AI for CX 101: Deploy an AI Solution with Confidence

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Jul 13, 2022

As part of our new ‘AI for CX 101’ series, we will cover what to expect when you deploy an AI solution, including how to get started on your AI digital transformation journey. Whether you’re early on in the consideration phase or deep into the process, we’re here to provide you with insights and best practices to ensure you are well-equipped to proceed with confidence.

How to deploy an AI solution for your business

Analyze historical data

As with many business undertakings in the digital age ripe with information and insights, it all begins with data. When launching a customer support AI, you’ll first need to analyze your historical data to identify the queries that are highly repeatable and have high volume, those that carry low to medium business risk, as well as low exception management. These are the types of queries that are ideal for the AI to handle. We recommend analyzing data accumulated over a span of at least three months, so trends can be observed over time.

Facilitating the real-time, human-like conversation between a human and a computer, conversational AI enables companies to make every interaction feel relevant, personal and unique – sparking conversations that are driven by intent. What does the customer intend to accomplish from the engagement? What is their sentiment at this exact moment?

For an excellent conversational experience, it is important to understand all of the various ways that people are communicating a single intent. By analyzing this historical data, you are able to not only identify which queries have high volume, but also how your customers are asking questions. For instance, Comcast found that there are 1,700 different ways of saying “I’d like to pay my bill.” By leveraging AI to analyze your historical data, you will be able to train the AI to better and more accurately pick up on the different ways people are voicing an intent, even if not explicitly trained on a specific variation.

Determine the resolution path

For every automated use case, you’ll need to understand the resolution path. While some queries might be straightforward FAQ-type responses with the same responses for every customer, others might be more contextual, and require a different answer based on factors like a customer’s loyalty status, or the resort where they are vacationing. Baggage costs for an airline, for instance, might vary based on the type of seat a person has (i.e. economy vs. first class). Rather than providing the customer with each possible cost, there might be a simple question or two that can help the AI provide just the specific information that is relevant to the customer, and provides the most value to them. There might also be personalized responses that are possible with integrations. Can the AI look into the order management system to find a person’s exact delivery status? 

Research your customers to plan, understand and improve their journey. What type of experience are they looking for, and how can you help successfully orchestrate that experience?

Create a bot personality

Now comes the creative part! To make an engaging AI-driven experience, chatbots should be endowed with on-brand personalities. For instance, do you see emojis and other rich media such as GIFs as representative of your brand? Are shorter-form answers, punctuated with punctuation marks, or text that is more grammatically correct, more suitable? Taking care to define and hone the conversational style will help to create experiences that are consistent.

Design conversational elements

Incorporate greetings, escalations, and conversation topics that are helpful, natural and persuasive, and align with the personality of your chatbot.

When designing dialogue for these conversations, we can also weave in elements that are inherent to human-to-human interactions, such as empathy and helpfulness, also ensuring the seamless alignment with those elements that artificial brains can be trained to comprehend, such as intent and context. Statements of acknowledgment can also be incorporated, which will help to build trust and make the conversation flow naturally (such as: ‘Got it. So you would like to upgrade your room to the executive suite)?’

Integrate with your agent desk, knowledge base and back-end systems

Integrations are a key ingredient to having your AI provide the most value:

  • Integration with an agent desk enhances the customer experience even further, for the ultimate combination of power and productivity.
  • Integration with your company’s knowledge base, so that if the AI is not trained on a particular topic, it can easily source and surface relevant materials for the customer. When the two are used in parallel, this also caters to customers’ desire for self-service, so they can access information that they need, when they need it the most.
  • Integration with back-end systems such as CRM (which houses rich customer data such as prior interactions and order history) allows the AI to pull in data from these sources to resolve customer service issues on an individual basis without human intervention.

Invest in ongoing learning and optimization

Over time, the AI will learn from more customer service interactions, and become more proficient in creating engaging interactions that count. However, as intelligent as chatbots can be, they are not ‘set it and forget it’ type of machines – rather, they require continual training and human supervision. It is important that support teams play an active role to optimize the chatbot’s performance over time, including tracking which queries are not understood and mapping them to the correct topics.

For instance, if a customer asks about extending their hotel room booking in an eccentric way and the AI doesn’t map it to the correct topic, the team can inform the AI of the correct topic the user’s query should correlate to so it can understand it in the future. Additionally, some topics may semantically appear very similar (such as ‘please cancel my service’ vs. ‘please cancel my subscription’, the former referring to account termination, and the latter referring to canceling a plan). In this situation, optimization is required in order for the AI to accurately learn the difference between the two use cases. We can also identify new and emerging patterns or topics, which will keep the chatbot’s knowledge updated as well as improve its understanding of your customers and your business.

Be patient, as deploying an AI solution is an ongoing journey. With some planning and forethought, your customer service team can take steps to AI-powered success.

The 13 Best Live Chat Software Tools for 2022 [Review and Key Features]

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Jul 11, 2022

Finding the best live chat software for your business is a crucial step in providing top-tier customer service. Options range from simple live chat apps to robust customer support platforms for complex sales processes.

According to many reports, conversational customer service is on the rise. Customer inquiries over live chat channels have jumped 36% in 2021. This jump represents the highest increase of any other communication channel.

What is live chat software?

Live chat software is a service that allows customers to communicate with companies in real-time. Live chat provides customers an easy way to access customer support and information. Live chat software enables support agents to interact with customers on a company’s website, mobile app, over social media channels, or via text message.

Why is live chat important?

Think of live chat as an instant messaging service. Live chat is convenient, immediate, and has grown into a popular offering that customers have come to desire and expect. In fact, 79% of customers say they prefer to chat with agents solely because of the immediacy it offers in comparison with other channels. On top of that, 63% of millennials prefer to have their basic customer support queries answered through a live chat widget versus traditional channels.

What are some of the benefits of live chat software?

Here are 3 main benefits of using live chat software:

  1. A cinch to install
    Adding live chat functionality to a website or within an app is quick and easy to implement.
  2. Enables agents to serve multiple customers concurrently
    This translates to faster service times and lower operating costs.
  3. Opens a personal and casual feel
    Unlike the formality of phone calls (and without the hold times), live chat has a back and forth exchange more similar to what one might experience with friends or family.

How to evaluate live chat software tools?

Here are some of the key questions to keep in mind when evaluating live chat software tools:

  • Does it work well with the people, processes, and tools that your agents already use?
  • Does it include AI to automatically respond to common queries?

To help your team realize the full benefits of live chat software and make the most of these powerful tools, we break down the core highlights and features of the best.

The Best Live Chat Software in 2022

  1. Netomi
  2. HubSpot Live Chat
  3. Zendesk’s Sunshine Conversations
  4. ClickDesk
  5. LiveAgent
  6. LiveChat
  7. Olark
  8. Pure Chat
  9. Social Intents
  10. Respond.io
  11. Podium Webchat
  12. Smartsupp
  13. Snapengage

These robust tools are unlocked by an equally robust customer service chatbot, such as Netomi’s, which can streamline the entire customer journey and offer immediate responses to customer queries, with its native integration with leading agent desk platforms such as Zendesk.

1. Best live chat software for mid-sized to enterprise brands: Netomi

What makes Netomi a top live chat software in 2022?

Netomi’s AI platform helps companies automatically resolve customer service tickets via email, chat, messaging, and voice. Netomi holds the record for the highest automation rate, automatically resolving over 80% of routine queries.

Other key features

  • Full customization, allowing agents to customize the chat experience such as embed customer forms to collect data, accept uploaded files, and send a copy of the chat transcript to a customers’ email
  • Natural Language Understanding (NLU) for 100+ languages, to fully understand the customer’s intent, for human-like conversation with high precision
  • Native integrations with agent desks such as Freshworks, Gladly and Salesforce, making it easy for agents to use the systems they already use
  • An intuitive analytics dashboard that displays real-time performance data on key customer service metrics such as AI resolution rate and engagement metrics, also enabling teams to track how well the AI is performing

 2. Best live chat software for teams already using HubSpot or another CRM: Hubspot Live Chat

What makes Hubspot one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Businesses can harness HubSpot’s live chat tool to automatically connect chatters to the right people, route customer inquiries to services teams, and pass leads to the salesperson who owns that relationship. Affording teams complete context and a clear view of every interaction, all conversations are automatically saved and stored in both conversation inboxes and on the contact’s timeline.

Other key features

  • Integration with HubSpot CRM offers full visibility into customer and prospect information, helping your teams provide better support and close more deals
  • Real-time support enables agents to interact with customers or prospects in real-time to understand their direct pains and needs
  • Targeted welcome messages that can be created for different web pages or audience segments, so you can connect with the site visitors who matter, and right when they’re most engaged
  • Contact activity pages allow team members to view historical conversations and their outcomes all in one place, including page views, form submissions, and sales activity

3. Best live chat software for businesses of all sizes who want to deliver rich experiences over chat and across different channels: Zendesk’s Sunshine Conversations

What makes Sunshine Conversations one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

As Sunshine Conversations is natively integrated with Zendesk, every single conversation is automatically captured. The Sunshine Conversations Cloud is a software platform that enables businesses to communicate with their customers across popular messaging apps. With Sunshine, businesses can craft rich interactions from scratch, to drive revenue and captivate customers across their entire journey.

Other key features

  • A conversation-focused and centralized agent workspace, allowing agents to see all interactions in one place, and maintain relevant and personal conversations on any channel
  • Conversation extensions, which allow teams to create custom interactive experiences inside the chat window of any messaging channel. Customers can pick concert seats, or view their shopping cart from right inside the chat (see below use case of a hotel booking!)
  • Integrations with Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, enabling agents to stay on top of conversations and customize conversations
  • Integrations to link data to and from all systems, such as CRM, order management system, and inventory database, with platforms such as Netomi
  • Live chat analytics to ​track agent metrics over time to see the impact of wait times and missed live chats, keep track of all past chat conversations, view actionable data on chat volume, visitor experience, and measure the positive impact of chat on your overall bottom line

Note: if you already use Zendesk for your help desk and chat, check out how Netomi can transform your CX with a best-in-class Zendesk chatbot.


4. Best live chat software for small businesses: ClickDesk

What makes ClickDesk one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

As the leading live chat app for more than 180,000 small businesses in 100+ countries, ClickDesk has been designed to be simple to use from any device, anywhere, anytime. An integrated helpdesk, live chat, and social media platform, ClickDesk touts itself as a “cross-platform software with a global outlook.”

Other key features

  • Advanced reports, analytics and metrics, such as daily web chat stats, weekly chat stats, and ticket status offer actionable data, enabling teams to make better business decisions
  • Proactive chat greetings, enabling agents to welcome visitors with custom messages based on user behavior, location, URL or the time spent on a page (such as : ‘I see the weather is splendid in London today, are you looking for a leather coat’)?
  • Keystroke preview that offers insight into what visitors type before they send it, allowing agents to understand their visitors more completely, and anticipate their helpdesk questions

Learn more about how Netomi’s fully customizable chat widget can help your team offer 24/7 support over chat!

 

5. Best live chat software for companies looking for a full-ervice helpdesk tool, with 24/7 problem-solving: LiveAgent

What makes LiveAgent one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

A tremendous time saver, LiveAgent’s simple (copy & paste) integration connects support teams with their customers within seconds. When customers reach out through the chat application, agents receive a new ticket in the platform’s universal inbox, allowing for seamless communication and prompt replies. The platform routes new incoming chats to the right team members, and dynamically adapts online chat availability as agents log in and out during their shift.

Other key features

  • Video live chat software, so issues can be effectively solved via screen sharing
  • Proactive chat invitations that assist website visitors during different customer journey stages by inviting them to live chat with agents
  • Real-time typing view, allowing agents to preview the text that a customer is typing at the moment, giving them the necessary time to analyze the situation and provide accurate answers, faster
  • Chat embedded tracking allows companies to track events of live chat sessions in Google Analytics to evaluate the impact of live chat on conversions on their websites

6. Best live chat software for converting website visitors: LiveChat

What makes LiveChat one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

From email and website to WhatsApp and SMS – LiveChat enables customer support teams to be everywhere their customers are and connect across multiple channels. One of the software’s highlights is its integrations with popular tools such as MailChimp, WhatsApp Business and Google Analytics. With the Mailchimp integration, for instance, website visitors can opt-in to email marketing during their chat experience, with no additional forms needed.

Other key features

  • Inactivity messages to stay in touch with customers when agents are too busy to reply instantly (e.g. “Please leave your email and I will respond to you later”)
  • Chat tags that can be added to chats to give them context, also allowing teams to filter reports using tags to compare numbers between different types of cases
  • Chat boosters to provide customers with instant answers, allowing teams to sync their chat widget with their Knowledge Base to offer self-service prior to chatting
  • Chat ratings to gather feedback to gauge whether customers are happy with their live chat experience and improve customer service, such as post-chat ratings and customer satisfaction reports

7. Best live chat software for smaller businesses and websites that are new to using live chat: Olark

What makes Olark one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Olark’s live chat software and customer data tools help businesses learn from every online interaction. With Olark, businesses can listen to their customers online, learn from live chat data, and, in turn, improve their sales support. Additionally, the platform offers ‘PowerUps’ — specialized live chat features for sales, growth, and customer service, such as live chat translation and visitor insights, that are available to add to any plan with a flexible monthly subscription.


8. Best live chat software for advanced sales and marketing teams: Pure Chat

What makes Pure Chat one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Born with the simple premise to “help entrepreneurs and small teams have better conversations with leads and customers,” Pure Chat is ideal for teams looking to connect with their website visitors throughout the customer lifecycle by leveraging data and insights from chat conversations and user behaviors, to provide a personalized experience at each and every touchpoint.

Other key features

  • A mobile-optimized chat widget for websites and a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices, so teams can efficiently manage live chat while on-the-go
  • Direct integrations with popular software products such as Google Analytics, HubSpot, and Infusionsoft; teams can also use Zapier to integrate with over 1000+ other applications
  • Historical chat transcripts, enabling agents to easily reference previous conversations

9. Best live chat software for teams already using Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Webex: Social Intents

What makes Social Intents one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

With Social Intents, agents can chat with their website visitors directly from Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Webex. The platform is ideal for companies that want to use their existing workflow without switching between different tools.

Other key features

  • Canned responses, allowing for agents to reply to customers instantly, send default responses for common questions, and make the live chat process more efficient
  • Proactive Invites to reach out to potential customers with automatic chat invites, with chat triggers based on URL, time, a visitor’s past interactions, and knowable visitor info (such as country and device)
  • Customizable chat widgets to fit a company’s brand, complete with custom colors, logos, text, default responses, and tab styles

10. Best free live chat software: Respond.io

What makes Respond.io one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Respond.io has a small footprint with a potentially big impact, with a “forever free” tier for small teams or individuals who want the benefits of a live chat but without the overhead. Respond.io can provide a better understanding of each customer profile with the inclusion of omnichannel chat history, contact import, and real-time analytics. While Respond.io is a solid choice for desktop communications, it doesn’t have a mobile component, limiting how customers can engage.

Other key features

  • Free, but also offers a paid tier
  • Includes a “supervisor dashboard” for managers
  • A workflow system provides easy delegation

11. Best live chat for mobile users: Podium Webchat

What makes Podium Webchat one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Where some other live chats might neglect mobile, Podium directly engages mobile customers. Users who interact with the Podium Webchat provides an SMS number, and continued assistance comes through text messages. This allows businesses to meet customers where they are–on their mobile phones–rather than in front of a computer.

Other key features

  • Integration with Google Analytics
  • Easy implementation with few steps
  • Fully customizable with user’s brand

12. Best live chat for sales: Smartsupp

What makes Smartsupp one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

A live chat is great for customer service, but it can also be a great way to enable sales and conversions. By engaging with your prospects and customers in real-time, you create an opportunity to build relationships, answer questions, and close deals. Smartsupp purports to get the most out of live chat for a business by specifically focusing on conversions. Their platform also includes video recording of customer activity on the site, so employees can more effectively address customer intentions.

Other key features

  • Free version with additional paid tiers
  • Optional chatbot implementation
  • Integrations with all major online shopping platforms

13. Best Live Chat For the Medical Field: SnapEngage

What makes SnapEngage one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

SnapEngage is a great choice for medical providers because their live chat is HIPAA compliant. If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically a set of regulations that protect patient privacy. Any businesses in the medical industry have to abide by these rules, and SnapEngage makes it easy to do so with their software. Not only is their chat software compliant, but they also offer a number of features specifically for the medical industry.

Other key features

  • enables interactions with patients from point of access to diagnosis and beyond
  • medically enabled but robust offerings that cover all industries
  • detailed and helpful support documentation

Conclusion

Instantaneous and frictionless, live chat enables customer support teams to connect with their customers on their preferred channels, offering assistance in the moment of need, in a conversational and user-friendly manner. As not all live chat software platforms are the same, it is important to select the one that can deliver the most impact to your support team and your customers.

AI to Inflation-Proof Your Business?

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Jun 27, 2022

Globally, the cost of living is skyrocketing – in the US, inflation hovers near a 40-year high, topping Americans’ concerns for the country, while Canada’s official inflation rate rose at a 6.8% annual pace this past April, a new 31-year high. Prices for everyday necessities – food, shelter and gas – are on the rise, as the COVID-19 pandemic is driving up the costs of raw materials and impacting global supply chains. Concerns about a recession are mounting, with economists warning that a recession in the US and Europe is ‘increasingly likely’, and Goldman Sachs forecasting a 30% chance of the U.S. economy tipping into recession over the next year, an increase from 15%.

Rising inflation rates place financial pressure on businesses, which need to find a way to bring in more revenue by either increasing their prices or, more optimally, by optimizing the revenue per head made by their employees. This pressure is propelling businesses to identify and act on new ways to drive efficiencies. While adjusting pricing or changing hiring practices may be the first to come to mind, the time to consider other strategies and processes to navigate this uncertain landscape is now, which is where the opportunity for AI and automation come into play.

Harnessing automation in a turbulent environment

For business leaders, leveraging an AI and automation-first strategy should be top of mind for reducing operating costs. For instance, Microsoft employs around 5,000 people on its finance team, a number that has largely remained steady over recent years, even though the company’s operations, profit and market capitalization have grown. Various technologies such as AI, bots, and machine learning have helped to keep a tight lid on the team’s headcount. This is a strategy that all companies, even those experiencing tremendous growth, need to do in this environment.

Turning customer service from a cost center to a profit center

While being conservative about headcount is important across all business areas, customer service is one area that can most benefit from automation. Customer service has long been a cost center for businesses – $400 billion is spent annually on customer experience, yet, this has been plagued by inefficient processes that actually damage customer relationships. In fact, 61% of people have switched brands due to poor customer service, costing businesses $1.6 trillion in lost business. With it costing 5X more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, a time of economic uncertainty makes the need to improve customer service even more important than ever.

Herein lies the opportunity with AI. The amount of knowledge work done by customer service agents that can be easily automated with modern AI systems is significant. Today, it’s not uncommon for agents to have multiple systems open simultaneously, extracting information from various places in order to close one ticket. And in fact, they are usually handling multiple tickets simultaneously. This causes even more issues. For one, resolution time for single tickets surges, as does employee stress and burnout. Customer service has one of the highest attrition rates of any industry, at around 45%.

By bringing AI into the organization, business leaders can improve the efficiency and profitability of customer service teams, leading to:

  • Increased loyalty and deepening relationships by meeting customer expectations (the expectation for 24/7 customer support on any channel has only accelerated post-pandemic. Many companies can’t meet these expectations without AI-powered virtual assistants acting as the first line of defense).
  • Customer advocacy and proactive care, which reduces the cost per contact by anticipating tickets, and preemptively resolving issues before a customer even knows that one exists.
  • Team efficiency by automating repetitive tickets (anywhere from 40-70% of support tasks are highly repeatable knowledge-work that can be effectively automated with AI).
  • Savings with onboarding and hiring as agents are more fulfilled with mundane tasks reduced, resulting in lower attrition, at a time when there are fewer agents in the labor pool.

Using automation to shield against over-hiring

When AI is adopted, businesses can have more predictable hiring.

No need for major pricing adjustments to products or services, or the need to add expensive, short-term hires to deal with expected and unexpected spikes in tickets. Then, there is the possibility of having too many staff – this was the case with Walmart, which experienced “weeks of overstaffing” during the first few months of 2022, as extra associates were hired to cover for staff that were on COVID leave, yet when Omnicron case counts declined, employees returned to work sooner than expected. Amazon also faced a similar situation, resulting in lower productivity which added roughly $2 billion in costs for the company. On the other hand, many are hesitant to hire during these turbulent times, and companies including Salesforce and Uber have announced plans to slow or freeze hiring.

Removing some of the guesswork, leveraging AI-powered solutions allows for more elasticity, enabling businesses to strike a balance between too many and not enough staff.

Automation can also play a leading role in other areas of a business when it comes to process automation, including recruiting, sales, and administration activities. This helps businesses streamline various processes that are high volume and common, such as gathering data files, or processing and tracking employee vacation and leave requests.

In today’s often uncertain economy where global events such as inflation are taking their toll, emerging technologies such as AI enable businesses to stay efficient and maintain costs with limited disruption. Today, the trade for businesses may be increasing prices or increasing automation. We place our vote on the latter.

Connect in Real-Time, Through Messaging Apps or Online: The 9 Best Live Chat Software

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Apr 12, 2022

For businesses today, taking care to reach customers where they are, and connecting with them on their terms, is critical. Where are customers spending their time? On instant messaging and social media apps such as Slack, text messages and WhatsApp. In today’s digital-first world, receiving customer support through such channels seems like the most logical approach, and for many customers, this is indeed the case.

According to Zendesk’s CX Trends 2022 report, conversational customer service is on the rise. Customer inquiries over WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and regional favorites including WeChat or Line have jumped 36% in 2021. This jump represents the highest increase of any other communication channel.

What is live chat software?

Live chat software is a service that allows customers to communicate with companies in real-time. Live chat provides customers an easy way to access customer support and information. Live chat software enables support agents to interact with customers on a company’s website, mobile app, over social media channels, or via text message.

Why is live chat important?

Think of live chat as an instant messaging service. Live chat is convenient, immediate, and has grown into a popular offering that customers have come to desire and expect. In fact, 79% of customers say they prefer to chat with agents solely because of the immediacy it offers in comparison with other channels. On top of that, 63% of millennials prefer to have their basic customer support queries answered through a live chat widget versus traditional channels.

What are some of the benefits of live chat software?

Here are 3 main benefits of using live chat software:

  1. A cinch to install
    Adding live chat functionality to a website or within an app is quick and easy to implement.
  2. Enables agents to serve multiple customers concurrently.
    This translates to faster service times and lower operating costs.
  3. Opens a personal and casual feel
    Unlike the formality of phone calls (and without the hold times), live chat has a back and forth exchange more similar to what one might experience with friends or family.

How to evaluate live chat software tools?

Here are some of the key questions to keep in mind when evaluating live chat software tools:

  • Does it work well with the people, processes, and tools that your agents already use?
  • Does it include AI to automatically respond to common queries?

To help your team realize the full benefits of live chat software and make the most of these powerful tools, we break down the core highlights and features of the nine best.

The Best Live Chat Software in 2022

  1. Netomi
  2. HubSpot Live Chat
  3. Zendesk’s Sunshine Conversations
  4. ClickDesk
  5. LiveAgent
  6. LiveChat
  7. Olark
  8. Pure Chat
  9. Social Intents

These robust tools are unlocked by an equally robust customer service chatbot, such as Netomi’s, which can streamline the entire customer journey and offer immediate responses to customer queries, with its native integration with leading agent desk platforms such as Zendesk.

1. Netomi

Best live chat software for mid-sized to enterprise brands

What makes Netomi a top live chat software in 2022?

Netomi’s AI platform helps companies automatically resolve customer service tickets via email, chat, messaging, and voice. Netomi holds the record for the highest automation rate, automatically resolving over 80% of routine queries.

Other key features

  • Full customization, allowing agents to customize the chat experience such as embed customer forms to collect data, accept uploaded files, and send a copy of the chat transcript to a customers’ email
  • Natural Language Understanding (NLU) for 100+ languages, to fully understand the customer’s intent, for human-like conversation with high precision
  • Native integrations with agent desks such as Freshworks, Gladly and Salesforce, making it easy for agents to use the systems they already use
  • An intuitive analytics dashboard that displays real-time performance data on key customer service metrics such as AI resolution rate and engagement metrics, also enabling teams to track how well the AI is performing

 2. Hubspot Live Chat

Best live chat software for teams already using HubSpot or another CRM

What makes Hubspot one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Businesses can harness HubSpot’s live chat tool to automatically connect chatters to the right people, route customer inquiries to services teams, and pass leads to the salesperson who owns that relationship. Affording teams complete context and a clear view of every interaction, all conversations are automatically saved and stored in both conversation inboxes and on the contact’s timeline.

Other key features

  • Integration with HubSpot CRM offers full visibility into customer and prospect information, helping your teams provide better support and close more deals
  • Real-time support enables agents to interact with customers or prospects in real-time to understand their direct pains and needs
  • Targeted welcome messages that can be created for different web pages or audience segments, so you can connect with the site visitors who matter, and right when they’re most engaged
  • Contact activity pages allow team members to view historical conversations and their outcomes all in one place, including page views, form submissions, and sales activity

3. Zendesk’s Sunshine Conversations

Best live chat software for businesses of all sizes who want to deliver rich experiences over chat and across different channels

What makes Sunshine Conversations one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

As Sunshine Conversations is natively integrated with Zendesk, every single conversation is automatically captured. The Sunshine Conversations Cloud is a software platform that enables businesses to communicate with their customers across popular messaging apps. With Sunshine, businesses can craft rich interactions from scratch, to drive revenue and captivate customers across their entire journey.

Other key features

  • A conversation-focused and centralized agent workspace, allowing agents to see all interactions in one place, and maintain relevant and personal conversations on any channel
  • Conversation extensions, which allow teams to create custom interactive experiences inside the chat window of any messaging channel. Customers can pick concert seats, or view their shopping cart from right inside the chat (see below use case of a hotel booking!)
  • Integrations with Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, enabling agents to stay on top of conversations and customize conversations
  • Integrations to link data to and from all systems, such as CRM, order management system, and inventory database, with platforms such as Netomi
  • Live chat analytics to ​track agent metrics over time to see the impact of wait times and missed live chats, keep track of all past chat conversations, view actionable data on chat volume, visitor experience, and measure the positive impact of chat on your overall bottom line

Note: if you already use Zendesk for your help desk and chat, check out how Netomi can transform your CX with a best-in-class Zendesk chatbot.


4. ClickDesk

Best live chat software for small businesses

What makes ClickDesk one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

As the leading live chat app for more than 180,000 small businesses in 100+ countries, ClickDesk has been designed to be simple to use from any device, anywhere, anytime. An integrated helpdesk, live chat, and social media platform, ClickDesk touts itself as a “cross-platform software with a global outlook.”

Other key features

  • Advanced reports, analytics and metrics, such as daily web chat stats, weekly chat stats, and ticket status offer actionable data, enabling teams to make better business decisions
  • Proactive chat greetings, enabling agents to welcome visitors with custom messages based on user behavior, location, URL or the time spent on a page (such as : ‘I see the weather is splendid in London today, are you looking for a leather coat’)?
  • Keystroke preview that offers insight into what visitors type before they send it, allowing agents to understand their visitors more completely, and anticipate their helpdesk questions

.

Learn more about how Netomi’s fully customizable chat widget can help your team offer 24/7 support over chat!

 

5. LiveAgent

Best live chat software for companies looking for a full-service helpdesk tool, with 24/7 problem-solving

What makes LiveAgent one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

A tremendous time saver, LiveAgent’s simple (copy & paste) integration connects support teams with their customers within seconds. When customers reach out through the chat application, agents receive a new ticket in the platform’s universal inbox, allowing for seamless communication and prompt replies. The platform routes new incoming chats to the right team members, and dynamically adapts online chat availability as agents log in and out during their shift.

Other key features

  • Video live chat software, so issues can be effectively solved via screen sharing
  • Proactive chat invitations that assist website visitors during different customer journey stages by inviting them to live chat with agents
  • Real-time typing view, allowing agents to preview the text that a customer is typing at the moment, giving them the necessary time to analyze the situation and provide accurate answers, faster
  • Chat embedded tracking allows companies to track events of live chat sessions in Google Analytics to evaluate the impact of live chat on conversions on their websites

6. LiveChat

Best live chat software for converting website visitors

What makes LiveChat one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

From email and website to WhatsApp and SMS – LiveChat enables customer support teams to be everywhere their customers are and connect across multiple channels. One of the software’s highlights is its integrations with popular tools such as MailChimp, WhatsApp Business and Google Analytics. With the Mailchimp integration, for instance, website visitors can opt-in to email marketing during their chat experience, with no additional forms needed.

Other key features

  • Inactivity messages to stay in touch with customers when agents are too busy to reply instantly (e.g. “Please leave your email and I will respond to you later”)
  • Chat tags that can be added to chats to give them context, also allowing teams to filter reports using tags to compare numbers between different types of cases
  • Chat boosters to provide customers with instant answers, allowing teams to sync their chat widget with their Knowledge Base to offer self-service prior to chatting
  • Chat ratings to gather feedback to gauge whether customers are happy with their live chat experience and improve customer service, such as post-chat ratings and customer satisfaction reports

7. Olark

Best live chat software for smaller businesses and websites that are new to using live chat

What makes Olark one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Olark’s live chat software and customer data tools help businesses learn from every online interaction. With Olark, businesses can listen to their customers online, learn from live chat data, and, in turn, improve their sales support. Additionally, the platform offers ‘PowerUps’ — specialized live chat features for sales, growth, and customer service, such as live chat translation and visitor insights, that are available to add to any plan with a flexible monthly subscription.


8. Pure Chat

Best live chat software for advanced sales and marketing teams

What makes Pure Chat one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

Born with the simple premise to “help entrepreneurs and small teams have better conversations with leads and customers,” Pure Chat is ideal for teams looking to connect with their website visitors throughout the customer lifecycle by leveraging data and insights from chat conversations and user behaviors, to provide a personalized experience at each and every touchpoint.

Other key features

  • A mobile-optimized chat widget for websites and a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices, so teams can efficiently manage live chat while on-the-go
  • Direct integrations with popular software products such as Google Analytics, HubSpot, and Infusionsoft; teams can also use Zapier to integrate with over 1000+ other applications
  • Historical chat transcripts, enabling agents to easily reference previous conversations

9. Social Intents

Best live chat software for teams already using Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Webex

What makes Social Intents one of the best live chat software solutions in 2022?

With Social Intents, agents can chat with their website visitors directly from Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Webex. The platform is ideal for companies that want to use their existing workflow without switching between different tools.

Other key features

  • Canned responses, allowing for agents to reply to customers instantly, send default responses for common questions, and make the live chat process more efficient
  • Proactive Invites to reach out to potential customers with automatic chat invites, with chat triggers based on URL, time, a visitor’s past interactions, and knowable visitor info (such as country and device)
  • Customizable chat widgets to fit a company’s brand, complete with custom colors, logos, text, default responses, and tab styles

Conclusion

Instantaneous and frictionless, live chat enables customer support teams to connect with their customers on their preferred channels, offering assistance in the moment of need, in a conversational and user-friendly manner. As not all live chat software platforms are the same, it is important to select the one that can deliver the most impact to your support team and your customers.

What is Conversational AI and How Does it Work?

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Jan 15, 2022

Conversational AI is growing more prevalent every day. Not just in business, but for entertainment purposes as well. Whenever computers have conversations with humans, there’s a lot of work engineers need to do to make the interactions as human-like as possible. Whether you’re messaging with a chatbot, responding to an automated email or speaking with a virtual assistant, computers are working hard behind the scenes to interpret what is being said (sometimes called “intent classification”), determine the appropriate response, and respond in a way that’s natural and easily understandable to humans. This article will highlight the key elements of conversational AI, including its history, popular use cases, how it works, and more.

The concept of Conversational AI has been around for decades, but it wasn’t always something that was wildly talked about. According to data from Google Trends, interest in “conversational AI” was practically non-existent from 2005 through 2017. However, over the last 3 years, interest in Conversational AI has grown exponentially.

In the US, search volume for conversational AI has never been higher.

What is Conversational AI?

At a high level, conversational AI is a form of artificial intelligence that facilitates the real-time human-like conversation between a human and a computer.

It’s important to note that conversational AI isn’t a single thing; it’s a combination of different technologies, including natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, deep learning, and contextual awareness.

Conversational AI vs Chatbots

The main difference between and Conversational AI and chatbots is that conversational AI has much more artificial intelligence compared to chatbots. We’ll touch on the differences even more in the next section. With that said, there is a lot of ambiguity surrounding the differences between conversational AI and chatbots. The discrepancies are so few that Wikipedia has declared – at least for the moment – that a separate Conversational AI Wikipedia page is not necessary because it is so similar to the Chatbot Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia says that Conversational AI and Chatbots are too similar to have separate pages.

Why the confusion?

One reason why the two terms are used so interchangeably is because the word “chatbot” is simply easier to say. A chatbot also feels tangible to our imagination – I visualize a tiny robot that has conversations behind a computer screen with people. Whereas a conversational AI is more conceptual than physical in nature.

One common application for conversational AI is to be incorporated into chatbots. Chatbots provide convenient, immediate and effortless experiences for customers by getting customers the answers they need quickly. Instead of scrolling through pages of FAQs or sitting through long wait times on hold to speak to an agent, customers can receive a reply in seconds. However, not all chatbots use conversational AI.

It might be more accurate to think of conversational AI as the brainpower within an application, or in this case, the brainpower within a chatbot.


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


Perhaps you’ve been frustrated before when a website’s chatbot continually asks you for the same information or failed to understand what you were saying. In this scenario, you likely engaged with a scripted, rules-based chatbot, with little to no conversational AI.

There are several notable differences between conversational AI chatbots and scripted chatbots. Traditional scripting chatbots require companies to write out all the responses to anticipated customer questions beforehand. Next, these responses are matched to keywords. Whenever a customer’s reply or question contains one of these keywords, the chatbot automatically responds with the scripted response.

Scripted chatbots have multiple disadvantages compared to conversational AI. First and foremost, these bots cannot provide the correct response if a customer uses a phrase or synonym that differs even slightly from what has been pre-programmed. Companies that implement scripted chatbots or virtual assistants need to do the tedious work of thinking up every possible variation of a customer’s question and match the scripted response to it. Think about the Comcast example above. When you consider the idea of having to anticipate the 1,700 ways a person might ask one straightforward question, it’s clear why rules-based bots often provide frustrating and limited user experiences. Compare this to conversational AI enabled chatbots that can detect synonyms and look at the entire context of what a person is saying in order to decipher a customer’s true intent.

Scripted chatbots are also unable to remember information across long conversations. Because it’s impossible to write out every possible variation of a back-and-forth conversation, scripted chatbots need to repeatedly ask for information to match a response to a pre-set conversational flow. This rigid experience does not provide any leeway for a customer to go off script, or ask a question in the middle of a flow, without confusing the bot. Meanwhile, conversational AI chatbots can use contextual awareness and episodic memory to recall what has been said previously, provide a relevant reply and pick up a flow where it left off. All in all, conversational AI chatbots provide a much more natural, human-like interaction.

Why Conversational AI is becoming so critical today

Businesses use conversational AI for marketing, sales and support to engage along the entire customer journey. One of the most popular and successful implementations is conversational AI for customer service and customer experience, a $600B industry with a lot of repetitive knowledge work.

Because conversational AI doesn’t rely on manually written scripts, it enables companies to automate highly personalized customer service resolutions at scale. This makes every interaction feel unique and relevant, while also reducing effort and resolution time. As a result, customers tend to report higher levels of satisfaction.

The more advanced conversational AI can enable companies to analyze and identify when customer questions and issues to identify common pain points to preemptively intervene before a customer ever reaches out.

Conversational AI for CX is incredibly versatile and can be implemented into a variety of customer service channels, including email, voice, chat, social and messaging. This helps businesses scale support to new and emerging channels to meet customers where they are.


Learn 5 strategies for successful customer service automation in this exclusive Freshworks webinar.


Top Conversational AI Applications and Use Cases

  1. Automate resolutions to common FAQs – Many businesses have 5-7 different kinds of questions that make up over 50% of the total customer service questions by volume. A powerful AI can interpret the various different ways people might ask the same question. For example, an airline might deploy a travel chatbot to resolve highly repetitive questions, like “can I change my flight?”, without human agent intervention.
  2. Increase customer engagement – Conversational AI can proactively reach out to customers at key points along the customer journey or based on behavior signals to provide information at the exact moment of relevance. This can help to drive revenue, decrease churn and eliminate frustration.
  3. Improve product accessibility – Businesses are relying on artificial intelligence to provide more inclusive services to all of their customers. A powerful AI can leverage NLP and NLU to automatically translate text, or even text to speech. By doing so, businesses can help those with disabilities use their products better.

Fintechs need to provide a stellar customer experience across the board.
Learn more in our eBook today.


How Does it Work?

Earlier we mentioned the different technologies that power conversational AI, one of which is natural language processing (NLP). NLP isn’t different from conversational AI; rather it’s one of the components that enables it.

NLP is frequently interchanged with terms like natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language generation (NLG), but at a high level, NLP is the umbrella term that includes these two other technologies.

Because human speech is highly unstandardized, natural language understanding is what helps a computer decipher what a customer’s intent is. It looks at the context of what a person has said – not simply performing keyword matching and looking up the dictionary meaning of a word – to accurately understand what a person needs. This is important because people can ask for the same thing in hundreds of different ways. In fact, Comcast found that there are 1,700 different ways to say “I’d like to pay my bill.” Leveraging NLU can help conversational AI understand all of these different ways without being explicitly trained on each variance. Sophisticated NLU can also understand  grammatical mistakes, slang, misspellings, short-form and industry-specific terms – just like a human would.

Once a customer’s intent (what the customer wants) is identified, machine learning is used to determine the appropriate response. Over time, as it processes more responses, the conversational AI learns which response performs the best and improves its accuracy.

Finally, natural language generation creates the response to the customer. This technology leverages its understanding of human speech to create an easy-to-understand reply that’s as human-like as possible.

More advanced conversational AI can also use contextual awareness to remember bits of information over a longer conversation to facilitate a more natural back and forth dialogue between a computer and a customer.

How To Build Conversational AI

We’ve gone over the advantages of conversational AI and why it’s important for businesses. Now, we’ll discuss how your organization can build and implement a conversational AI for your business.

While some companies try to build their own conversational AI technology in-house, the fastest and most efficient way to bring conversational AI to your business is by partnering with a company like Netomi. These technology companies have been perfecting their AI engines and algorithms, investing heavily in R+D and learning from real-world implementations. With customer expectations rising for the interactions that they have with chatbots, companies can no longer afford to have anything interacting with customers that’s not highly accurate.

There are a few simple steps that go into creating a strategy for conversational AI:

  • Define your goals – Are you trying to increase customer satisfaction or decrease resolution time? Do you want to alleviate mundane work from your human agents?  Can you introduce proactive customer service to solve issues before you even know they exist? 
  • Train your AI – Train your AI based on your historical tickets. That way, you can leverage your existing data to understand how your customers have asked a specific question in the past, increasing the accuracy of your conversational AI.
  • Design journeys and workflows – Design conversations and user journeys, create a personality for your conversational AI and ensure your covering all of your top use cases.
  • Integrate – Depending on your use cases, you might want to also integrate with your other back-end systems like your CRM or accounting software. This way, the conversational AI can actually pull in data from these sources to resolve customer service issues on an individual basis without human intervention.
  • Measure – You’ll want to measure the impact your Conversational AI is having on your customer service KPIs, including first response rate, average handle time, CSAT, AI and human agent collaboration, and more.
  • Optimize – Over time, as the AI has more customer service interactions, you can uncover further opportunities to train the AI and empower it to solve even more tickets. You can also help retrain the AI if it did not provide the correct response in a specific scenario, enhancing the experience over time.

Conclusion

Conversational AI is growing in popularity and for good reason. More and more businesses are beginning to leverage this artificial intelligence to improve their customer support, marketing, and overall customer experience.

Customers care more today about every interaction they have with a company. There is an inherent demand for immediate, effortless resolutions across an increasing number of channels. Even one bad experience can turn someone off from ever doing business with a company again. Conversational AI can help companies scale the experiences that people expect by providing resolutions to everyday questions and issues in seconds. That way, human agents are only brought in when there is a complex, unique or sensitive request.

For more information on conversational AI, discover how to provide brilliant AI-powered salesforce chatbot solutions to every customer, every time. Depending on the industry you serve, you may also be interested in checking out our eBooks on telecom and media and entertainment.

The Future of Customer Experience in 2022

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Jan 6, 2022

From brussels sprouts to intimacy, according to Gainsight’s Nick Mehta and Netomi’s Puneet Mehta offer a lively take on what’s ahead for CX leaders now that they have a seat in the boardroom.

In a recent webinar, Nick Mehta sat down to talk with Netomi Founder / CEO Puneet Mehta to discuss how customer experience has evolved over the past few years, and what’s to come in 2022 [Watch the full recording here].;

Here’s a recap of the discussion, featuring some of its top takeaways.

What’s changed with customer experience in the post-pandemic world?

Nick Mehta: Three key things have changed.;

First, most human beings switched to a very digital lifestyle. Digital became the default mechanism for communication and life, whether it’s working, watching Netflix or ordering food. Everyone is now living their life online. This has caused people to expect digital-first, intelligent customer experiences.

Additionally, the pandemic has caused an incredible variance in demand. So many brands have experienced demand screech to a halt and then skyrocket again. There have been crazy fads, including brussel sprouts trending on tiktok one week and then grocery stores running out of them. With this variability of demand, companies need to know how to scale customer experience up and down.

Third, in the B2B space, the concept of customer success has blown up because software has blown up. The number of software companies has grown so significantly and there is this need for these software companies to deliver great experiences and outcomes to their customers.

What changes in customer experience are you seeing post-pandemic?

Puneet Mehta: Pre-pandemic, there was a thought process that, in order to build connections, you needed to have two people talking. There was a need to connect customers with agents. Suddenly, the definition of that connection has changed. The definition of connection is now instant help – being helpful in the moment.

The second thing is the increase in customer service tickets, whether this is a result of the global supply chain issues or travel resuming around the world. In 2022, support teams across industries are preparing for more tickets.

Third, we saw a big shift in the role of CX within an organization, and customer experience executives now have a seat at the executive table. The C-suite now really recognizes the need to provide incredible customer experiences.

How has customer experience evolved?

PM: Post-pandemic, conversations have become very goal-driven. We’re seeing people want to get to the point, and get to the point quickly. Customers are losing their patience and want a resolution quickly. Increasingly, good customer experience is going to be about understanding a person’s context, and having situational awareness. Someone standing on the corner of the street in the rain has different needs and expectations than someone sitting on their couch on a Saturday. The former individual would need immediate help, while the latter may have a bit more patience.

When do you apply automation to customer success?

NM: It’s important to realize that, for a lot of consumers, it is good for them too. A lot of us like the self-service experience and appreciate it more as we as a society are becoming more technical.

In the B2B world, digital customer experience is a strategy that should be applied to all customers, not based on deal or company size. Automation, however, might not be right for all touchpoints, but it can be right for all customers.

How do you define AI when it comes to customer experience?

PM: We think about it as ‘A’ standing for ‘Access’ and ‘I’ standing for ‘Intimacy.’ We’re delivering that combination of access and intimacy between businesses and their customers in a very goal-driven way.

What are your top CX forecasts for 2022?

NM: First, I see the blending of digital experience and products. The more that customers are living in the product, the more there will come to be an expectation to receive support within the product itself, whether it’s a device, software, app or embedded product. It’s all about building the experience into the product, rather than having the customer need to go somewhere else.

Second, AI is more real than ever before. It’s not just a buzzword. Companies are starting to get a better handle on their AI strategy and starting to use it to understand what’s working and what’s not. AI will be used to help businesses make better decisions.

Third, there will be great consideration on how to keep the human element in the digital experience. It will be all about finding ways of humanizing interactions and ensuring that customers can connect in ways that might be digital from a scale perspective, but feel very human.

When it comes to customer experience, what are some common mistakes?

NM: In customer experience, there is a common mistake of falling into a trap of platitudes. Every company says that ‘customers are important, we care about them and we want to improve the experience’. A big thing for CX professionals is measurement, and not just focusing on NPS or CES. There’s a need to measure the entire process, to be able to demonstrate the impact and become an expert on the ROI of what you’re doing.

PM: People tend to get lost when it comes to CX. It’s important to find that one wedge of CX that will have that disproportionate impact on your customers. You don’t have to focus on a multi-year plan that will have a supposed 300% increase on the customer experience. Instead, start small, measure, and see if you can start to see an impact in under six months. Even if it is an initiative that improves KPIs 5% over 90 days.

Want to see the full conversation? Watch the on-demand webinar now.

For more information, visit:

How to Design Dialogue for Chatbots

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Oct 29, 2021

Best practices and downfalls for conversation design for chatbots and voice assistants

The art of conversation evolved early in human evolution. As a species, we’ve been perfecting our verbal and nonverbal communication skills over hundreds of thousands of years, and it still is something that takes us years to learn.  

We’re at one of the most pivotal periods since the beginning of human dialogue. With artificial intelligence (AI) powering chatbots and voice assistants, we’re now teaching human brains how to communicate with artificial brains. When designing conversations, you need to understand the needs of both humans and machines and ensure the dialogue is helpful, natural and persuasive. 

When writing dialogue for a chatbot or voice assistant, there are key things to follow. Here are the best practices for conversation design for chatbots and voice assistants. 

5 Strategies for Engaging Conversation Design 

1. Start with a great introduction. 

Introductions should be kept short and serve as a way to let the user know what you can help them with (don’t over-explain, but set expectations). Avoid using phrases like “I’m still learning” and avoid being arrogant with phrases like “smart virtual assistant.” 

You will also want to create different introductions for returning users who will already be familiar with the capabilities. Never try to pass off a bot as a human agent. 

Example: Hi, I’m Stella, the Sullivan Clothing virtual assistant. I can help you track your order, start a return or answer product questions. So, what can I help you with? 

2. Write compelling and clear prompts.

Prompts let a person know that it’s their turn to speak and give input. It’s good practice to use question marks with prompts as it’s a clear indicator that it’s the user’s turn. Always end the message with a prompt (don’t add additional information after) and avoid combined questions and instead ask multiple simple questions. 

Example: Let’s track your order. Are you looking for the order placed on September 13? 

3. Use Implicit and Explicit Confirmations to ensure the conversation is moving in the right direction. 

Use implicit and explicit confirmations to give users the chance to correct the chatbot in the case that wrong intent was triggered. Explicit intents ask the user for confirmation. Whereas an implicit intent keeps the conversation moving forward, but the bot does restate the user’s request. This gives the user an opportunity to correct the bot. 

Explicit Intent Example:  You would like me to initiate a return, is that correct?

Implicit Intent Example: I’ll start your return now. What’s your order number?

4. Use acknowledgments to have more natural conversation. 

To help your users feel like you’re listening to them, use acknowledgments like “Alright,” “Sure,” or “Got it.” It’s a way to build trust and make the conversation natural. You’ll want to make sure to add variety and not use the same acknowledgment again and again.   

Example: Got it. So you’d like to return the sweater because it’s  too small? 

5. Focus on the user, not the bot. 

You want to be as user-centric in your writing as possible. Limit talking with “I” and “me,” and focus more on “you.”

Example: What would you like to know? vs. I’m an expert in fall fashion trends.

Conversation design is a science. 

People communicate differently, so too do chatbots. And good conversation design is critical to the success of a chatbot and user engagement. When designing dialogue for chatbots and voice assistants, it’s important to understand both the needs of humans and bots. Write dialogue that is natural, similar to how a conversation would be had amongst friends, and less robotic. Understand the technical limitations, what information a bot needs from a user to complete a task, and always have human escalation, whether it’s direct handoff or call / email back. 

Can we help you to design a helpful and engaging conversation? Get in touch with our expert conversation designers today.

For more related information, check out:

Zendesk vs. Freshdesk: Which Is Better?

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Oct 25, 2021

Service desk platforms – also called agent desks – help companies enhance the customer experience, scale conversations across multiple channels and reduce customer service costs. Two of the most established ticket management software platforms – and often compared platforms, too – in this space are Zendesk vs Freshdesk. Both are used by hundreds of thousands of companies around the world as customer support software and help desk software service solutions.

Both offer a suite of sophisticated features, some are the same and some different, that help agents resolve issues faster and also make support easier and more convenient for customers. The platforms are highly reviewed and rated on G2: Freshdesk rates 4.4/5 stars with 2,482 reviews and Zendesk Support Suite rates 4.3/5 stars with 3,267 reviews (at the time of publishing). So, what’s right for you: Zendesk or Freshdesk? 

In this post we’re diving into everything you need to know about Zendesk vs Freshdesk including features, pricing, customers, customization and more. After reading this post, you’ll be able to figure out if Zendesk or Freshdesk would work better for your company. 

Zendesk: Everything you need to know 

Zendesk is one of the most well-known and established help desk platforms. It has over 160,000 customers, including some of the largest enterprise brands in the world such as Siemens, Uber, Instacart and Polaris. It’s targeted at high-growth and enterprise companies that need sophisticated features, and because of this, is the more expensive option.  More than just a help desk, Zendesk can help companies manage the entire customer experience – bringing marketing and support together into one platform. 

Zendesk enables customers to deliver a consistent experience across multiple channels and provide agents with a unified workspace to manage and even collaborate on conversations. The platform gives agents a 360-degree view of customer data so context can be carried forward (similar capabilities are available on Freshdesk). This has a major impact on the customer service KPIs: on average, Zendesk increases customer satisfaction by 25% and agent productivity by 30%1.

Key Features of Zendesk

Zendesk Ticket Management

The ticketing system on Zendesk consolidates all of your tickets into a single platform – including from social media, email, chat, in-app support, phone, and the web. It boasts features including ticket routing and assigning tickets to the right agent. According to one review, this feature makes an impact: “the built-in intelligent routing ensures appropriate customer-to-agent fit and automates ticketing queues to reduce resolution time2..

Leveraging the Zendesk platform, you will never lose a request as each ticket, regardless of channel, is entered into a queue for agents to pick up. 

Zendesk Knowledge Base

Zendesk is one of the best knowledge base software platforms that is self-service via customizable and user-friendly. This lets your customers find the answers to their questions via an online help center without needing to interact with an agent, and essentially deflecting tickets. These intuitive help centers can be deployed on mobile or Web via a simple SDK. 

Apps and Integrations 

The Zendesk marketplace has over 1,250 apps and out-of-the-box integrations including Zendesk chatbots to automate conversations,  productivity tools, time tracking, collaboration and customer surveys. These Zendesk apps amplify the power of the platform and many can be implemented with a single click. 

Zendesk Pricing

Zendesk offers a variety of pricing plans based on the number of agent seats you need, channels, and access to features like the self-service Zendesk Knowledge Base. At the time of this post, the most basic plan starts at $49 / month / agent and this increases to $215 / month / agent for the most robust enterprise plans. Though Zendesk does not offer a free tier, it does have a free trial.

Zendesk Customization

Zendesk allows you to customize all reports and graphs, as well as chat colors, text, logos, and branding. Views within the Zendesk dashboard can be “extensively customized to your preferences as well—an area in which Freshdesk tried to do something similar, but we preferred the way Zendesk Support shows the information, including ticket expiration times.” 

Zendesk Reports and Data Analysis

Zendesk offers a suite of beautifully-designed reports to help you measure the success of your customer support operations. You can quickly identify areas that require improvement, and areas of development for your agents. The best part?  You can track your performance against best practice metrics so you can see how you’re performing.

Zendesk Security

Security is core to the Zendesk platform. The company is SOC 2 Type II, ISO and FedRAMP LI-SaaS compliant.


Hear how AI can improve the customer experience in this webinar featuring Greg Dreyfus from Zendesk.


A complete guide to Freshdesk

Freshdesk is a top Zendesk alternative and might be the better option if you’re looking for a simple, more affordable option. Over half of the reviews on G2 come from small companies, but that’s not to say that larger companies don’t also use Freshdesk.

The platform is used by over 50,000 brands, including Bridgestone, HP, Harvard University and DHL to improve customer service. While Zendesk has a broader lens of the entire customer experience, Freshdesk is more narrowly focused on customer support (although it can be integrated with other Freshworks products). 

The platform is touted for its usability and you can get set up in just a few minutes. According to one review, “Freshdesk is easy to set up and get started. It has the quickest go-to-market deployment, even when considering novice users3.”

Key Features of Freshdesk

Freshdesk Ticket Management

The Freshdesk ticketing system lets you close tickets faster with a centralized inbox that brings in tickets from multiple channels (email, phone, web, chat and social) Tickets are assigned to agents in a few ways – skill-based, load balancing and round robin – and agents can collaborate on tickets in real-time. It is the only platform to provide in-app notifications to agents if a ticket status changes or a customer responds, and canned responses help to provide consistent responses to common questions. The platform has unique tools like a “Thank you detector” which prevents reopening of tickets when customers respond with a thank you. 

Freshdesk Knowledge Base and Self Service 

Sometimes customers want to help themselves and Freshdesk boasts a suite of self-help tools. One such tool is a fully-customizable Knowledge Base (or help center) which can be accessed on your website, mobile app or even chat. Another form of customer self service is community forums, which allows your users to ask each other. 

Freshdesk Integrations

While not as robust as the Zendesk marketplace, Freshdesk has an app store with over 800 pre-built integrations including productivity, remote work, file sharing and collaboration tools. 

Freshdesk Reports and Data Analysis

Freshdesk users can make data-based decisions by accessing a variety of reports, including ticket volume trends, agent performance, group performance, satisfaction surveys, customer sentiment, etc. 

Freshdesk Pricing

Freshdesk offers a variety of pricing plans from FREE (Yes, free!) to high-growth companies ($15 month / agent) all the way up to enterprise plans starting at $79 / month / agent (pricing at the time of publication). Plans vary based on features, channels and integrations available, but they have done a good job of providing tremendous value in every tier based specifically on the stage of your business. According to one review, “Even on the [basic and free] plan, there aren’t many restrictions [when it comes to features4.”

Freshdesk Customization

Freshdesk offers a large number of ways you can customize your experience. You can brand your entire help desk to align with your company’s branding, choosing the style or color of elements of your portal, or selecting from a library of plug-and-play “FreshThemes.” You can also have your portal built in over 40 languages and even map your Freshdesk domain to your own support URL. 

Freshdesk Security

Like Zendesk, Freshdesk has rigorous security controls and is GDPR, HIPPA, SOC and ISO compliant. 


Get 5 strategies for successful customer service automation
in this webinar featuring Rajiv Ramanan from Freshworks.


Zendesk vs Freshdesk Feature Comparison

Feature 

Zendesk 

Freshdesk 

Pricing 

Five Tiers: 

  • Suite Team ($49/agent/month)
  • Suite Growth ($79/agent/month) 
  • Suite Professional ($99/agent/month)
  • Suite Enterprise  ($150/agent/month)
  • Suite Enterprise Customization ($215/agent/month)

Four Tiers: 

  • Free 
  • Growth ($15/agent/month)
  • Pro ($49/agent/month)
  • Enterprise ($79/agent/month)

Free option 

N/A

Free plan with unlimited agents which includes: 

  • Email & Social Ticketing 
  • Ticket Dispatch 
  • Knowledge Base 
  • Ticket Trend Report 
  • Datacenter Location 
  • Team Collaboration

Self-help

  • Knowledge Base 
  • Community
  • Answer Bot
  • Knowledge Base 
  • Community Forums 
  • Chatbot

App Store 

  • 1,250 apps
  • 800+ apps 

Channels 

  • Email 
  • Chat 
  • Help Center
    Messaging 
  • Social Messaging 
  • Voice 
  • Text
  • Web Widget 
  • Mobile SDK 
  • Email 
  • Phone 
  • Chat 
  • Website 
  • Social Media 
  • WhatsApp
  • Mobile SDK

Ticket Management 

  • Centralized Inbox
  • Customer context – Agents get access to order history, web activity and loyalty status
  • SLA Management
  • Alerts/Escalation 
  • Macros
  • Conditional and Custom Ticket Fields
  • Agent Collision Detection
  • Help desk automation
  • Triggers that initiate a workflow based on changes in a ticket
  • Team Inbox 
  • Agent Collision Detection
  • SLA Management
  • Ticket Field Suggester
  • Custom Ticket Status
  • Thank You Detector
  • Scenario Automation
  • Canned Responses
  • Help desk automation

Agent Collaboration

  • Light agents: Give limited permissions to certain agents who can provide subject matter expertise and advice via private comments.
  • Side conversations: Enable agents to bring in other people from internal and external teams to collaborate. 
  • CCs and followers: Include both Carbon Copy (CCs) and Followers fields.
  • Team Huddle: Discuss specific parts of tickets with experts from across your company.
  • Shared Ownership: Share ownership of tickets with other teams. 
  • Linked Tickets: Link related tickets together to keep track of widespread issues.
  • Parent-child Ticketing: Resolve complex issues by splitting them into smaller child tickets.

How to leverage AI to get even more value from Zendesk and Freshdesk 

Companies using chatbots for customer service can further enhance the CX experience. While ticket management platforms like Zendesk and Freshdesk streamline the agent experience tremendously and decrease resolution time, AI chatbots like Netomi are now acting as the first line of defense when tickets come in. Netomi’s virtual agents sit alongside human agents to supplement and enhance live chat support teams.

Once you get clarity on this decision comparing Zendesk vs Freshdesk, the Netomi AI takes the best course of action with every incoming ticket:

  • For highly repeatable tickets, the AI can automatically resolve it without having to loop in a human agent 
  • For more complex tickets, the AI can gather information from the customer or back-end systems, and even draft a response for review, before handing off to a human agent 
  • For the most complex tickets, the AI can summarize and route tickets to the right agent 

By leveraging the out-of-the-box Netomi virtual agent integration, companies enhance both the agent and customer experience while also reducing costs. Most other chatbots don’t sit natively within the agent desk, but with Netomi, virtual and human agents work alongside each other, creating the most efficient customer service team that we’ve ever seen. 

Interested in learning more about how Netomi integrates with two of the leading helpdesk AI platforms? Take a look at how we can integrate with Zendesk and how we can help you connect your Freshdesk implementation to Netomi.

References we used for this Zendesk vs Freshdesk comparison

  1. https://www.capterra.com/p/164283/Zendesk/
  2. https://www.trustradius.com/products/zendesk-support-suite/reviews
  3. https://www.g2.com/products/freshdesk/reviews/freshdesk-review-5036680 
  4. https://www.g2.com/survey_responses/freshdesk-review-5036680

Hiring Customer Service Agents is Harder than Ever

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Sep 15, 2021

Why companies need AI today. 

“Call centers have never been more important — or more strapped1.” 

Imagine having a 100-year old parent who has a panic button for emergency situations. When you try it out, it takes an agent five minutes to call to check in. Why the delay in what could have been a life-or-death situation? A shortage of agents. A problem brought about by the pandemic2

This medical alert company is not alone. Companies around the world are facing a customer service staffing shortage, finding it harder than ever to attract and retain agents. All of this comes at a time when customers have higher expectations, and support ticket volume and costs are skyrocketing: 40% of businesses are experiencing a rising cost of worker wages3

In this environment, companies need to look to tools like AI to automate and augment the work of customer service agents, or risk damaging their customer experience.  

Ticket volume is on the rise when there’s fewer agents 

Across industries, ticket volume is spiking as a result of changing customer behavior. Some companies have seen unprecedented demand – like grocery and food delivery, retail/eCommerce, e-learning, streaming, etc. With more customers, comes more support tickets. Other industries like travel have seen demand fluctuate, but as customers start to return to normal behavior, they too are reaching out to companies at unprecedented levels to understand evolving policies, safety measures, etc. 

This spike in demand and surge in tickets has come at a time when there are about 25% fewer call center agents answering phones than before the pandemic in the United States4

“Overseas, in call-center-heavy countries such as India and the Philippines, entire facilities were shut down because of COVID-19 risk4.” And according to one estimate, “tens of thousands of employees were unable to work from home, lacking essentials like laptops, high-speed internet, and a secure way to access sensitive customer data1.”

Some of these overseas call centers have since reopened, but many have not4

As a result of less agents and more tickets, support teams are struggling to keep up. In one example, after a record-breaking number of calls and hours-long wait times, Delta CEO Ed Bastian went as far as inviting customers to email him directly. “We’re doing everything we can,” he said5


Check out The Ultimate Guide to Delivering Exceptional Customer Support in 2022.


Hiring? Good luck. The talent pool for agents just isn’t there anymore. 

We’re seeing it across the board: there are jobs open but not enough people to fill them. In the United States, the overall labor force is 3.5 million people smaller6 than pre-pandemic as workers have exited the labor force7.

“The labor crunch is widespread, affecting many industries that dimmed their lights during the pandemic and are now scrambling to turn them back on,” reports TIME. “The current hiring crunch is very much rooted in the pandemic, stemming from economic shutdowns, industry-specific restrictions and major shifts in consumer spending patterns last year8.”

The companies rushing to hire are in a job seekers market.  As of the end of July, there were a total of 10.9 million job openings in the United States9. At the time of this post, 1.7 million customer service jobs were open on LinkedIn10. Delta alone is trying to hire at least 5,000 agents5

It’s clear from these numbers that securing talent is harder than ever, especially in the United States where many say pandemic unemployment benefits are keeping people home and not reentering the workforce. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says “one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working11.” In Pennsylvania, for example, the extra $300 per week from the federal government on top of the state benefit raises a minimum wage earner’s weekly pay by more than 50%12”.

“What we’re seeing is companies post job openings in record numbers, but applicant activity is at record lows,” according to Steve Lucas, the chief executives of iCIMS, a recruiting software company. Since the beginning of 2021, job openings on iCIMS have increased by 35%, while job applications are down by 20%7


On average, employers have been receiving 3.5 fewer applications per job opening7.


The perils of the customer service agent job and the impact on agent attrition 

Even if companies are able to fill their open positions, other challenges remain. The industry has one of the highest attrition rates of any industry with turnover rates between 30-40%. This is due to a few key factors: agents report feeling stressed having to deal with increasingly frustrated customers who are harder to please; they have to access many complex systems concurrently to resolve tickets; and are under pressure to resolve more tickets faster. 

An article in the Los Angeles Times has referred to customer service agents as human “punching bags.” While the article focuses on the airline industry, it can be argued that agents across industries bear the brunt of upset customers – whether it’s a missing ingredient in a meal-kit, a lost bag, or lost package. According to the publication, “Agents are subjected to verbal abuse almost daily. It’s a thankless job requiring patience and thick skin.13” 

And this only intensified during the pandemic. “What people don’t realize about contact centers is that they are the free psychological counseling centers in times of crisis,” says Donna Fluss, president of the contact center market research firm DMG Consulting LLC. “Often people call up and they dump their fears and their concerns1.”

All of these factors cause agents to leave their jobs at record numbers, resulting in extraordinary costs –  $13 billion annually in the US – to hire, train and onboard new agents. How is it so expensive? It’s estimated that it costs 30% of an employee’s salary to hire a replacement. If an average agent salary in the United States is $50,000, replacement costs $15,00014

The impact of attrition, though, is more than just financial: customers experience lapses in consistency and longer resolution times. 

How AI can protect customers, agents and businesses 

As a way to combat staffing shortages and rising costs, scale up and down to manage ticket spikes, and provide a good customer experience, companies are leveraging customer service AI. 

AI can help support teams in a few key ways: 

  • Automate resolutions to the repetitive, everyday queries 
  • Gather information from back-end systems and customers before passing a ticket on to an agent 
  • Drafting responses for agents to quickly edit, review and send 
  • Intelligently summarize and route tickets to the right agent based on expertise, availability and stress 

Working alongside AI-powered agents, human agents are able to focus on higher-level tasks which results in higher job satisfaction. Additionally, with AI handling the mundane work, agents are able to have upward mobility in their roles, taking on more creative and managerial work. It also allows companies to prepare for spikes in volume, whether expected or not, and keep customers satisfied and resolution times down. 

Companies using chatbots for customer service, like WestJet, enjoyed the benefits of having AI in place during the early days of the pandemic. When the Canadian airline saw a 45-fold increase in ticket volume, its Netomi-powered AI agent was able to deflect tens of thousands of calls from human agents.

The future of customer service is human + AI

It’s harder than ever to staff a customer support team while meeting the rising demands of customers for immediate, personal and convenient support. The teams that will thrive in today’s environment are the ones that use a combination of human and artificial intelligence. AI needs to assist and augment the work of human agents, enabling them to focus on the work that requires a uniquely human touch. Eliminating mundane work also leads to a better experience for employees, and can help significantly reduce attrition and the costs associated with hiring.  

Can we discuss how you can use AI within your customer service workforce to enhance the customer and agent experience? Get in touch

References 

  1. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/5/13/21243420/call-centers-on-hold-customer-service-unemployment-airline-cable
  2. https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-08-03/column-coronavirus-customer-service 
  3. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/10/the-labor-shortage-isnt-main-streets-biggest-problem.html 
  4. https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-11-10/column-coronavirus-high-call-volume 
  5. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/airline-news/2021/07/14/delta-customer-service-wait-times-hold-times-wont-ease-until-september/7960074002/
  6. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CLF16OV
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/business/dealbook/labor-shortage-causes.html 
  8. https://time.com/6076710/restaurants-labor-shortage/ 
  9. https://www.bls.gov/jlt/ 
  10. https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/customer-service-jobs/ 
  11. https://www.uschamber.com/press-release/us-chamber-calls-ending-300-weekly-supplemental-unemployment-benefits-address-labor 
  12. https://stevenrattner.com/2021/05/steve-rattners-morning-joe-charts-a-labor-market-in-need-of-labor/ 
  13. https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2019-11-14/airline-customer-service-agents-mistreated-angry-passengers 
  14. https://www.benefitspro.com/2021/04/28/keep-your-customer-service-agents-happy-4-ways-to-reduce-turnover/ 
  15. https://apnews.com/article/health-coronavirus-pandemic-business-bb295afe6ec8d8b88b1b944f3eba7931 

How to Maximize Your Zendesk Knowledge Base with AI (Updated August 2021)

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Aug 10, 2021

The Power of a Zendesk Knowledge Base and Customer Self-Service

The modern customer wants self-service. That’s why, over the past few years, we’ve seen companies build out robust Knowledge Bases (or Help Centers) on Zendesk and other leading customer experience platforms. Zendesk Knowledge Base solutions are team publishing libraries covering recurring topics and questions on products and services.

Another way that companies provide self-serve support options is by launching customer service chatbots. These can resolve issues without customers having to engage a live customer service agent.

In this post, we explore the benefits of using AI chatbots in parallel with the best knowledge base software platforms like Zendesk Guide, the Zendesk internal knowledge base application. We’ll discuss how this powerful combination creates a more comprehensive self-serve experience that resolves even more tickets and increases customer satisfaction (CSAT).


Higher CSAT, more capacity, AND cost savings? How much will you save with Netomi?


Why having a knowledge base is so critical for excellent customer service 

The cornerstone of good customer service is respecting customers’ time. Forrester reports that two-thirds of customers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service1. Committing to creating knowledge base content is a great way that companies can provide information quickly, no matter when a person needs it.

Furthermore, people have a desire to help themselves. We’ve seen this in banking. People now often deposit checks on their phone using a customer portal instead of visiting a bank branch, or use a banking chatbot to look for a quick solution. Another common example is when travelers opt to check bags via a kiosk rather than engage with the gate agent at the airport. The same holds true for customer service: 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative2.

This do-it-yourself attitude is even more prevalent with millennials. Before sending an email or picking up the phone to call customer support, 89% of millennials use a search engine to find answers. When there’s a knowledge base available, people will access it to find the information they need. In fact,  Zendesk found that 91% of people would use online knowledge base articles if they were available3


Ready for the future of AI in customer service? Watch our webinar on-demand
with Zendesk’s Platform Architects Manager to see how it improves CX.


What is Zendesk Knowledge Base?

So now that we know why knowledge bases are important, let’s look closely at one of the most popular tools among both internal and external users. As one of the most popular agent desk platforms, Zendesk Guide, is the choice of over 150,000 companies. It offers robust product features, including:

  • Customizable themes
  • Rich text editor for the easy creation of articles including media like images and video
  • Content history which shows a list of edits and changes
  • The ability to restore deleted content so if something is deleted by accident, it can be recovered
  • Content cues that combine machine learning and usage data to improve the overall health of your knowledge base

Zendesk Guide integrates seamlessly with Zendesk Support and offers an easy way for support teams to address knowledge management concerns. Therefore, they can update their internal and external knowledge bases using Zendesk products without needing IT support. Zendesk Guide has a Web Widget and a Mobile SDK, so customers can access self-help articles whether on a website or in a relevant knowledge capture app.

Why every user needs to use an AI Chatbot in parallel 

As mentioned above, another way companies are helping customers help themselves, and cutting back on support tickets, is by deploying AI chatbots. In fact, 1.4 billion people are using chatbots today. As more companies using chatbots for customer service can meet customers’ demand for convenient resolutions, let’s consider how integrating an AI chatbot with Zendesk’s knowledge base provides an added safety net and improves the user experience.

Unlike first-generation bots that relied on buttons, keywords and rigid decision trees to pull up information, newer AI chatbots use Natural Language Understanding and semantics to understand context. These bots can engage more naturally in conversations with customers. Additionally, they respond to more inputs without being explicitly trained on every single way a person might phrase a question.

Even so, there will be circumstances in which the AI chatbot cannot confidently understand what a person has said. This is especially true when an AI chatbot has just been launched and is still learning from real-world scenarios.

There are also times when an AI chatbot has not ever been directly trained on a topic. In these scenarios, if an AI chatbot has been integrated with a knowledge base like Zendesk Guide, it can recommend relevant articles to a specific user segment. This can help customers resolve a wider number of tickets on their own without human agent intervention by directing people to the relevant article with the sought-after information.

Unlock Netomi’s powerful AI with an integration to the Knowledge Base from Zendesk

Netomi’s powerful self-serve option integrates Zendesk’s Knowledge Base with its most native AI chatbot. The result: an amazing customer experience and the highest resolution rate when it comes to customer service tickets.

When you use Netomi’s low-cost, Knowledge Base service, you can launch an AI chatbot on Zendesk in minutes. More than just an answer bot, this allows you to harness the rich information in your Zendesk Guide and Netomi’s advanced AI platform to accurately provide your customers with information in the exact moment-of-need.

This results in higher deflection of everyday questions from live agents, therefore reducing costs as human agents focus solely on complex tickets.

Netomi’s Knowledge Base Service uses AI to search and identify the best answers to your customer questions right within your chat window. You’ll simply connect your knowledge base via a URL into Netomi’s Knowledge Base Service to enable each user segment to access relevant articles from your knowledge base. Instantly, your knowledge base will be automated, enabling customers to find relevant information via a chat window.


Looking for an AI platform that works beautifully with Zendesk products? Let us show you how it works.


Every Zendesk Guide User Should Adopt an AI chatbot 

As consumers continue to seek out self-serve options for support, companies need to integrate AI chatbots with an external or internal knowledge base. These will allow them to cover more use cases and resolve more tickets without getting human agents involved. This helps to satisfy the desire to do-it-yourself, while also eliminating even more mundane tickets from human agents. 

Can we show you how you can immediately bring a powerful AI chatbot together with your Zendesk KB to delight customers? Schedule a demo today

References

  1. Forrester: https://go.forrester.com/blogs/your-customers-want-to-self-serve-its-good-for-them-and-good-for-you/
  2. HBR: https://hbr.org/2017/01/kick-ass-customer-service
  3. Zendesk: https://www.zendesk.com/blog/searching-for-self-service/