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Smart companies are using chatbots as an opportunity during COVID19. Are you?

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By Maaz Ansari

It was somewhere mid-March 2020. Sai, Head of the customer experience at a leading multinational company, opened his eyes in the morning to the sound of back-to-back notifications he was receiving. He reached out to his mobile only to view Twitter buzzing with complaints from customers. Most of them tagged the organization with memes on non-responsive customer support while others were appalled at the company’s inability to address the queries properly. Slowly, the fire spread to other social media platforms as well. Irrespective of the medium, every unsatisfied consumer had something to say for the organization. Those not associated with the company in any way also joined the bandwagon. Each tweet, post, or like was blemishing the years of reputation of the company.

Sai had to do something. But with no surety over remote working and lack of resources, there was nothing much in the short-term that could keep the complaint register ringing off the hook. Although an automated reply was being served against each post by the social media team, Sai knew the roots of the issue lay somewhere else. With limited sources of updated information in hand, low bandwidth, lack of resources, a huge turnaround time, and a massive customer base, the issue was bound to happen. The matter escalated and a meeting was scheduled with the heads of the organization.

Deploying a chatbot appeared the only logical solution to deal with the situation. The management couldn’t agree more. With this decision began their countdown to resolving one of the biggest challenges most companies face today.

How pandemic overburdened businesses

The case is not restricted to one organization. It has been the same as many, no matter what the sector. Addressing or mitigating customer queries has been the top priority for businesses. Yet, most companies fail to deliver the best user experience.

If you own a business, you already know that customer retention is one of the toughest tasks. Besides, competitors are preying on your shortfall to gain opportunity.

During COVID, the demand for certain products and services did not go down. But, there were several restrictions on business operations. When the delivery was not as promising as it used to be, the complaints poured in customer care.

High frequency of queries significantly raises turnaround time. This directly translates to reduced customer satisfaction and high customer churn. The overwhelming workload creates pressure on the employees leading to retention issues. In short, it is raining losses for any business.

Several reports highlight how turbulence in the workforce has made it challenging for enterprises to mitigate customer needs. Many companies including Facebook-owned Instagram paused responding to any and every report to social media posts. And, a slow resolution of problems makes an obvious impact on customer retention rates.

Here chatbots can lend a helping hand.

Chatbots: How may I help you?

It would not be right to say that chatbots are here to replace humans, However, there is no dispute that they are capable of replicating human-like conversations, just more efficient. After all, humans worked with AI and Machine Learning algorithms to develop self-sufficient chatbots.

Chatbots leverage Natural Language Processing to understand the tone and intent of the customer to generate a relevant answer. Typing in a simple, “Hi” will get you started. You can enter ‘n’ number of business-specific queries and the chatbot will unfailingly serve what you need, each time. More questions may follow to zero-in on a particular problem.

Often the customer support page displays a list of common queries with their answers people usually seek. The landing pages of top brands have a virtual assistant to help customers with their queries. Most of the chatbots aim to ease the browsing experience for the user displaying high-efficiency, thereby helping in soft selling of the product or services. While others offer online support to the customer helping troubleshoot issues, as a normal customer support executive would do.

Offering Superior service at low-cost

It is not that a chatbot is a standalone technology which does not require any human intervention. Occasionally, it does transfer the call at times to a human agent but only if the matter cannot be closed without such involvement. Thus, it takes the load off the customer support team to help them focus on other crucial assignments in hand.

Hiring humans and training them to deal with a gamut of questions that are potentially fired from the customer involves a lot of hard work and time. Apart from this, managing resources, frequent evaluation, etc. are other processes that you need to look after. Yet, many customer calls go unresolved or satisfactorily answered during peak hours. This is because the human mind is engineered to efficiently take up one task at a time. Forcing it to multitask results in errors.

On the other hand, a chatbot can single-handedly respond to a myriad of customers. It can provide instant solutions to multiple queries at the same time. Deploying the cognitive solution results in increased productivity and high ROIs within a short period.

For example, VIC, the chatbot built for Vodafone-Idea rendered 1300% of ROI within a month of its deployment. Similarly, the chatbot for DishTV gave 1000% of ROI in the first month itself. A 2000% ROI was seen with a chatbot for TATA Motors for the same period. Besides, there are numerous other benefits such as a significant reduction in the customer queries and an increased customer conversion rate for these companies.

All this has been possible because of the tech intervention in the businesses. Companies that had cognitive chatbots in place, had one thing less to worry about than those who had no solution to keep the business running during the pandemic. It not only allows connecting with customers at the most crucial time but also helps to get data about their concerns. This ultimately helps navigate through the choppy waters in the future and formulate a robust strategy for boosting customer relationships.

Making the most of technology depends upon the right timing of its deployment. The sooner the better.

(The author is Co Founder at ORI)

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