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Why chatbots are becoming more important for customer support
February 14, 2020 Blog

Authored 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 utilised, we are seeing more brands embrace it for broader customer service activities. Ecommerce, in particular, has helped to accelerate 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 centres. These centres have become more difficult for companies to maintain due to the high cost of training the 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 organisation. 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 optimise customer engagement and improve customer experience are great.


Market research shows[1] that the chatbot market in the Asia-Pacific region is projected to grow at a CAGR of around 31 percent 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 predicts that the customer relationship management (CRM) market in Asia will grow at an CAGR of about 18 percent by 2021. When organisations 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 realise how much automating these areas can improve his or her sales contribution.


Research[2] indicates that these, and other workplace productivity uses of chatbots will save businesses an estimated USD$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 percent of online transactions that are abandoned in the shopping cart, chatbots can be customised 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 versus human interaction. Still, this technology can make a positive contribution to operational efficiency and effectiveness, while also reducing costs.