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Are chatbots the future of consumer interaction?

Resources & Blog

Are chatbots the future of consumer interaction?

The rise of chatbots

Chatbots are going to play a big part in the future of messaging. They have grown to become the most preferred service channel by consumers in the U.S., India, Singapore and South Korea. They are also listed as one of the top three interaction channels worldwide. Unfortunately, this means that the days of visiting a company website and quickly retrieving a telephone number or email address are long gone. Instead, we are prompted to ask our questions to a chatbot in the hope that it can answer our query.

While they can often cause frustration, the advantage of chatbots is that they allow businesses to provide customer support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Therefore, allowing companies to allocate other tasks to their customer support teams by reducing inbound call frequency. And, it looks like they won't be going away anytime soon. It is predicted that by 2020, 85% of consumer interactions will be handled without the use of a human agent.

Do customers approve?

While chatbots offer significant benefits to businesses, their impact on customer experience isn't always positive. Unfortunately for chatbots, recent findings suggest that they haven't been entirely accepted just yet. A recent survey of more than 2,000 UK adults shows that British consumers would rather speak to a human rather than to an automated service. The highest demands for human interaction include querying a bill (85%), making a complaint (84%), dealing with a fault (78%), first-time purchasing (77%). And, let's be honest, these are some of the most common reasons for contacting a company.

It's not just U.K. consumers that appear to have concerns over the rising popularity of chatbots. Despite being the most preferred service channel in the U.S., consumers still aren't delighted with responses. In 2018, 47% of U.S. adult internet users felt that chatbots provide too many unhelpful responses. This means that almost half of adult users in the U.S. are not fully satisfied with the answers that they have received from one or more chatbots. It's possible that they would have been more satisfied had they been able to call a human agent.

Chatbot alternatives

Whist a high number of businesses are likely to incorporate chatbots shortly, there are still several alternatives that you can use. The most straightforward option to provide is by listing a telephone number on your website. Although this could present challenges if you have a product or service that requires round-the-clock assistance. Another alternative would be to list an email address or a submission form. This provides customers with an opportunity to explain their query or issue in a long-written form. The drawback to this option is that your response could end up in a junk mailbox and email is generally considered to be a slower method of communication.

An alternative that you may not have considered providing is SMS. This would allow your customers to text you with any queries or issues that they may have. You would then be able to reply to their messages with either a solution or further instructions on how to get their queries answered. By texting, your customers can speak to a human without the hassle of calling. Therefore, allowing you to provide a balanced and secure way for customers to communicate with you. Here are just a few advantages of using SMS to effectively interact with customers on a human level, as opposed to chatbots.

1 - Personalisation

SMS marketing allows you to interact on a human level because you can personalise your messages to each recipient. This means that you can address your customers on a first or last name basis. Additionally, by collecting data such as date of birth, order number and purchase history, you can make your customers feel even more valued. A short happy birthday message or an exclusive discount text can go a long way in helping you build brand loyalty!

2 - Straight to the point

A big frustration with chatbots is that you often have to answer a series of predefined questions before you get the opportunity to speak to an agent. Often, these questions have little relevance to the query that you have. In comparison, by using SMS, your customers can text you with issues that are straight to the point. These questions can then be directly answered, which will help to improve customer satisfaction and trust.

3 - Tone of voice

Another benefit of using SMS is that you can control the tone of voice when communicating with customers. This is an advantage over chatbots because they are typically very rigid in structure and often come across as robotic. By texting, you can change your tone of voice to suit the needs of each customer.

4 - Convenience

One issue with chatbots is that you have to remain on a specific page to view the conversation. If you leave the page, then you run the risk of the chat ending or not receiving notifications when a company replies. Whereas, by using SMS to ask queries, your customers can continue to browse their phones and go about their day until you respond. They will then only have to listen out for a text notification.

5 - Easy to access

An advantage of using SMS marketing is that your conversation history is easily accessible. This means that your customers can quickly access any information from a previous conversation that they may need. Whereas, since chatbot conversations are not usually saved, your customers may not be able to access essential instructions that were previously provided.

So, what's the answer?

Chatbots add significant value to both businesses and customers when used appropriately. They are great for improving response times and helping customers with basic queries. However, based on current data, they have not yet been fully embraced by customers, and they often struggle to answer detailed questions. In comparison, by using a platform such as SMS, your customers will be able to get a human response that answers their queries more accurately. While this may take a little longer, your customers will surely appreciate the detail.

Whether or not you opt for a chatbot, SMS marketing or another alternative will depend entirely upon both company resources and customer demand. If you are a small business, then it is unlikely that you will ever need to incorporate a chatbot. Similarly, if there are low communication requirements between you and your customers, then a chatbot may not be appropriate. Retrospectively, if you receive a large volume of daily queries, then chatbots will undoubtedly help you.

If you have the available resources, then you should try to provide both a chatbot service and SMS to your customers. Depending on their query, this will provide your customers with a choice of selecting the assistance tool that they believe will be most helpful. Customers that need a fast response to a basic question can use your chatbot. Whereas, those who have a detailed query can instead text you and then wait a little longer for your response. Therefore, allowing you to cover all of your customer needs.

Cutomer Account manager
Cutomer Account manager
by Jeremy Josselin | Head of Business Development

Hi, I'm Jeremy, Head of Business Development at Reach Interactive. I have a background in international business and I love seeing how brands communicate with consumers on an international level.

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