The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed customer behaviours in an unprecedented way.
In order to adapt to the sudden shift towards interacting with customers on digital channels, organizations across the globe have swiftly implemented chatbots to improve customer self-service, provide information, deliver continuous and cost-effective support and delight customers with personalized experiences.
With the adoption of customer experience chatbots soaring across industries, we reached out to global CX thought leaders and analysts to get their insights on:
“How chatbots will transform transform customer experience in 2022 and beyond”
Here are their responses:
Particularly in a B2C environment, Chatbots will increasingly come to integrate into every stage of the marketing and sales funnel in 2022 and beyond.
There is no reason why you should not use a chatbot to execute a purchase or facilitate a transaction at the bottom of the funnel. Similarly, automating follow up customer care interactions is perfectly reasonable.
What will be interesting to see is the expansion of chatbots into the Middle and Top levels of the marketing funnel to assist customers with their questions relating to the consideration and decision-making part of the customer journey.
As natural language processing continues to develop, and interactions with customers become increasingly natural, these personalised interactions are going to become more and more prevalent.
Chatbot Consultant, Founder, KMW3
VP and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
Chatbots have a bad reputation, and it’s well deserved: most of them disappoint. Why? Forrester’s research finds that companies often treat conversational AI efforts primarily as IT projects, unfortunately, neglecting UX and human-centered design. Fortunately, a new discipline is emerging for creating chatbots that help users instead of frustrating them: conversation design.
In 2022, smart companies will upskill to the new discipline of conversation design, combining proven principles of human-centric design with deep understanding of how people talk and expect a conversation to flow. Those companies’ chatbots won’t disappoint — they’ll start to delight, instead.
Brands have started reaping the benefits from their chatbots already. The power of chatbots will increase exponentially in the coming months and years, performing many more tasks, answering many more queries for the ease of the user. From spotting the right products to buying and using the product at ease, chatbots will start personalizing responses by understanding preferences, conditions, etc., and recommending the right products and best places to buy .
Chairman and CEO of Acuvate Software
Associate Professor, University of Louisville
2022 is basically here, so I don’t anticipate any significant changes from the current situation. Long term, AI will develop beyond chatbots providing a complete social interaction experience, including audio, video and domain intelligence making it possible to fully automate human tech-support and sales jobs. AI will have a detailed profile of each customer and will use that information to customize and target each interaction providing better service, but also exerting unprecedented influence and sales pressure.
Chatbots have several benefits that will drive digitally transformed customer experiences. Those benefits include scalability (simultaneously addressing the needs and questions of many customers); 360 view (able to access many different dimensions of customer data for hyper-personalization of the customer experience); security (able to receive, send, and use customer confidential data in a secure conversation, through secure cloud data access); and speed (promptly answering the customer call and delivering just-in-time customer service).
The technologies that enable this include cloud, AI, and multi-modal natural language processing: natural language understanding and generation, sentiment analysis, emotion detection, data-driven question-answering, and automatic language translation. Chatbots are a dream customer engagement and experience solution for organizations of all sizes.
Chief Science Officer, DataPrime Inc
VP and Principal Analyst for CRM and Customer Service, Forrester Research
Chatbots have the power to reduce the volume of traditional email, chat or phone traffic; reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction by providing quick answers to questions that are tailored to the customer, or guiding customers through automated processes. Yet customers remain skeptical that chatbots can provide a similar level of engagement as a human agent. Look for ways to continuously improve the experience that chatbots deliver and make sure they are connected to human-assisted channels to truly transform the customer experience in 2022.
Chatbots need to become more “human”. Even really well designed, smart, AI-driven chatbots can be boring as hell, if they are only text based. And typing on mobile devices isn’t going to get any better any time soon. 2022 will likely usher in real advances in the convergence of voice and VR with text. When customers can have a natural conversation with an assistant with whom they can make ‘eye contact’, chat will really take off.
VP of Digital & Analytics Transformation, Genpact
Vice President Global Content Marketing, iQor
If the predictions are accurate, retail spend on Chatbots is expected to exceed $140 billion by 2024. This investment in AI tech by retail is primarily focused on reducing customer friction, leading to memorable experiences. To deliver that amazing experience requires a level of expertise with Design thinking. While the maturity of the underlying technologies like NLU that makes chatbots function is high, the key goal is to deliver meaningful automation that solves customer problems.
Companies that are successfully delivering world class digital experiences listen to their customers and their customer service agents to find those business processes that could be easily handled by AI while allowing the workforce to have more meaningful engagements with the customers.
In 2022, we will witness a noticeable increase in the capacity of chatbots to communicate a “personality,” enabling the tone and style to match the culture and brand of an organization. The style of luxury hotel chatbots might sound and feel different than ones used by Harley dealerships or funeral homes. Thanks to A.I. and machine learning, chatbots will be able to assume more complex queries thus freeing agents to apply ingenuity and empathy in ways chatbots cannot.
Senior Partner, The Chip Bell Group | Keynote Speaker
Customer Service / Experience expert and New York Times bestselling business author
Chatbots continue to improve. The technology has a better ability to understand questions asked in many different ways, the ability to overcome the customer’s mistakes in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and give an overall “human-like” experience. Digital has become a go-to first choice for many customers.
That said, for it to be truly successful, even with the great improvements, there will be times when the customer will need to move from a conversation with a chatbot to one with a human/live agent. At that point, there must be a seamless transition that causes, ideally, no friction for the customer. The company/brand that gets this right will win in a world where customer service is more important than ever.
Customer behaviours and demand for anytime help has increased rapidly, accelerated further by the pandemic and a need to get things done often at odd times of the day. Many organisations are redressing their contact centre model and with increased inbound volumes need to automate in order to deliver a quality customer experience.
Front ended triage of customers using automated AI chatbots enables an organisation to direct a customer to the right information, guide them through help as required or where needed route them to a direct chat or live agent call efficiently. The chatbot done well reduces a customer’s resolution time and empowers internal agents to have time to serve in H2H engagement those that truly need this help
Chief Revenue Officer, OneUp Sales
Founder and CRM CX Consultant at University of Customer
In my humble view, chatbots will transform customer experience in 2022 in the following ways:
Chatbots and CRM/CX initiatives of digital transformation should calibrate and put more kindness and empathy in their scripts. It is because I noticed many chatbots around the world became rigid in their dialogs with end users and customers. Remember, around the world, there are customers in different generations and levels of education.
Chatbots should prepare their contingency plan in case like we have in 2021 when Whatsapp was out of service and impacted 3 billion people around the world. Chatbots and their companies should ask themselves: what should I do if my backend applications like Faceboook Messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram, and so on.. are out of service? how to provide a good and continuing experience to my customer?
In 2022 and beyond, advancing digital technology will undoubtedly continue to play an increasingly important role in the lives of business and consumers. Chatbots are one primary example of this. If used in alignment with the customer journey, chatbots can help to automate simple tasks and activities to enable humans to perform more important, value-added tasks directly with customers. It is critical that organisations do not see chatbots as a replacement for human to human interaction, but as a way to improve the customer experience.
Global Customer Experience Specialist, Customer Experience Consultancy Ltd
Chatbots have become a common solution to enhance customer online experiences and will continue to be a popular tactic in 2022. Chatbots are especially valuable for routine questions that can save customer care reps time and cost per call, while also useful to quickly solve simple customer questions, such as finding a nearby retail address, or hours of operation.
As questions get more complex, chatbots can become a source of customer dissatisfaction if not done right. The solution must provide a “low level of effort” and be easy to reach a human being (unlike when calling a company 800# and getting lost in an IVR system).
It’s no secret that people’s patience is dwindling, so the companies that use technology to enhance and solve their needs fast will win in a competitive marketplace. That means that companies must lean on CX-skilled leaders to ensure best practices are applied, such as communication continuity.
What I mean by this is when a customer asks a series of questions of the bot and is then forwarded to a live rep, the details of the conversation must be transferred simultaneously to avoid the customer having to repeat the same questions again.
In sum, chatbots and similar automated technologies will definitely be part of our future. The uncertain part is whether company leaders will focus on the Customer Experiences (CX) and their needs vs solve for internal requirements and processes–resulting in brand advocates turning into detractors over time.
Until now, chatbots have primarily been deployed where companies can save money. Encouraging customers to shoulder routine tasks like Q&A, tech support, product registrations, and appointment scheduling allows employees to focus on higher-value work. This approach is attractive because it promises a permanent reduction in labor costs.
In 2022, I believe we’ll see the use of chatbots expand into areas where they can help the company create more value for their customers. Imagine you’re scheduling a dentist appointment using a chatbot. It might remind you when your kids are due for check-ups and try to find the most convenient time for all of you, including working around local school holidays.
The more value chatbots create for customers, the more valuable they are to a company’s brand.
Founder & Managing Partner, Storyminers
CEO & Founder Jill Raff Group, LLC
Chatbots have become a part of our expected experiences as customers. As we move into 2022 and beyond, AI is progressing at lightning speed. It is crucial that organizations create internal Customer Experience (CX) teams working hand in hand with employee and customer experience experts for an external fresh-eyes perspective to ensure as much of a natural real ‘human conversation’ as possible.
In 2022, customers will demand more, faster, and with more convenience. No one wants to feel they’re in a digital feedback loop with tech that cannot solve their problem. Intelligently programmed chatbots can make ALL the difference in realizing these expectations.
Chatbots offer three key components in customer value – access, information, and efficiency. Thanks to AI, chatbots have, and will increasingly, expedite complex customer queries cost-effectively. These savings ensure companies can hire talented service professionals when customers “opt human.” Chatbots have moved from a less desirable service option to a necessary and invaluable one.
CEO, The Michelli Experience
Chief Strategy Officer, Finalytics.ai
The pandemic has increased the demand for automated and self-service. Consumers expect 24×7 service in all kinds of industries. According to Business Insider “Nearly 40% of internet users worldwide prefer interacting with chatbots than virtual agents, and with major industries including retail and healthcare turning to digital technology, chatbots will likely increase in popularity moving forward.”
While for these reasons, I’m bullish on chatbots in the long-term, I don’t expect chatbots to hit their stride by 2022. The main reasons why I think it is too early are:
A customer’s intent often escapes current chatbots. Human language and variations are complex and even with models like OpenAI’s GPT3, basic requests are easily misinterpreted. Consumers trained by human-powered chat functions find that purely AI-powered chatbots lack the conversational intelligence they associate with digital chats.
Chatbots are trained on data that is biased and often impacts the experience of people of cultures that aren’t reflected in the training data. This is more of a challenge with voice bots, as accents continue to be a problem for the Alexas and Siris of the world. Personally, I experience this nearly every day with my Amazon Echo.
2022 will see an incremental increase in proof-of-concept tests, implementations, and demand but it will not yet be the tipping point.
We are in the age of hyper-customisation. Serving segments with the highest degree of diversity would remain distant without AI/ML . Predictive analysis won’t replace humans, but serve them better. Chatbots are at the helm of this! Since 2020 digital use has quadrupled . Hence, data collection on every behaviour to predict the future is scaling new heights. In such a competitive world, Customer Experience would be defined by efficient communication,thereby increasing loyalty!
Principal & Owner E-WRITE
The best chatbots will make great customer experiences better. The worst chatbots will damage customer experience in ways companies cannot recover from. Even simple rule-based chatbots can improve customer experience when they’re built to answer customers’ authentic questions or efficiently guide customers to self-service content.
But many chatbots transform customer experience into customer frustration when they ask for the customer’s patience because they’re “learning,” fail to give the customer an easy exit to a live person, or keep offering information the customer’s indicated they don’t want or need.
If deployed correctly, the convenience and accessibility of chatbots could transform customer experience in 2022 in the most positive ways. It’s more likely, however, that clunky, inadequate chatbots will make customer experience worse.
Chatbots used to help streamline transactional experiences can really make customer journeys easier, quicker and more convenient. But using chatbots to try and cut costs in emotional experiences will cause frustration, resentment and will damage the relationship between customer and company.
So my advice is to use chatbots for simple, transactional interactions to free up agent time that can be focused on more meaningful, emotional experiences.
CS Ambassador, Pega Systems
Founder & Principal Consultant
With a focus on customer service experiences in West Africa, I don’t predict that chatbots will transform CX because it is an enabler. However, it can help improve it with a focus on response time, personalization and staff utilization.
Chatbots do not have the power to transform CX because humans determine the outcome. From CX projects I executed in 2021, it’s clear that companies that have adopted it don’t understand how it works, haven’t optimized it or innovated with it. Chatbots can’t solve CX problems automatically. In my opinion, they are designed to provide technical support that impacts CX.
Chatbots will increasingly become mainstream and part of the customer’s expectation as an option to choose to interact with your brand. The fact that every customer won’t choose this option does not mean that you can ignore it!
Director, Customer Attuned