Picture this – you’ve just made a purchase online but didn’t receive the right item. A decade ago, you would have made your way down to the physical shop, told the staff you received the wrong order, and they would make the switch for you. Today, that process can look very different, often requiring you to go through a chatbot, and a potentially frustrating conversation with one scripted response after another, only to find that the end result doesn’t directly address your issue. 

This scenario is probably all too familiar for many customers, meaning that many businesses are falling behind when it comes to customer experience (CX). Zendesk’s recent CX Accelerator report found Singaporean businesses lag behind in their ability to act on customer feedback, and the speed at which they address it. This is despite using a mix of chatbots and human agents to deal with feedback – a sign that they’re not doing enough to unlock the power of automation and chatbots.

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While most might still believe human interaction is the best way to elevate CX, perhaps it’s time to think deeper to elevate the customer experience game.

CX is not a one-size-fits-all – not even for chatbots

Chatbots draw a lot of flak for being notoriously frustrating to use. In most cases, businesses believe they can simply implement it as a catch-all solution that runs on its own, only to find that it’s not yielding results – turning them into a costly and failed investment. Rather, chatbots should be seen as a crucial component of the customer experience, serving as the first touchpoint for customers and providing a way for businesses to instantaneously engage customers, saving time and cutting manpower costs.

For chatbots to deliver tangible results, its implementation needs to be thoughtful from the start. This involves identifying and sorting queries into categories that are best addressed by chatbots, and queries that are better handled by human agents. This approach builds a strong foundation for efficiency and is targeted to address business-specific challenges. More importantly, human resources can then be channeled toward more complex issues that require a human touch. 

Our CX Accelerator report also found that among those using chatbots,  APAC businesses classified as ‘CX Champions’ – those considered the highest standard-bearers – are 45% more likely than ‘CX Starters’ to use pre-configured logic and parameters to successfully help customers to reach the right channel for their specific issue. Essentially, businesses that utilise chatbots as a tool to gather feedback and insights are able to better adapt and improve the quality of their overall CX. 

Chatbots need to get personal

It’s frustrating when customers are trying to resolve an issue but are not directed to the help they require. This is a case where a mechanical approach is less ideal – and you need to get personal. Personalised and intuitive chatbots can prevent customers from feeling alienated, rather than being faced with a ‘scripted’ or impersonal response. Finding a casual yet relatable voice becomes key to this process, as people don’t actually want to talk to a bot, and would rather be able to hold a conversation as they do in their daily lives. 

A good example of this is with Carousell, where our solutions have accelerated the customer experience tremendously. Customers on Carousell usually have straightforward and transactional queries, such as how to create an account or accept payments. This makes solutions like Zendesk’s Answer Bot incredibly useful, guiding customers to relevant help centre articles so queries can get resolved efficiently. This approach has helped Carousell’s 45-person support team solve around 30,000 customer support tickets a month, reducing strain on its resources and allowing the CX team to scale.

Utilising AI and Machine Learning to your advantage

Ultimately, doing more with less is the goal here – and given that chatbots can grow and learn over time to adapt their responses, utilising Machine Learning and AI can be a cost-effective way to ensure CX efficiencies.  

Implementing AI and Machine Learning can feel daunting for many businesses, but it shouldn’t be. Our approach at Zendesk is to democratise AI and Machine Learning, by providing solutions that work right out the box, making it as easy as possible to set up and maintain. We recently launched Intelligent Triage and Smart Assist, new AI solutions that empower businesses to triage customer support requests automatically and access valuable data at scale. They allow businesses to instantly route and prioritise revenue drivers, ensuring agents are working on business-critical requests. These features automatically guide agents on how to best resolve a customer’s issue in real-time, understand context, recommend solutions, and improve coaching and training with valuable insights.

When Pet Lovers Centre’s customers flocked online following the COVID-19 lockdowns, the company integrated all touchpoints in Zendesk and implemented automation and self service to optimise the customer experience across channels. The business saw messages decrease by 60% leading to a 32% increase in CSAT (Customer’s Satisfaction) scores. Zendesk’s analytics capabilities also provided insights into customer interactions, which enabled stakeholders the ability to make more informed decisions about the business. 

This example showcases how powerful AI & Machine Learning can be when implemented well, solving otherwise complex challenges that would require precious time and resources.

For businesses to flourish, it boils down to understanding the customer journey and providing a seamless, yet personal experience. As businesses undergo digital transformation, the first step to making solutions like chatbots and AI work for them is to see it as an essential part of your business, and not just a plug-and-play solution. For it to succeed, businesses will need to take time and effort to maximise its potential – only then would businesses truly elevate their customer experience and drive tangible business results.

This article titled “The end of frustrating chatbots: How to harness the true potential of chatbots to improve customer experience” was authored by Abhishek Deshmukh, SVP of Engineering, Zendesk

About the author

Abhishek Deshmukh is the Senior Vice President of Engineering and Managing Director, Zendesk Singapore. In his dual role, he leads product development for the support, messaging and chat solutions within the Zendesk Suite and oversees operations for Zendesk Singapore. Passionate about software engineering excellence, Abhishek strives to empower his team to build products that help brands deepen relationships with their customers.