Particularly when it comes to powering first-line customer support.
Chatbots are swallowing up more and more service requests, and reducing the need for customer email exchanges.
So, is it time for email to hand over its crown to the chatbots, and let them handle the bulk of customer service too?
Death of customer email
At its conception, email was amazing. They were exciting to receive, and marked a new era of electronic communication.
Today, however, email has become tediously familiar.
The sheer volume of emails we receive per day means that any former novelty has worn off. No one has the time to trawl through their bulging inbox, and email admin has become a daily chore.
For businesses, that means that email has become an increasingly difficult customer service channel to manage.
So, businesses have started to rely on other communication channels to meet customer needs.
Now, chatbots have entered the scene – and many predict that they will muscle out competing channels.
It’s all in the timing
Customers are getting used to real-time responses. After all, they’ve got digital assistants that live in their smartphones, they’ve got store offers pinging through to their devices the moment they park outside, and they’ve got live news alerts on the topics that matter most to them.
In terms of customer service, this means that patience is wearing thin.
This newly acquired taste for on-the-spot support has driven demand for chat as a real-time support channel.
In fact, 37% of consumers state that they use live chat more now than they did 12 months previously, and 48% would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other means of contact.
This, then, is where chatbots find their place to shine.
Rise of chatbots
Due to their round-the-clock availability, more and more businesses are turning to chatbots to extend their support offering. Chatbots can offer what no other channel can: instant, relevant, 24/7 interactivity.
They may not (yet) be capable of handling complex queries, but chatbots can easily fill the demand for quick answers to simple customer questions.
Let’s say a visitor to a restaurant website wants to find out if a menu option is gluten-free during a midnight browsing session. They don’t want to go to the effort of finding your email address, typing out an email and waiting for you to get back to them.
(They’re not that interested, frankly.)
Telephone and live chat options, meanwhile, are both ruled out due to the late hour.
A chatbot, on the other hand, is right there for the visitor, and able to answer their easy question right away.
Room to grow
That’s not to say that chatbots always get it right — far from it.
Chatbots will soon be capable of more advanced conversations with customers, powered by AI and natural language processing.
When this shift happens, there will be even less need to rely on slow, inconvenient customer email conversations for service.
The tides are already turning. Now, over 80% of businesses have some sort of chatbot automation implemented, and a full 96% of businesses believe chatbots are here to stay.
The autumn days of email
Email is far from being dead and buried. As a channel, it’s not even its winter days of decline.
But, as technology advances and customer expectations evolve, the dependence on email will inevitably diminish.