How to Anticipate Customer Needs (With Examples)

When was the last time you heard a story about exceptional customer service? Or an innovative way a company figured out how to meet customer needs?

You know the kind: An observant hotel employee rescues a beloved stuffed animal. The considerate customer service agent sends a gift card to apologize for a shipping error. A software company sees you’re having trouble with their platform and sends you a private video walkthrough.

These are all great examples, but what really makes a difference day after day is simply anticipating customer needs before they become problems.

Some companies seem to have an uncanny ability to get ahead of their customer’s issues. But it doesn’t just happen. Exceptional customer service is designed with dedication and built into company cultures.

We get it. Sometimes merely meeting customer needs is a struggle. Anticipating them? Now that seems daunting. After all, you can’t read minds.

The good news is that your customers don’t expect you to. (In fact, they often find it creepy when you know too much about them.) But they do want you to anticipate their problems and help them reach a resolution as quickly as possible.

For all of the work it requires to make anticipating customer needs happen, the payoff is well worth it. Let’s take a look at how to anticipate customer needs and what it means to your customer service.

What will you gain by anticipating customer needs?

In a word: loyalty.

We’ve touched on customer loyalty before, but we can’t stress its importance enough. In a digital-first age, customers have endless choices—and you need to make them choose you. Winning their loyalty has become more important than ever.

Customer service has become a major competitive advantage. According to Microsoft, 90% of customers say customer service is important to their brand choice and loyalty to that brand.

And should those customer service expectations fall short, 58% of customers show little hesitation in severing the relationship. The days of implicit loyalty are long gone.

While customer loyalty should be enough of a draw, here are some more benefits to anticipating customer needs:

  • Increased revenue. When your customers feel taken care of, they’re more likely to come back. They’re looking for easy, frictionless experiences and will frequent the businesses that give them that.
  • Less strain on your customer service team. You read that right. Making things simple for customers will have a direct impact on your customer service team. Even when you provide more customer service, it’ll still be better for your agents. Customers will have fewer questions, there will be less urgency in their questions, and they’ll be less frustrated overall.

Start by identifying customer expectations.

You’ve probably heard of the surprise and delight customer service strategy. It suggests that the best way to retain customers is to keep them guessing. Following its doctrine, you should go above and beyond the normal call of duty to give the customers something they weren’t expecting. The examples in the introduction are all great cases of using surprise and delight.

While it works when customers are already pleased with your company, it probably won’t make an angry customer come back. And since 55% of customers expect better customer service year over year, according to Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Service report, simply meeting expectations is often a struggle.

Hubspot’s Annual State of Service Report shows even greater numbers. 88% of respondents agreed that customers have higher expectations than in the past, and 79% said customers are smarter and more informed.

So what are customers’ needs? What do they expect from today’s businesses?

Simplicity.

They want frictionless experiences, easy-to-navigate interfaces, and fast solutions to their problems.

But you shouldn’t just take our word for it. The best way to figure out what your customers want is to ask them. More and more businesses are conducting post-purchase surveys to ensure customer satisfaction, loyalty, and more. According to Hubspot, 70% of businesses report they are tracking customer satisfaction/happiness—a jump from 60% in 2020 and around 55% in 2019.

Similarly, a majority of respondents—85%—say customers are more likely to share positive or negative experiences now than in the past.

While CSAT and other surveys can help you improve customer service, expand your research to include those that don’t buy from you. Ask why they didn’t purchase, and dive deep to figure out which of their needs weren’t met—and see how you can meet them in the future.

Give customers convenient service.

Regardless of whether they’re shopping for a vacation getaway, office supplies, or looking for subscription-based fashion, your customers expect convenience and fast service.

When you walk into a store, you expect orderly displays and friendly staff ready to serve you. When you visit a company’s website, you expect the same: A streamlined digital presence, complete with an easy-to-use website and customer service agents at the ready.

Just how fast? According to Hubspot’s Annual State of Service report, 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question—which customers define as under 10 minutes.

Here are a few ways to give customers fast, convenient service:

  • Make customer service digital. Customers don’t want to interrupt their day to call customer service, wait on hold to speak to a representative, or spend days waiting for an email response. These slower communication methods are helpful in a pinch, but customers now want something more. They want digital customer service.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see that consumers are using mobile devices to communicate. Implementing business messaging to reduce wait times, deflect calls, and provide faster assistance disrupts and resets the consumer expectation that contacting a company for help is slow and inconvenient.

  • Be easily accessible. It sounds easy, right? If they found your website, surely they can find your customer service contact info hidden on your help page, which is hidden in your footer, or beneath a menu in your header. Yes, customers can probably find you, but make the process easier by being available to them wherever they are.

Have a web chat (also known as live chat) box on your website so customers can instantly chat with a customer service agent—no matter how far down your website rabbit hole they’ve gone.

Don’t stop there. Are your customers on Instagram? What about Twitter? The more places you’re available to answer questions, the happier your customers will be. They won’t have to go searching for help, and you’ll always have someone there when they need you.

Offer proactive customer service. Heading off a problem before it happens is almost always better than waiting for them to come to you. And customers agree— more than two-thirds want an organization to reach out and engage with proactive customer notifications, according to Microsoft.

Being proactive can be as simple as sending tracking links to limit “where’s my order?” inquiries. Consider collecting top customer questions and sharing them during the purchasing process, or feed answers to a chatbot for quick customer service response times.

At Quiq, we help our clients provide convenient ways for customers to engage with a brand and allow consumers to reach out to companies on their terms. Communicating with companies via messaging is still pretty new, and we’ve seen so many consumers respond with surprise and delight at the ability to text a company for help.

Stop communication inefficiencies before they start.

Many customer needs examples revolve around their time. As we mentioned above, inefficient communication just adds to your customers’ frustrations. You’ve likely experienced the struggle of having to navigate IVR systems (those interactive voice response systems that use automation to collect customer information and point them in the right direction). Whether you’re waiting on hold or waiting for an email response, that’s time you can’t get back.

During those moments of need, the last thing your customers want is to interrupt their day. Customer loyalty is won (or lost) in these critical moments.

Anticipate customers’ needs by working within their schedules and workflows. Here are a few ways to get started.

  • Make communication asynchronous. The biggest frustration when calling help centers is that you must put your day on hold to do so. Don’t force your customers to conform to your service center’s schedule. Instead, offer asynchronous messaging.

Communication methods like web chat and voice are helpful for getting answers to more complex questions, but they also require customers to block out their time and respond immediately. Asynchronous messaging, however, lets customers respond whenever they’re available. As a bonus, your customer service agents can handle multiple interactions at the same.

  • Take advantage of chatbots. Chatbots are the key to giving customers the immediate responses they crave without overwhelming your customer service team. They’re always available to provide simple answers to questions or, at the very least, acknowledge the customer’s question and let them know when an agent will be available to chat.

You can also use chatbots to help you anticipate customers’ needs by having them prompt customers with messages as they navigate through your website. Start with a welcome message, offer product suggestions based on browsing history, or provide answers to FAQs during checkout.

  • Eliminate repetitive tasks. Speed up redundant tasks by creating pre-build responses for common questions. Not only will you be able to speed up response times, but you’ll also ensure customers get the same accurate and helpful information no matter which customer service agent they talk to.

Imagine how your customers would perceive your brand if they were able to text a question to your contact center and get immediate help and resolution. No interruptions to their day, no inconvenience or waiting involved.

Aligning your people, processes, and technology to reduce effort and streamline communications will do wonders for your customer service. With each positive interaction, customers will anticipate great service well into the future.

When your customer expects to be taken care of, they can engage with your company without feeling that they have to play offense, which leads to more pleasant interactions for both sides.

Empower CSAs to make the right decisions for customers.

Sometimes, anticipating customers’ needs means understanding that you can’t predict them all. Problems come up, mistakes get made, and website bugs happen. The trick is coming up with a plan to handle things that have no plan.

How do you do that? Empower customer service agents to take action to solve customer issues.

Unfortunately, right now, not everyone has that power. Around 20% of service agents say their biggest challenge is not having the ability to make the right decisions for customers, according to Hubspot. But it’s likely that many more face this issue on a regular basis.

Ensure your customer agents have the authority to do things like:

  • Offer discounts when customers encounter problems.
  • Expedite orders when shipments are lost or damaged.
  • Take as much time as they need to solve customer issues.

Without the authority to make these decisions on their own, agents have to wait for approvals or miss out on opportunities to surpass customer expectations.

Equip your team with the tools to meet future needs.

While you can’t predict every need that pops up (unless you found that crystal ball), you can ensure your customer service is always on point. Set your team up for success with the right tools to meet customer service needs now and into the future.

Regardless of the issue, the one thing you can anticipate is that your customer wants resolution in the fastest, most pain-free way possible. Quiq helps companies across multiple industries do just that with our Conversational AI platform.

Let customers talk to you the same way they chat with their family and friends. Whether a customer needs to text you to ask about an exchange or new car loan, needs assistance via chat in finding and buying the perfect gift, or wants to schedule a service and pay for it through Apple Messages for Business, Quiq messaging powers your customer connections.

Drive Satisfaction and Sales with Google Business Messaging

One of the most impactful—and often overlooked—tools in customer service is Google Business Messages. Google business messaging gives your company the power to take care of customers on their terms.

The result: You foster greater trust and close more sales.

Before we dig into the benefits of using Google Business Messages, let’s back up and review how it works.

What is Google Business Messages, and how does it work?

Google Business Messages is a conversational customer service chat feature that lets you connect with customers in a variety of different channels—starting with Google. Current and potential customers can ask your company questions in real-time directly from Google Search, Google Maps, your Google Business Profile, and even your company’s website.

There are two options for using Google business messaging:

  1. Turn on your business messages chat function directly through your Google Business Profile. This option gives you basic chat capabilities. You can set up an automatic welcome message, but you’ll have to enable notifications and respond manually to each customer inquiry.
  2. Use Google business messaging API to connect via a third-party app, like Quiq. This option comes with more features and functionality, allowing you to switch back and forth between virtual and live customer service agents depending on what your customers need.

3 reasons to implement Google Business Messages.

Great customer connections start with genuine communication. Messaging platforms let you engage with the people you serve in a convenient, casual way.

And Google Business Messages takes those connections to the next level, offering your company powerful messaging capabilities on a grander scale.

Here are three reasons to adopt Google messages:

1. Raise customer satisfaction.

In an increasingly digital, asynchronous world, it’s not enough for your company to be available only through phone and email. You have to cater to customers in the places they spend their time—then communicate in the mode they like best.

For most consumers, that means instant messaging on a mobile device.

Google Business Messages gives your customers an effortless way to ask questions, grab basic business information, and connect one-on-one with your customer support agents for personalized help. Plus, with messaging, customers get a written record of information from your company that they can revisit at their convenience.

When customers have a positive experience with your company, they’re more likely to come back—and recommend you to their friends and family.

2. Capitalize on Google searches.

Google is where (almost) every search starts. Over 92% of online searches happen on Google, and a whopping 96% of those occur on mobile devices. Simply put, Google is where people live when they’re online—and where they get the majority of information about the products and services they’re interested in.

As a company, you can capitalize on the status quo by incorporating Google Business Messages into your customer engagement strategy. When you make your company even more accessible on Google’s pages, you can reach customers—old and new—with minimal effort and maximum return.

Give customers easily visible, one-click access to your customer support team, and they’ll come away with knowledge at their fingertips.

3. Drive revenue and sales.

Google Business Messages isn’t just a conversational tool—it’s also a sales opportunity. A Facebook report found that 65% of people are more likely to shop from a business they can chat with.

At the most basic level, you can program your virtual customer service agents to offer helpful information and solve problems, but you can also use business messages to go above and beyond for customers.

Personalization takes the shopping experience to the next level.

Accenture found that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize them, remember them, and provide personal recommendations. By providing thoughtful product recommendations and guiding customers through the purchasing process, you can convert leads and score more sales.

How to ramp up revenue using Google Business Messages.

Try the following tactics to get more out of Google Business Messages—not just with customer enjoyment, but sales too.

1. Introduce customers to products they love, then entice them to buy.

When customers use Google Business Messages to start a conversation with your business, chances are they’re already interested in your company. But you can turn that interest into a sale—or even repeat sales—by deepening their understanding of your products and the value they offer.

After all, searching through pages of products on a website can be overwhelming, even with excellent navigation tools and filters. And scouring a website for FAQs can be tedious. On a messaging platform, though, customers just have to share a few details, and your customer service agents can take over the conversation from there.

Here are just some of the ways you can entice customers to buy using Google’s business messaging:

  • Answer product questions: Remove friction from the buying process early on.
  • Share product photos, catalogs, and carousels: Give customers new items and options to explore and get excited by.
  • Link blog posts and video tutorials: Build trust with customers by providing extra information, like ideas for incorporating a product into your life or instructions on how to use it for maximum effectiveness.
  • Provide personalized recommendations: Help customers get closer to what they need with tailored suggestions that account for their unique concerns and motivations.
  • Direct customers to sales reps: Connect customers who need more in-depth information or product explanations to your knowledgeable sales reps.
  • Share promo codes: Incentivize customers to take action by dropping a promo code or discount inside the conversation as a thank you.
  • Accept orders and add items to check out: Make it easy for customers to wrap up their shopping experience and press purchase.

2. Give your customer support team more time to create positive interactions with customers.

With Google business messaging API, your customer support team can spend less time addressing minor concerns and more time building bonds.

How?

By taking advantage of AI-powered chats. In Google messages, you can create an automated list of FAQs to send to curious customers so they have accessible information about store hours, online orders, refunds, shipping timelines, and delivery statuses.

When you program virtual customer service agents to address common customer inquiries, your support agents are freed up to focus on high-value conversations. These types of conversations happen when individual customers need help finding specific products, checking out, or handling returns. In those situations, your customers want attentive, personalized assistance—and fast—from a friendly person who’s easy to talk to.

Turning high-value conversations into positive interactions is key to closing sales and keeping customers happy.

3. Uplevel your brand and image by following messaging platform best practices.

Paying attention to the details when messaging can improve your brand reputation and differentiate your company from the competition.

Like any platform, there are strategic ways to make the most of Google Business Messages—and there are easy mistakes to make. You’ll create stronger customer connections and maximize your sales opportunities by following a few best practices.

Here are some to keep in mind:

  • Create an automated welcome message: Invite customers in by greeting them warmly and letting them know you’re available to help.
  • Reply fast: Speed is everything on a messaging platform. Take the time to set up a wide variety of automation that get customers the answers and information they need fast.
  • Be conversational: Use a relaxed and approachable tone in your conversations. Little things—like saying thank you or apologizing for an issue—go a long way toward building trust with customers.
  • Use visuals: Supplement your answers and directions with visual aids. Send product photos and videos, or use screenshots to help customers figure out where to go on your website.
  • Simplify the chat: Use rich messaging features like quick reply chips and typing indicators to expedite the conversation. These and other RCS features reduce the legwork for your customers.

It’s also a good idea to regularly review your Google Business Messages analytics to find out what’s working and where you can make improvements.

If the data shows that a majority of customers drop out of the chat after a few questions, for example, you could try rephrasing the questions, switching their order, or leading with different information.

Or maybe your analytics reveal that customers tend to ask the same easily answerable questions at the top of the chat. In that case, try updating your automated FAQs or opening the chat with quick reply chips that address the common questions.

Even minor adjustments have the potential to make a big impact on customer satisfaction.

Drive sales with Google Business Messages.

Google Business Messages helps you accomplish two separate but connected business goals: delight customers and drive sales.

Not only do business messages make it easier for customers to reach you, but it also makes it easier for you to cater to those customers. Dynamic messaging features and thoughtful automation give your customer service agents more tools and time to do what they do best.

When you partner with Quiq, we’ll help you set up and optimize your Google messaging platform, so you get the results you want.

How Messaging Helps Hospitality Get Personal

The hospitality industry is, by nature, a very human business. Whether you’re in hotel and lodging, travel and transportation, food and beverage, or recreation, hospitality is all about creating a unique and personal experience for your guests. Have you considered how technology like SMS hospitality messaging can actually make guest experiences more personalized?

While technology has changed the game, it can sometimes feel antithetical to the warmth the hospitality industry is beloved for. However, when messaging tech is used correctly, it helps you do what the hospitality industry has always done best: Make human connections.

SMS hospitality messaging connects you to guests on their terms.

It’s exactly for this reason that messaging can help transform the customer experience by giving service providers a way to connect and engage with guests in an easy, convenient, and preferred way.

There are major opportunities to leverage SMS hospitality messaging in a way that doesn’t detract from the human connection—but adds to it. Messaging liberates guests from standing in line, waiting for an email, or sitting on hold.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can use SMS hospitality messaging to connect with customers and personalize the industry.

High tech and high touch.

Providing a memorable guest experience is part physical and observable. What thread count are the sheets? What’s the ambiance of the restaurant (do they have table cloths and sommeliers or barstools and air hockey)?

The intangibles are just as important to the overall experience—the care and attention of the staff, the ease of changing bookings, how payments are handled, etc. These smaller details are often your differentiators and play a big factor in how you make your customers feel.

SMS messaging can make all the difference. Instead of forcing customers to stand in lines, wait on hold, or hunt down information on in-room pamphlets, you can bring the service to them.

In fact, guests now expect it as a standard part of their hospitality experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruption in the hospitality industry.

While travel is starting to return to 2019 levels (along with occupancy rates and room revenue, according to Accenture), it has permanently influenced customer expectations.

There are fewer business travelers, more local vacationers—and more digital nomads. This is reshaping the hospitality industry in everything from loyalty programs and digital amenities to a demand for SMS booking.

And customer service has only increased in importance.

Accenture’s Life Reimagined report says 53% of consumers think customer service has become more important than price—and 54% of consumers believe it will continue to be so over the next 12 months.

Transparency, clarity, and simplicity have become top decision drivers. More than half of customers who have reimagined life due to the pandemic say they would switch brands if the brand doesn’t create clear and easy options for contacting customer service, according to Accenture’s report.

For hospitality, text messaging is a natural step toward delivering high-touch experiences. Customers are already using their mobile devices to find fun things to do (70%), research destinations (66%), and book transportation or airfare (46%).

With so much emphasis already placed on mobile, a move to messaging is a natural and organic option that customers are likely already looking to do. Continuing to use customers’ mobile devices throughout their stay just makes sense.

In fact, messaging can enhance the customer’s experience across the entire guest journey.

Tap into the power of SMS hospitality messaging.

Messaging allows you to connect and engage with guests in a way that is already an important part of how they communicate daily.

SMS text messaging upgrades your customer communications with more than simple text conversations. Rich messaging brings the hospitality experience to your guests long before they reach your doorstep. With rich messaging, you can:

  • Process secure transactions, from SMS booking for hotel rooms and excursions to in-room upgrades and payments.
  • Send reservation reminders, confirmations, and up-to-the-minute notices.
  • Increase guest excitement with content like images, GIFs, videos, and more.

Easy ways to start using SMS/texting in hospitality.

Getting started with hospitality text messaging may seem overwhelming at first, but there are many ways to introduce it into your existing customer journeys.

Here are some examples of ways you can use SMS hospitality messaging to elevate experiences in hotels, restaurants, and recreational activities.

SMS for hotels.

1. Answer pre-booking questions. While your website is a great booking tool, nothing beats one-on-one conversations. Your guests may have simple questions about things like early check-in or room preferences. Messaging helps you address these questions quickly and secure the booking right from your customers’ text messages.

2. Use SMS booking. Schedule stays and process payments right from SMS/text messaging using rich messaging features. Your guests can book their trip right from their phones without ever having to make a phone call or wait on hold.

3. Get guests excited about their stay. Your guest experience begins before they even arrive. Build the anticipation with a welcome message, semi-personalized itineraries, and local sites and events.

If you know guests are there with children, send them itineraries that include amusement parks, a trip to the local zoo, or some family-friendly live shows. For couples on a romantic getaway, suggest date night ideas, local spas, or more secluded beaches.

Sending a text message with these personalized touches will go a long way to build excitement and make guests feel welcomed.

4. Streamline the check-in process. While we love vacations, traveling to get to them is another story. And it’s only gotten worse in the last few years with travel restrictions, fewer flights, and more crowds.

When travelers finally reach their destination, they’re tired, frustrated, and likely want as little interaction as possible before reaching their beds. (In other words, they’re 3 of Snow White’s 7 dwarves: Grumpy, Sleepy, and Bashful.)

Have guests complete the check-in process through SMS messaging so that all they have to do when they get to their destination is pick up their key. Digital keys are also becoming more popular and complete the contactless check-in experience.

5. Handle in-room requests. Instead of forcing guests to decide between the front desk, guest services, maid services, and other departments on the hotel phone (not to mention waiting on hold), centralize in-room requests via SMS/text messaging.

Quiq’s clients, including those within the hospitality segment, have found that servicing customers via messaging has reduced service costs and work time and increased customer satisfaction scores by 5–10 points.

6. Close out stays with a bang. Offer a contactless checkout, removing the last bit of friction guests face as they leave your hotel. Plus, give them one final reminder of the excellent service and attention they received with a thank you message.

7. Ask for reviews. If you’ve given the guest a memorable experience, they may be enticed to share it with others and become your brand ambassador.

Today, reviews are a critical part of the buyers’ process, and word of mouth can build or block that path to purchase.

Not only is this a great opportunity to instantly address any negative feedback, but you can also send exclusive offers and discounts to encourage guests to come back.

You can also encourage guests to share their positive comments about your business with their social networks.

SMS for restaurants.

1. Accept reservations. Use rich messaging features to schedule reservations right from your guests’ mobile phones.

2. Send reservation reminders. Help customers remember the reservation they made (especially if you’re booked out for weeks) with a friendly reservation reminder.

A text message won’t get lost in junk mail, and you’ll decrease no-shows. SMS hospitality messaging to the rescue!

3. Enable easy cancellations and rescheduling. Instead of holding a table for no-shows and missing out on potential revenue, give guests an easy way to cancel or reschedule their reservation ahead of time.

They’ll be happy with the streamlined customer experience, and you’ll be able to fill those seats with last-minute reservations and walk-ins.

4. Provide directions and parking information. Sure, everyone has Apple Maps or Waze, but parking can be a beast if you live in a high-tourism city. Add a link for directions and parking information to your appointment reminder to ensure your guests make it to your restaurant.

5. Streamline take-out orders. Take-out has grown in popularity over the last few years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, even fine-dining restaurants have jumped in on the action.

54% of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is essential to the way they live, including 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z adults, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report.

Use SMS/text messaging to confirm you’ve received an order, that it’s ready for pickup, or that it’s out for delivery.

6. Ask for reviews. Restaurants live and die by their online reviews. Encourage guests to leave feedback on a popular review site and offer them an incentive.

If you’d rather collect feedback directly, send them a link to a survey and be sure to answer any questions and address concerns quickly.

7. Get the opt-in. SMS marketing is a great way to connect with customers, and the open rate for text messages often far exceeds that of email.

Ask for permission to send marketing messages, then craft a strategy that personalizes offers and earns repeat business.

SMS for recreational activities.

1. Book through text messaging. Rich text messaging is a simple way to answer questions, book a reservation, and securely collect payments all in one place.

2. Take special requests. SMS/text messaging is a convenient and private way for guests to ask about special accommodations like wheelchair accessibility, assistance for people who are hard of hearing, or private tours.

3. Send links to helpful information. Don’t send guests hunting for information on your website. Send them links to details, like what type of attire participants should wear, dos and don’ts, parking information, and more.

4. Send reminders. Email reminders get lost in all the itinerary bookings (and junk email) your customers are likely dealing with. Send reservation reminders and any up-to-the-minute notifications via text messaging.

5. Suggest their next adventure. SMS messaging is a great marketing tool for small business operators, like tour guides, but it’s also easy to scale for larger operations. Once your guests have finished their activity, use text messaging to suggest their next adventure.

If they took a ghost tour of downtown, offer suggestions to other haunted hotspots. If they went on a guided hike, suggest kayaking or another outdoor activity. Personalize messages and include timely discounts to increase the next booking.

Disrupt with SMS hospitality messaging or be disrupted.

The time for hospitality text messaging is here. There’s endless opportunity for hotels, resorts, restaurants, and others within the hospitality segment to simplify and personalize the customer experience.

With new expectations born from the pandemic and an ever-increasing number of millennial and Gen Z travelers, it’s even more critical for the hospitality industry to embrace text messaging.

At Quiq, we help companies in the hospitality industry (and others) engage with guests in personal and meaningful ways. Our Conversational AI Platform makes it easy for customers to connect with your business, so you can provide the information they want in the way they want to receive it.

Connect with customers—and let them connect with you—using Quiq.

Comparing Live Chat and Chatbots

How often do you interact with brands online? In-person?

Brand interactions now happen online more often than they do in-person. Salesforce projected that in 2022, 61% of company interactions would be online, and only 39% would be in person. That number has been steadily increasing since 2020.

With more people spending more time in front of their screens (whether mobile or desktop), customers need a convenient place to connect with your business.

And your website is a good place to start.

Live chat (also known as web chat) is the simplest way to connect with your customers online. It usually involves a chat feature that lives on your website where customers can instantly start a real-time conversation.

So, where do chatbots come into play? We get it—with all the jargon thrown around, it can get confusing. (What happened to the days of customer service by phone or email, right?) While live chat is the method of communication, chatbots are the ones doing the communication.

Let us explain.

Say you need to contact an e-commerce company to return an ill-fitting shirt. (Too long, too tight, too orange…whatever the case may be.) Even though it’s a simple transaction, you still need to request a return label. So you go to their website, open the live chat box and type in your request.

You’ll likely get a chatbot responding to your inquiry and helping you through the process.

Chatbots, like the AI-powered ones we implement for our customers, often stand in for live agents when interacting with customers.

But it’s not as simple as implementing live chat, finding a low-fidelity bot, and putting it to work. It takes careful planning and, above all, a fierce customer-first approach to successfully implement a chatbot strategy.

Continue reading as we compare live chat to chatbots, when to use each of them (or both), and how to navigate the customer service experience.

Why live chat is a must.

Where phones used to be the easiest and fastest way for customers to reach you, live chat is quickly replacing it. Live chat is a communication channel where customers can get immediate answers to their questions.

Now, 42% of customers prefer online chat (another name for live chat in this instance) over other communication methods, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customers Report.

Compared to other forms of customer service, live chat frequently performs better, with faster response times, higher CSAT scores, and quicker resolutions.

Plus, your customers are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat, according to 63% of respondents, reports SaaSworthy.

Why should you use chatbots for customer service?

Customer expectations are increasing. While at the same time, your customer service team is asked to do more with less. Something has to give. Or does it?

Chatbots build a bridge between your stellar customer service team and your customers. When comparing live chat and chatbots, don’t think of them as adversaries. Chatbots aren’t replacement tools for human interaction but merely extensions of your customer service team.

  • Here are just a few things chatbots can do:
  • Answer customer questions.
  • Troubleshoot common problems.
  • Gather customer information.
  • Determine the department to route customers to.
  • Move customers into an agent’s queue across channels.

In fact, 48% of U.S. customers believe AI should make life easier, according to Zendesk’s CX Trends Report. For people ages 25–39, that number jumps up to 80%.

How to make your chatbot stand out using live chat.

The biggest problems you’ll face when implementing a chatbot strategy for customer service are perceptions and expectations.

On one side of the spectrum, many people have high expectations for AI. Pop culture has skewed public perception, making them think AI can do nearly anything seamlessly without much work on their part.

On the other side, some people simply hear (or see) the word “bot” and dismiss it as stupid and useless. (Probably from previous bad experiences with low-end, faulty bots.)

There’s currently a long way to go before AI-powered chatbots meet customer expectations. Here are a few ways AI chatbots are failing customers—and how you can use this information to make your customer service stand out.

Accuracy is everything.

The stat: 47% of consumers report not getting accurate answers, according to Zendesk.

As an extension of your customer service team, customers need to be able to trust the information they get from your chatbot. Customers who don’t trust your chatbot quickly lose faith in your business.

While we like to think that AI is infinitely intelligent, chatbots are only as good as the information you feed them. Just like you have to spend time straining your customer service agents, you need to spend time inputting information, writing scripts, and QA-ing your chatbot.

How to fix it: Ensure your chatbots have access to all the information your customer service agents do, including product databases and customer data.

Speed still matters—even if your agents’ time isn’t at stake.

The stat: 56% of customers say it takes too long for the bot to recognize it can’t help solve their issues.

It’s like listening to the five-minute interactive voice response (IVR) menu before realizing you need to talk to a representative. Forcing customers to answer too many questions or go through too many routing menus is an easy way to frustrate them. Especially when 48% of surveyed consumers in the U.S. believe chatbots should save time when contacting a company.

How to fix it: While it’s a good practice to use chatbots to collect information before connecting with a live agent, keep them as few as possible.

Also, consider measuring chatbot performance, much like you would a live agent. Are they resolving issues quickly? Are they able to solve problems with just one interaction? That way, you can identify weak spots and continue improving.

Don’t make customers repeat themselves, ever.

The stat: 44% of customers say the most frustrating thing about working with a chatbot is when they have to start all over again with a human agent.

We know customers hate to repeat themselves. It’s one of the things they hope AI-enabled bots can prevent. According to Zendesk, 49% of surveyed consumers believe AI should keep people from having to repeat themselves.

How to fix it: When combining live chat and chatbots, make the handoff from bot to agent seamless. Use the information collected by the bots to auto-populate your conversational platform and give agents access to the conversation so they don’t miss anything.

Be transparent and give them a choice.

The stat: 44% get frustrated that they don’t have a choice between speaking with a human or a bot at the beginning of a conversation.

Think about IVR systems. They (almost) always give you an option to connect directly with a live representative, and it’s easy to tell when you’re talking to a live agent.

But it’s not as easy to identify over live chat, and customers can feel deceived when they think they’re reaching out to a person. And when they’re having a hard time explaining their issue, walking through it with a bot can just add to their frustrations.

How to fix it: Name your bot, and have them introduce itself as a robotic assistant. Include an option to connect directly with a live agent (when available) in that welcome message. While you want to encourage customers to interact with your bot in order to reduce the burden on your live agents, you don’t want to force them. Give them a choice.

Infuse bots with brand personality.

The stat: 47% of surveyed consumers believe AI should improve customer service quality.

Admittedly, you’re battling a perception when introducing chatbots into your customer experience. When customers hear “chatbot,” they immediately think of robotic, monotone voices. For web conversations, that translates to personality-less text or poor attempts to sound “human” that end up sounding… fake.

The easiest fix is to create a chatbot experience that matches your brand’s personality, whether that’s enthusiastic, fun, empathetic, or straightforward.

Our client Daily Harvest, a popular meal kit delivery service, knew they needed to create a chatbot to help alleviate their overburdened customer service team. But they wanted to ensure customers got the same excellent customer experience the brand has become known for. They partnered with Quiq to build a custom AI chatbot that not only solved common customer issues but could also interpret customers’ language and syntax, their food preferences, and more.

They ended up with Sage, Daily Harvest’s digital care guide. Besides reducing call volume by 60% (a huge win in its own right), they optimized the customer experience and improved their already extraordinarily high CSAT rate.

Read more about Sage and Daily Harvest here >

Make live agents and chatbots part of the same team.

With the right planning (and the right partner), chatbots and live agents can work seamlessly together to serve your customers.

According to Zendesk, only 38% of businesses use both bots and human agents for live chat. That means there’s a big opportunity for improvement.

Since 83% of customers expect to connect with someone immediately when contacting a company, according to Salesforce, you need to pool your resources to meet (or exceed) customer expectations.

Start crafting your chatbot and live chat strategy by taking these preliminary steps:

  1. Collect customer issues by volume. What questions do you get the most?
  2. Organize them by complexity. Are they simple “where’s my order” questions, or do they take several steps and individual problem-solving?
  3. Identify which can be solved with bots or which needs a live agent.
  4. Figure out how bots and humans can work together to solve problems.

Don’t think of live agents and bots as working in silos. The best tactic is to use them both together at various times in the interaction.

Use a bot to collect information and troubleshoot problems upfront. Then, tap in a live agent when the problem gets complex. You can also pull in a bot at the end of the conversation to close out transactions, ask for feedback, or talk about the next steps.

Empower your customer service team to embrace chatbot interactions, and work in tandem to deliver the best customer experience.

Leverage live chat and chatbots with Quiq.

Quiq’s AI-powered chatbots work just like your live agents. With our Conversational Platform, you can combine native Quiq customer service chatbots, bots developed in third-party frameworks, and human agents any way you like.

The question is no longer if you should choose between live chat or chatbots, but how you can use both to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

How To Add Digital Customer Service

Don’t have a digital customer service strategy? There are no more excuses.

Today’s consumers exist primarily online, and they expect convenient and streamlined digital engagement from brands. With customer expectations increasing almost daily, companies are rapidly introducing digital channels to replace or co-exist with traditional channels like phone and email.

Now is the time to add or improve your digital customer service. Here’s how to add digital customer service to your existing channels:

  • Identify your common questions.
  • Implement the right channels.
  • Simplify your online engagement.
  • Promote your new digital channels.
  • Monitor and analyze conversations.

We’ll take a look at each step, but let’s define digital customer service first.

What is digital customer service?

Digital customer service is the act of providing customer service and support across online channels.

For most consumers, that means messaging—whether in-app, via text messaging, web chat, or social media.

Why use digital customer service?

There’s a lot more to digital customer service than answering a few direct messages on Instagram. In order to improve the digital customer experience, you need a well-rounded strategy that focuses on driving value.

Gartner identified top digital customer service trends in 2022. Here are three to keep in mind as you build out your strategy:

  • Delivering value over simply resolving issues: Digital customer service isn’t merely duplicating a call center. Yes, you’re there to solve customer problems, but you’re also acting as a sales rep for the brand. Validating purchases, offering product suggestions, and upselling/cross-selling should fall into your digital customer service strategy.
  • Privacy-led personalization: While personalization is still important to serving customers online, privacy is also a big concern. This means you should only collect information that’s absolutely necessary and always be completely transparent about what data you collect and how you use it.
  • Service in third-party channels: Brand-owned channels like websites and apps are still a popular option, but customers want to connect with you no matter where you are. Consider an omnichannel solution that brings the entire customer experience to the customer in the platforms they prefer.

6 reasons digital customer service is critical.

Post-pandemic, the question is no longer why use digital customer service—it’s how. Digital customer service is critical to a well-rounded customer experience. Here are 5 reasons you can’t ignore it.

1. You’re building relationships.

Your customers want experiences that are smooth, convenient, and hassle-free, regardless of whether it happens face-to-face or online. Since 230.5 million Americans shopped online in 2021—and the number is growing every year—the digital customer experience is more important than ever.

With the number of options available to consumers in nearly every industry, building relationships is vital to success.

2. It differentiates your business.

Mobile devices have put the power of apps, machine learning, automation, and rich messaging into the hands of pretty much every consumer. Tech-savvy customers are fully aware of what technology can do for them, and they expect to get what they want exactly when they want it.

Putting your digital customer experience first enables your organization to take advantage of this expectation.

We see the proof in our own customers. Companies like Tailored Brands are experiencing success doing just that.

“Retail is a highly competitive space, so we strive to set ourselves apart based on the service we provide our customers, whether online or in-store,” said Melissa Porter, VP of Customer Relations. “Adding text messaging from Quiq has allowed us to differentiate even more.”

3. You’ll upgrade your brand perception.

Customers want fast and easy interactions with brands, but they also want those experiences to be personal. In fact, Accenture found that 91% of customers are more likely to purchase from companies that recognize them by name, remember their purchase history, and provide personalized offers and product recommendations.

The right digital customer service strategy can help you get there. Quiq Messaging enables you to easily integrate messaging into your existing systems or customize the user interface to include data from your internal operations systems.

Your employees have visibility into the customer data that makes interactions personalized, including customer info, order history, and past conversations.

4. You can practice proactive outreach.

Your contact center agents aren’t limited to waiting by the phone or refreshing their email inbox to resolve issues. Digital customer service strategy can now include proactive outreach.

Sending notifications letting customers know that a product in their order is out of stock or that a flight has been delayed is the norm.

By being proactive, you can identify issues and resolve them before they become problems, which reduces the number of tickets you receive

5. It’ll boost efficiency and lower costs.

One-to-one phone calls with your human agents can reach capacity quickly. That’s why so many companies have diversified their engagement channels to provide more convenient options to their customers and cut down costs.

Digital channels not only improve the digital customer experience by providing effortless support and service but also reduces overall costs. Leveraging digital channels to scale service efforts saves on hiring new agents to handle increased volume and the 24/7 service needs from constantly connected consumers. On digital channels, agents can respond to multiple conversations at one time. That’s just not possible on a phone call.

6. You’ll increase revenue opportunities.

The pandemic created drastic consumer behavior shifts toward digital purchasing, and providing digital customer service goes hand in hand with increasing sales.

Even though retail has reopened, many consumers still plan on continuing the digital trends.

An Accenture survey revealed some key insights:

Consumers who increased usage during the pandemic.
Consumers who plan on continuing the trend.
In-app ordering
54% 84%
Social media sales
44% 80%
Curbside pickup
42% 78%
Livechat/chatbot/voice assistance
46% 77%
Shopping on the company website
36% 77%

All of these habits are revenue-generating and rely heavily on digital customer service to drive sales.

How to deploy digital customer service.

There’s a huge difference between offering multiple online channels and offering a seamless digital customer experience. Customers want instantaneous, convenient, and easy engagement—exactly how you should design your customer service experience.

Let’s take a closer look at the steps to add digital customer service to your existing channels.

1. Identify common questions.

The first step in your digital customer experience journey should be to take a look at the most common reasons your customers are contacting your contact center. Most of our clients can quickly identify a handful of the most common questions.

Some inquiries will be obvious like:

  • Where’s my order/when will I receive my order?
  • What is my login?
  • What is my account balance?
  • How do I change my reservation?
  • How do I make a return?

Start by creating digital self-service options. You can start with a simple FAQ page or dig a little deeper and build a chatbot to answer common customer questions and relieve the burden on your call center.

For example, outdoor apparel company Stio mails out 1.2 million catalogs a year. Before they expanded into digital customer service with business messaging, customers had to call customer service to remove themselves from the mailing list.

The company implemented messaging with a bot, enabling their customers to unsubscribe with just a few clicks. No human agent interaction needed. The company saw an immediate 9% decrease in phone calls and saved 83 agent hours in just the first two weeks of implementation.

2. Choose the channels your customers already use.

Once you have a good grasp of your customers and their needs, identify which channels you want to start with. Many of our clients tackle the highest volume channels first, which (surprisingly) often starts with the call center itself.

Think about streamlining the customer experience by getting the answers before they need them and getting them to the right person to solve their problems.

Here are the top 4 things our clients have done to integrate digital customer service:

  1. Integrate messaging into your IVR to give customers the option to immediately abandon a phone call to start chatting with an agent.
  2. Take a look at your desktop vs. mobile traffic. If you see a substantial portion of your traffic visiting your mobile page, it indicates that customers are willing to engage with you via SMS/text messaging. If it is still fairly high on desktop, that may indicate that you should deploy web chat.
  3. Don’t ignore your website traffic. Implement live chat on your website so that website visitors get the same benefits from messaging as your mobile customers do.
  4. Make sure you register with Google Business Messages and Apple Messages for Business so that customers can find and engage with you through search and maps on their mobile devices.

Give customers the freedom to choose their preferred channels depending on their specific problems. You’re also adding more bandwidth to your contact center by encouraging messaging over phone calls.

3. Improve digital customer experience.

Reaching out to engage with your brand should be simple and quick, as customers want their issues solved fast. Make it easy for customers to engage with the right department or agent that can resolve their inquiry most efficiently.

Here are a few things you can do to make it easier for your customer:

  1. Collect information from your customers by asking short questions that allow the customer to respond with a simple tap instead of typing in a response
  2. Implement a bot to collect information and apply rules to route the conversation.
  3. Make conversations sticky. If a customer spoke to a certain agent in a previous conversation, route the customer to that same agent or make sure the conversation history is easy to access for anyone that speaks to the customer.

Quiq makes it easy to set rules to route conversations to specific agents, departments, or queues based on set criteria.

4. Promote your new digital channels.

Let people know once your digital channels are available. Promote your new digital channels across your existing marketing channels:

  • Add a message to your IVR informing callers that web chat or text is available, even if you haven’t integrated messaging with your IVR.
  • Put a message on your website homepage and a “text us” call to action button at the bottom of your mobile site.
  • Make sure that messaging is prominent in the contact us section of your website.
  • Advertise it in your newsletters and social posts.
  • Add a message to the signature of all your contact center agents responding to emails reminding customers that alternate channels are available.

5. Monitor and analyze engagement.

Use analytics to monitor, analyze, and address areas within your digital customer experience that may need work along the way. For example, you can review closed and active conversations in real-time to determine if integration with your CRM or other business intelligence platform will help agents find critical information easier.

You’ll also want to evaluate agent performance on key metrics. Quiq’s messaging platform allows you to monitor the performance of human agents, as well as bots, so you always have a pulse on which types of inquiries may be stumping your team.

We’ve also made it easy to import and export data to and from our software, so you have the data you need, wherever you need it. Our out-of-the-box reports enable you to have an immediate view of your contact center’s performance, or you can combine the data in your BI tool for a broader understanding of your contact center.

Deliver the digital experience your customers want.

From start to finish, your customer experience must deliver. From the moment a consumer becomes aware of your brand to the point they become a customer, your digital customer experience will be a part of it all.

Your customers are trying to reach you on all digital channels—even if you’re not there yet. We’re ready to help you transform your contact center.