Main illustration: Olenka Malarecka
Artificial intelligence (AI) is radically redefining the customer support landscape. From automated messages to visual search, AI customer service chatbots allow companies to better support their customers’ needs at more touch points along their journey.
As more consumers have moved online – driven in large part by the pandemic – businesses have had to radically transform their customer experience. AI chatbots have really risen to prominence since March 2020, providing 24/7 support, and automatically resolving questions without any human intervention.
At Intercom, we are deeply embracing automation and bots to help businesses dramatically enhance their customer experience, creating better customer relationships, and achieve faster growth. That’s why we built Fin, our AI bot powered by a mix of large language models including OpenAI’s GPT-4, that automatically and instantly resolves up to 50% of your customers’ questions.
Here’s a look at how customer service chatbots can improve your customer support experience and drastically enhance your support team’s efficiency. And if you’re looking for inspiration for building impactful bots, you’ve come to the right place – we also share some of our favorite case studies from our very own customers.
What is a customer service chatbot, and do I need one?
A customer service chatbot is a bot that uses AI and machine learning to answer basic customer questions via a business messenger. For example, questions such as; “how do I add more users?” or “what is your pricing?”.
AI chatbots use your existing resources, such as FAQs or knowledge base articles, to help answer and resolve your customers’ questions. They can recognize and answer multiple forms of the same question and can be trained to give instant responses using your preferred voice and tone.
With Intercom’s Resolution Bot, you can take this one step further by proactively suggesting relevant answers before the customer even finishes typing. That means faster, more consistent support for your customers and fewer repetitive, transactional questions for your support agents. You should think about adding a chatbot feature like this to your website if:
- You have a global, growing base of customers, who require multi-lingual support.
- Support is needed across multiple channels (e.g. website, in-app, social media, etc.).
- You’re unable to have your support team present 24/7.
- You need to reduce your customer service costs and find more efficient ways to scale your customer support.
Pro tip: Consider implementing targeted messaging and product tours if you have yet to do so. By proactively educating your customers and pre-emptively answering their questions, you’ll reduce your support volume and improve your customers’ experiences no matter the size of your business.
Support chatbots help – but don’t replace – customer service agents
It’s true that chatbots help your customer service agents (we call them customer support specialists and engineers here at Intercom) do their jobs better. In particular, they save your team time by resolving simple questions quickly – freeing up your team to tackle the complex queries.
“As advanced as natural language processing has become, it can never really offer a genuine “I’m sorry” the way a human can”
AI chatbots aren’t a replacement for real human interactions, though.
- Chatbots are better at augmenting these interactions and are best utilized to simplify tasks and remove repetition from workflows.
- Human agents should handle conversations where someone is navigating a complex purchase or is feeling frustrated or confused. As advanced as natural language processing has become, it can never really offer a genuine “I’m sorry” the way a human can.
For real-time interactions, support bots can really have some major benefits both to your team and your customers. Just remember that AI is a virtual assistant, it is there to help your human agents do their jobs better – it can never replace them entirely.
Six major benefits of customer service chatbots
Using AI chatbots comes with some pretty big benefits – here are the six you’re most likely to notice right away.
- Chatbots offers instant resolutions
- Your business can offer 24/7 customer support
- Chatbots continuously learn
- You can tailor answers to different types of customers
- Your team has more context on each customer
- A consistent user experience is created
Chatbots offers instant resolutions
When a customer asks a question, Intercom’s chatbots automatically resolve questions using your source material, including knowledge base articles and FAQs. Intercom’s Resolution Bot takes this a step further by surfacing relevant answers based on what customers are typing – before they even hit the enter key.
Your business can offer 24/7 customer support
If your team is unavailable, a chatbot can step in to answer questions and provide links to resources. But if they can’t help, the bot can indicate your available hours to say when a human will be in touch.
Alternately, if you find that your bots are getting a lot of complicated questions that almost always require human intervention, you can build a dedicated “out of office” bot to take over when no one is around to respond. This way, the customer isn’t waiting around for a response, and a member of your team can reply directly as soon as they’re back.
Chatbots continuously learn
Customer service chatbots don’t just use AI to answer questions. They also use it to learn and automatically improve the quality of the support offered in the future. For example, if a chatbot knows how to answer a question like “how do I add another user?” it can automatically recognize “where do I add another user?” as having the same meaning. That similar phrasing can automatically be added to its knowledge bank, so future questions are phrased in the same way.
“You can train your bots to provide better answers”
Additionally, if a customer rates a response given by a chatbot as unhelpful, it’s less likely to use that answer again in a different conversation. If your chatbot tells someone where to add users when what they’re really asking about is user images, a simple rating can help it learn that these two aren’t the same thing.
Of course, not all the learning has to be done via AI. You can also train your bots to provide better answers. You can use questions your customers have actually asked (or ones you think they will ask) to improve how your bot responds.
Pro tip: Chatbots are only as good as the number of conversations they can successfully resolve, so keep an eye on how your chatbot’s answers are performing. Pay particular attention to how many times an answer successfully resolves your customers’ questions and pinpoint any underperforming answers you need to improve.
You can tailor answers to different types of customers
Even when customers have the same question, they might not be satisfied with the same answer. For example, if you have a customer on your Enterprise plan who asks if apps are included in the cost, but your bot references your Startup plan, it might as well have not answered at all.
With Intercom’s Resolution Bot, you have the power to choose who the bot speaks to and how it answers based on criteria like customer spend, business type, location, and more. You can resolve your customers’ problems with answers that are hyper-targeted to their needs.
Your team has more context on each customer
If an AI chatbot is present and patiently waiting, why not use it? Customers who see chatbots may be more likely to ask questions, rather than silently browsing and remaining an “invisible lead”.
With that first touchpoint from a customer, you have their information in your system. This is a great start: if they contact you again, your agents can use that conversation history to better understand their needs and make sure their first question was properly answered.
“This deep context on each customer and their journey can give you some ideas for ways to improve your chatbot’s responses”
With all your customer conversations logged in Intercom (including the AI ones), your team can get a full picture of each customer’s journey. View how they’re progressing and how the team can support each lead on their own unique path toward conversion or upgrade. If a prospect is asking a lot of questions about pricing, your team will probably want to handle that prospect differently than someone asking a single question about user roles.
This deep context on each customer journey could also provide some ideas for improving your chatbot’s responses. If you see some conversations only being held with your agents, this might mean there are questions that your bot isn’t answering but should be able to. That’s a good opportunity to do some training and add those questions into your database.
A consistent user experience is created
Finally, customer service chatbots can help you establish a consistent, on-brand experience for your customers. Since you’re in control of the voice, tone, and language used in your bot’s responses, there won’t be any “we don’t say that” situations.
This consistency is only bolstered by how accurate chatbots are. With AI in control, conversations aren’t missed by accident, support emails don’t go to spam and there’s no copy-pasting or mistyping that could result in the wrong information being sent to a customer.
Examples of awesome customer support chatbots
Let’s take a look at how some of our amazing customers are using Intercom’s AI-powered support bots to answer questions, provide information, and help more customers at scale.
Livestorm is a video conferencing platform that enables businesses to communicate better, offering them the ability to host webinars, meetings, and online events. With Intercom, the team combines powerful inbox management and self-serve support capabilities to triage customer queries, collect valuable context upfront to reach quicker resolutions, and empower customers to help themselves.
“Intercom helps us turn website visitors into leads. The number of monthly inbound demos booked has increased by 233% since we started using the platform to power our sales. We have big growth ambitions for the year ahead, both for our team and our use of Intercom.” – Thibaut Davoult, Head of Growth at Livestorm
Nuuly is a curated fashion destination where you can rent, resell, and thrift clothes online in ways that are gentler on the planet and your wallet. With inbound conversation volume on the rise, the team leaned on Intercom’s automation capabilities to make their support more efficient. They used tags to identify recurring trends in the types of questions the support team was receiving and implemented a custom-built Resolution Bot – which they call “Chat Cat” – to help resolve these frequently-asked questions.
Biteable is a video-making platform that empowers businesses to create professional videos in minutes, regardless of budget or skills. Resolution Bot has helped Biteable improve their real-time support by resolving their customers’ most common questions, like “How can I create a video?” automatically. As soon as a customer starts typing, Resolution Bot serves up the most relevant suggested answers, so customers can help themselves right from the messenger.
VP of Customer Success Nick Sayers says, “We’re now offering a much better customer experience with the help of Resolution Bot which has saved more than 1000 hours of our end users’ time and 800 hours of our team’s time to date.”
Redefine your customer experience with customer service chatbots
Artificial Intelligence is changing how we live and work. It’s also changing how we’re able to support our customers, whether they’re asking simple questions or trying to make a purchasing decision. By adding AI chatbots to your site, you’ll do much more than look tech-savvy (although you will). Using a customer support chatbot will save you time, improve the customer experience, and help you build a more robust support offering on your site or in your mobile app.
Ready to redefine your customer experience? Check out Fin and how it can help your business do just that.