How Email Bots And Chatbots Can Benefit Your Customer Support

Written by Emily Peck on Jan 29, 2021

Web-based Chatbots are what usually comes to mind when we are talking about AI in customer support. Advances in modern-day AI, though, have made email bots the next frontier in customer support automation, enabling companies to meet expectations for a fast and convenient omnichannel experience.

Some consider email an archaic channel compared to Facebook Messenger, SMS and Live Chat. That said, email support remains the most popular digital channel for customer support with 54% of customers having used email for customer service last year. According to the Netomi Research Team findings, when an issue or question arises, 47% people prefer to contact a company for customer service over email.

By leveraging email bots, companies can reduce support costs, improve the customer experience and build long-term customer relationships. These are not auto-responders. Primitive auto-responders have been around for years. These systems have done little to actually provide value or help resolve a person’s issue. Instead, auto-responders may provide links to “helpful” resources but are unsatisfying and often considered annoying by customers.

In this post, we’re going to explore how email bots work, the customer experience that can be delivered through AI-powered email support and why support teams need to leverage AI on the email channel.

First Things First. What Is An Email Bot?

To put it simply, an email bot is a part of the customer service automation toolkit that responds quickly to support requests and tickets sent in via email. Using AI, your existing knowledge base, and some contextual analysis, an email bot can then deliver responses that are customized to match the needs of your customer without the need for human interaction. With an email bot working side by side with your support team, you can automatically respond with the right message to customer requests without having a delay in response times.

Give your customers instant answers to up to 85% of customer service issues with our Zoho chatbot.

Can Bots Actually Send And Reply To Emails?

Chatbot vendors have been unwilling to point their technology at email because of the inherent complexities of the channel. On the email channel, most chatbots would provide poor customer experiences – unable to understand the intent of the customer. In comparison to email, chats are far simpler to parse. People typically keep chat messages short and focused. In contrast, email messages tend to be longer and complex and more importantly have more contexts and complexities. The latest advancements in Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning give AI systems the ability to comprehend the complex intent and nuanced meaning of email exchanges. With this new advancement, AI can respond directly to repetitive support emails or assist human agents in the background. Either way, email bots provide better customer experiences through faster resolutions to many questions.

Mature email bots like Netomi can handle a wide variety of how a person might ask a question, extract context, and reply sensitively and accurately to non-trivial questions like order status, returns, upgrades, order modifications and more. Email bots can now aggregate and insert key data elements into an intelligently crafted email template.

The email channel provides many benefits when it comes to training the AI as well. Email has a wide range of historical data upon which to learn – the building blocks of a great AI. It also allows for sufficient time to train and tune the algorithms and data models. Currently, customers don’t generally expect to interact with companies over email in real-time. This expected latency allows an AI email bot to become more accurate through reinforcement learning “behind the scenes”, – that is, drafting responses for agents to accept or edit, before ever actually interacting with a real customer. This type of “learning on the job” training is more difficult in other channels like chat where real-time interaction is the expectation.

What’s The Main Purpose Of Using An Email Bot For Customer Support?

The prominence of email as a support channel is not expected to waver at any time in the near future. Sending an email is convenient and fast. It’s easily accessible across all devices. There are no hold times. Customers are not held captive on a phone or computer, waiting for an agent or a response.

Companies have to do a better job of providing a positive experience on the email channel. Consumers want instant, personal and hyper-relevant resolutions to their problems. In our Customer Service Benchmark Report, we found that only 56% of retailers have an easy-to-access email address. Of those that have an easy email, 70% of companies never respond. Of those that responded, only 1 in 5 did so within 24 hours. Only 53% of telecom customer service companies provide an easily accessible email address and of those, only 65% of telecom companies did not respond to a simple question about their plan options.

By adopting email bots that can automatically resolve the highly repeatable customer service emails, companies can scale to thousands of responses per minute. Companies can also reduce customer support costs. According to Gartner, customer support emails cost an average of $8.01 per contact if handled by humans. By automating even 50% of emails, a company could enjoy significant savings.

Will My Customers Know It’s A Bot Sending Them The Email?

Just like with the best AI chatbots, email bots can pull data from CRM, order management and other back-end business systems to provide personalized resolutions. While an email bot should never try to pass as a human, it can provide a human-like experience – accurately understanding the customer, providing a relevant and personal customer service response, and picking up on sentiment. That being said, email bots should always have a seamless way to escalate a customer to a human agent based on the nature of their issue, their sentiment and other factors like customer profile status.

Email Bots are the next big thing with customer support automation 

Even as SMS customer service and social media messaging like Messenger, WeChat and WhatApp have gained prominence as a customer support channel, email remains the go-to for customers of all ages, from boomers to Gen Z. Companies need to adopt AI to respond to incoming emails to improve the customer experience and reduce customer support costs. Now that modern AI has caught up and is able to accurately understand customer support emails, the adoption of email bots is going to accelerate in 2021.

Learn more about how AI can radically improve email channel support and customer relationships. Get our ebook now.

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7 Ways to Provide the Best Conversational User Experience on Chatbots

Written by Can Ozdoruk on Jan 21, 2021

Designing a good conversational experience for a machine isn’t easy. There’s a delicate balance between being too human and not human enough. A chatbot is artificial, but it can provide a positive end-user experience. Designing an exceptional conversational user experience depends on creating a fluid and natural interaction between customers and a machine (chatbot).

At Netomi, we have a playbook on how to provide the best end-user experience on chatbots, complete the task at hand (i.e. resolving customer service tickets) and protect the brand. As you look to design conversational user experiences for AI customer service chatbots, use these 7 strategies to provide the optimal experience:

1. Define the bot’s personality, tone and approach

Start the conversation with a warm, informative welcome message to provide a positive, immediate first impression. Give your bot a name and keep all copy on-brand. If you’re a hip, young brand, train the bot to speak the way your customers do. If you’re a more convervative brand, then ensure your bot’s tone does not clash with your customers’ perception of your brand.

2. Be prepared for “urgency” and eliminate friction

When a customer uses a chat channel to get in touch with a company, they want a swift resolution to an issue. They may be unhappy or frustrated, wondering where their delayed package is, requesting a refund for a broken product or trying to figure out a flight delay. Chatbots should be designed to alleviate tension and move the customers towards a resolution quickly. The bottom line? Don’t cause delay and help right away. Cut the small talk, ask only critical questions and provide a resolution as quickly as possible.

3. Don’t try to be human, but be as human as possible 

While the goal to provide good conversational UX is to communicate with humans as effectively as possible, it’s fundamental to realize that bots will never fully replicate humans. When a customer begins a conversation, a bot should confirm it’s identity by saying something like “Hi! 👋 It’s Emma, your virtual assistant!” Never try to pass off a bot as a live agent.

That being said, bots can still promote human-like interactions. A few ways to do this include:

  • Never show the customer the same message two times in a row; this annoys humans
  • Understand emojis (👍), slang (‘sup) and short-form text (LOL!) 
  • Accommodate common misspelled words (where’s my ordr?) 

4. Allow handoff to a live agent anytime and anticipate when a handoff is required 

Always give the user a way to opt to engage with a live agent. On the most basic level, a chatbot should always comply if a customer asks explicitly “Can I talk to a human” or “Human, please.”

Certain customer queries should always be routed to a human agent. These queries are the complex, sensitive issues or ones that require empathy. It could be managing the rebooking of a gold-star rewards customer or managing the return of an item that costs more than $100. For each brand, the rules that define a sensitive query are unique.

Furthermore, chatbots should proactively hand off the conversation if it can’t understand the user’s intent, or what the customer is trying to say. Having to repeat a question to a bot is often cited as the biggest source of frustration by consumers. If a bot can’t confidently understand a person, it should ask them to rephrase their question once and then immediately escalate. Finally, hand-off to live agents should occur automatically and immediately if a chatbot picks up that a customer is irritated, frustrated or angry. Some obvious signs might be typing in ALL CAPS or using tons of punctuation!!!!!!!!!! More modern and advanced bots have sentiment analysis capabilities that can help detect and reroute upset customers to humans for faster resolutions.

Discover the 9 Best Live Chat Software for Connecting in Real-Time.

5. Keep your bot’s responses short and to the point

Keeping a conversation moving forward is very important. Bombarding a customer with a lot of options, or lots of text to read can confuse them and make it harder for them to respond. When designing the experience, keep messages succinct; send a maximum of three short messages at a time. And keep options to questions or cards in a carousel to less than four. You can of course use A/B testing if you want.

6. Leverage available content and knowledge bases

Many companies have rich FAQ sections and self-help libraries. When you’re looking to design the Conversational User Experience, leverage existing content as much as possible. This could be used to initially train a chatbot. Many companies also integrate into their knowledge base as a safety net. If a bot hasn’t been trained on a specific question or is not highly confident in the intent classification of a customer’s message, a bot can pull relevant articles from a knowledge base. This could result in even higher deflection from human agents.

7. Train for inappropriate, illegal and sensitive topics

If a user starts talking inappropriately, threatening to harm themselves or others, chatbots should end the conversation immediately. Likewise, if a customer starts discussing illegal topics, the conversation should be halted. Trolls are an unfortunate reality of our digital world. Training bots to handle inappropriate and illegal conversations protects your brand from inadvertently engaging with bad actors or creating deeper problems for your organization.

Chatbot adoption is rising: 77% of executives have already implemented chatbots and 60% plan to implement conversational AI bots for after-sales and customer service. How you design the conversational user experience influences the success of your AI chatbot. Every channel requires a different approach to deliver high CSAT. If you follow the above seven tips, you’ll be providing the best possible user experience.

Find out what your ROI will be if you build an AI chatbot. Try our free chatbot ROI calculator.

Interested in learning more about Netomi’s artful and scientific approach to Conversational User Experience design? Let’s Chat.