Chatbots have become one of the latest staples of modern Contact Centers. After all, its no longer enough to simply settle with a call center solution. By enabling users and clients to reach out for help from a bot, agents have the time to focus on more complex issues and customers feel like they’re getting the help they need without hassle. But, just because your organization has introduced a chatbot into your website or app, doesn’t mean that customers and clients will utilize your chatbot.

In fact, building the chatbot is just one part of the puzzle. More importantly, your team should be optimizing chatbots over time to not only increase their effectiveness, but encourage greater engagement as well. After all, if your chatbot goes unused and clients are constantly trying to call agents, then the investment wasn’t really worth it.

Why Chatbots

When I first started talking about chatbots just last year, I noted that they are quickly picking up steam. In fact, even Gartner wrote that chatbots are “entering the market rapidly,” and have a wide appeal for both the everyday customer and end user, as well as the business utilizing chatbots.

The benefits are felt on both ends: users receive the help they need quickly and easily, and organizations are able to save money by employing chatbots as a first line of defense. Now, that’s a phrase I use a lot, so I want to add a bit of context.

At the end of the day, Live Chat support options are becoming almost the new norm, and chatbots are another way to take advantage of this new communication channel. Essentially, chatbots should be leveraged at the entry level stages of the customer experience. This means that chatbots are best utilized as a way to engage customers when they first visit your website or download your mobile app. Chatbots also work extremely well as a part of a complete self-service strategy to enable users to seek out support on their own. And, they do not have to be purely conversational, just took a look at what Facebook did with them. Its all about providing users with an interactive experience that they have control over.

The State of Chatbot Engagement

But, just because your organization is employing on chatbots as a first line of contact, does not mean that customers and users are actually engaging with them. In fact, according to a Chatbot Statistic blog post published by Ubisend just a year ago (which is constantly being updated), the results showed the opposite:

  • Only 57% percent of UK consumers knew what a chatbot is (Ubisend, 2017)
  • Only 27% of consumers predicted they would buy a basic item through a chatbot (Drift, 2018)
  • Only 48% of consumers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other mean of contact (HubSpot 2017)
  • Only 21% of consumers see chatbots as the easiest way to contact a business (Ubisend, 2017)

And probably the most damning statistic of them all:

  • 15% of consumers have communicated with a business via a chatbot in the last 12 months (Drift, 2018)

Right off the bat its fairly easy to see how the data is stacked against chatbots. Now, that doesn’t mean your efforts are completely futile. There are some promising figures as well:

  • 35% of consumers want to see more companies using chatbots (Ubisend, 2017)
  • 57% of consumers are interested in chatbots for their instantaneity (HubSpot, 2017)
  • 27% of US Adults would buy basic items through a chatbot, and 13% would buy an expensive item (Drift, 2018)

While these numbers seem low, mostly under 50%, they are in fact promising. The simple fact that 27% of US adults surveyed said they would purchase an item from a chatbot means that a quarter of users are willing to utilize chatbots for something as sensitive as a transaction. That alone shows the power of chatbots.

However, as we look closer, we can see there is still a wall to overcome with overall chatbot engagement. Users need to know chatbots are there, what they can do, and they need to trust the privacy and security behind them.

Why Don’t Customers Care?

Probably the largest hurdle to overcome chatbots is to get customers to actually care. As we saw, a shocking percentage of UK consumers interviewed (43%) didn’t even know what a chatbot is. But for the 53% that does know, only 27% said they would even use them to purchase a basic item. Less than half (48%) would even utilize a live chat interaction, let alone a chatbot.

So, we need to get consumers to not only be aware of the options available to them, but need to actively encourage users to utilize these new means of communication — we need to get them to care. As I’ve touched on again and again, the Customer Experience is an absolutely key metric that can make or break a business: if customers feel the business doesn’t care or the experience is difficult, they’ll shop elsewhere.

Since most customers are looking for the simplest and easiest way to get help, they’ll leverage what they’re familiar with — most of the times this is simply phone support. We need to help customers become aware of the options in front of them, and help them realize they can take advantage of these channels to gain better support.

Increasing Chatbot Engagement

Just because customers aren’t utilizing chatbots to their fullest doesn’t mean your organization should abandon the effort. The benefits of chatbots definitely outweigh the negatives, and even if engagement isn’t as high as you would like, chances are the usage of chatbots is already bringing some cost savings as a bare minimum benefit.

But as I said, we can help increase the engagement of chatbots by helping customers care. We need to not only inform customers of their options available to them, but also actively encourage users to seek out this form of assistance. Through some useful practices, we can achieve both goals, ultimately improving user engagement rates with chatbots.

Utilize Push Notifications

It is fairly obvious to state that your chatbots should be actively engaging with website visitors and mobile app viewers. That’s fairly standard stuff. But we can go one step further than simply sending visitors a hello or welcome message. By utilizing push notifications, chatbots can send users interactive messages and provide them with more information, for example product updates or promotional messages. By keeping users in the loop, and having chatbots reach out to customers more frequently, they will be encouraged to interact more.

However, do not go overboard — this could easily have the exact opposite effect as intended. With too many messages and updates, customers will become overwhelmed or annoyed and be more likely to disengage with your chatbots. Instead, its about finding that right balance. Customers need to be aware of the options available to them, but do not want to be constantly pestered. Appropriately timed and utilized push notifications are a great way to increase engagement and customer awareness of not only chatbots, but of course updates to your products or solutions, and promotions available.

A great use-case example of chatbot push notifications would be when your organization releases a major update to its products or platforms. Chatbots can be used to send a notification to the user to inform them of the newest change or update, and even provide them with the ability to ask questions directly in the same chat. This way customers are not only getting a notification about the update, but are actively being encouraged to interact and learn more.

Leverage Personalization

Personalization is another key Contact Center and Customer Experience trend that will go directly hand-in-hand with your chatbots. Simply put, customers are looking for personalized interactions. When agents greet them by name, and are aware of their previous issues, customers feel as if the organization truly cares and is there to help. This alone is guaranteed to improve customer engagement — happy customers will come back — and the principal can apply to chatbots as well.

Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, more advanced chatbots have been born. Bots can process incoming data and learn responses fairly quickly thanks to customer data from CRM solutions, combined with AI and machine learning. Bots should be utilizing this information to provide customers with a personal experience. This of course can start with greeting customers by name, but we can take it a few steps even further than just that.

In fact, utilizing CRM information, bots can engage customers and users directly. For example, if a specific returning visitor had an issue with their account information last time they visited your website, a chatbot can directly message them the next time the visit and ask the customer if they require assistance logging in. Chatbots can also provide detailed information like status updates on recent orders as soon as a visitor logs into their account, for example.

Digital Assistants vs Chatbots

Chatbots can be so much more than basic bots with canned responses. Customers can and will grow tired of these generic answers and functions if your bots are left alone and kept too simple. Chatbots need to be used to help enrich the customer experience, not just replace a phone call. By providing digital assistants, and not just generic chatbots, your team can help improve the customer experience while boosting chatbot engagement. Simply put, make chatbots more than just an interactive FAQ section.

Now Digital Assistants (like Cisco’s Spark Assistant) are seen as advanced chatbots, but there is no reason we cannot utilize this level of functionality in Contact Centers. Digital Assistants are far more intelligent than generic chatbots, and a perfect example of this would be our personalization definition. Chatbots that can directly and even proactively engage customers on their specific issues are far more likely to receive engagement than generic yes or no answers.

It might not be entirely cost effective to build out every chatbot with intense and advanced AI and virtual assistant functionality, but adopting a new, more advanced army of digital assistants is a great way to ensure customers don’t just ignore that little chat pop-up. Digital Assistants might be reserved for more advanced clients, or those with an order history, but they should not be ruled out simply because of complexity or cost.

Optimize Around Key Metrics

The same is true for just about any solution, as we’ve discussed before the importance of metrics and analytics in your contact center solutions. Chatbots are of course no different. With so much data and information available, it would be irresponsible to simply ignore these vast resources. Chatbots can collect all sorts of data, including customer engagement rates, popular or frequent questions asked, total and active users, messages chatbots can’t process, and much more. But we’re not only talking about chatbot metrics, overall contact center data comes into play, as well.

This information can and absolutely should be utilized to improve the experience, not only for customers but for the Contact Center as a whole, as well. For example, if your team recognizes that agents are receiving a high amount of shipping detail requests, you should begin to strategize on how to reduce that load on agents. In fact, that’s a perfect scenario for chatbots: allow customers to seek out the assistance on their own without the need for a human agent, while directly optimizing around specific requests.

Analyzing different metrics, requests, priorities and more enable your organization to better optimize chatbots already the requests and problems customers and users are already facing. Instead of employing a chatbot to solve an issue nobody even has, utilize them as a new, simpler way for users to solve existing issues. This alone will ensure engagement, by creating and providing useful chatbots.

The Bottom Line

Chatbots have become popular in the past few years for good reason. When your Contact Center is looking to cut costs and improve the experience at the same time, chatbots are the single stone that can help kill those two birds. But, as I’ve said, just because your team implements chatbots does not mean that users and customers will love them, or even utilize them.

Nothing is truly a set-it-and-forget-it solution, and that is true for chatbots as well. With the proper optimization and planning, your team can help ensure that customers are not only aware of chatbots and their functionality, but even ensure higher levels of engagement.