chatbot concept image with man holding smartphone and texting with contact center chatbot

As familiar as a conversation with a real live contact center agent might be, the simple fact of the matter is that people’s increasingly hectic and unpredictable schedules make it difficult for a contact center to always have someone manning the lines, or the PC, when a customer reaches out for help.

That’s where the chatbot comes in. A chatbot is an artificial intelligence (AI) online chat tool that can respond to simple questions from customers with about 90% accuracy.

Chatbots are able to help a customer 24 hours, 7 days a week. But how do you ensure your chatbot is providing not just good, but great customer service, from resolving the issue to treating the customer with respect? Here are some best practices for using chatbots the right way.

Chatbots are most effective when they work alongside your human agents – not as a replacement for them

When chatbots first came on the customer service scene, there were many questions on how these little AI programs would end up operating. Some thought they’d replace live agents all together. Others thought the technology was a waste of time.

In the few years since they’ve become more widespread, it’s become clear that chatbots are best used as supplements, or integrations, for live customer service. This is partly because the technology just isn’t advanced enough for chatbot programs to fully fulfill customers’ needs. It’s also because, at least for now, a majority of Americans – 79% – believe that talking to chatbots is a waste of time.

Chatbots are best utilized as a way to help customers with simple questions that can be answered immediately. For the banking industry, that might be “What is my account balance?” For an IT support center, that could be “Why won’t my monitor turn on?”

Start sooner rather than later

The chatbot might be unfamiliar to many call centers, but most experts in the industry foresee widespread use within the next 5 years. If your center reacts too slowly, the competition could benefit greatly from that hesitance.

Begin the learning process now, and prepare for investment in a chatbot system fairly soon. It’s always good to remember that being caught unprepared when a new innovation rolls through the industry could doom your contact center to being left in the dust, no matter how well it’s doing today.

Make sure your chatbot is smart enough to handle many different questions on many different topics

When you’re planning on how to best implement this new technology, it’s important to remember that the chatbot is supposed to “intelligent” – in theory, customers shouldn’t be able to tell when they’re talking to a bot versus a person (although we’re still a ways away from this reality).

Chatbots get smarter and better at their jobs when they’re fed data. Since contact centers collect data on their customers every minute that they’re operating, contact center chatbots should have all they need to perform to a very high standard.

You just have to ensure with your developer that your chatbot is programmed to integrate its own data with that of your contact center solution platform.

Develop your own team of resources to help you launch and maintain your chatbots

Who are the experts that can help you with your chatbot questions? Remember, just because you’re a contact center that handles customer issues doesn’t mean that there’s nowhere to turn when you have them.

This is exciting technology, but it’s also new and developing. It’s natural that people are going to have questions about how to use it properly. Before you invest in a chatbot, make sure you’ll have the tech support and resources for help you’ll need to deal with any issues that might arise or questions you might have.

It might be a daunting prospect to consider bringing in and creating a chatbot, simply because it’s such a new form of technology. But if used correctly, it can be a real asset to a call center.  It’s an innovation worth pursuing.

For more on innovation in the contact center, read “Why IT Support Agents Need the Latest in Call Center Support Software.”

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