Technology can change an industry.

In the ’90s, email completely revolutionized the way customers interact with companies, and live chat made these interactions even more instantaneous. So what will be the next technology trend to come along and change the way businesses communicate with each other?

Some professionals in the B2B (business-to-business) customer support industry are speculating that chatbots, a way of receiving automated responses based on the user-submitted text in chat, will be the next major evolution in customer communication. But are they right? Let’s take a look at how chatbots currently mesh with B2B customer support and if they truly have the potential to alter the lines of communication in the future. In particular, there are three key metrics that should be evaluated.

1. Accuracy

One of the areas B2B customer support differs from B2C is related to more importance being placed on resolving issues correctly in B2B support. Losing an account for a B2C company may put a small dent in revenue, but losing a B2B account, especially if it’s sizable, could put an entire company at risk financially.

With accuracy being paramount, even the most sophisticated machine learning produces only an 85 percent accuracy rate for chatbot responses, and it’s safe to say many enterprise solutions perform well below this percentage. Especially in B2B, in order for chatbots (or any customer support medium) to be effective, the user needs to receive the correct information to resolve their issue.

If they can’t get the answer they need, then it’s a waste of the user’s time, and their frustration only increases. As an employer of B2B support agents myself, if an agent was wrong with their response 15 percent of the time, they probably wouldn’t have a job for very long. Solving customer issues correctly the first time is simply crucial to happy customers and a productive support team.

2. Integration

Speak with any technology professional in B2B or B2C and they’ll stress the importance of integrations and systems communicating together. With so many software solutions specialized in certain tasks and procedures, limiting the amount of manual work through integrations is crucial to reducing overhead costs.

As it stands today, the majority of chatbots currently on the market exist completely independently of customer support software. Sure, there are some integrations available, but these can sometimes be cumbersome and may actually result in more work for agents.

For example, a chatbot solution may not filter out bot responses, meaning an agent may have to sift through a long chatbot conversation in order to get up to speed with a customer issue. This can be problematic if supporting a customer via phone or live chat, where responses are expected to be more immediate than email. It also hurts how quickly agents can address issues as well as their overall productivity.

3. User experience

For better or worse, the B2B industry does not adopt technology as fast as its B2C counterpart. Some employees in the B2B industry still prefer to pick up the phone and will reach out to any contact they have within a company — be it sales, IT, or support — with any issue they may have because they either have a working relationship with that person or they don’t want to have to find the right contact themselves.

With this said, the current user experience for chatbots can be confusing for B2B customers. Believe it or not, some confusion still exists in non-tech industries between live chat and chatbots, where a customer thinks they are starting a chat conversation with a person and gets confused when bot responses are presented instead.

The undoubted unpleasantness of this experience may diminish over time as chatbots become more high profile, but a user experience solution I’d like to see implemented more for B2B is unifying both live chat and chatbots into a single experience. By this, I’m talking about when a chat window is initially opened, a customer has a choice on what path they’d like to pursue (live chat or chatbot) to resolve their issue.

What comes next

In conclusion, chatbots currently do not mesh well with B2B customer support and fare little better with B2C customer support. Chatbots just aren’t accurate enough currently to replace the personal touch needed to maintain the delicate, complex, and highly important relationships with B2B customers.

The sophistication of integrations supplied by chatbot systems with other software is still emerging, and overall education about the functionality of chatbots needs to increase for the B2B audience to feel more comfortable using them. Most of the functionality of chatbots today can be better optimized through the right customer support software solution that enables tickets to be specifically routed to the correct agent or team.

Even though chatbots aren’t quite ready to take over the world, the technology is certainly intriguing, and the customer support industry should definitely keep an eye on it. It wasn’t very long ago people were questioning the impact of email in the same way we’re discussing chatbots today. Although it seems unlikely chatbots will have the same impact on everyday life as email has, the possibility of refining and deploying automated assistance for daily use in business may only be a decade or two away. To echo my initial statement, technology can change an industry, and this type of technology is capable of wide-scale change. It’s just not there yet, especially in the business-to-business world.

Get more stories like this on TwitterFacebook