Chatbots can handle some customer inquiries on their own and provide agents with information that helps them handle others, easing customer frustration at busy times. Here are three tips on how to get the most out of automated chatbots.

Fang Cheng, co-founder and CEO, Linc Global

Fang Cheng, co-founder and CEO, Linc Global

The holiday shopping frenzy is in full force, and a tight labor market means that retailers like Amazon and Target are having trouble hiring the seasonal workers who help them deal with additional demand. Typically, these temporary employees help companies cope with the most time-intensive processes. For many organizations, that means order fulfillment, but 38 percent of businesses report that customer chat support takes the most time.

It is understandable, then, that many brands have turned to automation to resolve inquiries via chat and other conversational channels. Even when chatbots can’t address a customer need (which can be up to half of the time, depending on the sophistication of the automated solution), they can provide a human agent with contextual information about the customer, including identity, history, preferences, shopping habits, and other insights. Therefore, automated service systems enable human customer service representatives to deliver a more personal experience.

The best solutions emphasize the strengths of both human agents and automated bots.

When customers are redirected from one agent to the next and have to repeatedly explain their situation, they’re more likely to become frustrated and give up on your business. On the other hand, your company can provide a great experience by allowing chatbots to be the “first responder” that gets the necessary information upfront so human customer service agents can focus on higher-level problem-solving.

Exceptional experiences are a key driver of loyalty, so it’s important to do everything you can to remove inconveniences from your customer care process. To make your customer experience more “human” and spark the types of interactions that turn customers into lifelong advocates, follow these steps:

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1. Make sure bots and humans can collaborate.

Human agents will never offer the consistency or scalability of an AI solution, but AI agents today are not able to compete with humans when it comes to processing complex emotional situations or building lasting bonds with customers. The best solutions emphasize the strengths of both human agents and automated bots. Rely on humans for more demanding situations, but ensure AI is available to carry the bulk of the load and provide valuable context for human agents to use.

To put this into action, ensure the data your chatbot has collected is surfaced clearly so a human agent can make use of it. This means offering customer data to the agent that goes beyond name and address to include things like current sentiment, recent communication, and order history. And that information needs to be available within the working environment the agent is already using.

2. Expand the capabilities of automated assistants.

Once you’ve launched a capable automated assistant that provides clear value to customers, your work isn’t over. A chatbot’s capabilities should be expanded regularly. Each conversation gives your bot the chance to become more proficient. For example, if you train it to learn when different variations of a phrase express the same meaning, it will be able to process more customer inquiries and lighten human agents’ load. If you equip it to handle additional use cases according to the most common hand-overs made to human agents, you improve its ability to handle more inquiries on its own in real time. Consider a monthly or quarterly assessment of chatbot services, and ensure you learn from real customer interactions to create more value, not just more features.

3. Collect enough data for your chatbot to make good decisions.

Automated agents should constantly learn and adapt, but they can only do that if they’re being fed the right data. You can work with an automated platform to review insights and data, or you can manually review your team’s customer conversation history and identify patterns in interactions. For example, gather all the data you can that relates to when customers cease interacting with a bot. Knowing what prompts this reaction will allow you to adjust the bot’s behavior and dramatically lower drop-off rates.

Although automated agents can resolve most customer inquiries today, the remainder need to be handled by human agents. Even in instances when a human touch is needed, an automated system can improve the personalization and effectiveness of the agent’s work. Indeed, by addressing the vast number of simple requests and providing context for those that they are unable to solve, bots can help human agents create exceptional interactions that stand out in the minds of customers and strengthen their loyalty.

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Linc Global provides a customer care automation platform.

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