If you’re in the telecom industry, you’re no stranger to customer service struggles. Improving customer experience and retaining customers has been the ultimate challenge – in 2019, telecommunications was second from bottom in customer satisfaction rankings with only public administration languishing beneath.
Especially at a time that has forced previously call-reliant providers to incorporate digital services, trying to smoothen online customer experience is a must. The good news is that this digital shift has opened a world of opportunities.
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One of them is chatbots.
Chatbots in telecom: Why the industry needs them
The telecom industry needs to provide good customer experiences to retain customers. But, it faces some issues in this regard – as an industry, it placed last among industries for meeting customer needs.
But, many of the challenges that contribute to this can be (at least partially) addressed by automation, like chatbots (also called virtual assistants). This is because telecom companies:
- Serve thousands, even millions, of customers. The industry has a huge customer base. This means your contact center may have to deal with hundreds of customer complaints or inquiries at any given time. Your agents risk getting quickly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of requests, and waiting times can easily skyrocket. Chatbots can step in to help.
- Get a lot of repetitive requests. Telecommunications is one of the industries that sees the same questions come up from customers again and again. Apart from the well-known line “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”, there are pretty standardized answers to questions about plans, technical issues, or coverage, making automation easier.
- Should have 24/7 customer service. Problems with our internet connection or our mobile devices always seem urgent (even if sometimes they’re not). If you don’t have enough human resources to staff 24/7 support teams, chatbots can resolve some customer issues when your team is out, helping you keep those customers satisfied around the clock.
- Deal with customers who like self-service. IBM found that 56 percent of telecom customers use self-service options to choose the best plan and 77 percent use self-service to pay bills or recharge accounts. This means implementing a well-functioning and helpful self-service option, like a chatbot, has a high chance of resonating with your customers.
- Have room to expand their sales strategies. Who hasn’t hung up the phone to a salesperson from a telecom company at least once in their lives? Using chatbots in telecom provides an opportunity to promote services in a less aggressive and more convenient way (e.g. when a customer is browsing your website) to people who might otherwise be annoyed by a cold call.
- Can benefit from personalization and engagement. Engaging customers with personalized communication (e.g. offers, content) works well in the telecom industry, where there might be a range of different products people are interested in (personalization at scale can drive between 5 and 15 percent revenue growth for telecom companies). Chatbots are a way to create two-way conversations with customers and provide them with personalized service.
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Chatbot use cases in telecom: 9 examples
As we’ve talked about above, chatbots help telecom companies offer faster and better service. But what do they do specifically? Here are nine example use cases of chatbots in telecom to inspire you.
Provide first-tier support
Customers may need all kinds of help that’s easy for a chatbot to provide. A chatbot can give access to support articles, and help troubleshoot common issues, like password changes. These are problems that come up frequently, so automating solutions may result in significant time-saving for your customer support team.
Direct customers to the right agent
Sometimes, problems are too complex for chatbots to deal with themselves. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t help. If your company has different departments dealing with each kind of issue (e.g. accounts and subscriptions, troubleshooting), your chatbot can quickly “diagnose” the type of problem and connect customers to the right team. The same goes for routing enterprise customers and consumers to separate departments when needed.
Scott Rice, CIO of telco giant Sprint said in an interview with Technology Magazine:
“[..] if a customer has a question, a chatbot or AI will respond using common answers the system has learned over time. If the chatbot can’t answer the question, then a representative will step in. Since we’ve implemented this, our customer satisfaction on that channel has increased on a monthly basis.”
Help manage accounts
Chatbots in telecom can easily be deployed via the company’s mobile app. This means they’ll have access to your customers’ telecom accounts, helping them manage their information, plans and bills.
For example, instead of going through the process of finding and buying their plan, a user can simply ask the chatbot to recharge their account (e.g. adding more minutes, mobile data). The chatbot can guide your customer through this process or pull the information needed for them to complete the process themselves.
And, if there are machine learning algorithms running the background, chatbots may also be able to detect possible fraudulent activities, like fake profiles or illegal access.
Offer personalized and engaging services
Chatbots can make personalized recommendations that may interest the customer based on their previous behavior. If, for example, a user is always depleting their mobile data three weeks into the month, the chatbot can offer them an upgrade to a plan that gives them more data.
Discounts and gifts can also be distributed this way; the chatbot may send notifications about offers to users who are more likely to want them and help users register for promos or competitions.
Entertainment chatbots are another aspect of digital customer engagement – for instance, AT&T tried its hand in 2016 with Atticus, a conversational AI, that talked with users about movies and shows they’re interested in.
Share important information
Chatbots can be your way of broadcasting news or important information to all users. One example is providing guidelines, or even just a nice message, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another situation where a chatbot would come in handy is in dealing with major service outages or other company wide problems. Instead of having customers trying to get in touch, thus overwhelming your contact center, you can simply send a mass notification explaining what’s happening. Or, the bot can immediately recognize that a user’s issue is related to the service problem the provider is experiencing so it can inform the user and relieve their concerns.
Send reminders and summaries
Chatbots can send reminders to customers when their plan is about to expire or when they’ve used up, for instance, 80 percent of their mobile data. The bot can also provide a summary of usage for customers to help them track their information and keep on top of bills.
Answer frequently asked questions
Customers or site visitors may have questions about generic issues that can be easily answered without human intervention. These include subscription plans, location coverage, setup instructions, or terms and conditions of service.
The answers can also be personalized if needed: for example, the chatbot can adjust the answer to the question “How much will I be charged to call a number in Australia” or “Do I have roaming turned on?” based on the user’s location.
Support sales and upselling opportunities
If a customer wants to change their plan for phone, internet, cable, or any other service, they can ask the chatbot for information and even upgrade their plan automatically. Also, the bot can send personalized offers to engage customers and help them find and purchase the most appropriate services or products (e.g. cell phones or roaming plans).
Collect customer feedback and data
From complaints about signal quality to concerns about data security, a chatbot can record what the customer is saying (and direct them to a live agent if their issues can be resolved directly). This helps provide quicker and better service to customers.
Aggregate feedback can be used to improve the organization’s products and you can deploy surveys via chatbots to help better understand the voice of the customer. Advanced chatbots can also gather useful data in the background, like user habits and behavior. This way, you can develop existing and new products with valuable insight in mind.
What to consider to get started with chatbots
If you want to start building and implementing a chatbot for your telecom organization, consider:
- Software. To build the bot, you need to have a platform that can both help you create the bot and connect it to your data sources. It’d be great if your chatbot could also be deployed on multiple devices and operate in various languages. Acquire is software that helps you build chatbots, either via the platform itself or via integrations with services like IBM Watson.
- Level of intelligence. Chatbots in telecom can be programmed to give standardized answers and guide customers through pre-determined journeys. But, they can also be more advanced, using machine learning and natural language processing to hold lifelike conversations with users. Consider which chatbot you need the most as this will affect the resources you’ll invest.
- Support within the organization. Depending on the resources you’ll have to spend, you’ll need support from different departments, like finance, operations, and also IT (especially for security concerns and integrations with internal systems).
- Chatbot scripts. The better scripts you build, the more questions your chatbot can answer, and the more helpful and pleasant the interactions will be. Make sure you write some personality into your chatbot, too, so it stands out while remaining representative of your brand.
- Feedback. As with all applications, your chatbot will go through a testing and refining phase. Ask customers their opinions and act on them to make your chatbot a delight to talk to. A chatbot powered by AI even has the ability to continuously learn and improve via its interactions with people.
Whatever bumps you may find in the road, never lose sight of the ultimate goal: better customer experience. For example, AT&T’s Atticus proved unable to fully understand users. This defeats its purpose. If that happens, you need to weigh your options: either fine-tune or wait until your chatbot is ready to face the world.
Request an Acquire demo to see how you can craft and launch a chatbot.