As technology continues to transform the way we communicate, people are becoming increasingly impatient. They expect timely and personalized customer experiences when they are online searching, or else they will quickly jump ship.

Marketers are exhausting themselves trying to keep up with this consumer demand, whether it’s through email, live chat or direct messages. In our search for ways to deliver the best possible customer experience – and making life easier for both businesses and consumers – one technology is emerging: Chatbots.

Chatbots are becoming a transformative pathway to customer service because the components of a successful chatbot address the six pillars of every great customer experience.

Personalization

Despite being an efficient way to run a delicatessen, users don’t want to feel like a number when it comes to their online experiences. Chatbots are capable of transforming your customer service to create a tailored experience for each user. That personalization, integrated into your brand’s voice, addresses customers in a way that’s not only appropriate to the conversation they want to have, but also in a way that’s more familiar to them.

The value of scalable, individualized interactions emphasize the opportunities of chatbots across various industries. Early adopters in healthcare are using chatbots to help reduce wait time for users seeking medical advice. With the help of AI (artificial intelligence), chatbots can record your symptoms and deliver an actual diagnosis and proposed next steps, helping you avoid the stress and panic that can happen with a self-diagnosis.

Empathy

The ironic thing about chatbots is their ability to mimic human conversations. The evolution of AI and NLP (natural language processing) technology has resulted in emotionally intelligent chatbots capable of understanding intent and responding appropriately to human concerns. In some cases, theys can even recognize non-verbal cues. Russian-based company Endurance is even developing a chatbot to serve as a companion for seniors and patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Empathy is one of the most important components of a chatbot because, like personalization, it addresses the way people naturally communicate. The natural frustration around chatbots happens when users feel misunderstood, so a successful chatbot should recognize how the customer is feeling and adapt their responses to show they understand. This kind of conversational marketing creates a path forward without losing that necessary human touch, ultimately guiding users to the best potential outcome.

Time and Effort

The most obvious benefit of chatbots is their efficiency. They can automate and simplify tasks typically done by humans, delivering instant answers 24-7, saving you time and money. In fact, it’s projected that chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of over $11 billion annually by 2023 and cut response and interaction time by 2.5 billion hours for consumers and businesses combined.

Chatbots have little incremental costs but more advanced chatbots, like those powered by artificial intelligence, can be a heavy up-front investment and require the right strategy. But more often than not, the long-term payoff will make life easier for you and your audience at a lower price.

Resolution

As with any new technology, there’ll be instances where chatbots can’t fix everything. A customer may have a unique issue or feel better talking directly to a person about a sensitive topic.

For that reason, multiple pathways to customer service should be offered through the chatbot – always give your users an “emergency escape” button as a means to opt out of the automated experience. While many customers are completely happy to interact with a bot as long as they receive the answers they’re seeking, having the option to opt out ensures a flawless customer experience for ALL of your users.

The extent of human intervention necessary will vary from business to business. Rules-based chatbots will likely require more monitoring since the scope of answers is more limited than chatbots powered by artificial intelligence.

Integrity

The data collected from chatbots allow you to optimize and improve responses over time, but events like Occupy Wall Street and the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal have magnified the importance of transparency. Make sure that you disclose whatever user data you’re collecting from chatbot conversations and how you plan to use it. If you’re using a chatbot to streamline the experience in healthcare, make sure you’re also adhering to HIPAA regulations and have planned customer service interventions in case of urgent or sensitive questions. You may even want to have your bot start the conversation off with a disclaimer to discourage the sharing of private information before your bot can connect your patient with the right provider.

Expectations

The natural frustration around this emerging technology happens when users feel misled. Chatbots are bots, not people…so you shouldn’t disguise your bot as a human. Transparency can help set expectations, but make sure you know when to intervene.

Give your bot the human touch of your brand’s voice, but openly acknowledge its limitations. That way expectations are set with your audience that the bot isn’t magic – it’s a tool to help resolve their problem more quickly.