Will Conversational Interfaces Change the Face of Customer Support and Engagement?

We all have gone through terrible customer service/support experience at least once in life.

There have been times when we have felt really enraged and frustrated after using a bad product or service, and the frustration increases when it takes a lot of time to connect with the customer support or when we receive a delayed response from the customer support team.

Now, what if you could get in touch with the customer support with a touch of a button and chat with an AI-powered Chatbot or by just asking Google Home to connect you with any brand’s customer support and then you can shoot your queries to an AI-based system with which you can have a human-like conversation? Sounds revolutionary, right? Well, as you may be aware, chat-bots have already been used by businesses around the world and a few brands have already started providing voice-based customer/sales support via Alexa for Amazon Echo. Is it a trend or fad? Before, we discuss about this – let me quickly give some basic information on Conversational Interfaces to the beginners.

Currently, there are two types of conversational interfaces – Chat Bots and Virtual Assistants. Chatbots are of two types – Rule-based and AI-powered bots. Some rule-based chat bots are used by brands to initiate conversation with customers and then they connect them with humans (customer support people) to further assist them, some are programmed to give canned responses. Chat bots can be integrated into any chat-enabled applications – they usually live in major chat products such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram, Slack etc.

Virtual assistants are apps like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung Viv etc that run on Smartphones or devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo etc.

Google Home
Google Home

While chatbots are already making a significant impact on the customer service and engagement landscape, virtual assistants are picking up the pace. Why customer support through conversational interfaces is an idea whose time has come? How do brands engage their customers through conversational interfaces like chatbots and virtual assistants? Why it is not a fad but trend? Read on to know more.

Uber Chatbot – Book a Cab
Uber Chatbot – Book a Cab – Uber does sales through its Chatbot. This is a classic example of conversational commerce. It is also, in a way, a great customer service – making it easier for its customers to avail its service. User can book an Uber cab through the Uber Chatbot available on Facebook Messenger.
You can request a ride by having a conversation directly with the Uber Chatbot and also get status updates or Uber Chatbot on Messenger also allows you to book a cab while having a conversation with your friend on messenger by clicking on an address within their Facebook Messenger conversations.

Now, let us discuss the benefits that conversational interfaces offer to users and the reasons behind the users’ growing interest to use these CIs for customer support and engagement.

  • Available on Platform of Customer’s Choice – The idea is to make brands accessible to consumers through conversational interfaces on the platforms of their choice and it is happening now – brands are engaging customers through chatbots on platforms like Facebook Messenger and engaging with them through devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home is becoming the new reality.

  • Quick Accessibility This is the point I have made in the beginning of the article – Many times, it is really frustrating to wait for a customer support person to connect with you over phone or to wait for an email response or at times, even to click or tap multiple times to find the information you need on a website or app could be equally frustrating.

    Pressing multiple buttons as per the instructions given by automated voice system over phone to reach to the stage where you finally get to speak to the customer support executive is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through – with conversational interfaces you get to connect and access customer support within seconds by typing or chatting.

    Capital One on Amazon Echo (Alexa)
    Capital One on Amazon Echo (Alexa) – Capital One Bank’s Feature-rich Capital One Alexa Skill for the Amazon Echo allows you to manage your bank account, check balances, pay your bills and even get information about your loans.

  • Personalized Service – These CI systems with access to existing customers’ data, can give relevant information and provide custom solutions to issues – resolving queries is easier and quicker Vs. it takes time for a human to verify customer information and provide the right solution.

  • Best Alternative to Human to Human Interaction – customers may not always be able to connect with customer support people or may not want to – at those times, connecting with an intelligent Chatbot or a voice-based CI which can converse with you almost like a human, understand your exact requirements and provide the right solutions is far better than browsing through the customer support section on a website or sending out those long, detailed emails.

  • Minimum Downloads, Maximum Engagement – with access to brand chatbots through your favorite messaging platform and also by having access to their automated Intelligent customer support through devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home etc., you have the option to deeply engage with your favorite brands whenever, wherever you want to. Downloading apps of all the brands you want to engage with is generally not preferred and also may not be possible always due to space constraints.

  • Ease of Sharing Personal Information with a Bot – Many people may prefer or feel comfortable sharing personal information like finance/investment details, medical information etc. with a computer system rather than a human who may end up making judgments. For example – it may be embarrassing to share details of a medical complication with a person. You can talk to CIs without any fear of judgment.

  • Recommendations and Guidance – Sometimes consumers do not want to browse through the products or explore the service options available, they just want right recommendations from a reliable source – CIs these days effectively fulfill this need in many cases and they will be better at doing this in the future.

Conversational interfaces have really started influencing the changing landscape of customer service and engagement in a significant way and will have a bigger impact in the future. These evolving CIs have opened up new avenues for brand communication.

KLM – Flight Updates and Documentation Service Via Messenger
KLM – Flight Updates and Documentation Service Via Messenger – KLM, a Dutch airline, provides customers a friendly customer support through Facebook Messenger – KLM Chatbot reminds you of check-in-time, shares boarding pass and also the flight’s status. You can also send requests or questions to KLM through Messenger and get a prompt response. For example – if you want to change your seat, you can send a request to get it changed.

Will Conversational Interfaces Change the Face of Customer Support and Engagement? Well, no doubt, one of the major ways through which brands will engage their customers in the future is CIs, but will CIs replace other channels used for overall customer engagement? – I don’t think so. CIs may grab a significant share of customer engagement pie but they are not likely to change the face of customer engagement anytime in the near future but we need to wait and watch to predict the long term effects as new developments unfold.

Will CIs change the face of customer support landscape? Considering the above mentioned factors that are fueling the growing popularity of CIs among consumers, it is evident that CIs will be dominating the customer support landscape in the future.

1-800-Flowers Chatbot on Facebook Messenger
1-800-Flowers Chatbot on Facebook Messenger – This Chatbot allows you to view a range of bouquets, floral arrangements and gift baskets and also provides valuable suggestions. What’s more? If you are someone who doesn’t like calling customer service, no worries – you can place orders through this Chatbot without leaving the messenger.

We can safely predict that there will be minimum use of phones, emails, human-assisted live chats, contact forms, self-serve knowledge base for customer support. Customer support through commenting on social networks will also be minimal. Majority of the consumers will get customer support through different types of conversational interfaces including chatbots and virtual assistants. Yes, CIs will truly change the face of customer support landscape – the process has already begun with hundreds of businesses all over the world have started utilizing chatbots effectively to assist their customers and more and more businesses have been joining the trend every day.

We can already see an industry emerging around chatbots – industry stakeholders include Chatbot platform providers, Chatbot developers/companies, Chatbot magazines/blogs (publishers), Chatbot users (companies) and the end-users.

I repeat, conversational Interfaces will change the face of customer support landscape. The fact that they currently have many limitations should not stop businesses from gearing up for the upcoming major shift in brand communication. Conversational interfaces may not be perfect now but they are going to surely get better and advanced – late adopters will definitely be at the losing end.

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