Even though several marketing functions have been adjusted to meet the changing business climate during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are still expressing concern over retaining customers and keeping employees safe. While demands have shifted during these uncertain times, one thing still holds true—timely responses to inquiries are more important than ever. According to Forrester Research, marketers are increasingly turning to intelligent chat to support their sales efforts and respond to questions during such an unpredictable era.
AI chat is supplementing human to human interactions, and businesses that adopt this technology now will be more equipped to attract and retain consumers and employees in the months to follow.
Businesses with physical locations have an added layer of uncertainty amidst the pandemic. Reopening guidelines are constantly changing from state-to-state, and customers are forced to keep up with business’ shifting hours and operational standards.
Because customers have limited access to any physical locations during COVID-19, reaching them when they’re online is absolutely essential.
Through intelligent chat, businesses can seamlessly inform these customers about changing store hours, scheduling, and buying products during the semi-reopening stages.
These businesses can also leverage the data collected during the chat process to keep an ongoing pulse on customer sentiment.
A great use of intelligent chat for a traditional, brick and mortar business is Massage Envy’s chat implementation. As a nationwide franchise, they needed a way to manage each independently owned and operated location—and this was no easy task with over 1,100 locations across 49 states.
To add to the tension, Massage Envy also needed to accommodate more than one million members.
Prior to its intelligent chat implementation, customers who had questions or needed to make changes to their appointment were forced to call, something that became difficult or impossible during the early stages of the pandemic.
Massage Envy had a chat functionality before COVID-19, with skills designed to answer questions about services, appointments and pricing.
It identified two additional skills they needed in a COVID-19 response solution: the ability to share operational information and answer free-form customer questions in a rapidly changing context.
By choosing a fully-automated chat function that prompted through Facebook Messenger, existing members and new customers alike are able to receive quality support, guidance and answers to all specific COVID-19 questions without a second thought.
Not only are customers able to obtain answers to their questions, Massage Envy is also able to maintain social distancing and safety standards for employees.
Although the end to the pandemic is not in sight, businesses are being tasked with developing a safe return to work plan. Employers need to address evolving CDC guidelines, make decisions on mask requirements and restructure offices to enforce a minimum six-feet of distance between staff members.
Fortunately, intelligent chat offers an answer for companies in the planning stages of post-COVID return to work.
The chat technology can provide instant answers to COVID-related questions, direct employers to relevant educational information and even enable company-wide FDA-approved testing and contact tracing.
For example, STChealth is helping pioneer this approach through its strategic action for employers (SAFE) return to work program.
The program allows for human resources managers to address their pandemic-related concerns and plan for upcoming changes and challenges that arise when restructuring a physical office space.
Most importantly, the chat function is powered by advanced artificial intelligence, making it available 24/7 without the need for live agents.
Industries like the mortgage and lending businesses have been taking advantage of AI-chat to help streamline customer engagement. Through intelligent chat, these businesses are successfully qualifying leads before ever needing human intervention.
With fully automated messengers, institutions can gauge how serious a buyer is based on a few key questions and close deals faster than ever.
Because interest rates are at a record low during COVID-19, lenders need a way to quickly capture the prospective borrower’s information and pre-qualify them to help them maximize the current market.
COVID-19 loan programs are also responsible for an increase in lending activity, and lenders are being inundated with buyer requests as a result. Information is constantly changing, and buyers need answers.
CALA Lending is an excellent use-case for this application—it understood that time is of the essence when rates are low, so they chose intelligent chat to reduce friction in the lending process.
This small business lenderuses intelligent chat to instantly engage with prospective borrowers, answer their questions and streamline the qualification process with conversational forms.
The faster the process is completed, the less waste there is in the buyer journey—something both borrowers and lenders benefit from.
A lot has changed with COVID-19, but one thing is for sure: society will never return to long waits or tolerating phone tag.
The expectation of always on and instantly available are here to stay. Customers want quick answers without having to sift through information, and brands want to qualify leaders immediately.
The brands that are adapting to these changes will be the ones who continue to grow and thrive after the pandemic ends.
As AI chat becomes increasingly integrated into businesses, companies will be more equipped to increase their success rates, lower their administrative costs and boost their bottom lines.
Rebecca Clyde is the CEO and co-founder of Botco.ai, a conversational marketing platform that enables businesses to engage customers with AI-enabled chat. With more than 20 years in digital marketing in the technology industry, Rebecca is passionate about advancing women in tech and currently serves as the co-managing director for Girls in Tech Phoenix.
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