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Are chatbots the future of customer service?

Millennials, Gen Z… the younger generations of today have come to expect instant gratification, having grown up with the internet for the most part. Whether it comes down to receiving a reply to a message on Twitter or waiting for a parcel to be delivered, we want everything now. This particularly applies to businesses, with more B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) brands using social media channels to interact with their customers and aid in customer service.

As with most things to do with sales and marketing, the proof is in the statistics. In the 2019 round-up of social media marketing statistics from Dreamgrow, 95% of adults aged between 18 and 34 are likely to follow a business on social media, and 63% of customers expect customers to offer customer service through this channel. In fact, 90% of people who use social media have used it to interact with a brand.

In addition to this, 78% of people who complain to a business through Twitter expect a response within an hour, and 71% of consumers who have had a good experience with a company on social media are likely to recommend them to others.

This is all great news if your brand is using social media to interact with your customers and prospects. However, the issue that arises with this is that many general consumers now use social media around the clock, checking their feeds multiple times per day. This isn’t true of your company’s internal social media and sales teams who won’t always be on-hand to pick up the messages they receive. This could lead to customers becoming frustrated or simply losing interest and choosing to use another company.

With customers’ demands for instant gratification and the acceptance of social media becoming a key channel for delivering customer service, it should come as no surprise that 80% of brands surveyed by Oracle in 2016 saying that they already use chatbots or plan to by 2020.

Many of the world’s leading brands are already taking advantage of chatbots, including Spotify, Whole Foods, Sephora and Pizza Hut. So, could chatbots be the solution and the future of customer service?

An introduction to using chatbots

Most us of know what is meant by the term ‘chatbot’. If you’re a social media user, chances are you’ve come into contact with one in your time – but how do they work exactly? The simplest explanation is that a chatbot is a program that simulates human conversation. As Bernie Agency explains, they utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) to recognise keywords, pulling responses from a database.

Chatbots are available on the main social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They’re quick and easy to make and connect to your accounts through platforms such as Chatfuel, and you can even personalize them by setting a welcome message and default responses.

The benefits of chatbots for customer service

You can respond instantly

If you use chatbots, people who contact your business will instantly know that their message has been acknowledged and that they can expect a response. You can personalize your default response to give them a timeframe of when to expect a reply from a human employee of the company, or inform them of what they need to do if they need to talk to someone quicker.

In a similar vein, chatbots can offer assistant instantly when customers are shopping by setting default responses for certain keywords (for example, ‘shipping’ and ‘size guide’). This could increase sales for retailers by helping them get the information they need to make a purchasing decision.

Additionally, if your business has a Facebook Page, it will display an average timeframe for how quickly you reply to messages. For those with a 90% response rate and an average response time of 5 minutes, a “Very responsive to messages” badge will also be displayed on their Page, which will encourage more potential customers to get in touch!

It boosts your reputation

Brand loyalty can mean a lot to a business, and is evidenced by the aforementioned statistic that shows people are more likely to recommend the brands that engage with them to others. However, this also makes them more likely to become a repeat customer in the long-term. This is great news for retailers that provide products and services that are frequently purchased, such as clothes, grooming products, car insurance and more.

People know that if they want a response, posting their grievances on a company’s social media pages is often a good way to do it – and this can damage your public reputation. However, many people will send you a private message before resorting to this measure. If they receive a fast response, they will be less likely to publicly reach out and you can quickly resolve the issue in private.

Finally, chatbots encourage conversations, generating more customer engagement. When it comes to a business’s social media presence, engagement is becoming a much more important metric than the number of followers you have on a platform. Research also shows that companies who engaged more with their customers were able to increase customer spend by 20% to 40%!

Chatbots bring many benefits to businesses, and with the younger generations of today being unfazed by communicating with them, they will become an even bigger factor in delivering excellent customer service. However, it’s important to remember that consumers still value the connection they get with a brand through human interaction, and there’s only so much that chatbots can understand.

So, are chatbots the future of customer service? They are definitely a big part of the consumer journey; just don’t replace your social media and customer service teams with them just yet.

July 26, 2019