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The meteoric rise of social media has changed the way that customers engage with businesses, and in response to this; it’s critical that in turn, businesses also change the way that they engage with their audience.

The increase in popularity of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack and Skype and private social networks like Yammer are gaining vast popularity, increasingly being implemented by businesses to improve  team collaboration. In fact, a combined count of users on both kinds of applications is over 5 billion – meaning that the ways in which customers communicate is split between social and private channels.

These private social channels are becoming known as ‘dark social’ – social sharing that is out of reach to web analytics, and businesses are beginning to see the value in penetrating these channels. According to RadiumOne they are a marketeers dream; 77% of content is being shared on private social networks vs 23% on pubic social media.

When you mix these trends with the rise of machine learning, inflection points being reached in AI and the fact that notifications are becoming more sophisticated, it was only a matter of time before businesses used the opportunities created to their  – and customers -advantage.

To combat this – there are whispers that Chatbots are being used.; an Artificial Intelligence tool that interacts via text with both humans and technology.  The interactions range from simple conversations like asking about the weather or more complex, such as troubleshooting. This example of AI is enabling companies to increase their customer experience levels by giving them greater flexibility when it comes to answering customer queries whilst having the capability to answer a larger volume of queries.

Previously, customers have had to battle their way through infuriating telephone and website menus, Chatbot technology means that they can be assessed quickly and efficiently; another area of improvement is accessibility -the customer can access these bots from mobile and as the majority of the public access the web from a smart device, the customer service battle is already being won.

An article in Forbes earlier this year stated, “ Bots are ushering in one-to-one marketing at scale. What this means is that millions of people can talk to your brand without there being a human on the other end. Two of the biggest bot platforms are Facebook Messenger, which now boasts 900 million monthly active users, and KIK, which has surpassed 200 million combined, meaning that your bot can reach over a billion users on just those two platforms!”

As one of a business’s main objectives is to enhance customer experience and build long-lasting, authentic relationships, it’s vital that traditional CRM solutions continue to evolve in order to meet the demands of the modern customer, not to mention the user. Currently the software is internally focused, housing vast amounts of customer data, but it can offer so much more than that. The right solution can be used to drive external engagement and aid the development of relationships between businesses and customers.

Jade Winters, Marketing manager at DMC Software, explains further, “CRM software is invaluable, particularly as customers are more demanding and better informed than ever before. In its simplest form, CRM software enables you to manage customer information to provide a better customer experience which in turn helps improve customer satisfaction – which is good for the customer. Customer satisfaction impacts on customer retention, resulting in repeat purchases which ultimately has a positive effect on the bottom line, providing a good return on investment – great for the business.”

One of the main reasons that consumers are opting for ‘chat’ platforms is down to convenience and simplicity.  These chat platforms retain 62% of those individuals that initially download them for over 12 months; when you compare this with the 11% that other applications retain – it becomes clear just how they have integrated into daily life.

It has been predicted that over the next 3 years, consumer use of messaging apps with regards to customer support will exceed support request via social media, this is for a number of reasons;

  • A smooth experience as they are not required to be downloaded.
  • No time wasted searching a website for answers or contact information.
  • Relevant content delivery due to social media integration .

Chatbots will use data sources to understand the habits of users, in the same way that we use analytics to check audience insights and behaviour. Insights such as when they are checking devices, their location, schedules, interests and brand affiliation.  This way the bots can drive consumer engagement by delivering real time, relevant updates and information.

As well as providing a great service to consumers, Chatbots also serve a purpose as a virtual assistant for employees – providing a holistic and comprehensive view of the customer. They can be integrated into company applications and connect information between ERP, CRM and Support Systems – providing a wealth of information from a few commands – they can even prevent data leaking.

A main concern for businesses using CRM and ERP systems is the quality of the data that is entered into the system, artificial intelligence and machine learning is going to reduce the significance of this issue. Conversations that take place with the Chatbot can be attached to customer records, in the same way that emails can.

All in all, Chatbots will decrease the margin for error because there will be no need to switch systems and enter data manually; this will also lessen disruption and save time. A business will become more agile and responsive as data sources are brought together.

While it might be an attractive option to dismiss Chatbot technology as a ‘hype’, it’s a fact that customers want businesses to be both more proactive and responsive to their needs. Chatbots allow businesses to automate and streamline work processes, whilst providing easy accessible tailored responses to customers.; for both parties its a win-win situation.

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