The way customers interact with organizations is changing. When consumers use certain social channels and platforms in their everyday lives, they expect companies to interact with them on their terms and on their channels.
Historically, while many consumers used to, and still do, use the phone to reach a company if they have a problem, consumers today are increasingly turning to chat. Convergys’ research found there was a five time increase in the use of social media channels for customer service between 2014 and 2016. Mobile chat use has doubled, and online chat has become increasingly popular, jumping from just 13 percent of consumers using the channel in 2014 to 29 percent in 2016.
And it’s not just millennials using these digital customer service channels. Our research has found that more than one-third of older baby boomers (ages 57-67) and the golden generation (68 and over), for example, already use chat for customer service.
Now chatbots, which are artificial intelligence-driven virtual agents, are taking this technology to the next level, and the impact on retail, and other industries, will be significant. What’s the benefit to retailers? I’ve outlined three ways chat and chatbots are transforming the way companies and customers interact.
If you’re on the phone on the way to a full day at the office and need to make a simple request around a product return after the holiday season, you can make that inquiry quickly and effectively to a chat agent. Customers are increasingly realizing that using chat to tackle particularly simple questions allows them to resolve many issues more quickly, securely and effectively — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In Convergys’ research, customers said they were primarily using chat because of convenience and secondarily because it was quick to resolve issues.
Instead of having customers on the phone with simple-to-solve questions, making it longer for those with challenging problems, those customers can more quickly and effectively resolve their issues through chat. As a result, call agents can spend time on more complex problems. Everyone’s a winner. The customer gets the issue resolved faster, the agent gets to do higher-level work, and the business resolves more problems more quickly.
There are times of year and times of crisis when businesses have historically struggled to get the agents they need to take on a higher call volume. Sometimes this is seasonal (e.g., the holiday season) or it can be more unpredictable (e.g., a product recall). At these moments, when the volume of customer requests increases dramatically, chatbots can help organizations scale, resolve more issues and handle these additional requests.
My message to retailers this holiday season is that they should invest in chatbots or risk getting left behind. Your competitors are almost certainly deploying chatbots this holiday season. Those chatbots, through artificial intelligence, are learning, improving and better serving customers with every interaction.
Allyson Boudousquie is vice president, product strategy and markets at Convergys, a customer experience outsourcing company.
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