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Customer service is a key part of running any business, but SMBs struggle with the cost of hiring and training customer service reps. It’s expensive to find quality employees who understand both the products and the business and can act on behalf of the company. But, there is a tech solution that could help.

Bots use advanced artificial intelligence including automated voice recognition to understand the question and give an accurate answer. This technology has come a long way in recent years. While bots still often have trouble with complex questions, they can act as an entry point for common ones.

Customers increasingly like to use chat clients like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to interact with customer service. It’s possible with a range of current technology to build bots that can interact with customers on these platforms in an automated fashion.

You may think that it’s prohibitively expensive to build these kinds of solutions for your clients, but there are a number of products and services available today from both startups and established enterprise software companies alike to give your clients access to this technology.

The lay of the land

There are lots of companies that can help your clients get started with bots without knowing a lot about them, or having technical experts on their teams (or yours). These include usual suspects like Microsoft and Salesforce and startups like DigitalGenius or Forethought. Of course, there are also open source options.

The direction you go depends on your budget and how much you want to do yourself, versus how much you want the vendor to do for you. You won’t get cheaper than open source, but while the framework is free, you have to do the research yourself to make it work.

One example includes Rasa, which is an open source, general purpose chatbot framework. Rasa also offers a paid offering, so you can get some support if you need it. If you would prefer more established companies, you could go with a cloud company service like Microsoft Azure Bot Service or AWS Chatbot, or a customer service-focused company like Salesforce Einstein bots or Zendesk chatbots.

These are just a few of the many offerings out there to meet every budget and level of technical aptitude, but customers increasingly want quick answers to common problems on platforms like chat channels that they are using anyway. If you can provide them with answers where they are, you can improve the customer experience, all while lowering the costs of running a customer service operation.

Like so many technologies, the cloud and open source capabilities put advanced technology in reach of everyone. If your clients are looking to you for advice on customer service solutions, this could be one area to explore with them.

Photo: panuwat phimpha / Shutterstock

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Ron Miller

Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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