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Chatbots and Human – Finding the Right Balance for Customer Service

chatbots

Chatbots and Human – Finding the Right Balance for Customer Service

Customer service plays a vital role in bringing success to a business. Good customer service can earn a business an increase in revenue of $823 million. Over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenue, while bad customer service can lead to a business’s failure.

A majority of businesses today invest in their customer service departments. Putting the improvement of their customer experience as the top priority.

These improvements include proper and adequate training for their customer service agents. And even implementing artificial intelligence (AI) like chatbots to aid in their daily operations.

This leads us to these two main questions: 

1) What are chatbots?

2) Where chatbots are used?

Chatbots are computer programs that mimic written or spoken human speech to simulate human conversations or interactions based on predefined conditions, triggers, and events.

Similar to virtual assistants like Google Now and Apple’s Siri, which are AIs that use voice recognition systems, chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) technology.

Chatbots process (parse) the text sent in by users before responding in line with a series of complex algorithms that interprets what the user said. 

Chatbots in businesses used for optimizing supply chain management (manufacturing operations, procurement, inventory management, etc.). Also, they’ve made a greater impact on customer service space. 

What is the purpose of chatbots?

Chatbots used to save human resources in the business world. It allows businesses to claim a 24/7 chat support.

They used to provide brands with services that don’t directly generate revenue, but aid businesses’ ability to better target and serve their customers (also called ‘value adds’). These services include bots used for research and lead generation.

It all boils down to the company’s attempt to improve its customer experience. Chatbots are also called conversational agents; that is why they are used for engaging in conversations in place of a human customer service agent. 

Interacting with chatbots has become increasingly popular that, according to Statista, 67% of consumers worldwide have used a chatbot for customer support in 2016. Even with its popularity, one important question remains: Do customers like chatbots?

Investor reveals that 40% of consumers don’t care if a chatbot handles their concerns over a real human as long as they get the job done.

And at a time when self-serve tools are preferred by consumers (more than six out of ten), having chat bots to answer customers around the clock favors businesses because robust customer support means higher customer satisfaction.

Chatbots vs. Humans

What are chatbots good for? Are they even promising, at least from a business perspective?

Even though chatbots are widely used, companies still need humans to perform tasks for customer support. Chatbots and humans work in unison for a majority of businesses that employ chatbots in customer support.

It is not a battle between the two workforces (well, at least not yet), but rather about finding the right balance for chatbots and humans in customer support implementation. Which then leads us to the next question: What are chatbots used for in customer service?

Chatbots, as previously mentioned, are programs that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can parse data, complete calculations in the power of tens of thousands, and provide users with answers in seconds.

They won’t experience fatigue (unlike humans), so they work efficiently and with high productivity. This makes them deployable for high volume, very specific queries, and processes that need automation.

Using chatbots for these tasks lessens the need for humans to operate business applications. For example, chatbots can help predict what a customer wants based on their previous purchase. In a way, chatbots like this are providing proactive rather than reactive service.

This is something humans can’t do manually with the amount of data that needs to be processed. 

One area where chatbots are useful would be in repetitive jobs that involve simple queries since they are bots that don’t get bored doing the same tasks repeatedly.

A chatbot’s response is faster compared to live chats with real humans, and this becomes highly valuable, especially in the digital age where customers want answers as fast as they can get.

Quick response from bots is possible because they have access to all the information relevant to the business. Their responses are also standardized and consistent every time since all their answers come from one database. 

For example, businesses implement chat bots to answer predefined Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from customers who don’t want to spend a lot of time scrolling through a long list of FAQs to find answers their questions.

Most customers expect to find the information they need in a click of a button, so it makes sense that these customers prefer reaching out to chatbots rather than waiting for a human to answer their inquiries.

Interestingly, when interacting with chatbots, even if something doesn’t work out perfectly, customers will be more understanding knowing that they are interacting with a bot rather than a real human.

From the business perspective, bots don’t require holidays or vacations, nor do they need annual increases in income. Chatbots are machines that can keep on running without needing to rest, unlike humans.

They also don’t need a raise in salaries because they are programs, and the only change they need is a program update in their codes or their database.

Chatbots can also be implemented through various channels like SMS, chat, and even on social media. These various platforms allow businesses to be more reachable to more customers in any way they are comfortable with.

This feeds the idea that businesses with an approachable customer support system are more likely to be successful than customers who prefer shopping or doing business via chat. 

If chatbots are that great, why won’t businesses go one hundred percent artificial intelligence? 

Like any technology, chatbots are still man-made. Therefore they lack some abilities humans have and are still prone to human errors. Remember, bots are programs; they run solely on the code and information provided to them. If the code is bad, the bot will also provide bad service.

As programs, they are also impersonal. They may mimic how humans converse with other humans, but they do not have the innate emotional intelligence humans have. Chatbots can’t read tone and emotion in human speech as much as humans do.

Currently, chatbots still redirect the most complex conversations to human agents for further assistance. Most self-service customer support can depend on chatbots when responding to users, especially for simple and recurring queries.

But when it comes to unique and specific customer support problems, human to human interaction is still preferred. For many customers, not being able to speak to a real person right away is the number one reason that deters them from contacting a company.

And as problems become more complex, customers are more likely to seek out human interaction over chatbots because humans better understand each other than any bot can. 

Are Chatbots the Future?

At the time of writing, humans and chatbots work in unison to provide users better customer experience. Chatbots are the future in such a way that they help humans simplify complex tasks.

They help satisfy more people a lot quicker and at a lower cost than a full human arsenal, but they can’t deal with more intense situations.

While there is no doubt that chatbots have made it possible for businesses to provide and serve more with less, they still lack the emotional intelligence humans have. As machines, they cannot reason out and solve problems based on emotional experience. 

Humans still need to stand in place of chatbots for making emotionally intelligent decisions that will satisfy the customer’s needs and problems. And customers will always look for that human interaction.

They still look for that human to human rapport in dealing and solving problems. As humans, we value emotional understanding and feeling appreciated, and businesses should keep that in mind when giving customer service.

Feeling unappreciated is the number one reason customers switch from one product to another. AIs don’t have feelings. Therefore they cannot give it in return.

If a business’s customer support is run solely by bots, they risk giving their customers a bad experience because they cannot reach a human agent. While technological advancements aim to create bots that will soon have empathy, that is still far from the future.

Until then, chatbots can’t replace humans. So the real challenge for businesses today is to find the right balance in utilizing chatbots to aid their human customer service department and maximize the potential of using artificial intelligence in customer support. 

Roland Francis Dacillo
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