Chatbots – a new way to customer service

Johnny Wen
Written by Johnny Wen | June 2017

When was the last time you emailed an organisation for an inquiry, or phoned them about an unpleasant experience but ended up going through a chain of funnels?


If you are like most of us, not long ago.


But that is changing.


Whilst the majority of organisations still adhere to the conventional customer service – emails, phone contacts, enquiry forms – the smart companies are those who react and connect promptly to customers. They will be more likely to win preferences.


In a highly-connected world where information is easily accessible, companies can no longer rely on product and conventional service quality alone. The point of difference to win now lies in how customers ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ the engagement. The marketplace is no longer transactional but experiential.


Such a paradigm shift leads to an ubiquity of real-time digital customer services, where “chatbots” have penetrated into our interactions with organisations.


With three out of four Australians preferring chatbots customer service for simple tasks, this acceptance demonstrates a strong need for on-demand information search and being the first to solve problems. Considered as a virtual assistant, examples such as Facebook Messenger Bot, Jetstar’s Jess and Amazon’s Alexa reflect the rapidity of such technological advancement.


As an integral part of customer service, chatbots are certainly more than just a “conversational tool”.


For example, in collaboration with IBM Watson, Deakin University in Victoria has pioneered the use of cognitive computing platform to help students solve their daily questions and problems – ranging from course planning, facility locations, fees and student support services. Within 12 months of implementation it has solved 55,000 questions for students. Through machine-learning, Watson knows what, when and where individual students are studying, and given student opting for proximity services, a greater level of personalised services can be achieved.


The strategy itself not only aims to harness seamless student experiences and reduce administration costs, but also aligns its brand value as the university of innovation driving “higher education’s digital frontier”. By leveraging cloud technology and streamlined teaching service in a virtual classroom landscape, Deakin has earned a reputation in the online-learning market and is known for its constant strive for technology-driven innovation.


To make chatbots work for you, organisations must:

  • Inform users what they can do with it, how to navigate and explain why using it is better for them.
  • A simple, easy-to-use interface is also mandatory to win customers’ preferences
  • Focus on the customers: do not initiate the conversation by asking for names, email or phone numbers – be genuine
  • Blend text-driven conversations with images will also boost engagements and clear understanding of the instructions.
  • Use chatbots in conjunction with your customer service team to achieve both service complexity and efficiency (see Exhibit 1).

When chatbots cannot solve complex customer problems, human intervention will be required to not only understand their unique circumstances, but also offer a solution that addresses their needs. To ensure service consistency across communication modes, chatbots must operate in synchronisation with the customer service team.


A combination of the two drives customer service to the next level, through which organisations must realise technology isn’t here to disrupt their existing practices, but enhance it to a greater degree.



Johnny Wen, Business Analyst at Growth Solutions Group


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