As social distancing slowed foot traffic and in-person customer interactions, brands across a wide spectrum of industries saw an uptick in demand for digital customer service. In response, some brands have turned to AI and machine learning technologies like chatbots, which can help satisfy a spike in digital customer service demand and optimize customer service protocols.
“Most critical today is having empathy with customers while reducing the friction and expense of customer experience operations,” says Tim Hayden, president and managing director of Brain+Trust Partners, a firm specializing in creating frictionless customer experiences. “These are areas where machine learning can be of immense assistance.”
How Chatbots Can Optimize Customer Service
“The COVID crisis forced us into a corner with disrupted cash flow,” says Azoury. “The unstable revenue stream made us consider chatbots to decrease our operational expenses with our call center partner."
Instead of having to upgrade their call center plan to handle a higher call volume, they're saving money and better serving customers by routing their concerns through chatbots.
“Chatbots help us filter customer concerns that need our immediate attention from those that only require the assistance of chatbots,” says Azoury.
Once Home Grounds had developed a chatbot to address common customer concerns, their call center volume was reduced by almost half. Now, Azoury and his team route the cash they've saved towards other critical business continuity operations like marketing, which empowers them to reach new customers while delighting their current fans.
Using Chatbots to Lower Bounce Rates and Inform UX Redesign
Other businesses should start exploring tech-based business solutions in the same way, says Hayden.
“Rather than just investing in a solution because it involved machine learning and automation, you must audit your current business processes and operations to understand where time can be saved, then search for solutions available to fill those gaps,” he advises.
Dan Bailey, president of professional lawn care marketplace, Wikilawn used chatbots to improve site performance. With more traffic coming to their site during the pandemic, they noticed bounce rates on the rise. Bailey needed a way to catch site visitors who were leaving because they weren't finding what they were looking for or because they were frustrated with navigating the site.
"The bot we use waits for the browser to become idle before popping up," says Bailey. "It asks [the visitor] if they need assistance, then goes through a database to help them find what they need."
Since activating chatbots, Wikilawn's bounce rates have dropped roughly 30 percent. Additionally, they've seen conversions increase approximately 8 percent. Beyond those numbers, Wikilawn is using machine learning and AI to improve its overall user interface and site visitor experience.
“The data gathered by the chatbot has been especially useful to our web designer,” says Bailey. "She's been able to make a comprehensive plan to improve user experience and is working on a site redesign based on the issues giving people the most problems."
Home Grounds also sees future customer experience improvements on the horizon thanks to their chatbot implementation.
“We’re planning to upgrade our chatbot features by integrating a notification feature that alerts users when there is new content available on our site,” says Azoury.
Beyond Chatbots: Diving Deeper into AI and Machine Learning
While transactions are down, Hayden sees this as a prime time to build a plan for ramping up operations.
“This is a great opportunity to put new Key Performance Indicators [KPIs] into service to keep everyone in your organization marching to the same beat,” he says. “There are a number of CRM plugins and analytical tools available today that use machine learning to evaluate the correlation between sales revenue, costs of sales conversions, conversion rates, number of new and repeat customers, customer churn rate and other data points that can help you stand up a new KPI report.”
Rather than just investing in a solution because it involved machine learning and automation, you must audit your current business processes and operations to understand where time can be saved, then search for solutions available to fill those gaps.
—Tim Hayden, president and managing director, Brain+Trust Partners
In the end, machine learning and AI can only aid customer service and retention efforts to the extent of data available to guide them. The more proactive companies are in leveraging this time to regroup and assess their data, the more successful they’ll be in implementing tech tools to cut costs, streamline services and ramp up operations as the economy builds up to its new normal.
To get your business started on using AI and machine learning to create an enduring customer service plan, Hayden advises having each business unit document their tasks and daily order of operations.
"This act can help identify where software and machine learning can achieve those tasks, freeing up the human teams to build new revenue streams, better communications and otherwise strategize on diversifying how your business operates," he says.
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