The Rise of the Chatbot: Moving Business Communication Forward

By Dharshan Naidoo, Enterprise Team Leader at Infobip’s Johannesburg office

Busy moms don’t have the time for obstacle-ridden customer journeys, like calls being placed on hold or repeating queries from one call centre agent to another. Forward-thinking businesses know this and implement customer-centric solutions to provide fast and personalised service. Cue the rise of the chatbot.

The female purchaser

According to a pre-pandemic study by Nielsen in 2020, at least 89% of women globally indicated they had primary or shared responsibility for daily shopping, food prep, and household chores. However, the pandemic had a significant impact on the way women shop, with a drastic shift towards e-commerce. In fact, a recent study by World Wide Worx found that online retail in South Africa more than doubled in just two years.

Considering this concurrent shift in retail and consumer trends, it’s therefore crucial to ensure women – especially moms – have access to fast and personalised service. By providing immediate assistance, chatbots are a tool that can save consumers time and benefit businesses by improving customer service.

The rise of the ‘bot’

Chatbots are becoming an increasingly popular tool to provide immediate answers to customer FAQs or more straightforward requests that businesses can automate. This can result in higher first contact resolution and instant customer service resolution. And while chatbots may not be able to resolve highly complex queries, they can gather vital information to bring customer service agents up to speed with the client’s question, eliminating the need for the customer to repeat basic information or queries.

There are two different types of chatbots that customer-centric businesses can deploy to service their clients – AI chatbots or keyword chatbots:

  • AI chatbots – or “conversational chatbots” – are computer programs that enable users to make and resolve queries via text or a voice interface.
  • Keyword chatbots can provide options from which customers or users can select the best fit for their queries. In many cases, keyword chatbots simply point customers to information sources to resolve their questions.

AI chatbots are more advanced, thanks to their ability to enable more conversational interactions by interpreting users’ intent based on the language they’re using. They can also be programmed to read customers’ sentiments by identifying keywords like “complain” or “compliment”. As a result, the interaction between the user and the chatbot is much closer to the experience of chatting with a human contact centre agent.

Chatbot scenarios

Chatbots can be programmed to help customers in many customer service scenarios and industries. Some examples include:

  • Making medical appointments: A chatbot can simplify the appointment reservation process for everyone involved. A client can contact the business via a chat app, such as WhatsApp, and once keywords like “where are you located”, “appointment”, or “reservation” pops up in the message thread, the chatbot will be programmed to collect and provide basic information. The chatbot can also relay the chat to an agent, who will secure appointments much quicker and efficiently thanks to the basic information collected before the handover to the agent.
  • Finding lost property: Airline passengers occasionally misplace their personal belongings, which can cause them a lot of stress and inconvenience. Passengers can contact the airline or airport using a service chatbot to report their situation and seek help. Using Named Entity Recognition (NER) AI capabilities, the chatbot can recognise their intent thanks to keywords like “lost luggage” and their location. With this information, the chatbot can then direct the customer to the right place to receive help.
  • Insurance policy management: Insurers can proactively reach out to policyholders with chatbots on their preferred channels. These chatbots can offer various information, ranging from information about coverage, monthly premiums, or finding the closest service provider in the insurer’s network. This way, the policyholder can access instant information in their own time.

Automating customer service

Businesses that would like to implement this technology need to start with a clearly defined customer service strategy based on measurable business goals. This strategy includes establishing a clear map of your customer journey and where any pain points might be.

Depending on your goals, using a simple self-service keyword chatbot can be an excellent way to start. You can deploy it across customers’ favourite channels to help provide faster customer support at a lower cost. By automating the most straightforward queries, like giving information about branch locations, businesses can save time and money while keeping their customers happy.

Setting up chatbots has become easier and more accessible than before. That said, it’s important to remember that automated tools can’t help with everything. In many instances, nothing beats human connection. The best chatbot knows its limits and can seamlessly hand over complex tasks to live agents. The chatbot will provide the agent with the relevant customer data and conversation history for faster resolution and seamlesss customer service. For this reason, it’s hugely beneficial to integrate your chatbot with an automated, cloud-based contact centre solution that enables seamless agent takeover and helps you solve multiple customer pain points. And choosing the right technology partner is the first step.


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