This past week, I was looking for some tax information related to 401(K) and Roth IRA accounts on the website for the retirement accounts provider my employer uses. With end-of-year and tax season looming, it was time (if a bit late in the year...) to be verifying things were on track.
As I was performing my research, I had a chance encounter with a customer service chatbot. I wasn't planning it, but it was a very positive interaction worth sharing as it demonstrated the best of what's possible when at least some of your customer service is machine-driven.
It started my quest in the "help" area of the website. I examined the most popular and other highlighted topics, but my question wasn't answered there. I then performed a search, using the terms I thought appropriate. This returned a list of topics and I started to scroll through them.
By this time, I'd probably been on the website a total of five minutes. Not too long, really, but so far there hadn't been an obvious answer for me.
As I was scrolling through my search results, a chat window appeared in the right margin area–obvious, but not an in your face-type approach. And the question to me was simple yet direct: "Can I help you?"
I was pleasantly surprised by this. It was apparent the website was monitoring my moves, and it had come to the conclusion that after some unsuccessful attempts on my part, it would see if artificial intelligence could help. As the first screen of my search results showed nothing promising, I decided to give it a try.
I put my focus on the newly-opened chat area and typed in my query. I entered my question using the search terms I had been using. That should work.
Interestingly, the chatbot didn't like that. It asked that I provide more context. It further suggested I be more conversational in my query.
Okay, I can do conversational. I typed out my question just as I would ask a human. That made the difference. The chatbot found multiple options for me to consider.
"Choose Your Own Adventure"
Do you recall the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books? This was a series that allowed the reader, at the end of every page, to choose which path to take to continue the story. While this meant a lot of page-flipping and shorter tales within the confines of the pages, the reader could literally experience a unique series of events each time they read the story.
Like those books, the chatbot offered me several potential paths to consider: click here for some relevant knowledge articles (all seemed applicable yet none had appeared in my pre-chatbot search); click here for an interactive online tool for calculating my maximum retirement savings and its impact on taxes; click here for two articles offering opinions on tax-saving strategies; and finally, click here to have a financial representative call me. (Unlike with "Choose Your Own Adventure," I opted to explore them all except for the callback.) I am happy to say each provided great information; the chatbot had performed well, much better than my search attempts.
End-to-End Automated Service
I've seen very few websites achieve this level of customer service automation; this particular service website was truly considering the customer experience. I had the option of using many different help tools: search, links to popular articles, chatbot, and others. After some time, the website determined I was not making any headway with my issue and a chatbot offered to assist. The chatbot then identified multiple applicable resources, allowing me to utilize the option(s) I preferred.
Unlike with other products or services, I have no choice as to who my employer uses to service our retirement accounts. They could offer terrible service and I would have no option to try a competitor. However, as a result of receiving such helpful automated service, I am much more likely to consider opening additional accounts with them. In addition, I am much more likely to recommend them to colleagues, friends, and family members seeking suggestions for a financial services firm. And with that, this company reaps the benefit of delivering great customer service: retention, growth, and positive referrals.
[Image source: Pixabay.com]