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How chatbots can enhance the customer experience

Companies are leaning on technologies like never before – to boost operational efficiencies, enhance innovation and reduce their environmental impact. But, until recently, there wasn’t much thought given to how technology can transform a company's customer service and the overall customer experience (CX). 

We live in a fast-paced world and customers want efficiency, ease, and authenticity when they deal with a company. The chatbot is one of the most powerful up-and-coming tools for solving this challenge. Companies are rapidly harnessing the powerful artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities which can actually listen to customers and provide relevant material in return.

Chatbots are rampant across established messaging channels like Facebook Messenger, Slack or Skype – in fact, most social media users may not even realise that they have interacted with a chatbot at some point. 

However, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal, there has been a greater awareness of data security among customers. In response, businesses are turning their attention to building chatbots within their proprietary or private channels, like mobile apps. Transferring conversational experiences such as live chat or chatbot self-service onto mobile applications isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach – and enterprises should choose the avenue that best fits their objectives.

The three main ways companies integrate chatbots and mobile apps today are:

Chatbot as an app

This is the most straightforward approach and involves bundling a chatbot within a mobile app and distributing it to the app stores. By building a chatbot as a separate mobile app, enterprises can provide a dedicated, always-on channel for users to perform customer self-service – while circumventing concerns about data sharing.

Additionally, this solution is cheaper to develop compared to a mobile app with similar features, gives the enterprise complete control of the conversational user interface (UI) without the limitations of external providers and doesn’t require additional learning for new users. 

Some potential challenges to consider may be: 

  • As this approach does not provide any additional functionality, users may feel inconvenienced as they still have to go and download a mobile app instead of simply using a direct web or social channel. 
  • A new mobile app means extra acquisition costs to establish a user base.

We’ve found that the majority of use cases where companies want to build chatbot as an app are focused on internal communication scenarios. One reason for this is that other employee-facing messaging platforms like Skype for Business have yet to catch up to the consumer platforms in terms of chatbot support, adoption and ecosystem.

Chatbot in a tab 

Incorporating a chatbot in an already existing mobile app that has a user base is an effective way of mitigating app fatigue. It also expands the possibilities for chatbot function to include both conversational and traditional UI. 

This approach could potentially make the transition from already established to private channels significantly smoother by allowing enterprises to reuse authentication mechanisms and security options already present in the mobile app.

A concern for implementing a chatbot in a tab is that if the chatbot is simply a replica of the mobile app’s functionality, users might find it confusing to determine when and why to use it.

The best way to build a chatbot within your existing mobile app would be if you have lengthy and repetitive forms that you want to optimise. Structured processes such as submitting stock orders or signing up for insurance are good candidates. It could even be used to enhance the ‘getting started’ process for customers, who often prefer chatbots to complex user interfaces. 

Chatbot as UI

The third approach allows enterprises to harness the full potential of conversational UI instead of siloing the chatbot in a separate app or cornering it. This involves simply using conversational UI instead of traditional UI in common places of low engagement and high abandonment rates. 

Integrating chatbots into the UI of existing apps combines the benefits of both of the above approaches.  It is most effective when used to improve important areas of little or no engagement and reduce high abandonment rate of complex forms. Banks could use this approach to optimise the process of creating new bank accounts, by easing the experience of entering information into many fields. 

One area for consideration is that the enterprise might be required to create the conversational UI on their own, as currently, no chatbot vendor allows partial integration of a chatbot into a mobile app.

Gartner research suggests that by 2020, 85% of interactions will be handled by non-humans. As more customer interactions are automated, enterprises should give thought to the interface it presents to customers to ensure a smooth transaction. 

Article by Progress CTO Dmitri Tcherevik