The way companies engage with customers is markedly different today than it was even a few years ago, and customer expectations only continue to evolve.
One of the “new normals” in customer service and engagement is the need to be available and operational at all times, with over half of customers now expecting a business to be open 24/7. Add to it the greater urgency among customers to get issues resolved, and the demand for faster response times is now higher than ever. And with an ever-proliferating number of channels and devices, customer communications are literally coming from every direction.
To keep up with these conditions, enterprises outsource more work to BPOs, like the frontline customer interactions that normally bog down their internal teams and make it harder to take care of higher priorities. But even with BPOs at the helm, it’s increasingly challenging to keep up with the growing volume and velocity of customer requests and interactions — and the results are less than stellar.
Customer service: a losing battle?
Recent research shows that a third of customers think customer service is getting worse with over 60% saying it’s not getting any easier. Customer satisfaction drops by 15% each time an issue isn’t resolved on the first call. Meanwhile, the average response time for a customer service request is over 12 hours, not to mention that 62% of companies don’t even respond to customer emails and 21% fail to respond to chat requests.
And though live chat is preferred among customers, the average time to acknowledge a live chat message is roughly the same amount of time — just under three minutes — as the wait time for phone support, which seems to defeat the purpose.
There’s no getting around the fact that meeting today’s demands has to involve some form of technology, yet customers still expect the option of human contact. The problem is, the turnover rate in customer service is high — averaging around 27% annually. Staffing with the number of humans needed at all times isn’t always possible, but customers’ desire for human contact simply can’t be ignored.
You know you need to respond to every request faster without sacrificing quality of interactions, but if your human teams don’t have the bandwidth or the right tools to manage this, it can feel like you’re up against a wall.
dissatisfaction from first contact
hours of average response time
annual customer service turnover
Creating a hybrid human-chatbot environment
Instead of losing the battle, you need to address scale and personalization in one fell swoop. One way to do this effectively is to deploy smart chatbots with custom automation to handle the lower-value, more repetitive interactions that your human agents shouldn’t have to spend time on, such as password resets, product pricing information, FAQs, and other areas of customer self-service.
Chatbots with automation rules that can intelligently route customers and prospects act as an initial level of triage to either capture the request quickly and respond to it on its own, or send it over to the appropriate human team or agent for resolution. This minimizes the number of “hops” a customer has to make and reduces chat abandon rates.
Automation rules can also include the chat history so the agent understands the correct context and can resolve the issue faster, eliminating the need for the customer to repeat their issue each time they’re transferred to a different department or person. And the rules can even include warm handoffs to create a more personal interaction that’s in such high demand these days.
Smart chatbots allow you to leverage your existing live chat platforms and human teams by enabling them to focus on the more complex, nuanced, or personal issues that can make all the difference in customer satisfaction, such as complex product or solution comparisons or longer-term customer support issues like subscription management and product upsells or cross-sells. In this way, you maintain the benefits of human contact but enhance them with chatbot technology.
Gaining a strategic advantage
A hybrid human-chatbot environment can be particularly advantageous to BPOs like yours. On a practical level, a hybrid environment allows you to scale as needed to meet growing and changing customer demands faster and with less effort using bots available 24/7 that free your human agents for higher-value activities.
You can also better control costs since a human-chatbot environment doesn’t require the significant upfront investment in all-singing, all-dancing AI platforms that many organizations feel pressured to adopt. Instead of adding skilled experts to your team to oversee the technology, it can be implemented without special, hard-to-acquire, and exceedingly expensive technical skills.
“A hybrid environment allows you to scale as needed to meet growing and changing customer demands faster and with less effort using bots available 24/7 that free your human agents for higher-value activities.”
The technology can also be deployed methodically and incrementally, so that you can gain the experience and the data you need as you go. As you develop a better understanding of your own processes and where you need to improve the customer experience, you can fill other gaps for your enterprise clients by deploying additional purpose-built bots to further smooth and speed up customer service and engagement.
From a strategic perspective, a hybrid environment enables you to offer higher-value services and solutions to your enterprise clients that are adaptive, not resistant, to the changing nature of business. When you can confidently take on more work from enterprises, you’re not only helping them grow their revenue, you’re also growing your own.
You’re also integrated more deeply into the enterprise’s business. Rather than acting as just another transactional vendor, you’re able to position your organization as a long-term strategic partner with the knowledge, tools, and trustworthiness needed to help your enterprise clients reach their goals.
As change marches on, incorporating chatbot technology now helps you keep up with today’s customer demands and respond more effectively to whatever tomorrow brings.