In times such as these, when we're asked to stay at home and do our part to #flattenthecurve and help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, retail businesses around the world are experiencing changes in their usual ways of doing business. With more and more cases of coronavirus reported on a daily basis, people are reluctant to leave their homes and visit physical retail stores. Rather, they're more willing to shop online. This means that more than ever, online customer support is needed.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the popularity of chatbots was on the rise. Millennials, predicted to be the three-quarters of the workforce by 2025, and the the generation with the highest purchasing power, are the most likely to use chatbots. These virtual assistants powered by artificial intelligence technology account for many benefits for both consumers and businesses alike. However, simply installing a chatbot isn't enough. Retailers need to have a thoughtful chatbot strategy if they want it to be a successful customer service tool.
First things first, you don’t need programming skills to install a chatbot. There are plenty of services that can help you create a chatbot that responds thoughtfully to common customer queries. A few user-friendly tools are OnSequel, Chatfuel, and Botsify, but there are many more on the market, so do your research to see what would fit your business the best. However, before deciding on a chatbot that would meet your company's customer service requirements, you should first develop a chatbot strategy. What follows are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Consult your teams.
Your customer service, social media and sales teams will know better than anyone what the most common questions and customer problems are. Talk to them and identify a FAQ map that you can use when creating your chatbot. You can also look outwardly and check the type of questions people usually ask on platforms like Quora and Reddit. Try to better understand the customer journey, and that will help you better prepare your chatbot for interactions.
2. Create the chatbot representative based on your audience.
By consulting your teams, you'll get a glimpse of who your audience is. Once you understand that, it's time to create an audience representative. Understanding factors like customer paths, preferences of your audience, common questions customers are likely to ask, and what are the usual problems they face when it comes to your business industry are a good place to start. The rest of your strategy should then be based upon the model representative of your audience.
3. Define your goal.
Think of the end goal you want to achieve. Then, examine the ways in which a chatbot can contribute to the value of that goal. If purchase is your end goal, what features (think discounts or well-curated answers) should your chatbot have in order to lead the consumer towards making a purchase?
4. Make sure your customers are aware that a live person is just one step away.
Chatbots are still not advanced enough to provide the human level of service, despite getting closer by the day. For some queries, chatbots might be insignificant or could create uncomfortable or awkward situations. To troubleshoot this, make sure that your customers are aware that the chatbot, if unable to answer their question, will pair them up with a human agent in order to answer the query. This is especially relevant during the current pandemic, as people may need the reassurance of a fellow human and the warmth he or she brings to build trust.
5. Humanize your chatbot.
The key to a chatbot’s success is the humanized tone of voice and conversation features. Invest time into making your chatbot as human as possible. Keep in mind that chatbots still have their shortcomings, so it's important — especially amid COVID-19 — to understand where people seek human connection as a result of social distancing. To craft a successful chatbot strategy, it's important to sort through the experiences of your marketing, sales, customer service and social media teams to prioritize what's most important to customers and employees. Try to understand your frequently asked questions (FAQs) and gauge which ones could easily be answered by a chatbot. Based on the findings provided by your teams, craft the audience representative, set a goal, and above all make sure to clearly communicate to your customers that unless their question can be answered by a chatbot, someone will reach out to help.
Chatbots are here to help us sort through the clutter of queries and distinguish those which can be answered more quickly by automation. And remember, chatbots aren't perfect, and human touch still counts, so make sure there's a careful balance between human agents and bots.
Natasa Djukanovic is the chief marketing officer of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain ".ME."
An economist by education, Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” Natasa is an activist, startup mentor and one of the key people that impacted the development of the digital and startup community of Montenegro. She is the co-founder of Digitalizuj.Me, an NGO that examines the transformative power of technology through various projects and lectures, and Spark.me, one of the biggest tech/business conferences in Southeast Europe.