Yes, your customers still want to talk to your people

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to permeate our lives more than ever in 2019, both personally and professionally. Critics are divided on whether or not this is a good thing; when used correctly, it has the power to revolutionise and streamline processes. But there’s always the nagging fear that it might make many professions redundant.

One area that’s seen AI grow exponentially is customer service; specifically online and over the phone. The growth is so rapid that Gartner predicts 85% of customer service interactions will be powered by chatbots by 2020, which is now only a year away. This could spell danger for a number of customer-facing jobs.

Don’t panic just yet, however. A recent Usabilla report shows people still want to interact with real people at your business.

55% of customers prefer to speak to human customer service representatives over the phone over other methods of communication. What’s more, 46% would still choose to speak to a human even if using a chatbot was guaranteed to save them 10 minutes, evidencing the necessity of human contact in your communication strategy.

Interestingly, the study also found that customers are finding automated messages frustrating when phoning businesses. 73% of consumers try to bypass the automated phone message, or ‘phone-tree’ that lists options, by pressing 0.

When it comes to easy-to-resolve queries, chatbots are particularly effective. 36% of customers would prefer to interact with a chatbot when they have “a simple request, question or issue”. There’s evidence that chatbots aren’t yet mature enough to answer more complex queries; 70% of the 100,000+ chatbots active on Facebook Messenger are failing to fulfil user requests (The Information). The Usabilla report found that 43% of people choose a personal interaction because they “want to connect with a real human who can understand my problem”.

Customers can also find chatbots quite restrictive; some, like Twitter’s automated help service, present users with options on what their query is about. However, if the customer’s issue doesn’t fall into those categories, the chatbot can’t resolve them. And it’s bad news if your chatbot can’t help; 73% of people wouldn’t use a company’s chatbot again after a bad experience according to research from Publicis Groupe.

It’s clear that chatbots have a place in a modern business communication strategy, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of human-based interactions. By blending telephone communications with chatbots and live chat with humans, you’re giving both current and prospective customers the option to communicate in a way that works best for them, which increases satisfaction and ultimately brand loyalty. 40% of customers don’t care whether they talk to a chatbot or a human, as long as they get the help they need.

Technology is helping businesses to improve the way they work by eliminating manual processes, increasing flexibility and mobility, supporting growth and ultimately improving the customer experience. Artificial intelligence isn’t the only exciting development when it comes to improving your customer communications; more businesses than ever are using the forthcoming ISDN end-of-life as an opportunity to re-evaluate the most essential method of communication for customers.

Hosted telephony offers a number of benefits to businesses, including increased mobility and in-built disaster recovery. A whopping 97% of employees want long-term flexible working solutions, while 18-27 year-olds would choose flexible working options over a pay rise. By tethering a desk phone number to an employee’s mobile, they can work from anywhere, anytime. Not only does Gamma telephony allow you to offer flexible working and therefore attract the best talent, but it also gives you disaster recovery options.

If your office is flooded or experiences a fire, or weather like the Beast from the East prevents your co-workers from getting into the office, it won’t affect your customers’ ability to contact you – or your ability to contact them. And as we know, for over half of customers, the ability to talk to a human is essential.

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