Chatbots are one of the most exciting business opportunities of the digital age, transforming customer experiences in the here and now. Breakthroughs in machine learning, natural language processing and voice recognition software mean that many businesses are already creating effective chat experiences for their customers.
So where is the return on investment? For the practical business leader in you this is the obvious and sensible question. Cutting through the starry eyed promises of sci-fi technological possibilities, how will it make you money?
Let’s get one thing straight. Chatbots are an investment in the future. While there are indeed some immediate wins (to be discussed presently) those looking for a quick fix have the wrong mindset. A truly successful chatbot investment requires a thorough understanding of what you are hoping to achieve and how it will enrich, differentiate or otherwise improve your overall service.
With that said, let’s look at the ways chatbots can help you to achieve your business goals – and the common mistakes the can prevent you reaping ROI.
The easy wins
Chatbots offer some low hanging fruit to those adopting the technology. Here are some of the ways that you can realise ROI from chatbots in the shorter term.
1. Lowering costs
Call centres or more recently live-chat agents conversing via messenger, are an essential part of customer service, but they can also be expensive and notoriously difficult to streamline. Maintaining high standards of training with a headcount sufficient to keep up with customer volume is a constant cost to your business. IBM notes that a staggering $1.3 trillion is spent each year to handle roughly 265 billion customer calls every month. They also predict that the savvy implementation of chatbots could save up to 30 per cent of that cost.
Chatbots’ cost cutting capabilities have been well reported throughout the business world, with UK digital research firm Juniper Research releasing a report in 2017 predicting:
- Cost savings of $8 billion annually by 2022 through the deployment of chatbots.
- Average time-savings of over four minutes per enquiry in the banking and healthcare industries.
Closer to home the National Australia Bank expects savings of AUD$16 million by 2020 in its business banking arm alone through the rollout of a chatbot.
Chatbots have the potential to drastically reduce your call volume by answering many simpler customer queries quickly, without the need for human intervention. Chatbots are also capable of dealing with multiple customers simultaneously, taking a huge weight off your call centre staff. This gives you the ability to cut labour costs by automating processes and giving existing staff more time to deal with the trickier calls that require a human presence.
2. Improving customer service quality
Helping manage call quality and headcount is only one side of what chatbots can offer your customer services. Chatbots, combined intelligently with well-trained staff, can create a seamless customer experience.
For example chatbots can deal with the majority of simple, repetitive queries that customers have on a daily basis – think opening times, bank balances or flight details. Improving technology and integration with AI also means that some chatbots can even complete basic services by themselves, such as activating a new debit card or booking a specific ticket. While this is going on, more complex questions or difficult customers can be passed seamlessly to a human agent, already armed with the background information collected by the chatbot.
3. Solve problems faster
In an age of customers demanding instant engagement, chatbots offer real-time solutions and interactions. As a frictionless medium for interaction, customers can receive answers to their queries within seconds. Unlike humans, chatbots are not limited to completing one task at a time so they can access customer records immediately and complete actions all while delivering information. This system means that your customer demands can be met speedily and resolved before they cause frustration.
Ways to miss out
As plentiful as the ways are to derive meaningful, long term ROI from chatbot technology, there are also pitfalls that can prevent you achieving them. So how can you end up missing out?
1. Bots that lack sophistication
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to communicate with a bot that can’t understand you. Whether it’s repeating the same instruction again and again to an uncomprehending voice interface, or receiving obviously inaccurate responses to simple commands, there is one clear result: bad bots are terrible for your brand.
So how do bad bots come about? The easy answer is lack of investment and no AI enablement. Human communication is an incredibly complex network of signals which takes a significant amount of computer power to decode properly. It is therefore not surprising that the quick-fix build-it-yourself chatbots, functioning on very simplistic frameworks, will fail your customers more times than they succeed.
Unlocking ROI with chatbots depends on good customer outcomes, and these can only be delivered through well designed conversational UX and the latest NLP technology.
2. Missing System Integrations
Conversational marketing and chatbot-delivered customer service are powerful tools, but they are only part of a whole. Effective chatbot solutions need to work in tandem with your other channels, connecting seamlessly to customer information and in turn delivering customers to the appropriate services or sales reps. It’s all too easy to create a great chatbot solution but with no integration into the existing business infrastructure. This creates a burden of extra admin which very quickly erodes any ROI.
Taking it to a deeper level
Despite the many potentially immediate improvements to your business that chatbots can bring, their true value lies in the part they will play in your longer-term strategy. Chatbots hold an exciting key to unlocking future ROI as customer experiences and journeys evolve to adapt to the digital age. So how can you access this deep rooted ROI?
There is no one strategy that provides a fail-safe solution to ensuring long term ROI – surprise. However, we can say with certainty that those who approach chatbots with innovative ideas and a robust long term strategy will be those who see success.