Chatbot apps: Winning the heart and minds of customers

Ask anyone who’s had a billing question or needed to track a misplaced order, return a purchase or make a simple customer query, and you’ll likely hear some variation of the following:

  • “I wasted over an hour on the phone, either on hold or repeating the same story to different people. I finally had to hang up because I had other things to do.”
  • “I kept getting disconnected, and when I finally talked to someone in customer service, he didn’t even seem to care.”
  • “I’ve called about the same issue before, and each time I have to start all over again.”

Or, unfortunately, even this:

  • “I just hate dealing with them. I finally cancelled my service.”

How can businesses avoid these disastrous customer experiences? And what are today’s most successful companies doing to increase customer loyalty?

Artificial intelligence that speaks to customers

The answer is cogently explained by Lauren Friedman in a recent Forbes article, “Chatbots and Millennials: How Smart Brands Should Be Using Artificial Intelligence.”

… many businesses are still handling customer service the way they’ve always done it: via email, phone, or more recently, on social media. The problem is that literally thousands of requests go unanswered or, worse, are misunderstood.… A chatbot, unlike a human, can field questions 24 hours a day — repeatedly and accurately without becoming tired or irritated.

Artificial intelligence (AI), an area of computer programming that enables machines to execute routine tasks, has opened the door to the emerging technology of chatbots. Tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and IBM are fighting to win the future of AI and betting that enormous revenue opportunities will follow. The growing number and variety of chatbot applications, programs that are designed to simulate messaging (typically over the Internet), are evidence of this emerging area of competition.

As Friedman explains, successful digital companies have already begun to deploy chatbots to respond to common queries, help customers find products and even resolve customer service issues. These apps not only improve productivity by removing the burden of certain tasks from employees, but they can also deliver a more immediate, real-time service—the way the generation known as millennials have come to expect.

Generational expectations driving the chatbot revolution

Millennials came of age during the digital revolution, so they are accustomed to shopping and banking online, watching movies via instant streaming and connecting with work and family using smartphone apps.

This demographic has a reputation for its familiarity with and affinity for technology. In a recent survey cited in Mary Meeker’s Annual Internet Trends report, 75% of millennials say they prefer to be contacted via message apps, social media or text. Only 12% would choose contact by telephone, in contrast to previous generations that rate the telephone as their preferred choice.

Leading companies are paying close attention to millennials and the enormous revenue opportunities they represent. And chatbot technology offers companies an excellent opportunity to adhere to this generation’s communication preferences and meet its expectations for on-demand service.

Making the transition to chatbots

For companies still at the beginning of the transition, there are good resources to help you get started. As Mindtree outlines in a recent post, businesses should weigh several factors when deploying a chatbot, including assigning it the right issue, measuring customer experiences, and using the appropriate personality.

Businesses are listening. In telecommunications and technology, banking and financial services, retail and consumer goods and travel and hospitality, companies are racing to enhance their customers’ digital experience through chatbot applications. Chatbots have demonstrated success in three areas: customer service and tech support, aiding purchase decisions and delivering workplace and personal assistance.

The important thing is to get started. A recent Harvard Business Review article, “Messaging Apps Are Changing How Companies Talk to Customers,” says it best:

Early adopters’ choices have been guided by focusing on getting customer experience right. Smart companies are already moving up the learning curve and building relevant marketing and IT skills. They stand the best chance of winning the next battle for the customer.

To find out how you can win the next battle, read more about chatbots on the Mindtree Digital Hub.