In the past, commerce was always about two people trading with each other — a truly human experience.

Over time, we became more sophisticated, which led to the creation of currencies and commercial institutions, like retail stores. Now, with the advent of the internet and the birth of ecommerce, we’ve agreed to a Faustian bargain: to trade the human connection for unlimited product selection and convenience. Ecommerce has certainly made shopping more efficient. And, as companies have scaled, bots have come in to replace the people who help us.

Bots are now poised to disrupt the commerce experience, which raises questions about their limitations and the continuing value of human involvement. What can bots do? What should bots do? How can humans and bots work together to service customers?

The real cost of bots

While bots are efficient and economical, their use can come at a cost, a.k.a. loss of the human connection. If you’ve ever had a bad experience with a bot, you know there’s something special about connecting with another person that cannot be replicated by bots or A.I. Humans are able to bring empathy, taste, and an understanding of underlying issues to an experience, which is paramount to how people buy.

As a chat commerce app, our Operator app often receives requests from users who are looking for a solution but have no idea where to start. One of our human experts recently helped a jewelry maker who needed a storage solution for a 100,000 bead collection. Our agent selected an antique printer cabinet that was a far more personal and workable solution than the plastic containers the customer originally sought.

Bots can’t provide these personal insights. But by coupling technological efficiency and scale with human input, we can make better recommendations faster. Ultimately, it’s the consumer experience that should drive the “bots versus human” decision.

For many business owners, a hybrid experience of both humans and bots will be the right solution.

Bots should enhance the human experience, not replace it. There are things a bot can do better, faster, or even more accurately than humans, such as automating feedback requests or collecting tailored information for a specific request.

Then there are things that only humans can deliver (at least for now), such as building rapport, trust, and relationships. The key is in balancing how we use all of these tools — which include bots — to streamline, improve, and personalize a client’s experience.

With this in mind, here’s how can we optimize the bot and human experience:

1. Know your customer

Use bots to gather information about your customer so you can help serve them by asking the right questions. The great thing about bots is they can collect data simply by having users tap selections. Continue to build upon the data you’re receiving to better understand your customer and iteratively build upon the experience you’re delivering.

2. Embrace the human connection

There’s nothing more frustrating for a user than talking to a bot that isn’t able to understand them, so don’t be afraid to interrupt a bot conversation if it’s not going as planned. Bots are great, but at the end of the day, the power of bots comes from helping people connect more efficiently. Bots can provide an opportunity to learn about your customer before a service rep gets involved, so make sure you are able to deliver a personalized, engaging experience to customers when they reach you.

3. Create a tailored, personalized experience

Once your bot has learned more about the customer, it’s important to demonstrate how their interaction with the bot will improve their experience by presenting customers with curated options and service. By presenting a thoughtfully limited range of choices, we free our clients from the tyranny of making tiny decisions so they can focus on the ones that really matter.

At the end of the day, this is what we’re here to do — employ tools in the best way to make our customers’ lives easier, to make the world not only more convenient and connected, but more relevant, more personalized, and better curated.