According to Salesforce Snapshot Research, communication is one of the most important customer service and support qualities. But how many times have you called a support line and heard a robotic voice tell you to press 1 for this or 2 for that – with none of the options applying to your problem? Or, you have trouble logging into an online account and try resetting your password multiple times – only to have a bot refer you to an article about how to reset your password or repeatedly send you a password reset link.

A conversational UI is a digital interface, like a chatbot or voice assistant, that you can write or talk to in plain language.

As someone who has also had these experiences with artificial intelligence (AI) customer service, I feel your frustration. But as a senior product designer at Salesforce Service Cloud, I understand what’s missing from these interactions – a conversation. My day revolves around creating and enhancing conversational user interfaces (UI) and developing better user experiences for both service agents and their customers. A conversational UI is a digital interface, like a chatbot or voice assistant, that you can write or talk to in plain language. Note that this definition excludes the human to human conversational UIs, like chatting with an agent on the phone or via text about an upcoming delivery. As a designer involved directly in creating both types of interfaces, I believe both computer to human and human to human interaction should be considered conversational UI. And with COVID-19, personal interaction and empathy are especially important to customers.

Effective communication leads to meaningful action and builds customer relationships. @racheleblank

While AI helps with customer service, it can lack real human elements like collaborative problem solving, tone, and empathy. This makes it difficult to solve more complex problems and takes away from the overall customer experience. Using elements of intelligent automation to know when to enlist the help of a human agent can turn a frustrating customer experience into a positive one.

Here are some tips on how to use conversational UIs to build communication and create an ideal customer support experience:

Tune into conversational UIs to optimize customer communication

From texting, social media messaging, live chat support, email, and other channels, conversational UIs are already part of our daily lives. Consider this stat on conversational UIs:

“People are used to texting: 8.3 trillion – that’s the number of text messages sent every year. Almost 16 million messages are sent every minute. People use messaging apps more than any other apps: 90% of our time on mobile is spent on email and messaging platforms.”

Conversations evolve as we continue to take turns responding. This can lead to a dialogue about something we didn’t even think to ask about and build our conversation into actual communication.

AI facilitates customer service and identifies the right time to bring in the right agent. But adaptivity and the human element drive effective communication. @racheleblank

For service, communication is key. Effective communication leads to meaningful action and builds customer relationships. When using conversational UIs, it’s critical conversations aren’t two monologues. If both parties are not flexible or adaptive to the conversation then it will ultimately end in disappointment.

Unfortunately, this is what happens when a chatbot has a preset list of responses or an agent can’t stray from the script. Not all questions are simple. Some answers require personal experience and critical thinking. And sometimes a customer doesn’t even know what to ask.

AI facilitates customer service and identifies the right time to bring in the right agent. But adaptivity and the human element drive effective communication.

Automate where you can, but empower bots to enlist the help of an agent

A Nielsen Norman Group study revealed that while chatbots are excellent in assisting with simple customer service issues, they still have a long way to go with handling more complex questions. Voice assistants require humans to adapt how they ask questions, the way they articulate words, and more just in order to get a subpar response. While it’s likely bots and voice assistants will continue to become more sophisticated, right now, they don’t always meet customer expectations and often provide poor usability.

Create a seamless handoff from bot to agent

Use AI to enable bots and voice assistants to bring in the right agent at the right time to help a customer. For example, if I ask a bot to recommend an affordable tablet for my grandfather, who is nontechnical, make sure the bot knows when to provide me with the option to speak with a live agent. If I’ve been frustrated up to this point, the agent can mitigate the situation with helpful suggestions and empathy and help me successfully complete my transaction in the same conversation.

Use account verification

When possible, give your customers the option to provide their account information when they reach out for assistance. This makes it easier for customers to get to the point faster and helps bots, voice assistants, and agents provide targeted support from the get go.

Integrate multiple systems to make past conversations easily accessible

By connecting channels – phone, email, chat – everyone has a 360-view of the customer. When a customer requests help, agents already have the background to best serve them, provide personalized service, and get the issue resolved right away.

Deliver rich ecommerce experiences

Meet customers where they are in the buying journey through engaging experiences. Enable bots, voice assistants, and agents to share relevant documents, provide interactive forms to sign and edit, accept payments, send recommended products in virtual carts, and more. This builds customer relationships and drives revenue.

Bring your conversational UIs to life

Bringing experience, empathy, tone, and adaptivity into conversational UIs is critical to achieve mutually beneficial communication between companies and their customers. As you plan to add or improve conversational UIs for your customer support solutions, take my insights and guidance into account.

Learn how Service Cloud can help you support customers and deliver exceptional experiences.

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