If you don’t understand the customer journey, you may as well be selling blind.
Luckily, chatbots are helping brands gain a deeper understanding of the customer journey — and take better control of it, especially when it comes to customer service. Armed with huge data sets of customer service preferences, brands can offer more personalization from end to end.
Brands have an increased responsibility to modernize their customer service processes as consumers’ expectations continue to rise, thanks to retail giants like Amazon and Nordstrom and their customer-first philosophies. In fact, one-third of consumers would consider switching brands after just one instance of poor customer service.
But with chatbots on a customer service agent’s side, retailers can count on more context to their customer interactions and potentially even a lighter workload, as bots step in to handle certain customer queries on their own.
Using Customer Service Interactions To Understand The Buyer Journey
Customer service is one of the most important steps in the buyer journey because it’s where customers wind up when they aren’t fully satisfied.
From a lost order to a damaged product, customers most often appear in front of representatives with a problem that needs fixing. These customer service reps are the first line of defense to right that potential wrong, so they should be as informed on the customer as possible. Messaging-based customer support is uniquely equipped to address this need for immediate knowledge on the issue.
Messaging channels ask for information on the customer’s issue in an organized, conversational manner. This setup provides the ideal environment for bots acting alone, or for human agents to assist when issues require more context. With all the information solicited upfront, the customer won’t have to repeat it again during the interaction, saving them the time and frustration they often associate with the customer service process.
On top of messaging’s information-optimized structure, customers simply prefer it: 83% of respondents would make messaging their primary means of contacting customer support if they could be guaranteed an immediate response, up from 76% in 2018.
AI’s Job In Customer Service
Chatbots allow brands to quickly identify customer issues and direct them down a specific workflow designed to solve their problem. So what does this look like in practice? Bot-assisted customer service moves through three key stages:
- Gather context on the customer and their issue: Retailers can integrate bots with backend systems like an existing CRM or shipping provider. By prompting the customer to enter their order number, the bots link with these systems to provide additional context about the customer. If the bot needs additional info from the customer, it can ask the question directly and analyze the customer response. If the bot is properly trained to gather and analyze the information, it can take steps on its own to solve the customer’s problem.
- Solve the issue itself: Because bots are integrated with backend systems, many conversations with customers don’t require an agent at all. By assigning common inquiries to bots, retailers can remove some of the burden from overstretched live agents, which also decreases customer wait times — especially during peak seasons like holidays or back-to-school months. Automated customer service agents can process returns, provide updates on shipping timelines, provide price adjustments and more.
- Pass the issue off to the relevant party: Humans still play an important role in customer service. As soon as the bot recognizes that it alone cannot help with the customer’s ask, a properly trained bot will be able to label the issue under a category and send the customer to the relevant department or representative. The human representative who receives the case is then equipped with a briefing on the customer’s order and their problem, allowing them to jump right into solving their problem. Even if the rerouting occurs after hours when a human representative isn’t available, the customer still comes away feeling that their problem is on its way to a prompt resolution.
Customer service is a high-stakes touch point in the customer journey. Chatbots can play a strong role in how brands provide customer service, increasing the odds that the customer will become a loyal brand advocate. If your brand doesn’t bring bots on its side for customer service, you’ll find yourself behind the curve of customer journey experts.
Linda Crawford is the CEO of Helpshift, a leading provider of digital customer service software used by large enterprise customers. Crawford joined Helpshift in late 2017 after serving as Chief Customer Officer at Optimizely and an Executive VP at Salesforce. Since joining Helpshift, the company has tripled its annual recurring revenue. Crawford has been the driving force behind several groundbreaking 2019 Helpshift initiatives, including expanding the team to EMEA and the recent launch of the Connected Customer Conversations platform. Her role as a diversity and inclusion advocate over the last 20-plus years remains one of her highest priorities.