Chatbots: Closing the (Social) Distance During a Global Pandemic
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers worldwide have been forced to shutter their brick-and-mortar locations and rely on online sales. For many, this quick transition has highlighted the crucial need to advance their online customer experience (CX) capabilities — and in some cases, start them from scratch. While the usual, employee-driven customer service channels are oversaturated or unavailable, retailers still need to share information and engage in conversations with customers to solve problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. Retailers must come to realize that it's time to employ a more streamlined solution to online customer communications: namely, through the use of chatbots.
Chatbots present an efficient way to communicate consistently and at scale, especially important now as organizations are flooded with inquiries about everything from pricing and membership changes to product or service (in)availability, among a host of other customer service queries. It's important, however, for business leaders to implement chatbot rollouts intentionally to make a strong communication impact and continue supporting the needs of consumers in times of uncertainty.
Here are five key tips for retailers looking to implement chatbots during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Place empathy at the heart of your conversational design. During a global crisis, customers crave authentic, personalized, human connection — even when answering seemingly straightforward questions. Some conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platforms leverage Natural Language Understanding in order to seem more human, and encourage two-way conversations.
- Utilize a low-fuss framework. IT experts will be spread thin during an e-commerce boom. No-code or low-code platforms such as Chatlayer.ai are intuitive enough that even business users can build out the chatbot, decreasing ramp-up time and potential sales lost due to customer service issues.
- Avoid language errors, and be language inclusive. Spelling or grammatical errors can be jarring to customers, especially when found in messages containing sensitive information. Ensuring that your chatbot platform is well-versed in non-English languages can help to retain a more inclusive range of customers.
- Make sure your bot is omnichannel and multimodal. Customers are active on multiple channels. Chatbots should be easily integrated into any channel — web, SMS, WhatsApp — to provide customers with meaningful, helpful conversation wherever they spend the majority of their time. Likewise, consider adding voice capabilities to your bot to ensure that it's accessible for all.
- Use analytics to continuously improve AI. Some chatbot frameworks provide analytics into previous conversations. This data provides insights into which questions are being asked most often, whether they’re being answered in a satisfactory way, and how the bot can be altered to enhance future conversations. Just as customer service agents try new angles to more effectively address customer inquiries, so too should chatbots.
According to a recent Gartner study, customer service organizations that embed AI into their multichannel customer engagement platform will elevate operational efficiency by 25 percent by 2025. The careful implementation and cultivation of chatbots now will be a key differentiator for retailers coming out of the pandemic.
Vikram Khandpur is chief product officer of Sinch, a cloud communications platform and global leader in messaging, voice and video.