Where Do Bots Fit into Your Omnichannel Strategy?

Two of the biggest customer support technology trends for 2019 are bots and omnichannel support. Bots are picking up traction as more companies are using them to help customers find information, to route queries to the right department, and to carry out transactions that don’t require a human agent. Omnichannel support is quickly becoming a must-have requirement for companies to have on offer because the customers of today are more comfortable having the option to communicate through a number of different channels. 

But how do these two trends fit together? Can bots enhance your omnichannel strategy? If deployed correctly – absolutely! When you’re considering implementing a bot strategy, it’s super important to think about how it flows between channels. From self-service, to chat, to email, and even through social customer support, bots can have huge advantages in guiding customers to an efficient resolution. But if used without deliberate thought, they can be a big barrier between you and your customers, leading to increased frustration from customers. Read on to learn how you can combine bots and omnichannel strategies to make your customers’ journey a smooth one. 

Bots Help Customers Navigate Channels

If you’ve developed an omnichannel strategy, you’re most likely offering customer support over a number of channels, and not all channels are easy when it comes to access for help. For instance, a billing question might be best solved through chat, whereas a technical question might need several screenshots and code samples to be sent through email. How can customers identify which channel is the best option for them? 

Well as it turns out, they don’t need to! If a customer has an issue and tries to find help, they choose the most efficient channel only 20% of the time. When faced with a decision to start a chat, pick up a phone, or search for help, customers just don’t know what will give them the fastest and best answer. Technically, customers shouldn’t need to know how the intricacies of your customer support strategy work in order to get the best help. Instead, we should tell them what’s going to work best for them – we’re the experts, after all. 

By providing the right guidance, bots can help bridge this gap between the best channel and the channel that customers choose by themselves. Suppose a customer has a question about billing and starts to ask the question in your feedback widget. At your company, billing changes always need to be done by a human. When the bot identifies that the customer needs to update billing information, they can immediately connect the customer to an agent, instead of trying to help themselves, or serving up a knowledge base article. If a customer needs to call instead of emailing about a cancellation, bots can tell them that, saving their time by pointing them in the right direction. The CEB has good news too. When customers are provided with guidance about which channel to choose, they pick the right one 66% of the time – reducing the overall effort the customer needs to spend on getting help. 

Bots are Multi-channel

When we think of bots, it’s common to automatically add the word “chat” in our head. Chatbots are definitely the most common type of bot we use in customer support, but there are many others as well. Many bots are available across a variety of channels, from an automated Twitter response, Facebook messenger, to live chat. Simply deploying a bot to each channel might be a good way to optimize for efficiency, through automation. 

But moving from multichannel to omnichannel requires a more thoughtful deployment. If customers encounter a new bot on each channel and are transferred between agents, channels, and bots, they are certain to get frustrated. A much better way to do this is to understand how customers use every channel, and make it effortless to transition between them. In essence – you need to think about bots being omnichannel, rather than just a bolt-on tool to each individual channel. Effectively transferring a customer from bot to human, and back to bot, requires mapping your customers support journey and understanding the many different paths they take to talk to your team. 

Bots can help keep continuity between channels. Snatchbot explains1 that “user interactions with bots are able to be tracked. This way, the information can be shared with multiple applications and further analyzed to gain insight into your audience.” Take the information that customers share via chat, and include it in the email ticket. Don’t treat each new bot interaction as a separate ticket, because customers will then be repeating themselves across channels. The key lies in integration. 

Bots Can Help You Become More Proactive

With bots continuing the conversation from platform to platform, you can enjoy an ongoing relationship with customers irrespective of where they are. Proactive support means offering customers what they need before they contact you for it. Bots provide an easy way to pop up into a customer’s experience at a specific time, with specific advice. Take for instance a customer who is going through their onboarding process. Once they’ve completed a specific step in the flow, you can trigger a bot to pop up in-app, offering more advice or encouraging them to get in touch with support if they have any questions. 

In-app bots can pop up to say hello, suggest new features in live chat, or trigger helpful messages when a customer looks stuck. These are just some of the many ways through which you can take your proactive support into the omnichannel. 

APIs are the Key to Omnichannel Bots

When you’re connecting the customer experience across different channels with bots, it’s important to carry information between channels. Operating each channel independently will mean that agents (and bots) don’t have any context about what the customer is experiencing – which makes it really difficult to solve their issue. Fortunately, there’s a common technological tool that makes it simple for developers to open the flow of information between different services and bots –  Application programming interface (API). 

These pipelines between tools can bring data from where it’s stored, to where the customer is interacting. Open platforms, like Freshdesk’s API, allows businesses to create their own customized experience for their users and to connect a variety of services together. 

There are many different use cases for APIs in omnichannel bots:

  • Use the data from your customer relationship management (CRM) platform to power your live chat bot. If a customer provides their email address to a bot, you can connect the dots to understand exactly what plan they are on, and connect them to the right customer success manager. 
  • Collect customer information with your bot to power your personalized marketing efforts. Ask customers what type of products they are interested in, and then send them personalized offers and information. 
  • Keep conversations going across platforms and channels. If a customer starts talking to you on Twitter, pull that conversation into their email conversation as well. This makes it simple to provide ongoing support that is consistent and conversational. 

When agents are talking to customers, ask them what information they need, to resolve their issue. If there’s any way you can get that information from another system or a bot conversation, use APIs to pull your bots together and provide better service. 

Both Bots and Omnichannel are People Pleasers

At the end of the day, customers want to see companies offering more bots and more channels to connect over. These preferences will dictate the technologies that companies invest in.
37% of consumers have responded that they would like to interact with more chatbots2 when doing business with companies. 57% of customers prefer companies who can be reached via mail, chat, video-chat, and social media platforms3 over those that only offer traditional phone support. 

These two fairly new technologies will continue to collide as more companies adopt both bots and omnichannel tools into their arsenal. The important part will be getting their interactions right. By mapping out where customers and bots interact, and creating an easy way for that to flow across channels, you can make sure customers have a great experience with both your new bots as well as your omnichannel support strategy. 

1 – https://snatchbot.me/blog/33/omni-channel-and-bots-the-new-wave-of-e-commerce
2 – https://blog.ubisend.com/hubfs/img/insights/2018_chatbot_statistics_cheatsheet/ubisend_2018_chatbot_statistics_cheatsheet.pdf
3 – https://www.ameyo.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics-which-will-impact-your-business-in-2016