The terrifying machines, powered by Artificial Intelligence, are here! They can think for themselves and they’re here to destroy us.
Find your nearest basement or bunker - take shelter!
Urmmm...a little too Sarah Connor-esque maybe?
I think so.
No, the machines aren’t here to terminate us just yet. There has certainly been a lot of talk around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation recently though.
They are the ‘in’ tech at the moment.
Sadly, Tay and the current chatbots on Facebook’s Messenger suggest they are a long way off detailed and meaningful conversations. Conversations that make awesome customer service experiences.
Gladly, this also means they are at least decades away from world domination. Woo-hoo!
Yes, we’re a while away from reaching the AI sweet spot.
AI sweet spot
The sweet spot for automated messaging and AI (somewhere on that same spectrum as abusive tweets and world domination) is when you can programme a robot to have great conversations for you.
When we reach that sweet spot, you probably will be able to automate chitter chatter with friends and a lot of customer service roles. Until then though, palming friends or customers off with stale robotic replies just doesn’t cut it.
The robots can’t have a great conversation, they can pretty much just tell you the weather (maybe allowing you to ask for it in a bunch of different ways, if you're lucky). Letting robots do your communication rather than communicating as a real person just seems like you don’t care.
Some companies may try and trick customers into thinking they’re having a real conversation when they are actually chatting to a bot, but the experience certainly isn’t the same. Sticking a human name on the AI doesn’t make it people.
There’s no genuine empathy. No human wit. Not much thinking about the customer’s wider scenario and why they have come to you for help.
What does it feel like when you get stuck chatting to a bot? Well personally it feels like the company I’m chatting with doesn’t value me as a customer.
“Relationships based on deception are poor long-term strategies for relationships of trust.”
Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator
Humans aren't cheap
I kind of understand the thinking behind deciding to take an automated or scripted route for customer service. Kind of.
(I can also see why automated messages are tempting on a personal level...I’m dreadful at finding the time to reply to WhatsApp messages and Tweets. Using automated replies would save effort but I’m not that bad a friend, and I’m not that lazy).
I kind of understand why companies choose IVR telephone systems, why they use robotic scripts for live chat and why they might be tempted to use a chatbot in the near future.
A team of people costs money. And replacing them with bots can reduce that cost.
The more people have to do, the more money they cost. Using scripts (automating conversations) therefore saves time and money.
So you could gain in the short term but since bots can’t serve people to the same high standard, and they just don’t give you that same warm feeling, your customers won’t be very happy.
And customers that aren’t happy, don’t stick around for long. So you shouldn’t be palming customers off with poor conversations. Conversations that are powered by AI or automation.
You should be having real conversations. The kind of conversations we believe in here at The Chat Shop.
We understand that real people can seem a little expensive in the short term. But think about the lifetime value of the customer that you're pleasing. The trick is to have real conversations, yet automate the processes that simply enable these conversations.
Automate a small part of your customer service without a detriment to quality.
Have your cake and eat it!
We’re the live chat experts
We have real conversations with customers every day, so we can provide you some great examples of how you can automate some elements of live chat. So you can still have great customer service conversations whilst saving a little agent time.
These are 4 of the methods that we use here at The Chat Shop to make sure our experts can spend more time focused on customers (rather than getting stuck actioning the slightly more mundane tasks):
- Proactive support
- CRM integration
- Canned responses
- Smart tag suggestions
FYI, live chat in itself is a time saver as you can have 2 or 3 conversations at a time and still offer a high quality service.
1. Proactive support
Automate that initial message that you use to greet visitors that you suspect need some assistance.
No, I don’t mean saying “Hey, can I help?” to everyone. You need to do a little work to personalise those initial greetings, based on visitor website behaviour. But once you get that set up, and you’re inviting people to chat with relevance, you’ll be talking lots of relevant people all of the time.
You won’t need to watch every visitor and try and guess if they need your help. Your live chat software will be figuring it out for you and invited lots of relevant people to chat in a highly personalised manner.
It’s kind of like the tea run here at our HQ. We don’t all go and make a solo tea/coffee. We take it in turns for 1 person to make 6 or 7 cups (or how ever many wants a tasty beverage).
But does that person give everyone the same black coffee? NO.
Everyone has their drink preferences (Anna enjoys peppermint tea with 2 sugars...weirdo!). We save time by making drinks in rounds, but personalisation is still very important.
Save time with proactive live chat. But still keep it personalised by studying your website analytics and creating proactives for various journey stages.
Little more detail on how to do that here.
2. CRM integration
Pretty darn simple one this. Hook your live chat (or other customer service channel of choice) up to your CRM.
A CRM integration can save a lot of time and hassle for you and your customers. And therefore means that you can deliver a far better customer experience.
- You can waste less time digging around for history on the customer you’re currently talking to
- You don’t have to get your customer to repeat what they already told you a week ago, a month ago or whenever they last chatted
- When customers are providing new information they can put it straight into a form within live chat (or your agent can do it) - no need to navigate away to another page or keep going into your CRM
Most live chat software will allow you to easily integrate with your CRM straight out of the box - exhibit A. But if your CRM isn’t on the list for your live chat software, you could always use the API to make it happen.
Another smart bit of coding that we’ve used is implementing an extended form into a LiveChat window. As you can see from the image, if we are chatting to a prospect that wants to take the next step, we can ask them to fill in their details there and then (whilst they are super engaged).
This information then whizzes its way straight to our customer’s CRM so that their sales team can take immediate action.
This works for customer service too. A technical issue can be escalated quickly or customer feedback can be sent straight to the correct party, through this integration. This can save you and the customer time whilst still offering the great customer service experience of a real person.
3. Canned responses
These really aren’t something that we like to use too often here at The Chat Shop. A conversation made up entirely of canned responses is as robotic and flat as today’s AIs.
So our live chat experts use them sparingly, and focus on delivering real conversations.
But you can use canned responses occasionally, in order to add a little time saving automation whilst still providing an awesome experience.
Here’s how we do it.
For those technical explanations, when it’s really important to get every step 100% accurate, our agents would use a canned response to pre-fill their response.
They don’t hit send though, the customer doesn’t see this message just yet.
Next our agent will make sure that it fits into the flow of the conversation. Making sure the opening leads on from what was just discussed and using the customer’s name, for example.
We want it to seem like this is a completely unique response that’s just been typed out. And it will be unique due to the agent personalising before hitting the send button.
This saves the time of writing out a complicated answer each and every time it’s needed (particularly important for common questions). You also make sure you include all of the important details. And you can insert the initial message with just a hashtag (in most live chat software).
But most importantly, the customer still gets that authentic, real conversation with bags of personality and human empathy.
4. Smart tag suggestions
Fourth and final trick for saving time whilst still providing an awesome service: use Artificial Intelligence.
Yep, quite a contrast to how I started this post. But in the backend of customer service, AI is ready to help customers and service agents in a few ways. They shouldn’t be chatting to customers until they hit that AI sweet spot but they can speed up a few mundane tasks for agents.
A perfect example of this is “smart tag suggestions” from LiveChat. Tagging chats lets you categorise the conversations you had with customers to get a better understanding on what’s happening on live chat and to be able to easily find them later on.
However, when you’ve got a few conversations on the go, it can be hard to pick the right tag for every chat. To help with that, LiveChat created an AI to suggest tags automatically based on previous chat history.
This means that agents can focus on the customer and reduce the time spent on tagging (a purely administrative task).
Check out LiveChat’s blog post on their new AI here.
So the Artificial Intelligence and automated bots aren’t smart enough to overpower us just yet...they aren’t even ready to deliver outstanding customer service. So why are people jumping on board and trying to deploy this technology to their customers then? Well probably because it’s a sci-fi dream for many and because it means some short term savings.
You might be able to make some savings but trust me when I say it won’t work out in the long run.
Customers are not going to get the same satisfaction and it might even tick some of them off.
You can use automation and AI to make some savings though. Save time with some of our suggestions and still deliver brand building customer service.
Looking to deliver an outstanding customer experience? We use real people and real conversations to deliver a 98% customer satisfaction rating.