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Future of ChatbotsMarch 23, 2020Written by Alex Debecker

Business Continuity & Tech: Scaling Customer Service During a Crisis

The COVID crisis has caught everyone off guard. Businesses are struggling to adapt, having to transform and sometimes shut down parts of their organisation.

Customer service is one of the departments most impacted by the crisis.

As uncertainty amongst consumers rises, so do support tickets. Hotels, banks, airlines, travel agencies, universities, governments -- all are impacted by a sudden influx of enquiries during an already challenging time.

In this article, we are going to cover how organisations can overcome these customer service challenges using AI tech.

We will also touch on business continuity. How can organisations build processes around this new technology to ensure preparedness?

Short staff and high demand: a customer service nightmare

Most businesses have had to scale back on staff.

Whether scaling back is the result of a preemptive measure or the actual effect of the virus, the outcome is the same. Entire teams and departments are shrunk and struggling to keep up.

Some businesses might have decided to adapt and implement brand new company-wide work-from-home policies. Although this solution doesn't officially reduce the available staff, as most businesses were highly unprepared for it, inefficiencies can crop up.

Unfortunately, this is only half of the nightmare customer service departments are experiencing.

Consumers are, of course, also impacted by this crisis. They want to know what is happening to their holiday, their rent, their deliveries, their weddings.

Who will they turn to?

In this perfect storm of high demand and short staff, companies and their customers suffer. Telstra, an Australian telecom company, has announced they may not be able to take customer calls.

telstra covid response

Maintaining (and scaling) service with chatbot automation

To overcome this crisis, maintain a level of service, and scale with demand, organisations are turning to automation.

In particular, businesses are leveraging secure, scalable, AI-powered chatbot technology to answer customer queries day and night.

Maintaining customer service operations

A customer service chatbot allows organisations to, at the very least, maintain a level of customer service operations running.

Across our clients, we found that between 35 and 80% of customer service enquiries can be answered by a chatbot. While this is great news across the board (as this time can be better spent elsewhere), having a chunk of enquiries fully automated is excellent news in times of crisis.

Whatever the percentage of enquiries is (35%, 80%, or anywhere in between), organisations that have implemented a chatbot know it will keep taking care of them -- no matter what.

Scaling in times of need

As we've seen, one of the major challenges facing service departments is the major influx of enquiries due to the crisis.

While some organisation might expect every single one of their customers to have one interaction per month with customer support, this number might now scale to three, four, or ten.

A customer service chatbot tackles this challenge from two main angles.

The first is capacity.

Chatbots are capable to scale up based on demand, without skipping a beat. Out of the box, our solutions can handle approximately 150 messages per second. That is at launch date.

As demand grows, a chatbot's infrastructure can automatically scale to handle three, four, ten times this number of messages.

The second is knowledge-based.

COVID caught everyone off guard. This includes, of course, chatbots. None of the chatbots we created in the last several years was geared to handle COVID-related questions.

From one day to the next, though, they needed to.

And they did.

A chatbot's knowledge base can easily deepen, widen, and scale with demand. In record time, it can learn what it needs to know about the crisis and start answering questions straight away.

Because their knowledge is so flexible, they can also adapt as the crisis progresses. With new policies and update, the chatbot can be retrained, providing the latest information constantly.

Most of our clients using a customer service chatbot solution have implemented a COVID-related knowledge base.

Business continuity & coming out stronger

It's hard to see the positives in these dark times, but we must try.

The COVID crisis has brought a lot of sudden changes in the way we do business. Many organisations have had to instantly adapt to remote working; something they thought they had years to plan.

In customer service, here is what we can learn.

1. Businesses need to think about chatbot automation now

If you do not have any customer service automation in place, this crisis should be your trigger.

Chatbot and AI automation are being put in place across the board to improve customer experience.

Gartner predicts that by 2022, 70% of customer interactions will involve chatbots (source). This survey most likely did not account for recent events. We suspect they will have a great impact on chatbot adoption.

gartner survey 70% of customer interactions will use chatbots

2. Businesses need to keep knowledge base and policies up to date

In times like these, the first questions are

  • What do we do?
  • What's the process?
  • Who makes the decision?

To ensure business continuity, these must be answered before crisis hits.

Having up-to-date policies and knowledge bases also helps once your chatbot has been implemented. It can be built to automatically pull from your documentation (or third party sources), making sure your customers always receive the latest information.

3. Businesses need to put work-from-home processes in place

I wrote about this in another article earlier this week, which I invite you to read: COVID, Remote Work, and Tech: How to Support your Workforce

In these trying times, these three lessons might provide a light at the end of the tunnel.

Although it is difficult to lift our heads and look up at the future, implementing these changes now will ensure better management of eventual upcoming challenges.