Artificial intelligence in movies are always some kind of computer program that breaks into other machines while planning cunning schemes. Yet in reality, AI are just systems which perform tasks we design them for, such as identifying people by the shapes of their faces or answering questions with roughly human replies. The best AI can even be said to learn things, but this is generally with the goal of learning to perform a task better.

When asked about the expected uses for AI in the future, most people say that they will perform simple tasks like answering quick questions, looking up requested information or even giving us suggestions for what to do. In other words, AI is perfect for customer service. When used in this way, we often call this kind of AI an automated, customizable assistant because they work without human control and can be set up for many situations. One specific type of these are digital chatbots.

What Is A Chatbot?

Think back to every experience you’ve had with an instant messaging app, where you send something and the other person responds with an answer that appears above or below your question. Each back and forth reply adds to a growing thread of communication between you.

Chatbot tools look like those, but the bot you’re talking to has simply been programmed with a number of replies based on whatever keywords you use. What are keywords? Imagine asking a hotel chatbot how many rooms are in the hotel. The chatbot would see the keyword “rooms” and ask if you want to rent a room at the hotel, because the chatbot is programmed to offer help with the task of renting rooms, not with the task of educating you on the hotel’s design. Chatbots can make mistakes of customer intent, but for the majority of people who came to the chatbot asking about renting a room
they would be getting exactly what they wanted.

Another way to think about chatbots is a website page with common issues faced by customers, such as “How do I pay my bill?” and “Where can I get a schedule of events?” You could visit the page, search for words like “bill” or “schedule” and find the answer you needed. A chatbot simply does the search for you and tells you the answer as if someone was explaining to you. Again, they may not have the answers to some questions, but that’s because they are only programmed with certain answers. They may not get the right answer from your keywords, but they can hold a very large database of keywords and refer you to someone if you need a human listener.

Benefits Of Customer Service Chatbots

Perhaps the greatest value from chatbots is being available 24/7 whenever customers need them. People might be shopping your products and services at any time, especially when your customer base is global, so they need customer service at all times too. You could hire support staff all around the world so that help is available from every time zone, but first consider creating a chatbot that doesn’t sleep and can solve simple problems just as easily as a person can. Other benefits include:

  • Chatbots can be programmed with keywords from many languages and respond with unique help written in those languages.
  • They’re able to answer basic questions and requests, and can gradually learn which answers get the best response to provide them first.
  • One chatbot can work with many customers at the same time, unlike a small customer service department where all lines might be busy.
  • Customers get immediate service without waiting, and can be handed off to a customer service agent when one is free.
  • They’re more natural to chat with than an automated phone tree and offer help with what the customer asks for.
  • Their tone can be friendly and easy to talk to, coming to every conversation with the same warmth and patience.

Types Of Chatbots And Their Uses

There are two broad categories of chatbots, the general customer service kind and those which gather information. The first can answer common questions and perform simple task based on the keywords you use, such as:

  • fielding requests for information, schedules and resources
  • offering information from a customer’s account
  • helping customers with reservations, bill paying and simple purchases
  • giving customers recommendations of where to learn more
  • explaining an issue at whatever pace your customer needs

By giving fast answers to customer problems anytime, chatbots allow the people on the customer service team the time they need for important tasks or more complex calls.

The second type, the information gathering chatbots, will ask questions about why you visited and record that data. This can in turn help a human customer service agent know what the customer needs as soon as they are able to take over the chat. The bot might also build lists of prospects, perform customer surveys and take comments about the business.

Information gathering chatbots tend to be busy listening to and recording customer complaints. But that doesn’t mean they can’t also give customers recommendations for what to buy or do, including current deals or events. They should always be the first point of contact for a customer, starting them off on the right tone with a friendly hello and a brand-perfect impression.

Advanced chatbots go beyond the first two. They look for patterns in what they have to deal with, such as questions with keywords used together or answers that get the most favorable customer response, so they can optimize for those results. For example, one chatbot might learn that “doors” and “keys” means that customers for a hotel want to know where to go when they lose the room keys to their door.

It will offer that answer first when presented with those two keywords. Another chatbot doing customer service for a locksmith and given the same keywords would get the best response by helping them set up an appointment for a visit from the locksmith to make new keys for a door. If either chatbot was offering an answer that always got rejected, it would probably start to avoid asking that. Over time, these advanced chatbots can become very efficient at doing one specific job.

How To Start Using Chatbots

Your biggest choice will be whether to hire someone to program your chatbot, or use one of the many basic chatbot templates available online and do the training yourself. Let’s talk about what you’ll be responsible for if you do the work.

1) Many sites use a “Let’s Chat” icon in the corner to offer help at all times, which can expand into a full conversation window when clicked. Then a system greets the customer and watches for keywords.

2) Great chatbots start by asking what broad concern the customer has today, or by offering a few suggestions for how to start the conversation. This allows the chatbot to adjust the keywords they look for and the answers they give, with different kinds of answers to different kinds of customers and for different sections of your business.

3) You’ll want to use common questions from customers as the basis for what answers the chatbot can give, and record conversations so you can check them later for more questions.

4) Let your company brand decide the tone for your chatbot’s answers, and lean towards whatever will make your customers most comfortable.

5) After the chatbot has answered many requests, watch for answers that often get rejected as unhelpful. You may need to tweak the programming to change how the answer is offered or which keywords give that answer.

Finally, remember that chatbots cannot entirely replace human customer service agents. They can’t answer complex problems or issues they weren’t programmed with, and they can’t offer heartfelt sympathy for a customer having a hard time. Their job is only to automate the simplest tasks, and they are inherently limited in what they can do. Every chatbot should include an option for customers to talk with a person (or provide a time in which someone should be available) especially after several
attempts to help have been turned down.