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Building a Customer Service Chatbot: 8 Elements of a Great Interaction

Chatbots are gaining popularity as a self-service tool, since they are versatile enough to be used across the customer journey. From helping customers decide to buy a product, make a purchase, or get post-purchase support, bots can be a valuable addition to your engagement strategy.

What's the catch? The technology is still new enough that many companies are struggling to implement a high-quality customer service chatbot.

According to Forrester research, two-thirds of consumers are skeptical of chatbots' abilities to provide interactions on the same level as human customer service agents, and more than half actually expect chatbot interactions to be sub-par. But the instant and convenient nature of chatbots can help brands deliver on what matters most to consumers during service interactions: valuing their time.

When done well, chatbots help companies make meaningful progress. For example, Forrester interviewed executives from enterprises that had deployed a customer service chatbot, and they found:

  • 88% experienced a deflection or reduction in volume of emails, live chats, and phone calls
  • 75% had an improvement in cost savings
  • 71% saw an increase in customer satisfaction

In Astute's latest best practice guide, we cover expert tips for planning a chatbot and creating fluid, conversational interactions that are consistent with your brand voice. A big part of ensuring a successful chatbot deployment is mapping out the components of your interactions.

There are several core components for chatbot interactions, each serving a distinct purpose within the conversation. Here are some examples of customer service chatbot components you should consider including in your chatbot:

elements of a great customer service chatbot interaction1. Greet the customer and introduce the bot's capabilities.

Set the right expectations from the start, as this can go a long way to improving satisfaction. Consumers understand that bots may only be able to handle a finite set of tasks as the technology continues to mature. Plus, chatbots are not supposed to be a replacement for your live agents, but a way to offload and augment.

2. Offer a menu of common questions.

More and more brands are deploying customer service chatbots, but experiences still vary widely from company to company. Drawing attention to menu options is a great way to guide customers, especially if they're unsure of what to do next.

3. Communicate in a conversational way.

Many companies struggle with transitioning from the more formal, professional language many customer service agents are trained to use, with a more conversational feeling needed for digital interactions with a bot. The bot should be clear, direct, and conversational, instead of overly formal or flowery. Try using words like "so" and "okay," as well as contractions like "I'll" and "you're," to introduce a friendlier, more human feel into the conversation.

4. Give and acknowledge gratitude.

Manners help make the conversation feel more natural. Where appropriate, ensure your bot says "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome," just as your live agents would!

examples of customer service chatbot interaction5. Offer easy ways to escalate to an agent.

Forrester has predicted that, by the end of 2019, only 40% of service bots will provide any path to a human agent. Offloading interactions to a bot comes with a risk of making customers feel not important enough to merit a human – and the best way to overcome this negative feeling is by always offering an easy "escape hatch" where the customer can immediately connect with a live agent.

The best case scenario for a chatbot escalation is transitioning to live chat with an agent (whether text, voice, or video) and staying within the original channel and device. If live chat is not available, add information on your phone number or email address. And always make sure to provide context to live agents during an escalation for a smoother transition from bot to human.

6. Use Quick Replies to help customers continue the conversation.

According to research from SoftwareAdvice, 90% of consumers say they've had poor experiences when seeking customer support on mobile. Designing chatbot interactions with an eye towards your mobile users can make a huge impact in this area.

Try to minimize the amount of typing a customer has to do, since this can be especially frustrating on a mobile device. Instead, give them the ability to quickly click a reply and move the interaction forward.

7. Acknowledge when an escalation is happening.

Not only should escalation to a live agent be easy to do, it should be clear when it is happening. Make sure the process is seamless for your agents, too, by allowing them to pick up incoming cases from all channels within a single interface, and by providing them relevant context about the customer and the bot interaction.

A final consideration for a smooth transition: if the customer is not logged into your website or app, think about what information will be needed from them to create a case to pass to the agent. Try to balance ease-of-use with collecting the necessary data points. Collecting an email address is likely the bare minimum of information needed.

8. Collect feedback.

A feedback mechanism within the bot makes it easy for customers to rate the answers they received, so you know where to improve. Make sure your tool is also providing analytics on conversations, giving insight into questions that went unanswered. A machine learning component within your bot platform can cluster related queries into broader topics to show opportunities for creating new content.

Astute's award-winning customer service chatbot, Astute Bot, helps brands deliver conversational support interactions across a variety of digital channels. See a 2-minute demo of our digital self-service platform to learn more.