What is a chatbot?

A bot is a software application that runs an automated task – usually over the internet. Therefore, in its most basic form, a chatbot is a computer program that, without human intervention, is capable of automating a narrow written (think Facebook Messenger) or oral (think Amazon Alexa) conversation with a person.

As well as an application, we should think of chatbots as an interface. They sit between the user and a service, just like tapping on a button in a smartphone app, clicking on a menu with a mouse, or even speaking with a customer care agent to resolve an issue.

Why use chatbots?

Because chatbots are a conversational interface, they offer a sense of control and greater ease of use than an app or searching through a website’s pages. It’s a user experience more similar to speaking to a customer service representative.

Businesses are getting excited about chatbots because they’re a customer service channel that’s open all hours and can provide an instant answer while demanding nothing from the user other than to first pose a question.

What’s making them so popular?

Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Telegram and WhatsApp have become the communication channel of choice for the majority of consumers globally, whether they’re talking to friends or interacting with brands. An astonishing 8 billion messages a month are exchanged between businesses and customers on Facebook Messenger alone.

These apps provide the perfect environment for chatbot deployment and each of the major players now has a platform and ecosystem dedicated to hosting chatbots within their messaging services – WeChat has supported chatbots since 2013 and Facebook launched its platform in 2016.

At the same time, thanks to increased processing power and hardware affordability, artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) has taken a major step forward. It is now possible to build chatbots that are capable of having a conversation with users rather than simply answering a list of commonly asked questions.

What are the benefits of chatbots?

The advantages of a customer service channel that is always open, that can conduct multiple conversations with multiple users simultaneously, and that provides instantaneous responses to questions should be clear to see.

From optimal use of time, enhanced customer service and customer knowledge to instant chat, each of a chatbot’s strengths is perfectly aligned with customer care. A recent Jupiter Research report estimates that by 2023, chatbots will save companies 27 billion customer service hours, annually.

Their round-the-clock availability eases the burden on contact center agents. They in turn, are freed up to focus their abilities on handling the high-value customer interactions where empathy and emotion are crucial to delivering a differentiated customer experience (CX).

Every time a chatbot interacts with a user, it generates a conversation log. This provides valuable data insights for companies and can also be used by contact center agents to quickly resolve issues where the chatbot alone wasn’t able to help. Indeed, chatbots are already proving adept at prequalifying and streaming customers to the right agent for the fastest handle times and greatest possibility of first call resolution.

What are the limitations of chatbots?

Even if they can have a magical effect on your business when used correctly, chatbots are not a magic wand. They cannot replace every aspect of a company’s existing CX. However, they can simplify and enhance a specific element of customer service, usually one being handled by a different channel.

Even with recent AI breakthroughs, a chatbot cannot replace customer service representatives. A bot’s greatest strength is in constantly and consistently executing repetitive tasks.

A person, or representative, has the emotional intelligence and understanding to address the most complex customer issues. Even in an increasingly digital world, it is impossible to imagine customer service without human empathy and understanding at its heart.

Therefore, chatbots are there to enhance people’s abilities and to focus their work in the areas that really matter and that really add value.

From understanding and developing a clear business case to creation, promotion and chatbot deployment, Sitel Group can accompany your organization on every step of the journey toward conversational business.

To learn more about how a chatbot could boost your brand’s customer experience, speak to one of our Digital Solutions experts.

Are you interested in learning more about the types of chatbots? Read the second article in our series: Which Chatbot is Right for Your Business.

Do you want to gain insight into where in the customer journey a chatbot can sit & what it can do? Read the third and final article in our series: How Should You Use Your Chatbot?

Sitel Group