A lot of customer support organizations talk about “getting back to basics.” They operate under the presumption that customers preferred the “good old days” of picking up the telephone and relying on a human agent for all their needs. In reality, most customers don’t WANT to return to the “good old days” (which weren’t always so good). What these companies are merely doing is trying to work around the fact that their technology is out-of-date and won’t let them enter the twenty-first century.
While there will always be a place for live agent telephone calls in customer support, it ought to be as a last resort. Customers do remember what “the old days” were like, and they’re not longing to return to them, according to a recent blog post by Aspect’s Tim Dreyer (News - Alert).
“It used to be that the only way you could reach customer service was calling an 800 number and clearing your schedule for the afternoon as you sat on hold, wondering if you’d ever know what it felt like to be happy again,” wrote Dreyer. “But now the access points into customer service seem to be endless. Facebook’s (News - Alert) chatbot-on-Messenger announcement is ushering in a bounty of businesses using automated chat for first-entry brand engagement.”
Newer channels, when they’re designed and implemented properly, can take the place of telephone support in most cases, and they can do it in a way that leaves customers happy they didn’t have to listen to 40 minutes of elevator music followed by a frustrating conversation with an overworked, apathetic agent. Aspect’s (News - Alert) Consumer Experience Index found that nearly 40 percent of consumers would rather use messaging apps like Facebook Messenger for customer service instead of picking up the phone and dialing a toll-free number.
Many companies (and their customers) are finding success with intelligent chatbots similar to the ones being offered by Facebook. Since they’re intelligent and automated, they can often find the answers to customer questions faster than any human agent could, particularly when that human agent has to manually comb through a number of disorganized knowledge bases.
“Chatbots can understand and create messages just like people do and can tap into any data cache to answer questions and automatically execute actions,” wrote Dreyer. “For brands, chatbots deliver accurate and incredibly quick service responses to customers who prefer text and messaging interaction and give agents more time to handle more complex challenges. Consumers get faster answers using the digital domain they prefer and companies deliver convenient service at an ultra-low cost.”
Chatbots are also a great way to accommodate customers who are increasingly mobile. According to eMarketer, 237 Million Americans will be using smartphones by the year 2019. While we still call them “phones,” they’re increasingly being used for non-telephone contact. In fact, there is evidence that Americans are moving to a mindset in which live telephone calls are reserved only for close friends and family members. Calls from strangers (or companies) are intrusive, and the need to make outbound calls to strangers is annoying.
“Calling someone today unannounced, is verboten and a dry breech of the unwritten rules of today’s digital-first behavior,” wrote Dreyer. “It will leave you friendless. The same behavior applies to consumers having a phone conversation with contact customer service – they’d rather not.”