The Undeniable Power of Chatbots

The Undeniable Power of Chatbots TW

Since the dawn of the computer age, engineers and designers have had to consider how humans can, and should, interact with new technology. They designed and implemented interfaces that altered our mental models for exchanging information; we had to learn novel symbols, workflows, and behaviors in order to interact with these new platforms. Basically, we conformed to the computer, not the other way around. Yet over the last few years, a new service has emerged that represents a departure from this norm: the chatbot, a digital experience that replicates and automates the medium of human conversation.

Three Benefits of Automated Conversation

Conversation is the new interface. We now spend more time messaging and chatting than on social networking applications. Smart businesses have capitalized on this behavioral shift by supporting chat, messaging, and text channels for marketing, sales, and customer service. However, it’s difficult to scale a one-to-one communication operation. This is where chatbots come into the picture.

As automated chat interactions, chatbots can essentially exist wherever human-to-human dialogue is the best way to exchange information and accomplish an assignment. The best way to experience the benefits of this kind of automation is to focus on the conversations that are already in play with your customers. Oftentimes, this starts with customer service. Here is where you’ll see an immediate impact:

  1. Faster Response Times: Chat and messaging work best when someone can immediately respond, not when customers are waiting in a queue because agents are tied up. With a chatbot, each message is seen and responded to, and your most common questions are quickly addressed. Further, by allowing chatbots to handle initial information gathering, agents are able to join and resolve conversations faster if escalation is needed.
  2. Better Agent Utilization: No one wants to answer the same question over and over again. Chatbots remove basic, low-level questions from the workload. By reducing the number of messages your agents receive, you will increase the efficiency of your support operations and be able to focus on the more complicated questions and tasks.
  3. Data on What Customers Need: Chatbots automatically collect and analyze your customers’ questions and issues. Instead of manually reviewing conversations or asking agents for anecdotal insights, you can review organized and aggregated intent data.

Getting Started With Chatbots

If you think you’re ready to automate and streamline the interactions you’re already having with customers, I recommend starting with these skills to experience the core benefits:

  1. Five to Ten One-Touch FAQ Answers: Focus on supporting your most common questions that can be addressed with one response. You can direct customers to an FAQ article, or deliver a conversational answer directly.
    One Common Workflow: Similar to the above, there are certainly interactions that require authentication or simple lookups from another data source; these aren’t hard to tackle, just usually require manual attention. Verify, authenticate, and pull in data to automate simple workflows. If you’re an e-commerce business, “Where is My Order” or “Return Status” are great, universal examples.

  2. Easy Agent Takeover with Routing: Once a chatbot cannot answer a question or resolve an issue, make the handover process to human support quick and painless. Better yet, ask a few questions just prior to the handover to give agents context for the conversation and route to specialized teams.
  3. Natural Language Processing: Natural language processing and machine learning — the “AI” of conversational AI — make it possible for your bot to understand and respond to customer intent, not specific keywords. This allows the bot to keep up with the way each customer thinks, communicates, and switches topics, ultimately leading to higher understanding and better resolution rates across all conversations.

Want to learn more about how chatbots can transform your customer experience? Check out how Kustomer powers intelligent self-service here.
 

Why 92% of CS Organizations Report a Need for Greater Efficiency

Why 92% of CS Organizations Report a Need for Greater Efficiency TW

We all know that businesses strive to be efficient — not only within the customer service department, but throughout the entire organization. However, as customer experience continues to become more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty, the goal for CX departments to be highly effective can at times feel at odds with the efficiency mandate.

Kustomer wanted to hear from CX workers on the front lines, and surveyed over 120 professionals to understand how they’re feeling. Read on for the findings from our research, and for strategies to achieve efficient customer service without compromising the customer experience.

The Efficiency Mandate

It comes as no surprise that the vast majority of respondents reported a need to be more efficient. A total of 92% of organizations say more efficiency is needed, but 51% also reported that there is a greater need for efficiency than a year ago. Only 6% of respondents said that the need for efficiency has decreased in the past year.

Whether it’s a recession, a pandemic, or changing customer expectations, the success of a business can swing downward swifty and without notice. Organizations have felt this impact strongly in 2020, and the gaps in their strategies that they may not have felt a year ago are now staring them directly in the face. Perhaps efficiency isn’t the number one priority for a customer service organization when business is booming and resources are available. But the power of an efficient AND effective customer service organization can make a massive impact during both challenging and successful times.

A few factors are impacting how organizations are achieving efficiency: 63% of respondents reported having limited staff, while 44% reported being on a strict budget. A total of 42% of customer service professionals reported not being able to currently manage 24/7 support, while long wait times and access to the right tools seemed to be less of a concern for CX organizations.

However, when staff and budget are unexpectedly slashed, having technology tools in place that can minimize that impact and make agents’ jobs easier, is of the utmost importance.


Challenges Associated With Delivering Efficient Customer Service

It’s clear that customer service professionals know they must be more efficient, and aren’t sure how to do so in a way that provides a positive experience to their customers. The fact of the matter is, all customers must be served, and oftentimes there are roadblocks to doing so in an efficient manner.


Challenging inquiries are the number one reason CX teams report that they can’t deliver efficient support. While automation and self-service tools wouldn’t be effective in resolving challenging customer issues, the implementation of these technologies can actually free up agent time to tackle these inherently more time-consuming tasks. Instead of answering simple inquiries like product and policy questions, customer service teams can spend more time on higher level support and relationship-building.

Another top roadblock to delivering efficient support is unclear or unknown policies. When agents have to go searching for accurate information, across a variety of systems, customers are sure to suffer. Ensure that you have a solution in place that can surface relevant policy information, with the ability to update it in real time as policies shift and change. Intelligent chatbots can even tap into this knowledge base and surface highly relevant and always-accurate information to consumers instantaneously.

Beyond the nature of customer inquiries, there are additional external factors that customers report are preventing them from adopting efficiency tools.



The top reasons that organizations aren’t adopting efficiency tools, are a lack of executive buy-in and a lack of budget, which unsurprisingly go hand in hand. If leadership doesn’t understand the value behind adopting efficiency tools, they likely won’t allocate budget for them.

Ironically, adopting efficiency tools could completely transform a CX organization from a cost center into a profit center, ultimately benefiting not only the executives but also the business as a whole. Think about it: time is money, and when valuable human time is spent on low level tasks that technology can handle, no one benefits. Tagging conversations, routing conversations, answering very simple questions … all of these tasks can be menial and brain-numbing to customer service agents. With the advent of technology, customer service agents no longer need to be relegated to low level work, and can take a more prominent and important role within an organization.

Not only will agents spend their time answering more challenging and important inquiries from customers, they will also have the time to build long-lasting relationships, proactively reach out to customers, make customers feel heard and valued, and even close more business. This time spent by agents will truly contribute to the bottom line of a business, increasing loyalty, advocacy and brand sentiment.

For the full findings from Kustomer’s latest research, including breakdown by industry and business size, download the full Efficiency Research Report here.

 

How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations

How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations TW

Artificial intelligence is making a major impact on customer service and shows no sign of stopping. The increased interest is warranted — Forbes contributor Kathleen Walch of Cognitive World said AI is a useful tool that’s improving customer service, enhancing customer loyalty, enabling better brand reputations and allowing customer service agents to focus on tasks of greater value that can bring companies more business.

While all of these benefits are highly advantageous for businesses, making sure customer service staff are satisfied is a critical initial step in the process. Here are four simple ways that AI chatbots can improve work-life for your customer service agents and better streamline agent experience and expectations:

1. Improved Work Efficiencies

One of the many benefits of utilizing chatbots is the ability to shift work expectations of customer service agents. As Chatbots Magazine stated, chatbots are truly the future of engagement. There are many direct questions that can be handled by way of automation, giving customer service staff the freedom to take on the more meaningful conversations within a short period of time.

2. Better Conversations With Customers

When customer service staff can focus on more important cases instead of the simple questions that AI chatbots can handle, agents have a strong role in driving business and loyalty for the company.

3. Enhanced Job Satisfaction

When customer service agents have more time to focus on complex queries and enhance the connection between customers and your company, they may find greater overall satisfaction in their work. With AI chatbots, you also have the opportunity to introduce steady, more enjoyable working hours that create work-life balance. AI-powered bots can handle the low-level inquiries during the traditional “after hours” time frame, which means you don’t have to worry about keeping staff on the clock at all hours of the day. Not only can this help with workplace satisfaction, but it can also reduce overhead costs.

4. Increased Capacity

Realistically, customer service staff can only talk to one customer at a time, making it difficult to handle more than one issue simultaneously. When AI chatbots are introduced, you can alleviate the pressure that customer service agents once felt about long queues. While this is beneficial for agents in terms of streamlined expectations, your company can still meet bottom-line goals and continue servicing all customers that contact you.

Working With Kustomer

Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform is built to meet the expectations of the customers and agents of today. With our solution, you can better manage customer inquiries and high support volume to streamline staff and company expectations. Request a demo today to learn more about our process and services.
 

5 Ways to Make Your CX Organization More Efficient and Effective

5 Ways to Make Your CX Organization More Efficient and Effective TW

Doing more with less seems to be the struggle for most business leaders these days. It’s interesting, and unfortunate, that it takes a pandemic for companies to start focusing on efficiency. But issues that you used to be able to ignore, are now staring you directly in the face.

The problem with a focus on efficiency is that it is often implemented at the expense of the overall customer experience. The easy response to cutting costs would be to reduce staff, making it harder to reach out to support, and delaying responses. But the outcome of this strategy would ultimately lead to unhappy customers. And take it from me, customers won’t forget this bad experience when things get back to “normal”. The businesses that are able to do more with less in a way that meets or exceeds expectations are the ones that will exit this pandemic with an even more loyal customer base.

So how can you achieve this? How can you significantly cut costs while not degrading the level of support? Read on for our five tips to efficient and effective customer service:

1. Optimize Your Operations

Fix things in your product that cause customers to reach out to you in the first place. This might be offering the ability to track your order status, or completing a return without contacting customer service.

2. Increase Your Self-Service Offerings

Gone are the days of putting up an FAQ page and hoping your customers find the right answers. You need to leverage intelligent automation to put the right information in front of your customers at the exact point they need it. With tools like AI-powered chatbots, you have the ability to not only extract exact information from knowledge base articles, but allow customers to complete actions on their own.

3. Empower Your Agents With Better Technology

Your agents shouldn’t be wasting time looking up key information in multiple systems. I’ve seen examples of companies looking up information in 8+ systems to handle one customer issue. How are agents supposed to be efficient if their computer screens are covered in post-it notes and they have multiple tabs open? Find a solution like Kustomer that connects to all of your core admin systems and allows agents to search and take action on data in the platform they are already operating out of. The below example shows how a delivery service can consolidate all key order information directly into Kustomer.

4. Route Intelligently

You should be able to route issues to the right team based on issue type, customer value, skillset or capacity. There is no experience worse than chatting with support and hearing: “Sorry I don’t have the answer to that question, but let me forward you to the team that does.” Don’t force the customer to guess which of 10 phone numbers is the right one to call, or make them e-mail multiple departments to solve their issue. Instead, use technology that routes based on keywords or even better custom objects about that customer (status, order value, country, etc).

5. Get Ahead of Issues

Proactively reach out to customers before they reach out to you. Get ahead of any problems, like fulfillment issues and weather delays, or educate customers about how you’re keeping them safe and healthy in uncertain times. Use a platform like Convey to give full transparency into the delivery lifecycle. Then utilize a platform like Kustomer to engage with customers based on delivery updates.

Hopefully, you found these five tips helpful. The most important piece is balancing doing more with less, while making sure customer expectations are met…or even exceeded!

 

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic TW

Even during the best of times, businesses strive to be more efficient. There are always things to improve upon, always more customers to service, always proactive outreach to do. But when circumstances shift rapidly, and businesses are asked to do more with less, finding ways to be more efficient suddenly becomes priority number one.

Kustomer recently surveyed over 150 customer service professionals to better understand how they are being impacted by the pandemic, how their business is adjusting as a result, and what customers are expecting during their greatest times of needs. One thing became abundantly clear: being efficient and effective is not optional.

More Inquiries, Less Time

Across industries, customer service teams are seeing a 17% increase in customer service inquiries during the global pandemic. Phone inquiries are seeing the largest uptick, with a 34% increase, followed by e-mail (28% increase) and web (24% increase). Social channels are being impacted the least, with only a 7.2% uptick.

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic Stat

Not only are companies having to handle more conversations, they are having to do it in a largely remote environment. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported difficulty working remotely, and 23% reported that they did not have the correct tools in place to successfully work in a remote environment.

It’s essential to have a customer service strategy, and the correct technology in place, to handle bursts in activity and enable productive remote work. Look for tools that leverage AI and intelligent automation to power self-service and low-level information gathering. This will free up agent time for more high level and urgent support, while allowing customers to get their questions answered immediately.

Ensure that the technology you have in place allows for collaboration between remote team members, so you can pull in the necessary individuals to solve customer issues quickly. You should also be able to manage your team with confidence, even if you can’t be beside them. Having a view into what your agents are working on, and being able to intervene if necessary, is key to a successful remote CS team. And most importantly, your customer service platform should be easily connected to by all of your agents with a basic internet connection and standard browser.

How Organizations Are Adapting

The circumstantial changes associated with the global pandemic are causing some real changes for organizations. Unfortunately, 63% of CS organizations reported a need to cut costs during the global pandemic, with 46% reporting a need to reduce staff. All of this means efficiency is incredibly important. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said there is a need to adopt more automation for efficiency, and 56% said there is a need to invest in new technologies. And unfortunately, customers aren’t giving businesses a break when it comes to speed. Quick service is one of the top three most valued customer service attributes during this time. Doing more with less is the name of the game in 2020, so put the tools in place to adjust sooner rather than later.

What CS Teams Need

63% of CS organizations report the need to cut costs
46% of CS organizations report the need to reduce staff
90% of CS organizations report the need to adjust policies
56% of CS organizations report the need to invest in new tech
59% of CS organizations report the need to adopt automation for efficiency
80% of CS organizations report the need to reach out to customers proactively

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic Stat 2

While the current environment won’t last forever, it’s important to properly prepare for extreme circumstances if and when they do occur again. Our full report has a plethora of additional industry-specific and general data, as well as actionable takeaways you can put into practice today. Download it here.

 

4 Easy Ways to Maintain a Strong Culture While Transitioning to Remote Work

4 Easy Ways to Maintain a Strong Culture While Transitioning to Remote Work TW

The global work environment is undergoing a massive shift, and with recent events forcing the acceleration of remote work, leaders everywhere are scrambling to find ways to maintain and continue building a strong team culture within their organizations during this abrupt transition. Luckily, thanks to modern technology, there are many ways to create an environment of positive behavior, togetherness and productivity even in a remote team.

Of course, with any types of changes, there are a few adjustments that need to be made. Here are some of the ways to not only maintain, but to build a strong culture while transitioning to a remote team:

1. Ensure that your team is equipped with the right tools that match your culture and encourage collaboration

The concept of “the path of least resistance” comes into play in all aspects of life, and building a strong team culture in a remote environment is no different. When I think about some of the work friendships I’ve made in my career, many of those friendships were forged with people who were in the same “new-hire onboarding” class as I was. Those friendships were strengthened if they happened to be on the same team, and even more so if we became deskmates. The same concept applies to remote work. Work relationships are built with those we communicate with often.

When it comes to building culture in the context of a remote environment, the easier it is to communicate and collaborate, the more those behaviors will be reinforced. It is especially important in a remote setting to err on the side of over-communication as opposed to under-communication, as rampant miscommunication and missing information can dismantle trust and culture fast. With a wide variety of instant messaging and video conferencing platforms, along with the internal notes and comments sections of your customer management platform, an environment of open communication and collaboration in remote teams is no longer just a dream, it is a very achievable reality.

2. Create opportunities for remote social interactions

In a remote work environment it can feel as if you should only reach out to a colleague when problems arise or help is needed. During those times, stress levels are high and there can be a buildup of negative emotions towards an individual, especially when all interactions with them are stressful, demanding and require deep thought. Without a foundation of trust and camaraderie, it’s much easier to misinterpret the intention of an e-mail or message.

This problem is often alleviated in an in-office environment since colleagues will inevitably bump into each other during coffee or lunch breaks. In a remote work environment, not so much. This is why it’s smart to have fully optional, but regularly scheduled, virtual coffee and lunch breaks. By encouraging remote team members to bond virtually, and foster a “remote office social life”, teammates can feel much more comfortable asking each other questions and giving honest feedback when it comes to business.

3. Setting clear goals and expectations

While setting clear goals and expectations is important in any environment, dysfunction from a lack of direction becomes more apparent in a remote team. While some remote employees may disappear into the abyss when there is a lack of direction, others may overcompensate and overwork to appear productive, which could potentially lead to burnout. Neither of these scenarios are beneficial for the employee or the employer. It is up to leadership and the managers to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound) and hold employees accountable, giving direct feedback if expectations aren’t being met. This allows remote employees to stay connected to the overall mission and goals of the company as well as empower the employee to engage in their work. The happiest employees have a deeper sense of meaning to their work than to simply clock in and clock out for a paycheck.

4. Foster an environment that celebrates wins

While it is important to see reality for what it is and to find gaps and weaknesses in the business, it is equally, if not more important, to find strengths and reasons to celebrate. In an in-office environment, it’s easy to celebrate all sorts of “wins”. Whether you just brought a promising new hire on board, ran a smooth implementation of new software, or helped turn an angry customer into a happy one, news will get around. In a remote environment, employees may often feel isolated and lonely. Negative and urgent news may travel faster than the small wins, but it is crucial to to emphasize the wins. By fostering an environment that celebrates all the wins and allows the cheers to reverberate across communication channels, you encourage a culture of positivity that lifts employees up.

Want more practical tips for working remotely? Check out our latest infographic on how to stay sane and productive while working from home.

 

7 Ways Busy Teams Can Best Leverage the Kustomer Platform While Working Remotely

7 Ways Busy Teams Can Best Leverage the Kustomer Platform While Working Remotely TW

As much as we may not want to admit it, we are living in a whole new world, and customer service leaders are having to learn new ways of being successful, from the way they treat their customers to the way they manage their employees.

As your organization makes necessary changes to stay connected and responsive during this trying time, here are some additional ways you can leverage capabilities within Kustomer to stay productive and collaborative:

1. Tap Into Unlimited Collaboration

As part of Kustomer’s Ultimate Package, now available to all customers, Unlimited Collaboration allows you to loop in anyone from any department within your organization to help resolve inquiries more efficiently in a remote environment. Features like Notes, Following and @Mentions let cross-functional teams conduct internal communications and ensure customers get the expedited service they need right now, no matter where they are in the world.

2. Manage With Team Pulse

Another Ultimate Package tool, Team Pulse allows you to see what your agents are working on in real time, enabling teams to manage performance and effectiveness seamlessly. Supervisors can quickly jump to the customers and searches that agents are viewing in real-time as well as adjust queue assignments and availability, all from the Team Pulse dashboard.

3. Expand Your Shortcut Library

Companies are updating policies to accommodate for the coronavirus, and your agents should be armed with the correct information to share with customers. Add in any new policies or FAQs to your shortcut library to ensure your agents have everything they need at their fingertips.

4. Introduce Users to their Performance Dashboard

Your teams may be experiencing an influx of conversations due to customer concerns. Ensure your agents understand their traffic volume, performance, satisfaction, and peak times of interaction, so they can anticipate busier times of day and easily keep tabs on how customers are feeling.

5. Activate Your Social Media Channels

As customers contact you across an array of channels, make sure you’re ensuring seamless communication by having all channels in one holistic view. You can quickly install Facebook or Twitter DMs directly from the Kustomer App Directory, and customers can get consistent attention if they reach out over social media.

6. Set up These Useful Business Rules

Your team doesn’t have to get bogged down trying to keep conversation traffic organized. Business Rules are a great way to automate routine tasks. Here are a few you can set up right now to drive more efficiency:

  • Send Messages: Watch our video and start sending automated messages whenever you need.
  • Auto-Mark Auto Responses ‘Done’: A single rule can cover a lot of ground. These conversations may contain a variety of subject lines that all mean the same thing. Create a rule that can automatically mark any conversation that’s titled: automatic response, automated response, auto response, etc. as ‘Done’.
  • Assign a Specific Team to Multiple Channels: During these rapidly changing times, you may need to shift priorities quickly. Create a business rule that automatically assigns any conversation from specific channels to a designated team, to make sure all customers are covered.
  • Automatically Tag Conversations: Business Rules can automatically tag conversations based on context, such as any conversations related to the novel coronavirus. Just make sure you’ve added any tags you need to your library, and build rules to apply them.

7. Route Conversations based on Customer Attributes

Cut down on unnecessary busy work by intelligently and automatically routing customers to the most appropriate agent, based on information like language, sentiment or customer history.

Remember, the Kustomer platform is accessible from anywhere—requiring nothing more than standard WiFi and an internet browser. No downloads. No plugins. No premium internet connection needed.

Want more practical tips for working remotely? Check out our latest infographic on how to stay sane and productive while working from home.

 

How to Scale Your Support Team

Growing your business is hard enough—but growing your service organization alongside it comes with its own challenges. More agents customers mean more complexity. To help make sense of your growing CX team, we’ve listed some common stumbling blocks and some intuitive solutions to get around them.

Agent Collision

Tickets coming in from multiple channels makes it hard to separate out who owns what. When a customer gets annoyed with wait times, they will often start reaching out over several different channels with the same problem. Agents working in these different channels then have no way of seeing that it’s the same person, and the customer ends up getting a response from more than one team member on chat, email, and wherever else they reach out.

The solution to this problem sounds easy, but is a huge shift in service philosophy. Give your agents ownership over the customer relationship, so that they are responsible for satisfying individual customers over many channels, instead of all the customers in one channel. By making your service omnichannel, agents are aware of every conversation happening with each customer.

Disconnected Data, Disconnected Systems

As your business expands, so too do the places and ways you store customer data. If you don’t rein these in, then agents end up wasting time switching between applications and hunting for information in back-end systems.

If agents have to go into multiple systems—ordering, shipping, customer information, and more—to see all the information about the customer, then copy that information and paste it into another screen, their workflow grinds to a halt.

To overcome this obstacle you need to be able to have all of your data in one place, with systems that integrate with one another, and a way to turn that insight into action. When agents don’t have to spend time hunting in separate systems for information they need, that makes everything in your service organization easier to scale—because your agents are more efficient and productive than ever before. Just the ten seconds agents save from not having to switch applications can translate to days of work saved in one month alone.

From Reactive to Proactive Service

When you scale your business, you do everything you can to keep up with your customers. However, all the effort it takes to simply respond to and stay on top of their queries leaves no time for any forward-thinking, proactive engagement.

You soon won’t have the luxury to pick up the phone and call every customer who gave you a low CSAT score. You need to be prepared to deliver that same level of 1-1 service, but on a much greater scale.

Automation is going to go a long way towards freeing up your agents’ time. Anything you can do to learn more about your customers and their needs before they’re transferred to an agent is going to massively increase your efficiency. Chatbots that ask a few simple questions about the issue a customer is having can simplify the experience for customer and agent alike. Smart segmentation that makes it easier to determine the right actions based on informed personas will save even more time and effort. Proactive outreach can inform an agent to send an email, or even automatically send an SMS, if an item is going to be delayed, giving customers options for how to proceed.

Team Reporting and Monitoring

As your team grows, so too does your need for detailed reports and insights. However, these reports are often in separate products for different channels, forcing you to spend a prohibitive amount of time creating and combining separate customer reports. To make matters worse, these reports are often delayed by hours or even days, meaning you can’t really see what your team is doing in real time. Many businesses that are scaling quickly also tend to start using more remote agents and teams to work faster. You are going to need a way to effectively monitor them in order to provide proper coaching.

The answer to your reporting problems is to be able to query, segment, and display reports through custom dashboards in real time. If your current solution doesn’t have these features built-in, they aren’t going to spring up overnight. And without proper reporting, you won’t be able to fully understand what’s happening in your growing team.

It can be difficult to successfully scale your support team—we know. Without a modern platform for customer experience, it might feel nearly impossible. Learn more about how Kustomer can help you avoid the common pitfalls of efficiently scaling your team here.

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