Automatic Problem Solvers: Chatbots and the Future of Customer Service

Have you ever stumbled upon a website and had a little message pop-up in the corner with a friendly service rep checking as to whether you need help? That company doesn’t have 10,000 customer service reps. They have a chatbot.

Chatbots are computer programs that mimic the conversation you might have with a customer-service rep. And just like that rep, they stick to a limited script. The chatbot guesses the direction of your conversation by referencing a list of keyword combinations to feel out the next turn in conversation. And because their success rate has been pretty high, they’re being becoming more and more popular as a software tool for field service companies.

Image: Wolf on Moon

Does that mean it’s time for your to scrap your existing customer service program? Not quite. Though the chatbots have had some good runs, they aren’t ready to do a company-wide takeover. Below we’ve listed a few things to consider before you pull out your checkbook.

Humans are Harder to Confuse

Like humans, Chatbots learn from experience. When a person asks a question that the chatbot doesn’t know, that question is automatically flagged, and an administrator adds the answer to the list of keywords and phrases. That being said, if the only way to figure out what your bot needs to know next is to frustrate a customer, you’re looking at losing potential business.

But even with that in mind, some field-service companies are using chatbots to make their operations more efficient and save some cash. There is an opportunity for a service company to differentiate itself from the pack: chatbots offer customers with questions a way to get answers without waiting on hold, or taking up your admin team’s time.

Chatbots Can Help “Introduce” New Customers

fb-bot-flowersFlower delivery service 1-800-Flowers recently brought in a chatbot on Facebook Messenger with great success. The bot can take a customer’s order via Facebook Messenger, or will connect them with a human customer service rep for more specific needs. But this bot went far beyond logging orders and directing calls. 1-800-Flowers was able to boost revenue by teaming up with other smart-services like Amazon’s Alexa and IBM’s Watson–though those are more “concierge” than “chatbot”. By working with Alexa and Watson – and by proxy, their enormous audiences of relevant buyers – the floral delivery company was able to reach far beyond their own small customer base. Short of hiring a team of telemarketers, or flyering the global networks of neighbourhoods you are most interested in… your customer service reps probably can’t do that. No matter how good their phone-voices are. Want to try it? Add as a contact on Facebook Messenger and say hi.

More Customer-Service for Less Money

A human touch is an important part of any business, but there are certain parts of the customer-service job that require a really high level of detail and automation and a really low level of critical thinking. Booking appointments, for example, can easily be taken on by a service business’ field scheduling software. Basic questions that help to determine what kind of service a job will required can be assigned to a survey or online form. Consider too that web-based services – bots included – are always available, and don’t require benefits or sick leave. Instead of hiring a ton of customer-service reps, you can funnel profits back into your business, or towards employees that always give you 100%.

Upsell Service Customers on a Related Product Line

Because bots are great at gathering data, one of their most useful functions is the ability to upsell your customers products that they are actually interested in. With every question asked and every service purchased, the bots’ deeper automation is building a reference for future customers. Maybe a particular service is always bought alongside a particular part. The bot has the benefit of being “neutral.” It’s not a salesperson making commission; it’s simply a computer program, presenting images and keeping to a finely-tuned sales script. Of course, the bot is operating off of a ton of previous experience that knows the client is likely to need X if they are also purchasing Y. The simple power of knowing what customers tend to buy together – and the impartial suggestion by a bot – could significantly increase your profits.

Is it Time to Build Your Own?

mitsukuBuilding a useful chatbot is easier than ever. Platforms like Pandorabots let programmers build and host their own, and they have, in droves. Over 285,000 bots are hosted on Pandorabots alone, and they also offer custom chatbot development services. If you’re considering a chatbot for your company. It’s best to consult an expert — the last thing you want is to create something that will be substandard and risk damaging your brand.

Want to chat with a bot, just a test? Click through to PandoraBots, then click the small box on the bottom right that reads “Chat with Mitsuku,” and ask it anything you like. We asked it a classic “Turing Test” style question: “Tell me about your mother.” Mitsuku’s immediate reply: “Actually, I don’t have a mother.”

Interested in technology that can change the future of your field service business? Check out our ebook: How to Book More Jobs, Save Time and Money with the Right Tools.