How to Implement a Support Chatbot the Right Way

August, 24 2018

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There are lots of chatbots on the market today, and many of them are (supposedly) designed to help with customer support. While each type of support bot has its pros and cons, none of them are truly ready to fully replace human support representatives. Understanding that reality is key to implementing your support bot the right way.

Below, we outline the different types of support bots, evaluate their advantages and disadvantages, and suggest how to employ them for greatest success.

The Phone Tree/IVR Clone Bot

We've all waded into the annoying maze of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone systems that do everything in their power to keep us from having to talk to an expensive human. These systems are built around a logical flowchart and offer the typical "press 1 to pay your bill, press 2 to make an appointment" style of menu options.

Some support chatbots are built on the same principle and simply use natural language processing to walk you through the flow of options by conversational text-based chat. A series of questions will direct the customer to pre-written answers for common issues. If you deviate from the flowchart or confuse the bot, it will fail over to a human support rep.

To employ IVR bots to best effect, you need to develop the best -- which is to say simplest -- logic tree that addresses your five to six most common issues. If one of the standard answers doesn't fit the customer's problem, direct them to a human support rep. And when the chatbot hands off the customer to a human, the support rep should have access to the full chat history so no one has to repeat anything.

IVR Clone bots are only as good as their flowcharts, and can frustrate customers as much as they help them. If you aren't prepared to create and maintain a compact and effective flowchart, these bots aren't for you.

The Tier 0.5 Bot

Similar to the IVR Clone, the Tier 0.5 Bot automates the part of the support rep's script that gathers information about the issue at hand, and determines if the customer has already attempted the basic "turn it off, turn it back on" steps of common support issues. This saves the live support reps from repeating the same questions over and over, and also prevents them from getting yelled at by frustrated customers who have already tried the basic stuff and want to escalate to more advanced support tiers.

To make a Tier 0.5 useful, you need a well-developed support script that asks three to four very simple, straightforward questions. The idea isn't to avoid involving a human rep, but to automate the busywork of preparing the rep for the support call. If you don't get the script right, it will simply annoy everyone involved.

The Sorta-Siri Bot

Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant on your smart devices largely turn conversational speech into structured internet searches. A Sorta-Siri support bot turns customer chat conversations into searches of your support documentation. Think of them like interactive FAQs, responding to customer questions and complaints with suggested self-help articles from your support knowledge base.

The Sorta-Siri bot only works if you have well-developed, well-indexed support documentation that covers your most common issues. If implemented well, these bots actually can replace some portion of your human-managed support calls. To support the Sorta-Siri bot, you need to constantly monitor and maintain your knowledge base and also keep humans on hand in the event a question gets asked that confuses the bot, or a customer (inevitably) demands to speak to a human.

If you let your knowledge base get stale, or don't ensure it documents every known customer issue, it can't do its job and will likely return infuriatingly not-quite-good-enough answers to customers. That only makes the job of the live human who follows up harder.

The Virtual Assistant to Human Support

Rather than working to minimize the time investment of human support rep on call by stalling or intercepting the customer, the Virtual Assistant never speaks directly to the customer. Instead, the Assistant is there to help your human support reps answer support calls as efficiently as possible.

The Virtual Assistant works a lot like the Sorta-Siri bot in that it helps your customer service team search your knowledge base more quickly. The customer speaks to a human through the whole support call, but your support rep gets the help they need to satisfy the call quickly.

The Virtual Assistant goes the extra mile in also helping maintain the Knowledge Base that it is searching. The Assistant guides customer support reps and other subject matter experts to update and expand your support documentation as part of their regular use of the system.

A Virtual Assistant can also help coach a support rep through the basic logic flows and scripts that the Tier 0.5 and IVR Clone handle, but let your live support reps add a human touch where needed. Properly employed, a Virtual Assistant can be the best of all possible support chatbots.

The key to implementing a Virtual Assistant is to integrate it deeply and directly into your workflow so it can help as many team members as possible and draw information from as many sources as it can. It must also be paired with an Active Content knowledge base designed to support this self-documenting behavior.

If you'd like to learn more about what a Virtual Assistant support chatbot can do, contact Talla today.

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