Sales and customer support services have already undergone a sea change from how they were a decade back. With artificial intelligence and chatbots, they’re leapfrogging into another era. Chatbots are already getting into the forefront of enterprise interaction with their customers.


Chatbots allow customers to interact with companies through simulated conversations. Companies can cause improve customer experience through chatbots, respond faster and engage customers better. Though complete automation of customer service isn’t advisable, even if it is partially automated with the help of chatbots, it can help save a considerable business expense, that too at an at par efficiency.


Talking about customer experience, the faster response time from chatbots will be an immediate relief to customers. Chatbots can analyse call history and understand the query sensitivity, allowing them to respond better when their problem will be resolved, and may even set an automated process in motion for the resolution, in near future. They can even be the future of brand engagement, with promotions of a customized offer that can be initiated through chatbots, and customers can get all their queries answered about the offer through the chatbot itself.


24X7 customer service may be a misnomer in current times, but it can be a reality with chatbots at the forefront of customer service, active at any given point of time to answer your questions.


From the enterprise point of view, chatbots are relatively much cheaper than mobile apps, and are adaptable for various messaging platforms. Today, the cost-effectiveness of customer service is measured in terms of the ability to reduce the number of customer calls and average handling time, while in case of chatbots, the additional cost of handling more conversations and higher handling time is negligible. So the paradigm of service effectiveness will shift to encouraging higher customer calls and for longer, if that provides better customer service.


Moreover, chatbots can be really effective when customer queries and requests are in a specific area with predictable solutions. Simple troubleshooting and customer education queries can be scripted and the resolutions can be guaranteed to be of higher reliability and accuracy. Human workforce can be freed up for more complex tasks or issues.


Although enterprises will need to move ahead on automating customer services through chatbots with caution. They need to begin the transition with a ‘hybrid’ approach, where human agents supervise and train chatbots and at times intervene when the task becomes too complicated to handle. Chatbots should ideally be avoided in cases where customer is already too aggrieved to be handled by a non-human interface. Automated conversations should be designed carefully over a period of time.


Take, for example, ICICI Lombard’s chatbot platfrom MyRA, which addresses queries on two and four-wheeler insurance, as well as fire and burglary insurance for SMEs. The platform encompasses all stages of policy purchase/ renewal – starting from product selection, premium calculation and product fitment to even online sales closure. It also enables comparison between products. Being modelled on NLP (Natural Language Processing) it is conversational and easy to understand. In case of a complex issue needing resolution, it automatically transfers the chat to a customer care executive for a live chat. Another unique feature is that it predicts the next possible query from the customer and displays it in a predictive box. MyRA has been used by over 2,39,407 customers since its launch in December 2016, and has sold as many as 3,288 insurance policies.


The buzz about chatbots has been doing the rounds in business parlance for more than a year now, and will continue to be there as chatbots become an important part of the customer service mix. Since the cost of introducing chatbots and making them efficient over a period of time are declining, along with increases in significant potential benefits, a largely automated customer service experience is not far from reality.


Given recent predictions about machine-learning and advanced artificial intelligence, we soon may be presented with opportunities for chatbots to learn through each customer’s individual history to provide an unparalleled level of customised service and personalization in query resolution.