I don’t know about you but in the last year or so I have really enjoyed websites that offer live chat option to their customers more and more. And I am not alone. According to Gartner, nearly $2bn in online sales will be performed exclusively through mobile digital assistants by the end of 2016, while more than 1.8 billion messages have already been exchanged with Kik’s 20,000 registered chatbots.
Why is that?
I think the answer is very simple: calling a customer service phone line sucks. It is inefficient and outdated.
I don’t know what I like less about customer service phone calls; the automated messages that give you 500 different options that you have to listen through or the music you have to listen to when you are waiting on hold for 10 minutes.
Live chat is instant. And more importantly it does not stop you from doing other things while you are waiting for the person to respond. You can still work on whatever else you like without getting tied up to a phone call.
Where live chat becomes a critical competitive advantage is e-commerce. A recent Facebook study revealed that 53% of consumers are more likely to shop with a business that they can message and get a quick response from. That means if your e-commerce business does not have a live chat function, you might be losing some significant business.
Of course, if you are operating a business with massive sales volume, it becomes less practical to have live operators sitting in front of a computer screen answering questions from customers all around the world. And that’s where the chatbots come in, along with lots of frustration. The chatbots of today are defined by decision trees, which help them to find the right response to a customer question. But this causes moments of frustration that make it obvious to the consumer that a machine is answering back as opposed to a live human being.
These are the early days of chatbots and surely as the AI improves, so will the chatbots and soon enough it will be virtually impossible to tell whether you are talking to a live person or a bot. Until that happens though, I think it is important for companies, small and large, to start engaging with their customers on conversational messaging channels. For instance, enabling customers to live chat with contact centre agents over Facebook Messenger is a great start to experiment with this function.
And if you wonder about the live chat box on the bottom right corner of my website here, it is actually a live person answering your questions, not a bot! So when there is no operator available online to take questions, the system goes offline and functions as a contact form – very simple.