After a challenging (I mean it was hell!) project, the customer in question told me: “I may be shouting at you now, but rest assured that I am still talking to you…you should start to worry when I stop shouting”.
Experiences like this and every “How to run a business 101” book would teach us that we should prioritise customer engagements and queries above anything else. True, but does this mean that you as business-owner/sales-executive or any customer-facing role in a business should sit hovering over your keyboard?
This means spending countless hours waiting and answering any incoming query within a minute (of which 80% of the queries will be about operating hours or your address).
We have become quite obsessed with the “usually responds in less than 15 minutes” badge on our social media platforms. Is it really worth it?
In my previous article (which can be found here): https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/urgentlylooking-employ-abacus-operator-our-business-fanie-botha/
I discussed an actual LinkedIn profile that I came across, where a person was actively and proudly marketing skills (such as this one – “waiting for and servicing queries”) which I believe has no place in modern business being executed by a human in a completely manual fashion.
In this installment, I want to deal with the perception that you or someone else in your business personally has to field all incoming queries. DO NOT CONFUSE Customer Service (CS), with Customer Experience (CX)!
Customer Service: How (IE with humans or robots) and on which channels (e.g. Social and Email) you service your customers.
Customer Experience: How your customer experiences that service (e.g. do they value responsiveness over slow but really consultative and peer-reviewed responses).
I mean, there will definitely be cases where a customer needs to speak with a human. If your business is building Inter-continental ballistic missiles for example, the kind of customer and nature of query might necessitate human-only interaction.
However, the reality is that in most B2C and even many B2B businesses, we are spending such valuable human effort regurgitating simple information which can most times be found on our websites.
In a recent article I read (http://customerthink.com/how-much-time-should-ceos-spend-with-customers/), research shows that a small business owner or startup CEO should be spending at least 50% of their time with customers. I totally agree.
I do however believe this should not include answering of basic queries. This time should be spent building relationships or making deals…these are at the core of being human, not reading a product manual on behalf of a lazy customer. RTFM!
So what then? Not like customers will stop asking these questions right? Not like customers will (or even can) do business with us if they do not have answers to these questions.
Enter technology…what about having a dedicated “chat bot” as a first line of customer engagement to your business.
Your immediate response will likely either be:
1. I am not of the size of business for which that makes sense
2. Who is going to pay for that whilst I have almost no IT-budget
3. Most chat bots I have used were crap
My immediate responses are:
1. You couldn’t be more wrong! Any size of business from 1-100,000 needs this
2. It’s waaay cheaper than your time or even your office administrators time. Oh, and it’s available 24/7 and it speaks 60 languages and it doesn’t have “my cat died” sad/grumpy days
3. Technology has come a looong way since those crappy bots were built…read to the end
Ok, now that we got that out of the way. Let’s talk about how you can achieve this. You would be right in saying that just a few years ago, chat bot development was VERY expensive and many of the large organisations that still operate those chat bots prove that they were not very good.
However, there is a stream of new tech providers that are making “no-code” bots a reality. And they are really good! One such provider is Microsoft, with their Azure Cognitive offering.
In this video, I demonstrate how to build (from scratch) a normal Q&A chat bot in less than 5 minutes, without any need for coding!
Yes, I know; bots are not going to answer complicated product questions (yet)! That is why we have product specialists and engineers in addition to our admin staff answering customer queries.
However, just think about how regularly you speak to an actual person at Microsoft, Google, Amazon or Uber. These companies (with complicated products) have designed the human factor out of their basic customer service requirement allowing them to scale across borders, time-zones, languages and often achieve amazing scale with a handful of people.
You may still have reservations if this could work in your business; and if you have no intention to scale, this may not be for you. However, if you have any aspirations of scaling your business, you have to design with the future in mind…your competitors certainly are.
If you spent half the time improving your Questions and Answers set in your chat-bot, that you do today in answering simple queries, you would have an unbeatable Chat Bot before you know it.
Chat-bots have in fact become so good, that they are modernising even the type of businesses that were built around human-customer-service. What is the one thing keeping travel agencies alive in this era of Online Flight and Hotel bookings? Surely, it’s the human touch and great travel advice/holiday suggestions? So, if you still believe that chat bots can’t almost run your entire front office, check out this travel agency’s (now SAP Concur) chat bot service:
Thanks for joining, see you for the next installment in this series of articles…which can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-happens-vegas-stays-facebook-fanie-botha