business messaging blog
Use chatbots to supplement, not replace, existing customer service efforts
Scott Navratil

Chatbots are one of the most talked-about mobile trends in 2017 with many predicting it will be the future of business-customer interactions. With the growing popularity of chat platforms like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp and the steady popularity of SMS (or text messaging) brands are trying to communicate with customers where they already are. Millennials don’t like to call customer service hotlines, they like to interact with short, to-the-point text interactions via SMS or messaging applications and brands are scrambling to make that possible.

Chatbots are computer programs that are designed to simulate a human chatting via SMS or a chat app. They use varying amounts of artificial intelligence and machine learning to figure out what people are asking them, and then they attempt to generate an appropriate response.

Companies are designing chatbots that can make dinner reservations, book flights, buy movie tickets, complete online purchases, offer product suggestions based on customer preferences, and even resolve customer service issues. There are a growing number of chatbots and chatbot stores across all chat-based platforms and the majority of brands that don’t yet have deployed chatbots are working to develop them. So with all the excitement, is it worth jumping on the bandwagon?

What chatbots can and can’t do

It’s important that brands and customers both recognize the limitations of chatbots in their current state. The technology for chatbots to perfectly simulate conversation with a human simply doesn’t exist. Humans might be fooled initially but they catch on quick that the “person” they’re chatting with isn’t a person at all. According to one study, 70% of customer service interactions via chatbot required human intervention at some point. Just three in ten were able to have their issue resolved without human help. This tells us that we’re still a ways off from replacing live customer service representatives with computer programs.

You may be wondering, if chatbots fail 70% of the time, why invest in developing them at all. The reason is because they can learn. With each failed interaction chatbots get better at interpreting and replicating human speech. They’re worth investing in because they will get better. Even in their current state of development chatbots are worth the effort. Chatbots are most effective when they’re used to automate some of the more simple parts of the customer service interaction such as pulling up account information or answering simple questions that have little room for error and then passing them off to a live agent for additional help.

Chatbots and the future

Chatbots very well may be the future of business-customer interactions and though the technology that would enable chatbots to fully replace live customer service representatives doesn’t yet exist, it can one day. Early adopters of chatbots will be instrumental in advancing the technology and they’ll be a step ahead of those who are hesitant to get on board.

Chantel Fullilove

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