How to launch a successful customer service chatbot in 2024: 9 essential steps + a bonus tip

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week
chatbot ai success

Gone are the days when you needed a bottomless budget, teams of engineers, and many months of workshops and meetings to launch a chatbot.

Today, you can get one up and running in less than 10 minutes to meet the needs of every customer instantly, 24 hours a day, without increasing your support teams or spending a fortune. But it all hinges on you taking the right course from the start…

Follow these 9 essential steps to ace your chatbot launch and uncover the widely held assumption that often throws people off course, so you can navigate around it with ease.

TL;DR

  • Choosing goals you know will make the biggest commercial difference is the first, most crucial step because you can use an AI assistant in so many different ways to benefit your business
  • An AI assistant is there to serve your customers and support your agents, but launching isn’t a once-and-done task; think of it as a new team member
  • Think about the channels your AI assistant will live on, decide who will be responsible for it, make sure you test your AI assistant internally and keep training it for continuous improvement
  • Prioritise customer feedback and be sure to track your results, since your AI assistant is learning and improving all the time to give you everything you need to improve your service
  • The sooner you can get your AI assistant live and speaking to real customers, the sooner you can start to learn what they actually want, not what you think they want

Why launch a chatbot for customer service support?

McKinsey states “AI-enabled customer service is now the quickest and most effective route for institutions to deliver personalized, proactive experiences that drive customer engagement”.

With an AI assistant’s instant and tailored support, you can completely transform your customer journey. Not only reducing your call volume, improving your average response time and increasing customer engagement, but showing customers you care. An AI assistant can serve the needs of every customer individually with great ease, even when it’s speaking to tens of thousands of them all at once, and we all know happy customers become loyal fans, preventing customer churn and increasing your customer retention rate.

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Can (and should) you build your own customer service chatbot?

You can build your own chatbot, but it’s not as easy as it might sound, especially since today’s chatbots are now highly sophisticated AI assistants that are as much about customer experience and achieving empathy as they are about coding and technical prowess. You need a lot of time, money, and expertise, including a  team of developers to create an AI assistant by merging together:

On top of this, you need data scientists, language experts, writers and designers to help train and maintain an AI assistant that can keep up with the ever-changing needs and expectations of your customers.

It’s a multidisciplinary effort and if you’re a very large organisation all set up for this, DIY is an option.

If you don’t have this kind of capacity or would rather spend your time and resources developing other areas of your business, you can get a fully customisable AI assistant without the need to hire anyone new or spend months in project discussions. Use a trusted provider to supervise your journey (or do it all for you), and you’ll benefit from their cutting-edge technology and experience. They’ll also take care of things you might not have thought of or specialise in, like:

9 steps to launching a chatbot successfully so you can aim high and scale fast

If you’re launching your first AI assistant or reinventing an old chatbot, you couldn’t have chosen a better time. It’s never been so easy to dive into advanced AI with no technical know-how, nor has the technology ever been so affordable. LLMs too, like GPT, have revolutionised the way we launch and train AI assistants, making the processes even faster and reducing what is already minimal work for you to do.

On the flip side, there’s also never been so much hype around AI. New tools and platforms are popping up faster than a whack-a-mole on double espresso and customer service leaders everywhere are starting to embrace the benefits of AI automation. It’s important to recognise it might now be easy to launch an AI assistant, but there are appropriate steps to take to make sure it’s highly successful and, especially with LLMs, to use a platform provider who knows how to introduce LLM tech safely.

Here are the nine steps you’ll need to focus on to get to what really matters to your organisation when you launch an AI assistant for customer service.

1. Define your goals for customer service success

It’s exciting launching an AI assistant. You might start thinking about what’ll it’ll look like or how you’ll choose a name, but before you even select the platform you’ll create it on, decide on the criteria for its success to give you the best chance of achieving it. This is the very first and most crucial step because you can use an AI assistant in so many different ways to benefit your business, so it’s important to select goals you know will make the biggest commercial difference.

Using a framework like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), your list will likely include one or more of the following:

Once you’ve chosen your most important customer service goals, record how your performance sits today, so you can accurately track your progress weekly after you’ve launched your AI assistant.

2. Get your teams on board

An AI assistant is there to serve your customers, but also support your agents. Providing opportunities for customer support teams to cut out stress, make better use of their expertise and be proactive in their work, make sure everyone’s aware of the launch and knows what you’re working towards.

Choose an experienced provider and you won’t need any engineering or technical knowledge to create your AI assistant ― you can launch in just 10 minutes using only your website URL.

Platform screen showing a box to input your website url

Any management of your AI assistant is easy too, since an advanced platform will automate AI assistant training, sending you suggestions to simply approve or not approve, ready to keep your AI assistant running at peak performance. This means anyone from your team can be responsible for it, knowing the tech part is already taken care of.

If you work in a highly regulated industry, read our extra guidance to help you prepare for approval with compliance officers where onboarding is especially strict.

3. Create a strong brand connection

Launching an AI assistant isn’t a once-and-done task. It helps to think of it as a new team member more than anything else. It’ll need training and assessment on its path to becoming a true expert in everything you do, so your AI assistant can support your customers in every way, just like the rest of your teams do. To speed up training, you can even upload company documents for your AI assistant to learn from, ready to find answers to customer questions from your pre-approved content that are highly specific to your organisation.

Companies like Stena Line Ferries have been using an AI assistant successfully for almost a decade to scale customer service support in a way that hasn’t been possible before:

  • Be there for your customers 24/7
  • Support them in any time zone
  • Recognition for 100+ languages

Being able to rely on an AI assistant to carry out routine tasks gives your teams more time to focus on developing new ways to increase customer loyalty as the favoured brand within your market.

4. Think about where your AI assistant will live

An advanced AI assistant can live on any channel of communication, whether it’s your website, a mobile app, smart speakers, a social media channel or messaging platform. Thinking about where your unique customer base likes to hang out and the channels they’re most familiar with, decide where to launch your AI assistant so it’s most beneficial to them.

Meet your customers where they are

Customers now expect seamless support across multiple channels and you can rapidly increase the omnichannel customer experience over time, but you don’t have to go all in from the off if it’s not right for you.

  • For most companies, the contact page on your website is a good place to start since customers wanting to make contact are already there.
  • Your website home page or main social selling channel is also a good starting point, so customers don’t have to navigate to a second page to find your AI assistant.
  • Hot tip: It’s a lot easier to add more channels and features than it is to take them away, so take your time and add each channel as you’re certain it’s needed.

"The AI assistant is transforming the way our customers access information. We believe we can enjoy better customer relationships by allowing customers to contact us via the channel of their choice."

Dwain Nicely

DX & Digital Manager

Remember: Wherever you put your AI assistant, be sure to promote it. Failing to promote your AI assistant is one of the key reasons why chatbots fail, so be sure to let people know it’s there.

5. Decide who’s responsible for your AI assistant

Launching an AI assistant means you’ll need the right people to take care of it. Anyone working closely with your AI assistant should understand the heart and soul of your organisation and be committed to giving your customers the best support possible. Your AI assistant will then reflect that.

They don’t need to be an AI expert or a writer or a data analyst. With an advanced conversational AI platform  so much of the work is done for you:

You can check progress and view reports any time on your AI assistant dashboard and report back to the rest of your teams.

AI Studio dashboard showing data for AI assistant conversations

6. Try out your AI assistant and fail well

Before you launch your AI assistant to the world, make sure you talk with it to try it out and ask others you trust to do the same. Remember, your AI assistant can only answer questions it’s trained on and this knowledge grows over time, but you can make sure you ‘fail well’.

Avoid customers getting stuck in a loop

When someone asks a question your AI assistant isn’t trained to respond to, or perhaps it’s irrelevant to your business ― asking an insurance company what the football scores are for example, your AI assistant should still have a response for them:

  • Your AI assistant has a default fallback message it sends out when it can’t answer and you can edit this response any time to make sure customers get the most appropriate and helpful response.
  • Set up live chat, so your AI assistant can pass customers over to your team if it can’t help or it’s a sensitive subject that needs the human touch.
  • Include your contact details as a last resort, or let customers know when they’ll hear back from you, so they always know exactly what to expect next to avoid frustration.

Focus on overall customer experience

You can preview any responses you add to your AI assistant before publishing it to check you’re happy with the content, and when you’re testing out those responses, consider what experience your customers are having on the other side.

  • What vibe do they get?
  • Are they left with any unanswered questions?

If you’re nervous about customer reactions, you can always soft launch your AI assistant on a more discreet page of your website and go from there, but the sooner you set your AI assistant live, the sooner it starts to learn and then rapidly improves.

7. Keep evolving your AI assistant

Once your AI assistant’s live and having conversations with real customers, it can evolve at a rapid pace and its capacity for learning overtakes anything we can do as humans. Still, it’s vital to keep a human in the loop to check your AI assistant is always operating at peak performance:

  • Reviewing conversations it has with your customers
  • Looking for patterns in conversations that highlight where bottlenecks show up, technical issues need resolving, or information is confusing
  • Providing data to transform your customer insights, so you can fix any difficulties

If you don’t want to manage your AI assistant yourself, you can always ask an experienced provider to do it all for you.

Top tip: Have your teams use your AI assistance as a reference library, since it learns and remembers everything there is to know about everything you do, keeping everyone up to date with the latest accurate information.

8. Prioritise customer feedback

Having an AI assistant on the support team can transform your customer insights:

  • How are customers feeling?
    Ask them to rate every conversation using emojis 😠 😒 😐 🙂 😃
  • Where can you improve your service?
    Customers can tell you about their experience in real time while they’re clearest on what worked well and what could work better.

Real time engagement with your customers is one of the easiest ways to get to know what your customers really think, and it’s super easy to do with an AI assistant on the team.

9. Keep measuring the impact of using AI

Once you’re up and running with your AI assistant, it’s time to consistently revisit the key customer service goals you set back at the beginning.

  • Are you meeting them?
  • How can you make sure you do?

Act on all the richness of the customer data you get from your AI assistant and make changes to your processes or procedures any time you need to. Your AI assistant might not be a living, breathing entity, but it’s learning and improving all the time to give you everything you need to get ahead of your competition.

Real world results show progress is fast

In six months of having an AI assistant, Barking & Dagenham Council reduced call volume by 6%, increased customer satisfaction by 67%, and saved £48,000. A few months later they were using their AI assistant to help out another five departments and their Return on Investment (ROI) hit 533%.

⇒ Calculate your estimated ROI using our handy savings calculator

Calculate your savings

Calculate the cost savings that will be achieved by adding an AI assistant to your website

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25,000+

Move the slider above to match your total customer service load per month (including calls, emails and live chats).
To calculate accurate savings for your business, put your real figures in the boxes below to replace these benchmarks.

your current average cost per enquiry (calls, emails, and live chats)
of enquiries you wish to be handled by your AI assistant (without the need for a call, email or live chat)
your average hourly rate for customer service rep / agent (including costs such as training, equipment, recruitment)

Bonus tip: Why less is more when you launch an advanced AI assistant

It’s common for customer service leaders to assume the more information you give your AI assistant in the beginning, the more helpful it can be and the faster it can improve, but over years of experience creating AI assistants, we’ve learnt that’s not the case at all.

The one idea you should turn on its head

Whether you’re thinking about B2C or B2B best practices for launching an AI assistant, the recommendation stays the same: launch with minimal frequently asked questions and just let your AI assistant learn.

You think you know what your customers will ask for, but most of our clients find it surprising and insightful to see what actually happens when their new AI assistant sets to work, so the sooner you can get your AI assistant live and speaking to real customers, the sooner you can start to learn what they actually want, not what you think they want.

Get ahead quickly in the world of advanced AI

You don’t need to know everything about AI to launch a smart assistant. Follow our tips and you’ll soon start saving your teams’ time, reducing overall costs, and delighting your customers with a smooth, automated service for vital, state-of-the-art support.

FAQs

Why is it important to test your AI assistant before launching it?

Testing your AI assistant before launching it is crucial to make sure it functions smoothly and can provide accurate responses to customer queries. By testing it internally, you can identify and rectify any potential issues. Once you’re happy, the sooner you can share your AI assistant with real customers, the better, since guessing and attempting to address every possible issue can actually hinder the performance of your AI assistant, interrupting its natural evolution and decreasing improvement overall.

What role does customer feedback play in the evolution of an AI assistant?

Customer feedback is essential for the continuous improvement of an AI assistant. By allowing customers to rate conversations, share insights, and engage in real time, you can transform your customers insights into customer sentiments, areas for improvement, and service enhancement opportunities. Collecting and listening to customer feedback helps refine your AI assistant’s performance and enhancing overall customer satisfaction, reducing churn and increasing your repurchase rate.

How can you make sure your AI assistant helps maintain a customer-centric approach?

Maintaining a customer service mindset when using an AI assistant involves making sure it helps you continue to achieve empathy and actively addresses customer needs. You should regularly review customer interactions, provide a fallback message for unanswered queries, offer live chat options for sensitive matters, and prioritise overall customer experience. By keeping the focus on customer satisfaction, you can cultivate a positive relationship between customers and the AI assistant.

What are the benefits of regularly measuring the impact of using an AI assistant?

Regularly measuring the impact of using an AI assistant means you can track progress towards your most important customer service goals, transform your customer insights, and make data-driven decisions to enhance your service offerings overall. By analysing the data collected through your AI assistant, you can identify areas for improvement, optimise processes, increase customer engagement (even in a tight budget), and make sure the AI assistant continues to deliver value by meeting customer needs effectively.