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Chatbots and virtual assistants: the future of customer service

How virtual assistants and chatbots can help cut costs in business

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A person uses a smartphone in Chicago.

In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, a person uses a smart phone in Chicago.

Associated Press

For generations, customer service has been based on human-to-human interaction. Good customer service has been (and still is) considered a key differentiator between businesses, and it’s been the foundation of customer loyalty.

That’s why many businesses have been hesitant to adopt automation in customer service, fearing that it would lead to a decline in the quality of service. However, recent advancements in technology have made it possible for businesses to automate customer service without sacrificing quality.

What are chatbots?

One of the most promising customer service automation technologies is chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that can mimic human conversation. They’re often used to simulate a human customer service agent during online customer service interactions.

When customers chat with bots, it is obviously different than speaking to a representative of the company, yet these bots tend to have quick answers to questions and can respond to customer phone calls and messages immediately.

What are virtual assistants?

Another great customer service automation technology is virtual assistants. Virtual assistants are software programs that can perform tasks or services that typically require human intervention. The job of virtual assistants usually includes administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments or responding to customer service inquiries.

How does automated customer service work?

Chatbots and virtual assistants are powered by artificial intelligence, or AI. AI is a branch of computer science that deals with the creation of intelligent machines that can think and work like humans.

There are two main types of AI: rule-based and learning-based. Rule-based AI is based on a set of pre-determined rules that are coded into the chatbot or virtual assistant. Learning-based AI, on the other hand, is based on data entry. The more data that’s fed into the system, the more it can learn and improve its performance.

Most chatbots and virtual assistants use a combination of both rule-based and learning-based AI.

For example, a chatbot might be programmed with a set of rules for customer service inquiries. But it can also learn from customer service data to improve its performance over time.

Benefits of using AI chatbots and virtual assistants in business

There can be many benefits to using chatbots and virtual assistants in customer service. Some of those benefits include:

  • Chatbots and virtual assistants are cost-effective. They help reduce customer service costs by automating customer service interactions.
  • They can handle customer service queries quickly and effectively. Artificial intelligence chatbots and virtual assistants can often resolve customer service issues faster than a human customer service agent.
  • They are available 24/7. Online chatbots and virtual assistants can provide customer service around the clock, which can be a major benefit for businesses that operate in multiple time zones or offer customer support 24/7.
  • They can help boost sales and conversions. Chatbots and virtual assistants can help promote products and services and upsell and cross-sell products.
  • They can improve customer satisfaction. AI chatbots and virtual assistants can help improve customer experience and satisfaction by providing immediate responses to questions or concerns.
  • They help improve employee productivity and time management. Chatbots and virtual assistants can take on some of the customer service tasks that employees would otherwise have to do, freeing up employees to focus on other tasks.

The future of customer service

Although human-to-human customer service interaction will always be important, the future of customer service will likely be dominated by chatbots and virtual assistants.

These technologies are great at providing service that is fast, effective and available around the clock. They can also help boost sales and conversions, improve customer satisfaction and improve employee productivity. As a result, business owners that want to provide world-class customer service should consider using chatbots and virtual assistants.