3 practical applications of chatbots for customer service

Chatbots for customer service are helping businesses engage their customers 24/7. From automated responses to signposting to your services, learn how customer service chatbots can boost customer satisfaction.

This post was updated in September 2021

Today’s customers have high expectations from businesses. They expect you to be there at all times to answer their questions, whether it’s something about a pending order, feedback on their product experience or a general inquiry about your business. Not only that, they want answers fast.

According to HubSpot, 90% of customers consider an “immediate” response from a business to be very important when they have customer service questions. Additionally, 60% of customers needing support consider an “immediate” response to be 10 minutes or less.

This need for businesses to be there for their customers anytime, anywhere is arguably the primary impetus behind customer support chatbots.

What is a customer support chatbot?

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP), chatbots for customer service offer a simple and convenient way to deliver real-time, 24/7 customer support.

At its simplest, a chatbot is a computer program designed to imitate and process human conversations on websites, apps and messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Using AI technology, chatbots automatically process and answer your customers’ frequently asked questions, such as:

  • Where is my order?
  • There is a problem with my purchase. How do I report it?
  • Where is your nearest location?
  • How do I file a warranty claim?
  • Do you offer free shipping?

Chatbots can also enable self-service, allowing customers to find their way to your business’s services through chat.

How can chatbots improve customer experience?

Clunky jargon aside, chatbot technology holds tremendous promise for customer communications and stakeholder engagement, so much so that Mordor Intelligence projects the chatbot market to reach $102.29 billion in value by 2026.

Related reading: Chatbot terminology guide for newcomers: 12 terms you should know

The basic idea is that chatbots can automate customer interaction and provide round-the-clock customer support on all your digital channels. In other words, by deploying chatbots to your website, social media and other support channels, you can answer your customers’ questions anytime, anywhere and move them along your sales funnel.

Apart from higher levels of customer satisfaction and engagement, there are several other business benefits to bringing automation to your customer communication channels. For starters, chatbots can also slash customer service call volumes and wait times, easing the burden on human agents and reducing your contact centre costs.

With businesses spending over $1 trillion on customer service calls, chatbots offer a practical solution to answering frequently asked questions without hiring more customer service agents. Chatbots are such a massive game-changer that Juniper Research predicts that the technology will save companies $8 billion per year in customer service costs.

These benefits also extend to the public sector and providers of critical services like healthcare and financial services. At the height of the pandemic, contact centres across many organisations saw calls scored as “difficult” rise from 10% to 20%. Many of these calls covered pandemic-related issues, such as travel cancellations, extensions on bill payment deadlines and insurance coverage disputes. By automating answers to repetitive questions, these organisations can free up time for their human agent teams to focus on complex and challenging conversations.

Related reading: The impact of conversational AI on critical services: 3 key takeaways

Perhaps most importantly, customers are also comfortable interacting with chatbots. 

Approximately 40% of shoppers don’t care if they’re interacting with an AI-powered chatbot or human agent — so long as they get answers to their questions.

3 examples of chatbots for customer service in action

Of course, it’s not enough to just read about the benefits of using customer service chatbots in your business. Here’s a quick look at three real-world applications of chatbots and their positive impact on customer service.

1. Chatbots for retail: Fashion assistants

In fashion retail, chatbots for customer service are programmed to help customers discover products and make style decisions, acting as virtual fashion stylists.

A retail chatbot can provide shoppers with price comparisons from inside the chat window, helping them browse through your products with convenience. When shoppers have a question about item sizes and colours, a chatbot can respond instantly, speeding up the entire shopping process.

Providing automated customer service in real time and signposting shoppers to your product categories — whether it’s your tops, shoes or clearance items — also makes it easier for customers to make informed purchase decisions.

For example, Spanish fashion retailer Mango has a chatbot on their website serving as an online assistant. The bot smoothens the shopping journey for customers by signposting users to relevant topics, such as:

  • COVID-19 measures
  • Order status
  • Incorrect orders
  • Stores and locations
  • Payments
  • Plus sizes.

2. Travel chatbots: Smart trip assistants

Customer service chatbots can be particularly useful for the travel industry, where the average customer asks questions such as:

  • What’s the cheapest flight to X?
  • Can I rebook my flight?
  • Can I amend the details of my upcoming flight?
  • Can I refund my ticket?
  • What is the nearest hotel to X airport?
  • How do I get to hotel X?

Acting as an online travel assistant, AI-powered chatbots can answer routine questions and escalate the conversation to a human agent whenever necessary. Apart from helping customers book and reschedule flights, chatbots can also integrate your knowledge base and interactive guides with your social media platforms, signposting to travel resources from within the chat.

For travellers, this means that answers to queries like where to change money, where to hail a cab or wait times in the security check line at the airport are just a chat away. All your customers need to do is download your app or reach you through your digital channels.

Meanwhile, the availability of open APIs means that your chatbot for customer service can link users to other travel services like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft straight from the chat — all without involving your live support team.

This way, travel companies, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality players can expand their footprint and gain a wider customer base simply by deploying chatbots across their customer touchpoints.

Companies like American Express and Dutch airline KLM are early adopters of Messenger chatbots for customer service. In 2018, American Express acquired Mezi as part of a greater effort to integrate AI into AmEx’s customer management plans.

3. Healthcare chatbots: ​Virtual healthcare assistants

The modern medical practice needs to be accessible through digital channels. When patients face time constraints, the last thing they want is to take a sick day from work just to see a receptionist and schedule an appointment. Even calling the clinic can be inconvenient, more so if you have to stay on hold or the healthcare provider can’t accommodate you.

By deploying conversational chatbots on their website, app and social media, healthcare providers can reduce call volumes and make communication faster and more convenient for patients, nurses and doctors alike. From registration to coverage and claims to compliance, chatbots can transform how patients access healthcare services.

For example, Intermountain Healthcare in Utah uses a chatbot named Scout to check patients’ systems online and recommend actions such as getting rest, scheduling an appointment with the doctor and even getting emergency care right away.https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?height=476&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FIntermountain%2Fvideos%2F1273331023006641%2F&show_text=false&width=476&t=0

Transform customer engagement with chatbots

As great as they are, customer service chatbots are not designed to replace humans. Rather, they perform many of the simple, repetitive tasks associated with customer service. That includes taking phone calls to answer the same questions over and over again and telling customers what to do in certain scenarios.

With the telephone losing its primacy, chatbots integrated with mobile apps, social media and web chats can quickly become a preferred channel of communication. In a time when customers want instant answers and solutions, chatbots offer the key to providing timely and consistent support.

Follow the Futr blog for more insights on using chatbots for customer service and relationship management. Get in touch with the Futr team to discuss innovative solutions to engage your customers and empower your live agents. 

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Futr is a VC backed tech start-up with the mission of delivering superpowers to support teams everywhere.  Futr’s superpowers are transforming the way organisations serve their audiences.

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