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August 22, 2017
Customer Service  |  6 min read

5 Ways a Virtual Chat Assistant Enhances Small Business Customer Service

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Jeff Cole

Live chat is a powerful tool to implement on your website or in your mobile app. It gives you an amazing amount of access to customers, but it also means you need a lot of chat support techs to handle several customer conversations at once. Many companies, dedicated to the highest quality of customer service, have already begun to adapt, offering live chat when they can and promptly responding to any customer messages that arrive overnight or between shifts.

However, there is now a way to cover the off hours, in-between times, and deal more effectively with high demand. Virtual chat assistants are AI integrated chatbots that can converse with your clients, collect lead data, answer questions, and call for backup much in the same way as actual people—but the bot can handle many more clients at a time.

Here are five ways a virtual chat assistant can enhance your customer support coverage:

1. Your virtual receptionist

What if all the services once offered in a high-end department store or service office could be offered in a virtual form? You can bring back concierge receptionist service with a 24-hour chatbot host. Every customer that visits your website can be greeted by a friendly assistant who will wait with infinite patience while they browse and is always ready to answer a question, meaning that customers will never feel abandoned or be unable to ask for help.

Each assistant can be given an industry specific script, meaning that she can answer all standard customer shopping questions like "Where can I find...?" and "Do you have this in blue?" along with anything more complex you feel like equipping her with. For customers who want to speak to a decision-making representative when there isn't one available, the AI can take lead notes and leave messages for human associates to respond to when they are next available. Most of all, she welcomes customers and makes sure their questions are heard. For problems she can't solve, a virtual receptionist will always ask for contact information and promise to get back to them.

2. Deep in the night

Many companies that are successfully offering live chat support are only doing so during normal working hours. This is perfectly reasonable, but there are several large sections of the populace that are awake, active, and shopping at night, or those in different time zones. Those leads are just as powerful as the ones that come in during business hours, and they can slip away just as easily when questions aren't answered. Nocturnal people are used to skimming around the internet for services that are active and available during their shift and skipping over those that don't provide when they need it. This is a larger percentage of potential lost sales than you may realize.

Your virtual chat assistant can catch these leads before they move on, greeting them "at the door" in an unusual display of nocturnal liveliness. She can answer basic to medium level questions and will helpfully sort any more complex requests into the inboxes of the morning support crew, even by priority and department. When everyone gets in the next day, they will find an extra present of night time purchases, subscriptions, and requests that might have otherwise never appeared.

3. Appointment booking

From doctors offices to skydiving lessons, there are hundreds if not thousands of business plans that involve booking appointments. While many companies have adopted an online calendar system, these often have just enough of a learning curve to lose a few potential leads in the process of finding and managing the interface.

A virtual chat assistant, once again in her role as a capable online receptionist, can book appointments for your clients based on a shared internal calendar. Even better, she can handle those last-minute and late-night appointment cancellations, reschedulings, and so on that make working life so exciting, then send update messages to everyone who needs to know. In this role alone your virtual assistant can enhance almost any business team.

4. Relief assistance

Sometimes the support queue gets deep and your current team of support staff just isn't getting to everyone fast enough. This situation is only exacerbated by time lost sorting lesser requests when bigger problems with longer waiting times are on the table. When the support system stops running like a conveyor belt, customers are allowed to wait too long and become uncomfortable. A virtual chat assistant can be a huge help in these bogged down situations simply by taking the triage position.

Using the AI assisted chat bot, you can greet every customer and ascertain what they want. If it's something the virtual receptionist can handle, like a sales direction or basic question answered, she can do so and remove them from the queue. From there, she can determine what the waiting customers want and how serious the problem is, marking their issue in the queue so technicians will know what to handle next.

5. Tending the shop

One of the best things about a virtual chat assistant is their ability to watch the online store. Even if a business went on complete hiatus, the virtual receptionist could still greet customers, assist them with simple desires, and helpfully inform them that it will be a few days before any authoritative requests can be handled. You can trust the bot for nights, weekends, vacations, and never have to worry that the AI will say something rude to a customer because it got bored.

With the responsive learning and intuition that comes with AI integration, most customers won't even realize they've interacted with a program unless you tell them up front. From a sales assistant to an impeccable secretary, you have plenty of good reasons to consider an AI chat assistant.

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Jeff Cole is the CEO of Path, an intelligent messaging platform that helps businesses generate more leads, close sales faster, and improve customer service.  

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