SMS chatbots are changing the meaning of customer service

SMS chatbots are changing the meaning of customer service

By Sonia Kaul | 30 September, 2017
Chatbots, SMS chatbots, customer service, ROI, B2C model, C2B model, digital banking
Chatbots are becoming a more familiar way for people to interact with brands, as mobile phones have found their way into every Indian home. It is not just the younger generation who is comfortable with technology, but also the millennials and older generations who are showing an eagerness to befriend information on demand on their smart phones. This tech savvy audience is not patient enough for information or services unless they are delivered to them “NOW”.

Giving into this instant gratification phenomenon, Amazon has launched grocery deliveries within two hours of placing an order. Cabs are at your pick-up location “NOW”. Funds can be transferred and received effortlessly via Paytm, without the need to login on banking apps. In this age of instant information, customers find it frustrating to be queued up either on call center calls or waiting for someone to visit them and sign them up for new services like DTH or bank accounts.

Most organisations spend more than a few million every year on building contact centers, retail and sales manpower and all the technology that is required to power them. Interestingly, half of the calls received at such contact points end up getting dropped as the incoming customer service calls either go unresolved or leads are not managed effectively to realise the ROIs of instant gratification. This not only results in huge losses for the enterprise but also immense customer dissatisfaction. And it’s a known statistic that 90% of the detractors will not do a repeat purchase instead initiate an immediate lookout for alternate service providers.

Companies and brands foresee the possibility of significant cost savings by improving customer service with scripted algorithms promptly delivered via chatbots. There is a major incentive for companies to invest more heavily in these platforms which can help to reduce customer service costs by 30% and increase sales by over 30%.

With this promise, many enterprises took to building chatbots either through social messenger platforms or other chatbot stacks. However, early experiences broke down as soon as you scratched the surface of basic dialogue. Enterprises were adopting this to improve their brand visibility than for lowering the barriers to information. The design process being clunky left the users even more frustrated. As a result, engagement and conversion rates proved underwhelming and chatbots simply added to the channel clutter. They were more FAQ driven than really an effective marketing or utility driven application.

The platforms are using push feeds to serve as a discovery platform for more information than just neatly designed FAQs. As an example, if you ask enterprises what they would prioritize when it comes to the bot strategy—they are likely to say, “Improving our dialogue with consumers.” However, if you ask the customers, what would please them the most; they are likely to say—“never needing a dialogue with anyone”. In these evolving dynamics between enterprise and customer, what matters most isn’t how talkative or friendly a brand can be, but how efficiently consumers can access its services.

This is where the industry has tried to fill the gap with its powerful chatbot solution that not only works regardless of form type—desktop, mobile, tablet—but also works as seamlessly with or without data.Highly personable experiences that understand customer queries and can be enabled on SMS as well as data enabled mobiles. The industry wants the platform to be the catalyst that transforms our discussion from a B2C model to a C2B model. In the age of Uber, Paytm, Airbnb and the likes, services have become available on-demand, posing a new challenge for the banking and the insurance industry. Our value proposition is to make the power of information accessible to consumers for financial inclusion of the masses.

We have also seen banks taking the lead to provide its users the ease to interact with them for banking requests using simple conversational commands without the need to memorize specific and hard to remember keywords. Whether it was “please recharge my phone for Rs 50 or transfer funds to an account number “XXXXX4137”, as it provides a friction and keyword less SMS banking solution like what has already been done for a leading bank as part of their digital rural banking initiative. This was even before the term “chatbot” was coined as a service model. 

This journey has led to the evolution and adoption of chatbots across other industry verticals as well for increased conversions and an enhanced customer service experience. The Goal has been to let enterprises assimilate chatbots in their sales and service cycles. The platform has evolved into a more conversational user interface (UI) which allows the customers to raise issues, order new connections—bank accounts or DTH, report complaints, get constant updates on their complaints—the same way enterprises allow customers to track their orders. Empowering the customers with this visibility and accessibility can go a long way towards garnering a lasting goodwill towards the enterprise and its processes.

The writer is head, product marketing, mGage India

 

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