AI chatbots can now carry complex conversations with humans, from once being limited to rudimentary algorithms capable of answering only the simplest questions. Today’s generation of chatbots combines AI, machine learning and natural language processing to converse with human users and learn from every conversation, picking up on things like slang, typo and context of words and phrases.
These features have made chatbots a boon for customer service, so much so that the global chatbot market is forecasted to generate $2.49 billion in revenue by 2028. And as more businesses deploy chatbots to their digital channels, customers are becoming more comfortable interacting with them. According to a 2020 PSFK report, 74% of users prefer using chatbots to ask simple questions.
This is exciting news for businesses and organisations looking to adopt chatbots to augment their customer service capabilities. However, it’s important to remember that not all chatbots are created equal. What’s more, the way chatbots are set up can dramatically impact the experience they provide.
To avoid these issues, consider following these chatbot best practices.
1. Keep Chat Messages Short
Speed and efficiency make up a large part of what makes chatbots so valuable to customers. In fact, 69% of consumers prefer chatbots for “quick communication,” according to research by Salesforce.
Think about it: when people use messaging apps, they rarely type entire paragraphs of text. So, it makes sense for chatbots to do the same. A good rule of thumb is to ensure chatbot messages take a third to two-thirds of the chat window — the better to keep users engaged.
The chatbot can signpost to a dedicated page with a link for answers and messages that can’t be limited to a snappy sentence or two.
2. Enable Self-Service in the Chat
Self-service or self-serve is a customer experience feature wherein customers are given the option to complete tasks and actions autonomously (i.e., with no human control or interaction).
In the context of chatbots, self-service means providing services within the chat window, allowing customers to do things like:
- Report something
- Buy something
- Check something
- Track something
- Change something.
For example, guests can interact with a hotel chatbot to check for available rooms on specific dates. They can then make a reservation and pay with their credit card, all within the chat.
3. Develop a Chatbot Strategy
Many businesses make the mistake of entrusting their entire chatbot project to a SaaS provider and expecting the chatbot to work flawlessly. However, this approach can often lead to a poorly optimised user experience and miss opportunities to customise the chatbot to customers’ needs.
Businesses can develop a strategy to identify the purpose and goals of their chatbot project to prevent this scenario.
- For instance, a retail business can roll out a chatbot to reduce call waiting times and shorten call queues during peak shopping periods (e.g., Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas).
- The goal of the chatbot deployment is to reduce the burden on customer service agents, freeing them to focus on conversations that need them the most.
This critical step is simple but sets the tone for the chatbot project, focusing on delivering measurable value to the business.
4. Provide Clear Escalation Options
One of the common criticisms of chatbots is that many don’t provide clear paths to escalate urgent and complex questions to actual people. While chatbots are smarter than ever, there are still conversations that need the attention of a human being.
Complex conversations and questions are crucial in organisations that provide critical services, such as healthcare, law enforcement and utilities. In these environments, chatbots should come with clear escalation paths that enable users to hand over the conversation to a live agent. The chatbot can generate a ticket to schedule a conversation during the next business day out of hours.