Maintaining and enhancing human connection is still imperative for businesses of all types to expand customer engagement. This need, which increases in value every day, is juxtaposed by the very real limitations of human capital, hiring restrictions, and cost. Most companies simply do not have the resources to invest in a fully loaded customer service organization with the depth and breadth to tackle every customer inquiry within the time frame customers expect. And to top it, off many of these inquiries are simple questions that could be answered quickly and easily.

That’s where chatbots enter as a customer service team’s new best friend.  Welcome, chatbot. They can hold and drive conversation with customers, take payments, and be a powerful resource to offload many routine questions. Bots can understand and triage problems and, if a customer needs to be turned over to a live representative, arm their human counterparts with insight and data to make informed and swift decisions.

According to a recent report by CNBC, chatbots are expected to save businesses more than $8 billion in operating costs in just the next two years.

As chatbots become more ubiquitous and more savvy, their roles are expanding beyond front line customer service and into billing and payments.

Bots and Bills

 Integrating bot technology into a digital payment infrastructure can provide significant upside for any organization that direct-bills consumers. Imagine a customer landing on your website and immediately encountering a friendly, helpful, and personalized chatbot offering assistance.  The engagement could begin as simply as the customer saying or typing “get bill.” From there the chatbot takes over, unleashing a cascade of capabilities that benefit to both the consumer and the business.

First, the integrated chatbot sends an API request to the payments system and instantly returns a payment link for the customer to proceed. Compound the speed of that response – literally seconds – with the convenience of having a chatbot and payments system also integrated with a number of payment gateways – from electronic bank transfer to digital wallets like PayPal or AmazonPay. The customer can complete the transaction without ever exiting the chat box.

One simple customer query to “get bill” has quickly evolved into an instant payment, on-time, in-full, no customer service intervention or live operator required.

Let’s suppose the customer has a billing question. The intelligent chatbot can scour billing information and provide insight and information, presented succinctly and precisely. Over the course of time, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning helps each chatbot encounter become more tailored and productive. Built in emotional intelligence and natural language processing enable chatbots to understand, respond, and drive conversation and customer engagement on human terms – not robospeak.

If the bot hits a wall and can’t solve the problem on its own – it doesn’t break down or fall into circular logic like bots of the past. Instead, it quickly hands over the customer inquiry to a human counterpart – preloading all the important background information collected through the chat – thus eliminating the uncomfortable friction of making a customer repeat their entire chatbot conversation.

Beyond managing questions and issues, a chatbot can deftly and instantly provide updates on transaction history, payment confirmation, expense records and more, which can increase trust, loyalty, and customer retention.

And we haven’t gotten to the exciting part yet.

Bots Go Social

The scenario described above resides on your website. But imagine the possibilities of engaging more fully with customers where they spend the most time – connected to social media or via text. Facebook is testing a chatbot application for businesses to interact directly with the public.  Texting platforms like WhatsApp – highly trusted by consumers for personal interaction – are being utilized as chatbot-enabled communications platforms by visionary customer service organizations.

Chatbots operating within social networks and on texting platforms have the potential to exponentially expand reach and engagement opportunities. It’s not hard to imagine a day when socially deployed, intelligent bots, actively identify customers and prospects based on their posts, shares, and likes and engage them in conversation, customer service, and purchase opportunities.

Lastly, let’s not overlook the fact that chatbots are data-goldmines. Every customer question, answer, and interaction – whether resolved by the bot itself or put through to an agent – is captured and available for analysis. This data can power insight into customer preferences and satisfaction, as well as identify areas of customer friction – all of which can be operationalized to build stronger, more enduring, and more profitable customer relationships.

In just a few short years, chatbots have evolved from novel technology used by some to a bottom-line business necessity. Soon enough, those who fail to adopt risk being left behind. Integrating chatbots into your payment and billing systems is easier than you might imagine. The Paymentus Instant Payment Network includes a fully integrated, AI powered chatbot feature suitable for businesses of any size. For more on how Paymentus can help you Bill Better, visit paymentus.com or to request an Instant Payment Network demo, visit www.paymentus.com/contact.