In today's fast-paced world, customers expect quick and efficient solutions to their queries, and they want to be able to reach out to businesses through various channels. However, traditional customer service methods, such as phone and email support, may no longer be enough to meet the demands of modern-day consumers.
This is where automation in customer service comes into play. As the examples we previously discussed about voice technology in health care management, or voice technology for banks and insurance companies, or even the case of Wheely, the chatbot assistant for car repair shops, automation can help businesses reduce costs, increase efficiency, and provide a better customer experience.
In this article, we’ll be breaking down:
- The different reasons why companies decide to automate (part of) their customer service operations
- Different automation opportunities: Chatbots and Voicebots
- Case studies and examples.
The need for customer service automation
The need for automation in customer service can stem from different motives and make itself apparent in various ways. For instance, businesses may have a busy customer service department that cannot keep up with the volume of queries. Customers may be left waiting on hold for extended periods, resulting in a poor experience and potential loss of business.
Another common issue is the cost of maintaining a customer service team to answer banal questions that do not convert or add much value to customer experience. If your support team spends more than half their time answering simple, repetitive questions daily, it might be time to consider implementing an automation solution.
More simply, “bad” customer service can also drive businesses to consider automation. If customers are unhappy with the level of support they receive, it can result in negative reviews, a damaged reputation, and lost sales. Automation can help ensure that customers receive prompt and accurate responses, resulting in a better overall experience.
Additionally, automation can make it easier for customers to access support. Chatbots and voicebots are available 24/7 and can quickly provide solutions to common queries. Customers may also feel less ashamed or uncomfortable talking to a machine than they would with a human representative.
Finally, orchestrating a lot of different channels and platforms can be a challenge for businesses. Automation can help streamline the process, ensuring that customers receive consistent and accurate responses, regardless of the platform they choose to contact the business.
In conclusion, the need for automation in customer service can stem from a variety of factors. Whether it's to reduce costs, provide a better customer experience, or explore new technologies, businesses should carefully consider the benefits of automation and choose the solution that best fits their needs. In the following sections, we will explore the different types of automation, including chatbots and voicebots, and help you decide which one is right for your business.
Automation Opportunities: Chatbots and Voicebots
Before we explore the way each of these conversational interfaces can benefit your customer service operations, we’ll clarify what chatbots, voicebots, and IVRs are, and how they differ from each other.
Starting from text-based chatbots. Chatbots simulate conversation with human users through a messaging interface, such as a website chatbox or most messaging apps (popular ones include WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger), and allow you to respond to customer queries via text. They can handle a wide range of tasks, a.o., answering FAQs, booking appointments and processing orders.
Voicebots, on the other hand, are conversational agents that use voice as the primary interface for communication. They are commonly used in automated phone systems (IVRs), smart speakers, virtual assistants, and mobile apps. Similar to chatbots, voicebots respond to customer queries, but they do so through voice commands and responses.
Traditionally, voicebots and, particularly, phone-based ones did not use natural language processing. This meant that they could only respond to specific pre-recorded prompts and required mainly touch-tone input. However, in the last few years, NLP-based voicebots have become much more commonplace, allowing users to express themselves more naturally.
Pros & Cons of Chatbots and Voicebots
Now that we have a basic understanding of chatbots, voicebots, and IVRs, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of each solution to determine which ones are the best fit for your business needs. In this section, we will dive into the specific benefits and challenges of each option, highlighting their unique features and potential drawbacks.
By exploring these factors, you can make a well-informed decision on which type of conversational AI technology is right for your company, and how to leverage it for improved customer service and business growth.
Chatbots for Customer Service Automation: Benefits and Challenges
First, we’ll consider the benefits and challenges that come with integrating chatbots in your customer service strategy.
Some of the most widely appreciated benefits of chatbots are that:
- They allow for fast and efficient interactions, answering with prompt responses to users’ queries
- Some users might feel more at ease texting, compared to speaking to someone about their situation
- They increase customer satisfaction by providing 24/7 self-service support
- They reduce workforce costs by handling repetitive tasks
- They offer a wide range of applications across departments, as chatbots are also often extended to taking care of customer orders, advertising, and employee assistance.
On the other hand, chatbots also usually present some challenges, related to:
- Having a limited response database, meaning that the chatbot might give a response that only partially answers the user’s query, which may lead to frustration for customers.
- Inability to improvise beyond pre-set responses. Unless the chatbot is plugged into a LLM (which they usually aren’t, at least in most customer support applications), it’s not able to cater to all the needs customers have, as it only knows how to respond to those that it’s been designed to.
- In some situations, typing is not permitted or possible. If the user is driving, or their hands are busy, for example because they’re cooking, they won’t be able to interact with your chatbot.
- Accessibility issues can also prevent users to interact with the bot, in reason of it being text-based
Voicebots for Customer Service Automation: Benefits and Challenges
Another way to automate customer service is the voice route. Let’s see what are the benefits of voicebots:
- Voice is a more natural mode of communication. A recent Stanford study indicated that we communicate three times faster when we speak than when we type, which explains why we usually prefer to explain ourselves, especially on complex topics, via voice rather than typing.
- At the same time, voicebots usually offer an improved customer experience compared to old-school touch-tone IVR systems, which don’t feel very natural and make users feel like they’re wasting time.
- Greater integration with customer service tools, like your companies’ CRM or knowledge base, as well as with smart speakers.
- Suitable for a larger customer base, including those who are not tech-savvy or those who prefer not to type
At the same time, voicebots also present some challenges, like:
- They require significant time and effort for training and continuous improvement
- They require clean and annotated data for effective training, which can be particularly challenging depending on the language, accent, and domain you’re working with.
Case studies: Chatbots, Voicebots, Or Both
Real-world examples can provide invaluable insight into the practical applications and benefits of chatbots and voicebots. In this section, we will explore several case studies that showcase the versatility and effectiveness of these conversational AI technologies in different industries and contexts.
We will look at examples such as a WhatsApp bot in the e-commerce domain, domestic violence reporting chatbots, automated restaurant phone reservations, and successful implementation of both voice and chat customer support by a leading telecommunications company.
Automating No-Value-Add Contacts is a huge Value Add for Customer Service
One of the most common use cases for conversational AI is customer support for ecommerce businesses. Decathlon, world leader in sports equipment, has been swayed by the appeal of automation back in 2020, as the pandemic emergency was demanding of them to make quick changes.
As Oksana Dambraskaite explains, they decided to shut off phone lines and to let conversational agents deployed on WhatsApp, Messenger and Google BM run their customer service. These chatbots today solve 50% of their contacts automatically, allowing their teams to focus on higher value contacts and achieve a 25% increase in productivity.
To find out more about the use cases and UX of Decathlon UK’s Whatsapp bot, watch us deconstruct and rebuild its design on Voiceflow.
Leveraging Chat’s Unique Abilities to Fight Domestic Violence
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue of domestic violence all over the world. In Mongolia, for example, cases increased by more than 40% in 2020, particularly among women aged 25 to 45. To address the stigma and provide confidentiality for victims seeking help, chatbots have been developed in Mongolia, Thailand, South Africa, and other countries.
These chatbots provide information on legal and social options and are available to domestic violence victims around the clock, allowing them to report their abuses on non-working days and even at night time, when their abusers might be asleep. Anonymity is another key feature that allows victims to seek help without fear of judgement or discomfort.
Chatbots have proven to be a lifeline for domestic violence survivors, and the technology is being further developed to integrate text messaging for those in rural areas without internet access.
Leveraging Voice Automation in Hospitality: The Big Table Group
The implementation of voice automation has proven, time and time again, to be a great example of how technology can enhance customer experience and operational efficiency.
For example, PolyAI's customer-led conversational assistant has enabled The Big Table Group, a leading UK restaurant group, to achieve 100% call answering at its Bella Italia and Café Rouge restaurants, with up to 75% of calls being fully handled by the conversational assistant. The restaurant group receives over 2.5 million calls annually across its three major brands, but almost 50% of incoming customer calls to its 150+ restaurants were being missed or abandoned.
With the majority of calls consisting of reservations and answering questions and being handled by the very natural-sounding assistant (see the incredible demo that Devon Trew, head of IT at The Big Table and Nathan Liu, head of Deployments at PolyAI presented at the European Chatbot & CAI Summit), staff are now able to focus more effectively on customers already in the restaurant. Furthermore, the data garnered from customer conversations is now providing actionable insight for The Big Table Group, allowing them to produce personalized communications to more effectively engage with customers and drive up-sell.
Vodafone’s Voice & Chat Support Strategy
The reality of modern-day customer support for many companies is that both voice and chat are leveraged together and orchestrated within a cohesive omnichannel strategy. One of the most exemplary cases of successful chat and voice automated customer support is that of Vodafone.
At the European Chatbot & CAI Summit, Beatrice Maurizi from Vodafone shared insights on building trust in voice and chat integrated customer support. Vodafone's Toby Voice, which was the most recent addition to their CAI assets, already handles 50 million conversations per month across various channels. The primary reason for adding voice was to increase operational efficiency, reduce operational costs, and improve accessibility and customer experience.
They discovered that some customers wanted shorter, more precise interactions that met their needs immediately, and recommended prioritizing the needs of the customer over business needs to establish credibility, reliability, and intimacy. Consistency throughout the end-to-end journey is crucial, and leveraging the right technology and skill set is necessary to create an engaging and successful customer experience.
Inspired to explore customer support automation for your company? We can help.
Feel free to spill out all your conversation-related needs and ideas via voice message or good old email.
And if you’re still hungry for knowledge, follow us on LinkedIn for weekly updates on the world of conversational AI, or check out our article where we discuss how Conversational Marketing is benefitting companies, like the German retail platform Snocks and global cybersecurity and compliance solution leader Proofpoint.