Chatbots have almost become a synonym for frustration, and bad service. The recent rapid uptake of digital communication channels has only worsened this problem.

Digital transformation and the drive to customer self-service have been pushing voice into the background of the corporate communications toolset. This has been prompted by millennials who have an aversion to speaking to people, the need for businesses to reduce the cost to communicate with their customers, and the compliance, productivity and efficiency benefits digital channels provide (hello, audit trails).

And then COVID-19 arrived. The global pandemic has accelerated nascent digital transformation efforts as businesses look to provide excellent customer service to people who can’t or really do not want to engage with another human face to face.

Chatbots haven’t really been up to the task, however. A number of businesses, Statista tells us, have started using IVR and live chat channels for the first time since the pandemic hit. Those who had already rolled it out have increased their use of live chat. Video and email use has also increased. AI-powered chatbot use – not so much.

Given the benefits businesses stand to realise from using chatbots, you’d think they’d be near the top of the list. Likewise, for consumers, chatbots offer a means to get things done – efficiently and easily. Provided they work as intended.

This where digital experts come in, says Ryan Falkenberg, CEO of Clevva Solutions, which specialises in front-office automation, and – specifically – developing digital experts that can solve customer queries without devolving into typical chatbot behaviour – like sending users to a web page they’ve already read three times and still not found a useful answer on.

“We need chatbots to be efficient, not empathetic,” adds Falkenberg, “we want them to help us get stuff done, with the minimum of fuss, not be our friend.”

Currently available technology is, happily, enabling just that. These low-code technologies allow business teams to build their own digital experts that, like human experts, resolve customer requests, complaints, queries and issues in context, first time. These digital experts know what questions to ask, which answers to give and what actions to take to close the ticket without requiring a human in the loop.

Importantly, these digital experts can engage with customers via the website, mobile app, and WhatsApp channels. This means customers can engage with the same expert, irrespective of the channel they choose. Plus they can be assured of a hyper-relevant experience that results in a tangible outcome.

The upside is happier customers. And happier customer service staff who no longer need to deal with the high volumes of known queries, and can rather handle the calls that really matter and require empathy and care to resolve.

As the pandemic changes how businesses and people engage each other, the need for personal, effective communication channels is only going to deepen. Implementing digital experts to provide tailored, context-rich service across all digital channels is cost-effective, helps the organisation deliver an excellent overall customer experience, and frees up human experts to focus on more value-adding tasks.