The Supportbot: How chatbots are becoming the future of customer support

The state of customer support:

Every business today needs to interact with their clients at any hour and provide the solutions to their problems or answers to their questions. This is referred to as support. With increased competition in almost every field of work, instant response to customers has become extremely important, as, a delay in this might frustrate the customer and make them choose another option for the services. This lead to businesses focusing on innovating and streamlining support.

Customer support is on the edge of innovation and set to completely change its face in the next few years. The truth is, the existing system cannot sustain the current market size or expectations. There is a lot of wasted efforts on both customer and the agent fronts and offers very little, in terms of satisfaction or user experience. Customers tend to avoid contacting customer support due to the roundabout flow and redundancies.

Customer interaction market size was valued over $51 billion in 2014 and its forecast for 2020 is unsurprisingly $68.5 billion, not an insignificant increase in market size when compared to the other industries. Between increasing customer expectations and ever increasing automation, the current trends are not entirely unexpected. So here are some noteworthy trends in customer service:

The industry size is increasing

At first look, this seems counterintuitive and in contradiction to what we previously stated. But with growing online accessibility and activity, the consumer demands of the brands are also growing. So companies have to invest in their customer service, either in manpower or technology.

Technology is taking over

One of the biggest hurdles with people-powered customer service is scalability. The consumer expectations aside, the sheer number of consumers is outgrowing the capacity of the customer service representatives. Automation is the way forward and companies are heavily investing in customer service technologies.

Data-driven edge

Data-driven decisions and insights are the only decisions and insights that matter. We cannot recollect a time when that wasn’t the case. With technology becoming the framework for customer service, data is now on cards for this sector. Organized data availability is helping companies understand their consumers, their behavior, expectations, challenges and feedback. This gives valuable insights and actionable results.

Emphasis on integration

With investments in technology and data, integration is the next logical step. Customer service is no longer a lone ranger removed from the rest of the business verticals. In fact, integration can make support a valuable asset to strategy, sales and product teams with customer support and CRM. So these systems have to be synchronized and integrated to unlock the true potential of customer service technologies and leverage it to grow your business.

Self-service is in demand

Self-service support is a mix of customer-initiated interactions made possible due to technology enabling the customers to solve their problems without having to contact customer support. A simple example of self-support would be tracking the ordered delivery package or checking the delivery status. Imagine having to call or chat with an agent for a task so menial.

Goodbye IVR

If you think you don’t know what IVR is, think again, it stands for interactive voice response. We are no strangers to support calls that start with this droning voice that gives you a list of its functions and asks you to press a number on your keypad to avail that option. While we could make a comprehensive list of all things inconvenient about IVRs, its greatest disadvantage is that people simply don’t like interacting with machines and IVRs are lengthy and monotonous and can get frustrating.

Chatbots are the future of customer support

A chatbot is the readily available answer to most of the challenges in customer support and fits right in with the expected trends. AI and NLP can enable chatbots to understand and respond to customer inquiries as well as a human can. Chatbots are the next big thing in the shifting paradigm of customer support.

What are support bots?

The support bots are an AI alternative to human support provided to customers. The development of these has brought in prominent changes in how the companies provide support to the users.

Support bots as the name suggests, are designed to excel in customer support. They have the ability to answer the general FAQs of the users and take walk the customer through all the major business processes. The support bots usually interact with the users through UI interfaces, where speech is an optional feature and most of the users make conversations through text. The developers at Kenyt ensure that the bots navigate the customer to deliver them the right solutions. Support bots work as a solution to several common problems that arise in the process of customer flow through your business.

How does your business benefit from a supportbot?

There are several advantages of using a chatbot, as they have a lot to offer to businesses in terms of their applications and use cases. To be concise,

  • Bots can perform repetitive tasks quickly and more efficiently
  • Chatbots enhance customer engagement
  • They are cost efficient

This opens several opportunities and benefits for businesses, but let’s see what customers find useful about chatbots in customer service:

  • 24-hour service
  • Getting an instant response
  • Getting answers to simple questions
  • Easy communication
  • Friendliness and approachability

Kenyt’s Supportbot:

The ability and adaptability of a chatbot depends on its implementation. Adding a human touch to bots is critical for a bot’s success. Kenyt takes care of each aspect of bot building to make each one exceptional.

Features of a supportbot:

Supportbots have their own set of unique features because of which make them boast their usefulness in business:

  • Personality: The personality of a support bot refers to every single detail of the chatbot to make it more believable, relevant and relatable. Developing a bot’s personality means making it more life-like along with providing a choice of language, tone, style and mood.
  • Multi-turn capability: Since the entire support flow to the user cannot change with a single turn, the support bot should be capable enough to take multiple turns.
  • Context awareness: Support bots are designed to provide support to users in numerous fields. For the bots to understand the context in which they have to communicate, the human developers must make sure that the chatbot understands what is being communicated, when and where, along with good vocabulary, social skills and ability to understand feelings. We, at Kenyt, provide support with developing the architecture of our bots to be extremely user-friendly.

The edge of Kenyt’s supportbot:

  • Chatbot-agent dynamic: Most support bots are routed to a human agent when the customer asks questions or has requests beyond the scope of a bot. Kenyt has a unique take on the chatbot-agent dynamic. While the primary focus of a supportbot is unquestionably to support the customers through their journey of buying, we see no reason why the functionality of the supportbot has to end there. Kenyt’s supportbot is designed to stay active even after handing over the conversation to an agent and it helps the agent in customer support. Not only does this lessen the load on the agent, the supportbot also gets the opportunity to learn to handle requests it previously could not.
  • Routing requests: A side effect of implementing chatbots is that the lines between sales, marketing and support bots tend to blur. This is because a single chatbot can handle all three tasks and even if the business is using a specific bot, such as say support bot, the bot can still help with the basic tasks of marketing and sales. While this is advantageous to businesses, routing these requests to relevant departments becomes critical. Kenyt’s Supportbot is specially trained to differentiate the conversations and route them to their respective departments.
  • Language translation: One distinct edge of Kenyt bots is its language capability. All Kenyt bots are multilingual, that is, irrespective of the user’s language, the agents can can see and respond to the messages in English and supportbot translates them to the user’s language of preference.

How are consumers using chatbots?

People are interacting with chatbots not just because of the live chat facility. In fact, 44% of users prefer chatbots over customer representatives. There are several reasons for this- most queries and requests they have are simple and talking to a human operator is a lengthy and time taking process for an issue that takes only a few minutes to resolve. Chatbots, on the other hand, respond quickly and instantaneously to such queries. The following are some of the top cases why consumers are using customer support bots.

  • Getting a quick answer in an emergency
  • Resolving a complaint or a problem
  • Getting detailed answers
  • Finding a human customer service
  • Making a reservation
  • Paying a bill
  • Buying a basic item
  • Getting ideas for purchases

It is evident from the above list, that human intervention is clearly not needed and most consumers are satisfied with interacting with support bots for such queries.

Types of chatbots

The classification of chatbots you can find on the internet can be arbitrary and sometimes even fictional. This is because a chatbot provider emphasizes it in the perspective of their own product while independent writers usually focus on explaining the concept more than the terminology.

This renders the chatbot classification confusing and messy. Here we have compiled a list of factors that can be used classify chatbots and the different types in each classification.

Based on the working model

The most common classification of chatbots is based on the working principles of the bot. The design flow, the capabilities, functioning and limitations of the bot largely depend on this.

Script chatbots:

These are the simplest of chatbots. Scriptbots are the question-answer type of bots that take inputs from the users and respond via a pre-programmed set of instructions (the script). It is a decision tree with each question opening a predetermined set of possibilities.

Scriptbots are essentially very limited in their functioning. If the bot is designed to receive an input from A, B or C, it cannot process input D and the interaction may fail. While having a narrow set of acceptable inputs and by extension, responses seems very restrictive, there are benefits to this too. The interaction is directed and to the point and so the quality of user experience is high. These are also referred to as linear, sequential, flow bots or simple bots.

Smart chatbots:

These rely on artificial intelligence to communicate and instead of a predefined set of instructions, it relies on machine learning to respond to questions with adequate suggestions and capture the queries to process later and ‘learn’ from.

These bots have heavy processing component to allow them massive computing power to understand and respond to queries. They focus heavily on natural language understanding and processing to be able to understand the tone, intent and context of the conversation. The quality of the conversation is also high and human-like. While smart bots are preferred over their less smart counterparts, a chatbot responsible for managing simple and repetitive query need not be that advanced.

Most chatbots are combination bots, with features of both script and smart bots to deliver the requirements of the user.

Another type of bot worth mentioning in this context is an intelligent agent. More advanced than a smart bot, these are differentiated on the human intervention. Intelligent agents are designed to be autonomous and require no human intervention, with applications like self-driving cars.

Based on the conversational interface:

The conversational interface may not seem like much of a factor to differentiate a chatbot, but how the bot takes its input is a parameter essential to design flow. It affects the platforms a chatbot can work on.

Text-based:

Text-based chatbots sometimes also called messenger bots, exist on one or more messaging platforms including SMS and web-based platforms. The users primarily interact with the bot on the screen by typing texts or pressing buttons. The main benefit of messenger bots is that they can exist across multiple platforms and can be easily synchronized across devices.

Voice-based:

Voice interaction goes differently, the users communicate with the bot in their own voice through natural language and the bot responds through prerecorded messages, text-to-speech responses or a combination of both. A voice-activated chatbot can exist on your mobile phone, computer, smart speaker and wearable devices. The main advantage is that the interaction is handsfree.

Based on the platform:

Here we classify the bots on the platform they are deployed on. A bot can be deployed on messenger apps like Facebook, Twitter, Slack, etc or elsewhere like their own app, websites, etc. While companies installing a chatbot have the flexibility to choose the platform of the bot, it usually depends on their purpose.

Messaging bots:

As mentioned, these are on messaging apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Skype, KIK, etc. These are usually marketing or sales bots targeting B2C audience or for internal purposes of the company, aimed to increase productivity. These can seek a large number of audience and interact with them easily.

Website/app bots:

The platform for these bots is websites or apps. The primary difference is that the company owns the platform rather than leveraging existing ones. This allows a greater level of customization and specialization. Website or app bots are generally seen in B2B cases, the interaction of the bot may not always be as advanced as messaging bots, the bots are programmed for higher functionality.

Standalone bots:

These are neither messaging or website bots, rather the main function of the bot is to simply interact and engage the user. Alexa, for example, is a standalone bot. The bot is capable of handling several tasks required on a daily basis. Businesses generally don’t require standalone bots.

Based on domain expertise:

This is a useful classification to understand the market dynamics, tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple own the generalist bot space whereas smaller bot developing entities some startups occupy the specialist bot arena. This is because budget constraints and the audience the bot is designed to cater.

There is not much explanation needed for this category are the types of bots is self-explanatory, so we will just dive into it.

Generalist bot:

Generalist bot is a one-size-fits-all bot. It is the jack of all trades and of course, the master of none. These are designed for a wide range of functions for a broad category of users, but they lack the specific domain expertise to follow through certain tasks.

Specialist bot:

A specialist bot is designed for a narrow range of operations in their defined domains. It cannot perform or even comprehend general tasks like telling you about the weather or play a song, as its functionality lies elsewhere.

Based on the application:

Bots are also classified into several types on the basis of their application or function. Sales bots, support bots, marketing bots, etc, to name a few. We have dedicated a complete article to this coming up soon.

How can your business benefit from bots

Chatbots are considered the next big thing after apps. With businesses going online and communication and engagement becoming a norm, the chatbot is another tool that can be leveraged to grow your business.

If you want to know more about chatbots first, click here.

By 2020, more than 50% of medium and large enterprises are set to use chatbots in their business operations, according to a forecast. The demand for chatbots leads us to examine what they have to offer.

What does a chatbot offer to a business?

Chatbots have a lot to offer to businesses in terms of their applications and use cases. But the essence of it is two-fold.

  1. A chatbot, like any computer program, is faster, less error-prone and can process more than a human can.
  2. Chatbot, being an intelligent system, has an added advantage in its ability to learn, understand and respond to humans.

This lets us delegate tasks to chatbots that we previously couldn’t to leave to computers. So here’s how chatbots help in business.

Specialize bots to perform repetitive tasks:

Bots can perform repetitive tasks quickly and more efficiently than humans can. An obvious statement, but let’s understand better with an example.

Company X provides transportation to all its employees leaving after 8 pm. To avail this, the employee has to mail the support team the time they’re leaving and their address. The support team schedules the cabs on a sharing basis with the other employees heading out in that direction around the same time and responds to the request.

It is a great initiative that encourages working beyond the hours without worrying about the commute. The drawbacks of the system, the correspondence takes time for the employer and the support team has to dedicate time and resources everyday.

A chatbot can be specialized to handle the same, in this case, a support bot. An employee staying late can drop a message to the support bot stating the time they will head out (the support bot can store the previous drops)*. The bot then collates all the incoming data to assign cabs automatically and update the employees. The process now needs bare minimum human intervention, saving time for all the parties involved.

Enhance engagement through a chatbot:

Customer engagement and satisfaction can directly reflect in sales in B2C companies.

Consider an e-commerce app or website, there is provision to search, sort and filter, but it takes time and is not always accurate, especially with the numerous categories, brands and features. A user wants to buy ‘purple running shoes’ and looks for it in the search bar and lands at about a hundred products, that may or may not be purple. The alternative is to look for running shoes and pick the required color in the filter after going through all the filter parameters like brand, size, discount, features, etc.

By using a chatbot, let’s call it a salesbot, the buyer can ask for a specific product, state the requirements and choose from the options narrowed down by the chatbots. The conversation can go as follows:*

Another advantage of having a salesbot, you can make customer engagement that was reactive (due to resource constraint), proactive instead. The salesbot can drop an alert about a price drop if the purchase was not made, a notification if it was out of stock but is now available, or a prompt to look at purple coats.

Let’s go back to the previous example of cab assignment for employees staying late, and make the interaction proactive. The support bot drops a text to the employee staying late and ask when he/she plans to leave and carry out the rest of the process.* The quality of engagement is undeniably higher.

8 ways your business can benefit from a chatbot:

While the above section outlines how chatbots add value to your business, there are several side benefits of integrating chatbots. These benefits are on par with, if not overweighing the value added by chatbots.

1. Availability:

Chatbots can be available 24×7, all 365 days of the year while humans assigned the same task work in shifts and require breaks. Your business can make customer support, helpdesk or a virtual concierge available for your customers at all times.

2. Time-saving:

The ability to parallelly process and complete tasks enable the chatbot to finish the work in a fraction of time that humans require to do the same. A bot can clear them up in hours whereas a human operator would take days if not weeks to complete the task.

3. Capacity:

As mentioned in the above examples, a chatbot can process large volumes of requests or tasks that is humanly impossible or requires a dedicated team to deliver. A salesbot can engage all the buyers online and work to close the sale in each case.

4. Scale operations:

A bot can carry out, say a hundred conversations with ease where its human counterpart can manage at most five. This means an increase in an operational capacity.

5. Low cost and maintenance:

Chatbots require low to minimum maintenance and support to perform with the same efficiency consistently. A bot obviously costs lesser, especially so as it can complete the work of an entire team.

6. Customer insight and data:

A bot can record the user’s conversation (for internal evaluation and reporting) while processing and responding to the users. This gives a huge amount of actionable data and gives more insight as to what the users are looking for and expecting from your business.

7. Platform independent:

One additional advantage of using a chatbot is that it can be integrated across different platforms to give the same functionality. So a business can offer support on their website, app or through messaging apps without needing additional resources or costs.

8. Efficient talent management:

Almost 80% of customer queries are repetitive or redundant and don’t need human involvement to satisfy the customer. While most of the benefits listed above compare the performance of the bot with humans, the intention is not to replace humans with bots, rather use their talent to drive efficiency and productivity.

What are chatbots and virtual assistants?

“What do you know about chatbots and virtual assistants?”

If your answer to that question is a reverse “why do I need to know?” or a casual “I don’t know much”, you are unaware of the upcoming tech revolution and we need to address the second part first.

Why you need to know about chatbots and virtual assistants

Chatbots are increasingly transforming the way we interact with software and by extension, the way we use technology.

First came automation, making machines work on repetitive and dangerous tasks by programming it to do so. Then came smart systems, instead of being bound by strict rules, we made machines function within desirable parameters emptying our hands (and heads) to be employed elsewhere. The latest wave of technology today is Artificial Intelligence, and with that, teaching machines how to understand and interact with humans.

Chatbots and virtual assistants are a step in that direction and they’re already here.

You know what virtual assistants are, Alexa, Siri and Cortana have been advertised enough. So you know that you can order your groceries online, know the weather, listen to a song or go through your schedule by simply asking the assistant to do so.

It’s borderline fancy, but virtual assistants are convenient. Did you know you can use this technology to grow your business though? Yes, you can and we’ll tell you how.

“OK Google, define chatbot.”

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is defined as ‘a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users.’ It can be a simple decision tree preprogrammed to respond to user’s queries or it can be an AI-based ‘intelligent’ bot capable of learning.

As accurate as the above explanation is, it is not very helpful in understanding chatbots.

So we will start at the more bot. Bots are computer programs designed to perform repetitive tasks automatically. From the useful crawlers to malicious spambots, the internet is full of bots. A chatbot is a bot designed to carry out conversations with the users online.

What is a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is an artificial system that emulates human interaction that helps the users perform a wide variety of tasks.

Learning, understanding and reasoning are the three main features that define a virtual assistant. Artificial intelligence advancements in deep neural networks, machine learning and natural language processing enable the systems to interact with humans like humans.

Difference between chatbots and virtual assistants:

Intelligent systems like chatbots and virtual assistants are often bandied together because they seem similar in principle though it is far from true. Both chatbots and virtual assistants interact with humans but they primarily differ in their purpose.

Virtual assistants are user oriented rather than task or goal oriented. That isn’t to say that virtual assistants are incapable fo carrying out tasks, rather user interaction takes the front seat for these systems. Chatbots are specialized to carry out tasks and interact with humans to achieve those tasks. Sales bots, for example are designed to aid in selling of a product/service and so have extensive knowledge of the domain.

Do chatbots work?

Chatbots have become extraordinarily popular in recent years largely due to dramatic advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing. But as a business owner, you may be skeptic about integrating chatbots into your website. Let’s address some of the common questions you have.

Are chatbots useful?

Undeniably so. Chatbots can talk to your customers for you. These applications streamline interactions between people and services, enhancing customer experience without having to spend manhours to do it. Not only does it reduce the costs, but efficiency is also higher. This also enables exploring new leads through customer engagement.

How receptive are the audience?

If you’ve come across a few clunky chatbots that failed to be helpful or took up the screen space, we can understand your doubts. Chatbots done right (which we at Kenyt, definitely guarantee) are a great addition to the user experience as they are engaging, informative and efficient. Not convinced, read about why users like chatbots.

How accurate are chatbots?

Chatbots are growing smarter and reliable. The accuracy of the chatbot depends on its algorithm and data available. With the advancements in natural language processing, the scope of understanding of the chatbots has increased. When chatbots are posed questions beyond the scope of its framework, they can be deflected or forwarded to a human operator to be taken care of.

Chatbots: All you need to know

By 2020, over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human according to Gartner, a global research and advisory firm. While the percentage may seem inflated at first look, with virtual assistants, voice integrations and chatbots racing towards perfection, we might reach that mark sooner than anticipated too.

Alexa and Siri may not need much introduction, but have you encountered a chatbot online? You might have visited some sites that had chat windows pop up with a friendly ‘welcome to XYZ, how can I help you today’. Yes, those were chatbots. The live chats that we have on websites are in fact robots. Today’s chatbots are smart, responsive, natural and undeniably useful and we’re likely to see them more often in the coming years.

The global chatbot market valued at around $350 million is estimated to reach $2.1 billion by 2024, set to multiply by six times. The chatbot technology is here to stay, so let’s take a look at what exactly is a chatbot and how they work before addressing the common questions about chatbots.

What are chatbots?

As the definition goes, ‘a chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet’. Chatter robot or simply chatbot is a form of human-computer interaction that is picking up pace. It is an application to simulate a conversation with a user through message applications, websites, mobile apps or voice calls.

It is an automated system of communication that is designed to replicate the patterns of human interactions. The conversations with a bot can be text or voice-based.

The arrival of chatbots has opened up new doors in the form of conversational commerce and marketing and is redefining customer engagement.

Types of chatbots

There are several types of chatbots on the basis of application, intent and working among other factors. You can read about the types of chatbots depending on their application here. The nomenclature of chatbots may vary from source to source, but the concept at the core remains the same. In this article, we have classified them into two main types that will help you understand it’s working.

Script chatbots:

These are the question-answer type of bots that take inputs from the users and respond via a pre-programmed set of instructions (the script). It is a decision tree with each question opening a predetermined set of possibilities.

Smart chatbots:

These rely on artificial intelligence to communicate and instead of a predefined set of instructions, it relies on machine learning to respond to questions with adequate suggestions and capture the queries to process later and ‘learn’ from.

Both types of chatbots can be made ‘chatty’ through natural language processing to make the interactions more human-like and conversational. Most bots are hybrid, a combination of scripted and smart bots that integrate algorithms and artificial intelligence.

Deconstructing chatbots:

Chatbot applications have a few distinct aspects essential to make it work.

  • Database: The database stores product information, user data and transactions.
  • Application layer: This is the brain of the bot that contains the instructions to make it functional.
  • APIs: These integrate the chatbots to the existing platforms to say process payments, generate quotes, etc.
  • User interface: The chatbot interacts with the user through this window.

Different types of businesses have different requirements of the above layers depending on their goals and audience.

Do chatbots work?

Chatbots have become extraordinarily popular in recent years largely due to dramatic advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing. But as a business owner, you may be skeptic about integrating chatbots into your website. Let’s address some of the common questions you have.

Are chatbots useful?

Undeniably so. Chatbots can talk to your customers for you. These applications streamline interactions between people and services, enhancing customer experience without having to spend manhours to do it. Not only does it reduce the costs, but efficiency is also higher. This also enables exploring new leads through customer engagement.

How receptive are the audience?

If you’ve come across a few clunky chatbots that failed to be helpful or took up the screen space, we can understand your doubts. Chatbots done right (which we definitely guarantee) are a great addition to the user experience as they are engaging, informative and efficient. Not convinced, read about why users like chatbots.

How accurate are chatbots?

Chatbots are growing smarter and reliable. The accuracy of the chatbot depends on its algorithm and data available. With the advancements in natural language processing, the scope of understanding of the chatbots has increased. When chatbots are posed questions beyond the scope of its framework, they can be deflected or forwarded to a human operator to be taken care of.