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Chatbots Elevate Customer Service Agents to More Strategic Roles

By Special Guest
Jason Kapler, VP Marketing, LiveWorld
August 07, 2017

Customer service teams are in pursuit of better, cheaper, and faster ways to connect and converse with their customers.  The previously “alternate” customer-to-brand methods, like messaging apps and social options, have become mainstream.  Facebook offers a platform for businesses to deliver automated customer support and advice via chatbots.  By 2020, Gartner predicts this type of intelligent automation will manage 85 percent of customer relationships with businesses.

If you believe all the hype, chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) are destined to completely replace customer service (CS) agents.  However, data suggests it won’t happen anytime soon.  In fact, many companies are investing in human resources to handle consumer interactions, because they realize automation can’t ever replace the desire for authentic human interactions and experiences.

Think of chatbots as assistants rather than customer service agent replacements

Chatbots may, in fact, be creating jobs, not killing them.  While Forrester data reveals that 60 percent of U.S. online adults already use online messaging, voice, or video chat services, there are challenges to widespread adoption.

A Forrester survey of online consumers found that respondents had a difficult time identifying clear benefits to interacting with chatbots and many prefer to communicate with a representative who can show real empathy, address more complex needs, and offer them assurance.  That suggests the future for customer service is working with chatbots, not replacing human CS agents.

In this customer service scenario, chatbots elevate humans by taking the more mundane, repetitive tasks and providing agents with the time to compassionately and empathetically work with more difficult, complex, or higher value cases.

To use military analogies, chatbots are on the front lines as first responders that handle the easy, routine incoming messages.  They are the chatbot army.  CS agents are special ops, with the uniquely human skill sets needed to provide quality customer care.  This bot + human combination is the best way to provide speed, scale and quality to create highly effective CS teams of the future.

Using chatbots effectively to streamline customer service

As consumer preferences shift to messaging apps and more direct and efficient means to communicate with brands, companies will need to determine what chatbots and automation are good for, and where human teams add the greatest value.

In the travel industry, brands are shifting away from human interaction and more towards self-service options.  Check your bags via a chatbot and self-service kiosks remove the need for human interaction, until something goes wrong and you need a real person.

Jo Allison, consumer behavioral analyst at research firm Canvas8, which has published several reports on chatbots, agrees.  “The potential chatbots have to improve customer service is exciting because it’s very real,” says Allison, who sees the technology as an alternative to the “almost universally unpopular” interactive voice response (IVR) technology used by many companies’ customer service operations now.

Chatbots will add value by enabling customer service agents to be more efficient

If bots are going to replace CS agents, it won't happen any time soon. Admittedly, chatbots work well in scenarios when customer requests are in a specific area and the solutions are well known, predictable and scriptable.  They perform well in use cases where the responses are similar and the high volume creates a business case to automate the response and free up human agents to deal with more complex issues.  For chatbot automation to handle messaging at scale, it needs to bring the personal and conversational aspect, to react like a human, and it’s not there yet.

The future of the customer experience isn’t an either/or choice, between chatbots or humans. The role of chatbots should be to bring efficiencies to business operations, particularly when it comes to automating tasks and processes where humans don’t add value.  The human touch and the role it plays will remain vital to the overall customer experience.

About the Author

As Vice President of Marketing, Jason Kapler heads up the corporate strategy for LiveWorld’s  marketing efforts by managing the team that oversees their marketing programs targeting large global brands. His leadership assists with the shaping of corporate, sales and product strategies, developing compelling marketing programs, and their tactical execution. Connect with him @JasonKapler on Twitter. 

Edited by Erik Linask

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