Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Remember when the iPhone first came out? It was 2007 and early smartphone adopters jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of the novel technology. Yet, these early adopters represented a tiny fraction of cell phone users. Of course, that’s changed over the last 14 years and today, according to Statista, there are 3.8 billion smartphone users worldwide. That’s all thanks to shifting consumer expectations and how cellular providers and tech companies adjusted their products and strategies to give people what they wanted — smarter, more capable devices that place nearly everything users need right in the palm of their hand.
Similar to the rise of smartphone usage, chatbots are seeing a surge in popularity. Increasingly found on retail and e-commerce websites, and used by banking, financial, and consumer services businesses, chatbot prevalence and adoption has steadily climbed in recent years. Today, two types of chatbot users have emerged: Standard Users and Power Users. Here are the key features about the two demographics.
Rise in Chatbot Usage
Based on a recent survey, the popularity of using chatbots is catching up with live agent and phone options. Chatbots rank third behind a chat with a live agent and phone call as the most popular methods for resolving a customer support issue, but long wait times are driving consumers away from these more traditional options. A recent industry survey of over 1,000 consumers who have used customer support chatbots revealed that more than 69% of users would often or always use a chatbot if they were confident the bot could resolve their issues more quickly. Some 55% of respondents said they’d prefer to use a chatbot immediately instead of waiting for a live agent.
Surveyed consumers also noted not all chatbots are created equal, and those who frequently turn to chatbots for support are increasingly expecting more personalized, advanced help from bots – and are left disappointed if they don’t receive it.
A New Segment of Chatbot Users has Surfaced
Data from the aforementioned study revealed that two clear chatbot user groups exist: Standard and Power Users. Standard Users turn to chatbots a few times a month to answer basic questions. These users are generally dipping their toes into the technology and are starting to test the waters (a.k.a. the features and capabilities) of more advanced, intelligent chatbots.
Then there’s the second cohort of users, Power Users. These are users who actively seek out chatbots. They engage regularly with chatbots, often turning to the customer support technology on a weekly, even daily, basis for advanced, highly personalized issues, including managing a subscription, looking up an account balance, or initiating a new order or payment. While Power Users currently account for one third of respondents, their numbers are expected to rise as chatbot technology continues to advance and more standard users adapt to getting high-level help from a bot.
Users Increasingly Expect Personalized Chatbot Experiences
As the number of Power Users turning to intelligent chatbots climbs, consumers are expected to grow ever-more frustrated with the limitations of simple chatbots. The result? A clear chasm between legacy and next-gen chatbots that consumers will be able to identify with ease.
Legacy chatbots, like the first generation of smartphones, simply cannot compete with today’s next-gen chatbots. Early chatbots, while revolutionary for their time, simply don’t stack up to consumer expectations today. They have limited understanding of words and phrases, require constant training, lack analytics, are available on only one platform, and usually send consumers to FAQ pages without solving an issue.
On the other hand, thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP), next-gen chatbots are intelligent and conversational. They have the ability to understand consumer inquiries however they are worded. With integrated artificial intelligence, these chatbots are easily trainable and can automatically crawl content and learn from past consumer interactions to improve on their ability to serve customers. Available across any platform consumers use (phone, chat, email, social media, and websites), next-gen chatbots provide robust analytics and insights into the issues consumers are facing. And, with the ability to offer personalized service, these chatbots can intelligently hand customers off to live agents, making them a perfect companion to support teams.
Even with intelligent chatbots on the market, consumers continue to encounter simple, legacy chatbots that create frustration in place of convenience. That’s a risk for businesses. Chatbots are a frontline customer service feature that directly impacts a brand’s reputation. A bad first impression could signal poor customer service and negatively impact brand loyalty.
In fact, some 65% of Power Users, who are more likely to handle personalized issues with next-gen chatbots, say they’re more likely to leave a business because of a negative chatbot experience.
Businesses Need to Learn from the Past to Meet Consumer Expectations Today
Imagine if tech companies and cellular-service providers refused to adapt to the rise of smartphones. Not only would they be unsuccessful today, they’d almost certainly be out of business. Companies need to recognize that the way consumers seek out help today varies greatly from days gone by. Today’s consumers actively seek out intelligent self-service and automation options to resolve their issues, make product decisions, process transactions and more. It’s time for businesses to catch up to consumer adoption of chatbots and give them the customer support they desire.