. It is important to note, however, that chat bots may function based on rules or artificial intelligence, and that the two versions operate differently. For example, chat bots based on rules can only perform limited functions such as providing simple, fact-based answers to highly specific demands. One such example could be asking a weather bot the current temperature in your city. Chat bots that are driven by artificial intelligence, on the other hand, are capable of handling more complex conversations. These chat bots respond to language and are able to learn continuously during a conversation with a user, getting smarter as they go and providing highly accurate and personalized information. The service may be offered through existing chat platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Slack, or Kik, to name a few. Once a business decides to build a bot, it simply needs to decide what kind of customer service they wish to provide, on which platform the bot will be offered, and which service to use for building the chat bot. Companies such as Facebook and Microsoft, for example, are providing businesses with the tools to build chat bots using their services.

For those who may be skeptical of relying solely on technology for accurate answers, current chat bot practices include a significant human element as well.

For example, Operator, an app that connects online shoppers with sales representatives across numerous brands, combines both chat bots and humans in its user interactions. The customer makes a request to a chat bot that collects the information needed to answer the request. The information is then sent to a human operator, who may then connect the customer to an expert on the product or service the customer is requesting. Once the customer is ready to make a purchase, the chat bot once again steps in and processes the order. For the entire interaction, the customer remains within the app and is never inconvenienced with a transfer to another channel. Therefore, while technology alone can deliver personalization using an artificial intelligence function, the combination of technology and human input can deliver a customer experience that is as authentic and natural as it is customized. Chat bots aim to deliver just that: the humanized experience of conversation with a sales associate, with the efficiency and thoroughness of artificial intelligence.

Numerous businesses are turning to bots as a means of offering more personalized and efficient customer experiences.

Cosmetics retailer Sephora currently enables Kik users to communicate with the brand through chat bots, asking questions about everything from product recommendations to customer reviews. The chat bots essentially take on the form of sales associates who would normally assist customers with the same questions in-store. However, with chat bots, customers on Kik are more likely to save time and money (when promotions or good deals are highlighted), all the while enjoying an equally personalized experience.

As conversational commerce becomes the next wave in customer experience, chat bots will empower brands to deliver automated service combined with a human, personal touch.

As a global leader in cloud-based contact center software solutions for customer service and sales, Vocalcom is at the forefront of this new revolution with its conversational commerce platform, offering a data-rich context that enables customers to switch easily between channels in a single interaction for true satisfaction. Conversational interactions through text messaging, in-app messaging, and platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WeChat, Viber, and more allow customers to engage with brands in real-time or asynchronously through a single thread. Currently, 40% of companies have seen a call deflection rate when shifting customers to SMS, and 23% have plans to add it this year, resulting in more than 60% of all contact centers offering SMS support by the end of 2016. Learn more about the Vocalcom conversational commerce platform for optimized customer experiences.

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