Imagine it's 2020. A customer needs help with one of your products for that big important meeting first thing in the morning. What does he do?

No, he doesn't call, or waste time trawling through your website for an elusive bit of information. He clicks on the “Live Chat” icon, types in his question, and waits. What happens next decides whether he continues to be your customer the next morning.

In a 24/7 world, customer engagement strategies can't afford to nap. Customers already prefer live chat over any other communication channel, and why not? It's quick, it's unobtrusive, and it makes a lot more sense than hanging on to a call while an automated voice tells you how important you are to them. Problem is, 24/7 customer support is expensive to maintain; too expensive for most small and mid-level companies.

The solution is, of course, chatbots. Chatbots, or interactive software robots are already sophisticated enough to handle basic conversations and questions. Some of the more advanced ones can even hold rudimentary conversations, adding elements of whimsy and delight to even the most rote responses. Also, since every good chatbot platform has at its core a powerful machine learning algorithm, it is only going to become smarter and better with time.

But what about the human element? Is it really advisable to completely remove it from your customer engagement strategies? The obvious answer is no, which is why chatbots are not meant to replace your customer service personnel.

A chatbot platform is there to provide support. It can make conversations quicker and responses more accurate. In fact, only for the most generic conversations and queries is a chatbot supposed to handle the entire conversation itself. Anything more challenging can be transferred to a human customer service executive. In fact, most leading chatbot platforms already provide this “live agent” feature, making it easy for companies to have a hybrid system in place.

As we can see, chatbots are extremely powerful and flexible tools that have significant impact on customer satisfaction and thus, business growth. For example:

  1. Chan Brothers, one of Singapore's leading travel agents, claims chat conversations have contributed to between 10 and 15 percent of company growth in a few months. Their chatbot helps users with travel package suggestions, currency conversion and real-time weather updates.
  2. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation or AMTRAK has saved over one million dollars in customer service expenses
  3. Rapidminer, a data science company, has replaced all lead capture forms with chatbots, and claims that over a quarter of the sales pipeline is influenced by chatbots
  4. Online recruitment firm Firstjob employs an AI recruiting chatbot assistant that has automated 75% of the entire qualifying process.

Chatbots are taking over almost every aspect of customer engagement strategies , and why not? They combine the advantages of traditional customer service, powered by human agents, with the benefits of scale and accuracy provided by technology. It doesn't matter whether a chatbot is talking to one person or one thousand; every conversation is customized and specific to its audience. As a company grows and there is more inflow of data, chatbots will only get better, smarter, and more helpful. And make all other strategies pretty much obsolete.

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