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Improving Customer Experience with Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

Aug '18
By CIOReview | Friday, August 24, 2018

As the generations fuse more with the mobile phones and the internet, it is imperative for brands and industries to serve their customers on a mobile supportive platform for a unique customer experience. Nonetheless, complaints, feedbacks, and questions from end consumers are daily phenomena and the companies cannot ignore these if they wish to retain a client. But it’s not humanly possible and economically feasible for the manufacturing companies and businesses to provide manual help at each point of customer interaction, thus, leading to unhappy clients.

As the world technologically advances towards making life much easier, this problem too is answered. With advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, manufacturing industries and big brands are incorporating chatbots on their websites and mobile applications to help customers navigate through the contents or assist with the minimum basics. Moreover, launches such as Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant software that is designed to learn from every use and Facebook messenger’s bots equipped with simple AI technology is making great leaps in the automatic conversational assistant front. In fact, Google has recently incorporated advance AI powered natural language chatbots to improve the customer’s interaction with the machines or websites.

These chatbots and virtual assistants are powered by AI, machine learning, and data analytics capabilities to answer different forms of queries and segregate various complains as well as feedbacks into categories. Chatbots can be very helpful in dire situations such as disasters, terrorist attacks, or virus outbreaks when there is an influx of people needing answers from governments or NGOs.

For instance, UNICEF’s free and open social messaging tool U-Report uses chatbot technology and easily integrates with the Facebook messenger to reach a large group of people. The U-Report application has recently been launched in Syria to provide the government aids from different countries and NGOs with information on local conditions collected from the local demographic surveys through the app. Moreover, people from different regions can submit case studies on social issues or raise and bring attention to local social problems, as the app focuses on large scale data gathering from polls.

In the end, it is imperative to remember that these bots and assistants are machines and leverages machine learning technologies to provide users with a conversational interface. Therefore, it is vulnerable to pick up the wrong information as they aren’t capable of making a contentious distinction between offensive sentiments, Microsoft’s Tay and Zo bots serve as a prime example. The Tay and Zo chatbots were launched online on Twitter to interact with real people and learn from the interactions without any preprogrammed answers, but soon the bot started releasing racist and sexually charged messages in response to the end users’ comments.

Nonetheless, the pros outweigh the cons, through chatbots more end customers can connect to the brands and have their grievances solved. This will not only improve experience but will also provide the customers with a personalization advantage. Online stores such as Sephora and eBay are using chatbots to help customers categorize their needs and provide a list of recommendations based on the answers to the pre-programmed questions. These help the customer to gain a variety of alternative options without having to research too much on the subject. Chatbots of the online retail companies brings exposure to different brand names through proper recommendation and increases the revenue gains for these brands.

Good chatbot integrations improve customer interactions exponentially as it is available 24/7. Plus, even the normal chatbot technology is slowly being combined with natural language processing and big data to enhance the machines command following capabilities as well as provide the personal touch of talking to a human. These chatbots can be used to carry out customer support, conversational commerce, and communications as well as can be leveraged by companies to provide HR, marketing, design, tool development, health, news, travel, social, utilities, sports, and personal services. Moreover, voice recognition technology has been implemented to virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa, and these assistants are combining Natural language understanding with big data to provide human-like voice modulation and audio interface. IBM’s Watson is being leveraged by toy companies to design and develop chatbots-based educational toys.

Chatbots and virtual assistants are being extensively researched, invested in, and developed by manufacturing and technology companies to remind consumers that their individual problems are important to the giants. Even though there are both pros and cons to the technology, it still effectively improves customer satisfaction, enhances business-client interactions, increases customer loyalty, and promotes brands among the demographics.