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Articles January 20, 2023

Chatbots in 2023: Moving from Novelty to Necessity

Jason Snook Patrick Saleeby
Jason Snook, Patrick Saleeby

Before the pandemic, live chat and chatbots (in a category we call Conversational Technologies) were still a fairly novel technology found on a handful of websites. While a few companies made investments to deploy effective chat experiences, most weren’t very well-designed and had pretty limited functionality.

Then came the pandemic and the need for “contact-less” customer experiences and the utility of chat and other conversational solutions rose dramatically. But while consumer openness and business utility were there, capabilities had to catch up. Many of the platforms were (and still are) maturing in their capabilities and access for most companies. In addition, a general understanding of what it took to successfully design and deploy a thoughtful chat experience was still developing.

Fast forward to 2022 and our latest Consumer Survey showed interest in chat rising in a way that presents a significant opportunity for companies. Far from being a novel technology, chat has begun to find mainstream consumer interest. For several reasons we’ll outline below, chat is no longer a “nice to have” technology; rather, chat-based solutions have become an essential channel. We’ve entered a stage where not offering consumer chat-based solutions could put some companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Positive chat experiences have raised consumer expectations

After seeing more than half of respondents in our 2020 consumer survey indicate they had used chat, only about a quarter of respondents indicated interest in chat in 2021. 

Now, in 2022, roughly half of respondents (55%) indicated they’ve recently used live chat. In fact, respondents indicated that they prefer chat for customer service and support functions. A smaller percentage showed an interest in making a purchase or a reservation using chat. This would indicate that consumers increasingly view chat as a quicker and easier way to get an answer to a question or for common support tasks.

Chat can make brands more accessible to their customers

From a brand perspective, this is significant because it indicates a shift in consumer behavior and also an opportunity to better engage consumers; 41% of consumers we surveyed stated a preference for using live chat over calling a company, and 63% stated that live chat made a company feel more accessible. 

Chat has many advantages over traditional channels like call centers. In studies we’ve conducted on chat, we’ve observed consumers using chat during an online shopping experience as a way of getting guidance or support without having to leave the experience. Chatbots, in particular, provide the advantage of being available 24/7, long after a company’s call center has closed for the evening. In fact, we saw chatbot usage actually increase after 5:00 pm — likely when consumers are done with their day and have time to shop.

Leveraging automation can lead to even greater efficiencies

Automation can give companies even more opportunities to engage with customers. Many companies will start with live chat but then start to automate common tasks through a chatbot. Others will optimize their existing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) design and begin to introduce automations through Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA). Managing these automations through the cloud and maximizing the benefits of customer data by applying machine learning can multiply the benefits of these solutions. This serves the customer more efficiently and it introduces cost-saving efficiencies for companies looking to innovate their way through a potential recession.

Chat allows companies to meet customers where they are — now

Chat solutions meet consumer preferences and allow companies to be more accessible. This will be important in the coming year, particularly if consumer behaviors change as we enter a potential economic slowdown. As we saw in 2020, companies that innovate their way through 2023 with technologies like chat will be able to attract and retain customers at a time when brand loyalty is no longer automatic. Leading companies will use them to gain a “early mover” advantage over their competitors. With conversational solutions gaining traction with consumers, and generative AI solutions like ChatGPT gaining notoriety, companies will need to approach these technologies with urgency in 2023 - or risk having to playing catch up with their competitors in 2024.

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Jason Snook

Jason Snook

Fellow, Customer Experience

For nearly 20 years, Jason has been helping companies design experiences that are easier, more effective, and more enjoyable for customers and employees. He is a Fellow within our CX practice, currently researching conversational technologies and applied AI.

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Patrick Saleeby

Associate Content Director

For over a decade Patrick has specialized in content-based projects, which includes web copy, niche user interfaces, and conversational technologies. At CapTech he has worked on conversational technology engagements for multiple clients.