The artificial intelligence (A.I.) race is on, as the major tech companies offer to help save consumers valuable time with a new wave of virtual assistants and bots.
On a weekly basis, I receive multiple sales emails from chatbot companies trying to sell me bots for marketing and customer service. Allegedly, more than 285,000 chatbots have been created by various bot studios around the globe.
The recent buzz around chatbots is continuing to grow, however the team here at Teckst speak on a daily basis with customer service leaders from Fortune 500s who believe chatbots add more problems than they solve.
In most instances, when people contact customer service, they have an issue that needs fixing or a question about a product. This generally requires interaction with a live person, rather than a chat with a bot that serves up automated responses.
Some of those questions are very simple, like “Where’s my food?” or “How do I return something?”
Although it would be great to have a bot to help solve these issues for the customer, the decision tree of responses a chatbot would have to know to solve a simple question grows exponentially with every interaction. What if a customer has multiple orders or ordered from a different account? If they need a return, which item specifically? Would the customer prefer to exchange it? The options are as annoying as “Press 1 for account history, 2 for account balance…”
While A.I. brings tremendous innovation and a way for brands to connect with their customers — as a novelty — don’t expect chatbots to replace customer service anytime soon.
Where chatbots can help
The perfect usage of bots is not to replace customer service agents, but rather to enhance them.
We call this Bionic Customer Service, or BCS ,for short. Companies like X.ai utilize this concept perfectly. Amy is X.ai’s personal assistant that can schedule meetings to give you time to do more important things. Although Amy effortlessly schedules the meetings, she doesn’t attend the meeting for you or your coworkers. She’s a support, not a replacement.
Dutch airline KLM is another example of a brand that’s using messaging apps for customer service manned by humans. The company is testing the use of blending answers from human customer service agents and automated bots.
At Teckst, we see tremendous potential for this human plus A.I. approach. Customer agents become quicker, have more information at their fingertips, and receive supplemental help from bots.
Brands are recognizing that customer service is an integral part of the customer journey, and they’re upping their game. Those who are still in the Dark Ages in terms of customer experience will either improve or go the way of Blockbuster. New services are now available to bridge the wave of A.I. technologies for businesses that care about connecting in real time with their customers.
At the airport, for example, when a flight gets cancelled, a massive line of people queue at the help desk, their blood pressure rising with every minute they spend in line. Allowing them to communicate in real time with a bionic customer service app would be the best possible outcome and could result in passengers being placed on other flights within a few minutes. Texting and messaging apps are integral as inputs to the bionic customer service agent, who conducts an orchestra of bots to solve the issue of redistributing 200 passengers.
But as exciting as chatbots have become, they are not ready for prime time when it comes to customer interaction — the A.I. just isn’t as intelligent as it needs to be. However, bots bring tremendous potential to customer service agents who can manage them and oversee the inputs and outputs.
The secret is to make life easier for the customer service agents. If you can achieve that, you will reduce wait times for customers and solve issues faster. Rather than trying to replace the agent, replace the manual tasks the agent has to do. Focus on their goals, and use bots to automate the mundane.
We’ve been analyzing the use cases in which bots can best help customer service teams for more than a year. Similar to Slackbot’s approach, the best scenario is when a bot engages with customer service agents directly, as well as with other customer-centric teams, such as those in product and marketing. For example, an agent can respond to a ticket, and in real time we can update the ticket with recommended replies, read time, expected response time, and other metrics. If a customer asks about a return, the bot can help the agent facilitate that more easily.
This is the immediate goal for chatbots. The future of A.I. is incredibly bright and will continue to help us with the everyday tasks that take up our precious time. The chatbot revolution, on the other hand, is still a work in progress.