By Gibu Mathew, VP and GM, APAC, Zoho Corp.
Enterprise use of chatbots has grown, and in Asia where brands have played a huge role in defining how it is being utilized, we are seeing more brands embrace it for broader customer service activities. Ecommerce, in particular, has helped to accelerate the adoption of this technology as customer service demands change to match our on-demand culture and companies struggle to manage the costs associated with call centers. These centers have become more difficult for companies to maintain due to the high cost of training a large number of staff required to deal with the sheer volume of customer interactions.
Companies that have taken the step of automating first-level support queries with chatbots make support agents available to focus on more complex support queries without affecting customer experience and at a lower total cost for the organization. However, companies should not believe that this is where the benefits of chatbots end. There are a variety of chatbot framework products available in the market today that enable businesses to provide better overall experiences for their customers. In the retail, banking and healthcare industries particularly, the opportunities to optimize customer engagement and improve customer experience are great.
Market research shows that the chatbot market in the Asia-Pacific region is projected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of around 31% between 2018 and 2024, which is faster than any other region. Companies are finding that chatbots are useful tools in helping to acquire and maintain high new customers and provide high-quality 24-hour daily support even when human support agents are unavailable.
Indeed, customer engagement and support continues to remain one of the most crucial areas of business spending. IDC (International Data Corp.) predicts that the customer relationship management (CRM) market in Asia will grow at CAGR of about 18% by 2021. When organizations consider the somewhat tedious aspects of a CRM rep’s workflow, such as recording customer data, creating reports and addressing FAQs, it is important to realize how much automating these areas can improve his or her sales contribution.
Research indicates that these, and other workplace productivity uses of chatbots will save businesses an estimated $8 billion by 2022. Particularly when a company is experiencing staffing shortages, chatbots can help bridge the gap by handling large volumes of customer requests in a short time. The key is to train chatbots to answer more like humans so that customers will feel more at ease.
Chatbots are also beginning to leverage the power of machine learning as it matures to provide the best interaction experiences with customers, and the potential it shows is very promising. For example, to address the missed opportunity presented by the 69% of online transactions that are abandoned in the shopping cart, chatbots can be customized to act as a personal shopping assistant guiding customers on their purchase journey. This enables customers to complete purchases faster. Further, as mobile device usage across the region accelerates, chatbots can be used in a mobile software development kit (SDK) integrated inside mobile apps to bring the technology even closer to customers, enhancing their experience with your brand.
Chatbots can also help companies qualify leads from website visits so that the sales team can follow up with the high-quality prospects, and assist ecommerce sites with troubleshooting in real-time to enable customer support teams to address issues that the bot cannot resolve.
Today, most chatbots can perform basic functions from pre-written forms, but cannot currently perform more complex functions such as problem resolution. As companies seek to drive more automation and cost savings in operations, chatbot developers are creating platforms that integrate the emerging power of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning so that companies can derive more value from chatbots.
Compared to other customer support options, chatbots can be an excellent investment for companies seeking to improve its customer relationship management function. However, it is important for companies to get to know their customers’ behaviors on the path to making a purchase and understand their preferences for interacting with chatbots as opposed to human interaction. Still, this technology can make a positive contribution to operational efficiency and effectiveness, while also reducing costs.