How do customers really feel about chatbots in customer service?

You wake up to find your internet is down on a day when you need to work from home (because you’re expecting an important delivery). You reset your router, but nothing happens. You then do a quick google search to try and troubleshoot the issue for yourself, but that doesn’t work. You then check twitter to see if your service provider is experiencing any issues. But you can’t find any relevant posts. So, you head to the service providers website where they have seemingly made it impossible for you to reach out to them without phoning. Which is precisely the last thing you want to do.

As expected, all their operators are busy. They put you on hold. You’re forced to listen to awful music which is occasionally disrupted by an automated voice that interjects to say, “your call is very important to us, please wait and one of our operators will be with you soon.” After 25 minutes of waiting, feeling very unimportant, you hang up. You end up heading into the office and miss your important delivery.

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. We’ve all been there.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of consumers want service providers to get their act together, especially in the UK, where customer service is particularly bad. According to a new study by Avaya, the UK lags behind international markets including Germany, Singapore and the UAE when it comes to making it easy for customers to interact with large organisations. In particular, water and energy companies rank among the worst performing sectors when it comes to customer service, according to the Institute of Customer Service’s biannual UK Customer Satisfaction Index.

The lack of multi-channel communications also frustrates UK consumers, and nearly three-quarters (73%) express frustration at how difficult it is, when interacting with an organisation, to switch from one method of communication to another without having to start the process over again.

The good news is there’s a whole host of emerging technologies such as AI, chatbots and advanced video tools that are about to revolutionise the way we engage with our service providers.

Chatbots, which use technology to enable a conversation through online messaging platforms such as Facebook messenger, are not just a hot new social media trend – they offer a real and credible solution for service providers to transform customer engagement.

Available on a platform many customers (especially millennials and centennials who are now becoming customers in their own right as they come of working age and move into their own home), know and enjoy using chatbots which provide 24-hour responses to queries. Whether it’s a query on a utility bill, updating customers on the status of a service outage, or responding to other service requests, chatbots are being implemented by utility providers in their contact centres to improve the customer experience while lowering the costs of service delivery.

But there’s more to bots than meets the eye. While a chatbot is a form of bot, smart bots can have much broader capabilities and characteristics beyond simple conversations. They can operate as agents, simulating human tasks and activities that can range from responding to simple requests for information to handling more complex customer journeys.  Think of onboarding a new customer, proactively guiding customers on smarter usage, or running a retention campaign to win back lost customers. The use cases for smart bots have far wider reach and implications for energy and utility companies than just the virtual assistants or chatbots.

Most importantly, customers are eager to explore new ways of interacting with their service providers and chatbots rank highly on the list – 51% of consumers would prefer for their questions to be answered by chatbots infused with artificial intelligence. And nearly a third (32%) say they would prefer engaging with a chatbot powered by AI to a human customer service agent.

So with artificial intelligence becoming the new standard for engagement, energy and utility providers are faced with the challenge of making what was very recently a cutting-edge technology a mainstream part of the customer engagement cycle.

However, many organisations are struggling with understanding what’s possible, where to start and how to make AI Infused technologies integrate with their existing systems and data.

Take a look at ANS’ Chatbot blueprint to discover how you can integrate chatbot technology to transform the way you interact with your customers.

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