Chatbots: An Answer To Improving Customer Experience In The Midst Of A Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on unprecedented changes to organizations and customers alike. Customer needs have changed. They need access to information faster while sitting at home – with almost 90% requiring an immediate response to a customer service query. They need to know that companies care about them – that they want to solve their problems, that they’re not just another customer to a company. They want to feel special and heard, and more than anything else, they want fast solutions to their problems.

In light of not getting what they need in challenging times like these, customers are quick to jump to brands that provide them with stability, consistency, and a better experience. Factors that used to play important roles in maintaining customer loyalty have seized to hold any relevance in the unpredictability that the onslaught of the pandemic brought. And companies need to wake up and face the water.

On the other hand, organizations have been affected by the pandemic too, in a different way. Faced with business loss due to the pandemic, reduced spending power of their customers, and change in customer needs, they’re forced to cut costs where they can. In many cases, that’s meant streamlining processes and operations, cutting niche product lines, and letting go of staff.

Faced with a resource crunch and the rising pressure to provide better customer experience, organizations are increasingly looking for new tools that could pull them out of the water. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP) are proving to be critical assets that could potentially solve many organizational problems with one solution: chatbots.

Organizations that have started relying on chatbots to address basic customer queries and provide information have been able to resolve 80% of routine customer queries, and in a strange and unpredicted turn in events, they’ve been able to convert this into a double-win by having these chatbots push sales and recommend products the customer might be interested.

In fact, various industries have been using chatbots to their advantage, expanding their applications to solve their most pressing customer needs.

Government And Healthcare

In lieu of the pandemic, it’s no secret that governments and hospitals have been overburdened with queries and cases pouring in – from people infected with the virus to others who are just concerned and taking extra precautions.

To relieve the system of some of the workload, chatbots are being used to assess patients and their likelihood of having contracted the virus, address queries and disseminate important information, book consultations, and appointments, and handle administrative tasks like collecting customer insurance information, processing invoices and renewing prescriptions.

This helps doctors and patients alike. With automated systems handling the bulk of tasks, more patients can be processed and doctors have a more detailed update and history to work with for faster diagnoses.

Mental And Financial Wellbeing

People have lost jobs and income, parents are dealing with kids full time as they work from home and have to take care of their kids who are now studying from home too. The lack of clarity about the future, and when the economy will open up and how things will be when it does, has led to a lot of anxiety and world over, people are suffering.

What was once considered important, no longer is. People are struggling to stay healthy, and build strong immune systems – they are prioritizing fitness, meditation, healthy eating habits, and above all staying positive. Consumers are interested in learning more about meal plans that offer the most nutrition, or workout routines they can practice at home. They want to learn about strategies they can use to slay anxiety and stay positive.

In times such as these, when customers are driven by emotional and existential needs, chatbots are a great tool to deliver value to customers. Providing relevant information and quick support to customers now more than ever can be a way of driving customer loyalty.

Hospitality

Social distancing protocols have resulted in most restaurants shutting down dine-in services and relying on delivery or take-away services to stay afloat. Menus have changed, days and hours of operations have reduced, waitstaff has been laid off and the incoming calls for delivery and takeout have increased manifold.

Providing basic answers to customer queries about operational hours, changes in the menu, order taking, and information about delivery times – can be fast-tracked with chatbot integrations, saving time and money.

Retail

Across the world, essential services are being prioritized. That, unfortunately, affects retail stores – their hours of operations, store closures, and return policies. As a customer looking to shop for products, they’re likely searching for information about whether their favourite store is even open and what their policies are around COVID-19.

Chatbots are a time-saving and cost-effective way to not only address customers’ frequently asked questions but also push for sales at this crucial customer touchpoint. Popular retail brands like Sephora have been providing customers with in-store experiences by offering personal make-up recommendations based on customer skin-tones from photos uploaded to the chatbot. With H&M’s chatbot, customers get near personal fashion advice with a few clicks to teach the bot about their fashion style.

Education

With schools shut down for the foreseeable future, online learning is now the new norm, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) having recently declared the pandemic could change the face of education forever.

Up until now, e-learning had been looked at as a supplementary method of education, never the mainstay. There were some obvious kinks in the process of online education, kinks that were never considered important to fix, up until the pandemic hit, and brought in a new wave of urgency.

With a sole reliance on e-learning now, students are facing the challenges of one-way communication, unable to seamlessly ask questions, and get effective answers. E-learning has essentially brought a stop to the informative rapport between professors and students.

While chatbots can’t replace human tutors, they can still add value by enabling students to ask questions and provide immediate answers to validate an understanding of their coursework.

Beyond using AI for learning, universities are now deploying bots to handle the influx of inquiries. The University of Sydney has launched the Corona-Bot to answer questions from students trying to understand how the pandemic will impact their studies.

Whatever industry your business belongs to, one thing is clear: your customers are online now more than ever before. You have an opportunity to build your brand, drive loyalty, and eventually reap the returns in due time by investing in driving positive customer experiences today.

Customers want an easy purchasing process and a quick resolution if they have queries. A significant 56% of customers would rather prefer messaging than calling customer service and this stems from the fact that almost ⅔ of buyers expect a response within 10 minutes to any marketing, sales, or customer service inquiry. Chatbots can deliver that, not customer support.

You can leverage chatbots in several ways to elevate your customer experience, leaving your customers feeling happy and satisfied.

Show That You Care

With everything that’s going on, finding a true connection is the one thing that customers are missing the most. Given the intensity and widespread nature of the crisis, organizations are being bombarded with messages. Say goodbye to IVR systems to answer customer service calls – because we all know that they’re the fastest way to drive a customer up the wall with the large number of options that customers have to go through, to finally get to the desired destination.

In fact, 48% of consumers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other means of contact and 57% prefer chatbots because of their instantaneity. So why not give in to what your customers want and adopt the AI tool.

Drive A Strong Narrative

Chatbots can help you define your company’s narrative amidst the pandemic. They enable you to have uniform communication with all your customers and answer the large influx of questions across multiple devices and locations consistently.

Communicate Proactively

When events in the economy are changing ever so fast and products are flying off shelves due to an increase in panic buying, you can choose to keep your customers informed about all important updates – whether they are about your company policies or more personalized information such as the restocking of a product your customer recently tried purchasing that was out of stock.

Identify Trends

Pattern detection is one of the easiest ways to provide customer delight. With the large amounts of data that you collect from customer queries and conversations with the chatbot, you can easily analyze the trends in what customers want, enabling you to design a more effective and customer-relevant business strategy.

Upsell

You could use chatbots as another channel for driving sales. A report by Hubspot suggests that 47% of consumers would buy items from a chatbot. Imagine a scenario when a consumer has a grievance about a product they’ve purchased and the chatbot successfully redresses their grievance. At that moment, if the chatbot recommended a product that would complement the customer’s buying history, the customer, newly satisfied, would likely make that purchase.

Customer engagement is the key to success for any organization. If you cannot maintain a healthy flow of communication, customers will likely lose interest in your brand. In a competitive market scenario agonized by COVID-19, organizations cannot afford to lose a customer because they could not handle the influx of messages. It’s just not good enough.

Chatbots can be your savior by addressing customer needs and adding profitability to your bottom line.

Drive better results by understanding customer data