When and How to Use Chatbots to Support Your Customers

After switching to a different email address, I recently logged in to my client account to change the contact information my mobile company had. On seeing the email field greyed out and uneditable, I visited their Help and Support page for assistance.

Live chat support was available. It was 9:31 in the morning.

Someone was already waiting for me—Gie. This Facebook Messenger-based bot initiated the conversation with one of the more tedious stages of getting support: account verification. We breezed through the questions quickly, with two minutes of waiting in between for a human agent to step in and take my case.

The example above is just a scratch on the surface when you consider the possibilities of using chatbots to help your customers and improve their experience with your company. For example, H&M’s Kik bot gives customers fashion suggestions and inspiration based on their preferences. It can even build an entire look based on the piece of clothing you specify.

It’s an interesting opportunity where artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to create personalized support experiences based on customer search and messaging. Depending on your support and brand objectives, you can have chatbots pull up help articles from your knowledge base, build your blog’s mailing list, and even provide product suggestions before they go on to browse your online store.

With half of the consumers preferring chat and online messaging1, companies have begun to embrace and explore opportunities where artificial intelligence can provide these unique interactions. From e-commerce to software-as-a-service, chatbots with brand-centric personalities are deployed to provide 24/7 support to both new and existing customers.

Does this mean benching your Support team and handing the ball over to your new chatbot? Not at all. Let’s take a look at how chatbots can be a huge help for both customers and support, and when chatbots need to take a backseat and let the human agents run the show.

How Chatbots Can Help Both Your Customers and Your Support Team

A Harvard Business Review article highlights that the chatbot is just one type of AI technology used to deliver a unique brand experience2 to the customer.

This spans a wide range of business processes, from customer service and support to marketing and sales. When done right, a chatbot can make a positive impact on your customer’s service experience, while giving your support team the chance to earn customer loyalty.

If you’ve never considered using chatbots like our very own Freddy for customer support, these are just some of the benefits they bring to the table:

For customers, chatbots can offer:

– 24/7 support – chatbots can receive hundreds of customers simultaneously without a 9AM-5PM schedule limiting their availability. Customers no longer need to sit down, ticket number in hand, and wait for business hours for someone to help them solve their issue.  

– Easy and quick self-service – whether it’s retrieving an old license or upgrading one’s subscription, customers can self-serve by prompting the chatbot to pull up the information they need. No more channel switching, pressing 1 and 2 on an IVR, or being placed on hold so that the right person from the right department can come to the phone.

– Unique service experiences – whether it’s auto-magically pulling up answers from the knowledge base or providing product suggestions based on keywords, chatbots can create a lasting impression on customers.

– Intelligent support – learning through every customer interaction, chatbots like Freddy can respond intelligently to customer inquiries with relevant answers and suggestions based on key topics from your company’s knowledge base and conversation history across different departments: sales, marketing, technical support, and more.

For your Support team, chatbots can provide:

– Proactive support – engage with visitors to your marketing websites based on specific rules. For example, your chatbot can prompt your customer to start a conversation after scrolling through 50% of your pricing page.

– Customer context – agents will be able to pick off where the chatbot left, saving the customer the agony of repeating their question or explaining the issue again.

– Better team productivity – with chatbots handling repetitive tasks (e.g. pulling up help articles) and customer FAQs (e.g. “How do I cancel my account?”), they can save an average of four minutes per inquiry, allowing your Support team to take care of more complex issues that require context, research, and empathy.

– Cost savings and a lighter workload – as a form of self-service, chatbots lessen the influx emails or phone calls your team handles. This lightens the daily workload and saves the company money on support costs.

Considering how much can be done and saved with AI, you’d assume brands to instantly adopt chatbots as a support channel. Yet, there’s this lingering tension when deciding to use chatbots for customer support, sparking heated discussions whether they are indeed improving or hurting the service experience.

The Dangers of Chatbots

The contention towards chatbots often springs from the misconception that it can handle all scenarios and situations in customer interaction. Pair that with generic responses that have little to do with the customer’s issue, and voila, you have a customer that’s less likely to want to speak to your chatbot—or your Support team—again.  

“Remember that each interaction provides an opportunity for a customer to judge the AI system and therefore the brand and company’s performance,” says the Harvard Business Review article, mentioned above. “In the same way that people can be delighted or angered by an interaction with a customer service representative, they can also form a lasting impression of a chatbot, physical robot, or other AI system.”

In short, a bad chatbot experience can have a costly impact on your brand’s bottom line. Since it’s configured to interact with your customers round the clock, you could potentially drive away a huge number of new and existing customers because your bot couldn’t provide the customer the help they needed.  

When Should You Use Chatbots, and When Should Your Customer Support Team Step In?

Because chatbots are limited to what they’re programmed to do, they’re never meant to replace your support team. In fact, the latter now plays an even bigger role in the success of the customer’s interaction with the company.

Michael Mills, Senior Vice President of CSG, recommends3 a  “blended” approach where both chatbots and customer support agents work together to provide a smooth and consistent support experience.

“These channels should work seamlessly together, allowing a human agent to pick up where a customer left off with the chatbot, for example, and access information from that previous interaction. Making it easy for a customer to transition without repeating information or starting from scratch lends to successful customer experience.”

This transition is especially important when a customer reaches out for help with urgent and complex issues that need real human beings to fix. Your support team can provide context, empathy, and real-life interaction that chatbots just aren’t capable of providing. With more breathing room to work on these difficult issues, customers receive the quality of support they deserve, motivating them to stay loyal to your brand.


Whether it’s using automation to route conversations to the right team or saving the customer’s email address for the agent to respond later, chatbots should collaborate with their human counterparts to keep the support experience relevant and helpful. When done right, you can greatly improve the quality of support your customer receives while shaving hours off of your team’s work day.

1 – https://www.inc.com/larry-kim/10-fascinating-facts-about-chatbots.html
2 – https://hbr.org/2017/06/when-ai-becomes-the-new-face-of-your-brand
3 – https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherelliott/2018/08/27/chatbots-are-killing-customer-service-heres-why/#476f31c13c5a